09 March, 2007

Job's Hidden Burden

An excellent article by Kyle Tucker, WCF:
In a casual reading of the book of Job, we are drawn to the personal loss of the man, Job. He lost his livestock, his servants, his children and his health. What we perhaps don’t realize is that this personal tragedy was more that likely a regional disaster of epic proportions and thus carried with it an additional and highly significant stigma.

Job lived in the town of Uz. In fact, before his tragedy unfolds, he was a respected elder in the city (Job 29:7,8). The town must have had extensive arable land surrounding it to support Job and his fantastic wealth. Job “owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-donkeys, and many servants besides.” (Job 1:3 NJB) As we recall the story of Lot and Abram separating because of their large amounts of cattle, it is a reasonable assumption that Job was clearly in a class by himself in Uz. He was more than likely not only the chief resident of the city in terms of authority, but also the chief economic engine of the area employing, directly or indirectly, a large portion of the town. The adversary himself recognizes Job’s economic impact when he says to Yahweh concerning Job that “his flocks throng the countryside.” (v. 10)

What sort of manpower would be required to handle some 11,000+ animals? We can only speculate. Abraham had 318 servants (Gen. 18:18). It would seem improbable that Job would be able to handle his considerable household, the households of his children and his large array of livestock with only 318 people. It is possible that Job’s hired hands and servants could well have numbered over a thousand individuals.

The reason we bring this up is the almost incidental reference to the servants in the destruction of Job’s property.

• The Sabaeans swept down on them and carried them off, and put the servants to the sword: I alone have escaped to tell you. (v. 15)
• "The fire of God", he said, "has fallen from heaven and burnt the sheep and shepherds to ashes: I alone have escaped to tell you." (v. 16)
• "The Chaldaeans," he said, "three bands of them, have raided the camels and made off with them, and put the servants to the sword: I alone have escaped to tell you."
• "Your sons and daughters", he said, "were eating and drinking at their eldest brother's house, when suddenly from the desert a gale sprang up, and it battered all four corners of the house which fell in on the young people. They are dead: I alone have escaped to tell you."

Buried in this record are the deaths of hundreds – perhaps thousands of people. These very well may have been the relatives of most, if not all, of those remaining in Uz. This can give us greater insight into Job’s suffering. The people of the city gave Job no comfort. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to make him suffer more. Are these people just intolerably cruel? Perhaps. On the other hand, the surviving townspeople probably had to endured the loss of family and friends in Job’s undoing. Notice their extreme reaction:

"He has alienated my brothers from me, my relatives take care to avoid me, my intimate friends have gone away and the guests in my house have forgotten me. My slave-girls regard me as an intruder, a stranger as far as they are concerned. My servant does not answer when I call him, I am obliged to beg favours from him! My breath is unbearable to my wife, my stench to my own brothers. Even the children look down on me, whenever I stand up, they start jeering at me. All my dearest friends recoil from me in horror: those I loved best have turned against me." (Job 19:13-19 NJB)

"Children of scoundrels, worse, nameless people, the very outcasts of society! And these are the ones who now make up songs about me and use me as a byword! Filled with disgust, they keep their distance, on seeing me, they spit without restraint. And since God has loosened my bow-string and afflicted me, they too throw off the bridle in my presence. Their brats surge forward on my right, to see when I am having a little peace, and advance on me with threatening strides. They cut off all means of escape seizing the chance to destroy me, and no one stops them." (Job 30:8-13 NJB)

Why wouldn’t they if they blamed him for the loss of hundreds of people, the deaths of loved ones and the economic ruin of the region? His comforting friends imagined the same thing. Imagine Osama bin Laden trying to take up residence in New York City. Job carried along this immense weight in addition to his other burdens.

All of these things happened to a righteous man of whom the Lord testifies “There is no one like him on the earth: a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil." Let us remember the exhortation brought out by the apostle James:

"For your example, brothers, in patiently putting up with persecution, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord's name; remember it is those who had perseverance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and understood the Lord's purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate." (James 5:10-11)

02 March, 2007

Do Christians Need Priests?

There is no necessity to go through another mediator, for Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." The clear meaning of this verse is that we are to free to come right up to, and remain alongside of the throne of grace in our petitions. We come right there in spirit. We do not need the help of someone else to do so. We only need the intercession of Jesus, because like all men everywhere, we sin, and need God’s forgiveness through Him.

The Bible says, "there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" ONE GOD - NOT MANY. ONE MEDIATOR - NOT MANY. God’s word also says, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." (1 John 2:1) Writing through inspiration, the Apostle John shows that we do not need a priest to intercede for us, when Jesus Christ the righteous is in the presence of God for that very purpose. How can anyone substitute or deputise for Jesus?

Under the Law of God to Israel, the old covenant was based on a priesthood officiating on behalf of the people. The sinner would bring a sin offering to the priest who would make an atonement for him so that his sin could be forgiven. The sinner was not permitted to enter the Holy Place of the tabernacle, let alone the Most Holy Place where God’s presence in Israel was focussed. So a priestly order distinct from the rest of the people was essential under that covenant. But not so under the new, where an approach can be made directly to the throne of grace by the sinner himself.

This direct approach is confirmed in Hebrews 10:19-22, where it is taught that we can stand in the very entrance of the Most Holy place, by the blood of Jesus our Lord. That is, when stated in plain language, we can approach God through the sacrifice of Jesus and his mediation, to have our sins forgiven. We need not go through any other person or priest. The quotation in full reads, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water."

Verse 22 refers to baptism into Christ following a good confession of belief in the Gospel of Truth, and faith in our Lord Jesus. Verse 19 indicates that all with their conscience thus cleansed, can now approach God’s throne of grace themselves, provided they acknowledge Jesus, their one and only mediator. Verse 20 indicates that this has been made possible through a way not previously available, recently slain, yet living. For Jesus has passed through the veil of his flesh to ascend to God’s right hand, there to make intercession for all who come to God through him. There is no room here for priests in the house of God for verse 21 indicates there is one High Priest over His house. Therefore all in this house must be priests in their own right, as Peter indicates in the following verses.

1 Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

1 Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." So in contrast to the priests under the old covenant, who offered up animal sacrifices to God, the priesthood of believers under the new covenant, offer up spiritual bloodless sacrifices to God--they offer themselves, (Romans 12-1/2).

We note that this spiritual priesthood is called the house of God. Peter even tells us who constitutes this house. 1 Peter:22 and 23 introduce the theme under discussion. ‘Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

The word of God has precedence over any man made tradition. So if we have been truly born again by hearing and heeding the Word of God, we not only constitute part of that great house, but are priests of God in our own right. Therefore we do not require any other priest except our High priest, Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:15-16 "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Why then should we accept another when mercy and grace has already been offered?