I apologize for my delinquency in writing newsletters. I usually have lots to write about, but when I start writing on a subject my notes soon become so lengthy I set them aside. Brief and to the point is far better, but that is not my forte!
I have always enjoyed the Book of Job. Job appears to have lived in the age of the patriarchs not long after the Flood of Noah. As the story begins we find Job a rich, prosperous, well-respected rancher in the land of Uz (probably in modern-day Jordan). He has a relationship with Yahweh from the start--that is, he has been justified by his faith, at some point in time (Romans 3:21-26). He is meticulously careful in his day-to-day conduct. Based on an external exam, his life would seem to be ideal, and near-perfect. What more could God do to exalt Him? How could Job possibly be more blessed or in better favor with God?
Behind the scenes we then see that God has invited the Adversary, HaSatan, the chief fallen angel, to "examine" Job. Twice the adversary tests Job (with God's permission). Job's children, wealth, property and health are all stripped from him in a series of horrendous disasters.
Next, three of Job's "best" friends come to comfort and support the patriarch--as he sits in an ash heap scraping his oozing boils with potsherds. Shocked at what they see, these friends all jump to the conclusion that Job has sinned grievously--there can be no other explanation for his lowly state. Their long winded and irrelevant speeches only increase Job's misery, and test his faith more severely. The friends never bother to stop and pray with Job, nor do they take time to emphasize with Job, as friends ought to do. (In the end these three friends are found to be in big trouble with the Lord for badly misrepresenting God).
Job cries to God for answers, but He is met with the inscrutable silence of God. Job says he would like to take God to court to clear his record. He longs for a Mediator to present his case before a Just and Righteous God, but can not find an attorney, nor a way to subpoena God.
Finally Yahweh Himself speaks to Job. Without answering Job's specific prayers, or any of his questions, the Lord simply takes his servant on a tour of His creation asking Job what he knows about the origins of the universe and the management of the earth.
"Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, That you may take it to its territory, That you may know the paths to its home? Do you know it, because you were born then, Or because the number of your days is great?" (38:16-21)
In Part II, (Chapter 40) God inquires about Job's moral ability to evaluate sin, to track down, put on trial, and rightly judge the evil-doers of earth. If Job can successfully manage human affairs with equity, the Lord concedes He might allow Job to try out for the post of "God for a day!"
By describing two great beasts, untamed by man, God teaches that only He can manage good and evil in mankind, in every generation. Here at last we reach the heart of God's problem--and ours as well. See http://raystedman.org/job/3550.html.
At last Job's eyes are opened to his deeply embedded pride. He had thought he was righteous before God on the basis of his impeccable conduct and excellent moral behavior. This way of looking at ourselves--as righteous based on our own merits--is nothing more than self-righteousness. Job, like many of us, failed to see that we are all helpless to do anything of value for God except by surrender to His rule in all aspects of our lives, (Romans 6). (Only what God does through us has any lasting vaue). Job had been deceived for many years by what the New Testament calls "the good side of the flesh." Perhaps Job would never have seen this blindness and his stubborn, deeply embedded pride, apart from the terrible trials God put him through?
Once Job became aware of his ongoing need for grace and mercy, and humbled Himself before his Maker, Yahweh blessed him with twice as much as he had before.
"And the LORD restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then all his brothers, all his sisters, and all those who had been his acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the LORD had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold. Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Jemimah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days." (42:10-17)
God's relentless goal for us Christians is our wholeness. "You must be holy for I am holy, says the Lord." If we need big trials and even suffering to make us whole men and women, God can and does test us--sometimes severely. We, on the other hand, tend to think of our short-term happiness and our own petty temporal, material goals in this short life. Best of all, Job discovered that we believers do have a Mediator, a human Advocate with God. We all come to God through the man Christ Jesus. He understands us, and identifies with us in every away--to the core of our being. "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him."
"Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Ray Stedman's commentary on Job is by far the best I have among all my commentators on Job--most of them miss the big lessons.
Jesus is Our Senior Pastor
In my last newsletter (http://ldolphin.org/news/newsletter-75.html) I mentioned Mars Hill Church of Seattle and their preaching pastor Mark Driscoll's books and sermons. I have since listened to over sixty of Pastor Mark's sermons (they tend to run an hour each). So far I have not found anything doctrinal I disagree with in a major way. Furthermore Mars Hall is the first church I have seen in many years where the pastor is thoroughly credible, plus the elders and deacons all apparently meet the Biblical criteria for these offices, plus the congregation is all involved in the work of the ministry together as a body. In his book The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out, Driscoll shows all too clearly where many churches go wrong. At all three levels--pastors, elders, congregation--Mars Hill Seattle seems to be running things by the Book.
Driscoll can be hilariously funny, he is always interesting. I have found myself convicted by most of his sermons--because he teaches right out of the Bible, and the Word of God is living and active, (Hebrews 4:12-13). Real repentance always brings spiritual refreshment from our Lord! I have always believed God's people should be examining themselves and repenting daily. (http://ldolphin.org/repent.html) It takes fresh exposition of the Scriptures, in the power of the Spirit, to awaken the Word of God so that it speaks afresh to every new generation--all over again. Mark's current series is in the book of Ruth, available by Podcast weekly. (see http://marshillchurch.org/sermonseries/redeemingruth/default.aspx).
Driscoll is clear that at Mars Hills Church no one is "over" anyone else in the congregation. Best of all, Jesus is their Senior Pastor. I like that emphasis. My mentor Ray Stedman often said that if one Pope in Rome is a bad thing, then a mini-pope in every church is equally bad! Ray constantly taught that all of God's people are to be engaged in the work of the ministry and that authority in Christ's church is servant-authority, and not hierarchically top-down. (See A Pastor's Authority, http://raystedman.org/misc/pastorauth.html).
I'd like to suggest that men who call themselves "Senior Pastor" or even "Executive Pastor" these days might wish to demote themselves a notch--lest their flocks forget that all shepherds report to the Chief Shepherd of all of God's sheep, that Shepherd who is none other than Jesus. The Apostle Peter spoke about this,
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away." (1 Peter 5:1-4)
Chapter Ten of John's gospel tells of the Shepherd's love Jesus has for His people Israel.
By way of review, the Lord expressed His deep ongoing displeasure at Israel's priests, shepherds and teachers in Ezekiel's time--that is, during the Babylonian captivity. In no uncertain terms the Chief Shepherd told them that most all of them were already disqualified and would be replaced.
And the word of the LORD came to me [Ezekiel], saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” 'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: “as I live,” says the Lord GOD, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock”-- 'therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD!
'Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” 'For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. “As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. “I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. “I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.” '
And as for you, O My flock, thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats. “Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture--and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet? “And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.” 'Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: “Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. “Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, “therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. “And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. “I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. “I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. “Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. “And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. “I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. “Thus they shall know that I, the LORD their God, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,” says the Lord GOD.'” “You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your God,” says the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 34)
The Silence of Adam
Last Fall I started writing a short piece on Adam's silence at the time Eve was eating the forbidden fruit. Fifteen pages later I quit and posted The Silence of Adam or the Anguish of Adam, on my web site--http://www.ldolphin.org/silenceofadam.html. I hope my long-winded explanation is enough to explain this fairly involved topic connected with the Fall of Man. I have seen quite a bit of careless teaching on this topic lately.
Miscellaneous: We have just finished the Book of Job at my home church, Peninsula Bible Church of Palo Alto. The audio message gets posted the same day on my web site, http://ldolphin.org/job.html, and is also available by iTunes Podcast. My next Forum Class series, the Book of Isaiah starts about March 11.
Our men's group, The Wednesday Brothers of Thunder, going strong for 15 years now, took some time this summer to revise our strategy and mission with very positive results. After finishing Delving Through Daniel the group became excited about Bible prophecy, so we are starting the book of the Revelation this week. If you are interested in a "Leaderless" core group our mission statement is posted, http://ldolphin.org/leaderless.html.
Our regular Saturday Bible study group at Crusade House, San Jose State University resumes at 10:30 Saturday mornings February 3 in First Corinthians. (Ray Stedman called these letters, "The Letters to the Californians.")
Two to Four Mormon missionaries continue to drop into my home for an hour or two of great discussions on Fridays. We talk about what we have in common and where are differences lie. Most of the time we seem to focus on the Person and work of Jesus as revealed in the Bible! Since LDS missionaries rotate every six weeks I suppose I now know about 15 different missionaries on a first name basis. Several are likely to remain long term friends. This has been a very worthwhile, exciting time for me, since these young men are very open to the Bible. They're great young men, polite, open, and easy to talk to. My long term hope for these meetings is to show these young men the freedom that true Christians have as our heritage in Christ. Mormonism, on the other hand, remains a deadly, legalistic, work-oriented cult in spite of their attempts in recent years to be accepted by mainline Christians.
Contributions: Friends who want to help out with my expenses may send contributions directly to me by means of the PayPal or Amazon.com links on my web site. For those who'd like to contribute for tax purposes, checks may be sent to Peninsula Bible Church, 3505 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Please include a note designating your gift to my support account. I am not an organization and not employed by any organization so I depend very much on the support I receive from friends. I do not receive a list of those who send in contributions to my church so I can't send thank you notes in most cases. But thank you!
Contacts: I answer my own email every day, and am glad to be able to do so. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Working with me on email questions is a splendid team of men and women in the Paraclete Forum, http://paracleteforum.org. You may write us at email@example.com. The Paraclete Forum also addresses questions sent to us from the Ray Stedman and PBC web sites, http://pbc.org and http://raystedman.org/. For excellent help in studying the Bible in various versions and in the original languages, I always recommend Blue Letter Bible, http://blueletterbible.org/.
Previous newsletters are on my web site: http://ldolphin.org/news/. My main web site library is http://ldolphin.org/asstbib.shtml, with newer articles posted at the top.
Lambert Dolphin January 23, 2007