The Vindication of Job

 

The final chapter in our series on “How to Interpret the Book of Job” brings us to what might best be summarized as The Vindication of Job.  However, rather than occurring in a single instance, instead it has been an unfolding process throughout the book that culminates during and at the conclusion of Yahweh’s speeches.

In order to rightly interpret the final chapter and feel the weight of the emotion felt here and in the chapters leading up to this one, we must remind ourselves that the overwhelming chorus of Job’s speeches has been the insistence on his integrity and the desire for vindication by a mediator.  We may call to mind  Job 9:15-30; 10:7; 13:15-23; 16:17; 23:7-12; 27:3-6; 31:36-37  as instances where vindication is central in the thought and speech of Job.  With this reminder before us, we turn to the vindication applied to Job in chapter 42, which generally unfolds in three sections that we will summarize as The Response (42:1-6), The Rebuke (42:7-9), and The Restoration (42:10-17).

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“I know that you can do all things,
    and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

First, in interpreting The Response as indicated in Job 42:1-6 cited above, we must also look at Job’s initial response to God found in Job 40:3-5.

Then Job answered the Lord and said:

“Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
    I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
    twice, but I will proceed no further.”

A comparison and contrast of the two is necessary in order to ask and answer one principal question, “What was lacking in the first response that caused God to continue His verbal barrage?”  The answer should be clear.  Despite Job’s recognition of his own smallness in comparison with the supremacy of God and his pledge of silence in his first response, he had not yet expressed repentance.  This becomes central in his second response, found in this last chapter, where Job’s contrition is on display through not only his words, but his actions.  This response has 5 principle parts

  1. Recognition
  2. Recitation #1, with confession
  3. Recitation #2, with confession
  4. Retraction
  5. Repentance

It’s significant that Job begins with a recognition of the supremacy of God, which he qualifies by statements on God’s omnipotence and God’s sovereignty.  This is the fountain from which the remainder of Job’s words flow and a direct result of the Word of God in chapters 38-41 which served to till and plow the proud heart of Job.  From this soil of recognition, Job recites two questions from God and answers them with subsequent confessions of his own inadequacy.  He then retracts his misspoken words in the form of a statement of self-loathing before finally repenting in dust and ashes.

In the next section of the chapter, we find The Rebuke of Job’s friends serving as a critical component to the overall statement of vindication.  After the Lord spoke to Job, He directs His attention to Eliphaz, the unofficial spokesman of Job’s three counseling friends.  This address begins with the assertion of God’s character by describing how His wrath has been kindled through the ignorant tongues of the three friends. In the midst of this rebuke, we are given the first layer of Job’s vindication, namely that he will intercede for his friends.

This initial point of vindication is structured around a crucial statement which God repeats three times.  The first occurs after God issues His instructions to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar commanding them to bring seven bulls and seven rams to, “My servant Job”.  Literally meaning “slave”, the word translated as servant, is preceded by a statement of possessive ownership of God and occurs three times in verse 8.  The first, as just mentioned, is followed by a reference to Job’s intercession for his friends in prayer, which is followed by a a statement simultaneously rebuking the words of the three friends while commending the words of Job.

Recall that the title used in reference to God in introducing His speeches is Yahweh, a reminder of the unwavering covenant love and relation of God to Job.  Here we see a second indication of the relationship, that of servant (or slave) to Master.  If the former indicated goodness and love, the latter indicates freedom and hierarchy, which we will see more clearly later.

In the next verse, we have an indication of the spiritual condition of the three friends, namely their unquestioned obedience of the command of God to bring their sacrifices to Job, despite their errant applications of affliction, .  Immediately after this, we read of further vindication for Job, the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.”  The NASB footnote for verse 9 provides a more striking translation of this phrase as, “The Lord lifted up the face of Job.”   This seems to recall Job 9:24; 11:15; and 22:26.  Again, it should be pointed out that this is Job’s intercession of his friends, whom to this point have been a continual thorn in the side of Job, serving much more as his enemies than his friends.  It is therefore not difficult to find parallel with our Lord Jesus Christ who not only prayed for His murderers on the cross, but provides continual prayer and intercession as High Priest for those who were once His enemies.  

With this statement, we are ushered into the final section of Job’s vindication, The Restoration, introduced for us in 42:10.  In Job 42:11-13 we are given the particulars of Job’s restoration from God in doubling all that he had before, including his children (It should be noted that he had 10 children before and has 10 children again, for a total of 20, giving an implicit reference to expectation of resurrection and rejoining his lost children).  Following this, we read of an interesting interlude where the daughters of Job are mentioned by name, commended for their beauty, and rewarded with an unprecedented share of Job’s inheritance, a seat usually reserved for the first born and almost exclusively for sons.

The summary and conclusion comes in the final two verses as we read, And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. 17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days.”

The restoration of the fortunes and family of Job, brings up a pivotal interpretive impasse for the entire argument of the book, namely this:  “Does God’s restoration of Job, after his repentance, validate the prosperity gospel of Job’s friends?”  This is not a trivial question, in fact it goes to the heart of the interpretation for the book, for each step of the way the interpretive keys have steered in the direction of the misinterpretation of Job’s affliction by the three friends and their misapplication of the retributive justice of God to the case of Job.  If those keys are wrong, then one must read this vindication of Job as validation of the friends and thereby cause us to reinterpret the entire book, by necessity, this time reading the words of the friends as correct and Job’s as wrong.  If this were the case, then it contradicts the statement made by Yahweh in 42:9.  So what are we to conclude?

Recall that their were two (at least) attributes of God that neither Job nor his friends could reconcile with the events of affliction that were taking place, namely the goodness and freedom of God, which we alluded to earlier.  It wasn’t until the speeches of Elihu (chapters 33-37) that Job was instructed on God’s good purposes for affliction and likewise the speeches of God where Job was instructed on the freedom of God.  In this final part of vindication, The Restoration, God combines both His goodness and freedom and puts it on display in the form of physical blessings.  What a marvelous display of God’s grace and condescension in restoring His servant Job, while revealing more of His infinite character to Him.  However, with this, let us be reminded that God is under no obligation to act in this way for every one of His saints who are brought through the refining fires of affliction.

The vindication of Job is an interpretive key for the entire book because 1. God vindicates the integrity of Job, even though all that he has said has not been accurate. 2 God rebukes Job’s friends even though all that they have said has not been wrong. 3. The restoration of Job invalidates the prosperity gospel while simultaneously asserting the freedom of God.  This should teach us to read God’s Word, particularly the individual books, completely and in their context before rushing to interpretive decisions allowing them to unfold before us.

 

The Reformation of Luther

 

Today, October 31, 2017 is the day that will be universally celebrated as Reformation Day, specifically the 500th Anniversary of the day when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door at Wittenburg with the goal of generating an academic debate.  What followed were a series of events wherein Luther rejected the unscriptural practices of the Roman Catholic Church, upholding Scripture alone as the sole instrument of faith and practice.  As we’ve already seen, on the day when Luther nailed his theses there is a high probability that he was yet to be genuinely saved.  So, before God could use Luther in the way that He intended at the time and place that He intended for the purposes that He intended, Luther was in need of a reformation of his own, a personal reformation, one that could only be wrought by a divine work of God in the heart.

It has often been said that before God uses a man to do a widespread work of revival and reformation, He first does a work of reformation in that same man’s heart.  Such is certainly the case with Luther.  The controversy in which Luther eventually found himself, namely questioning the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and her leaders brought about by their improper use of indulgences strictly for the sake of financial gain, forced him to the Scriptures to search for support of this teaching and subsequently support of his own position.  Once here, Luther concluded that Scripture was the ultimate authority, not the Church.

Recall that in his own words, Luther considered himself a faithful son of the Roman Catholic Church and a faithful servant of the Pope, as of 1517 at least (though as we will see later, possibly as late as May 1518).  By October 1518, Luther was in direct defiance of the Pope.

Citing Luther’s interviews with Cardinal Cajetan on October 12, 13, and 14 in 1518, Phillip Schaff writes, “Catejan treated Luther with condescending courtesy, and assured him of his friendship.  But he demanded retraction of his errors, and absolute submission to the Pope.  Luther resolutely refused, and declared that he could do nothing against his conscience; that one must obey God rather than man; that he had the Scripture on his side; that even Peter was once reproved by Paul for misconduct (Gal. 2:11), and that surely his successor was not infallible.”

By March 13, 1519 Luther had declared, regarding the Pope, “I know not whether the Pope is antichrist himself, or his apostle; so wretchedly is Christ, that is the truth, corrupted and crucified by him in the Decretals.”

How then can Luther make such a drastic turn about in 18 months?

Our answer is coming.

Finally, for the point of our discussion here, on April 18th, 1521 Luther stood before the new Emperor Charles, 6 Electors (Princes over City-States; including his own), “The Pope’s legates, archbishops, bishops, dukes, margraves, princes, counts, deputies of the imperial cities, ambassadors of foreign courts, and a numerous array of dignitaries of every rank; in one word, a fair representation of the highest powers of Church and State.  Several thousand spectators were collected in and around the building and in the streets, anxiously waiting for the issue.” (Schaff, Vol. 7, pg. 300)

What began as a “innocent” attempt to generate academic debate had now morphed into the entire Roman empire against one man who once claimed them as his own.  It was here, at the Diet of Worms, that Luther uttered his now famous defense and for us, answers the question of how reform was conducted in his own heart.  Schaff again recounts the moment for us, “Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments (since I believe neither the Pope nor the councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I can not and will not recant any thing, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against the conscience.” (Vol. 7, pg. 304-305)

Before Luther could act as the spark that would ignite God’s reformation, he was first in need of God to do a work in his heart.  This work was performed by God’s Spirit working through the Word of God to enlighten and illumine the mind of Luther to the truth’s of Scripture.  The overflow of this is seen in Luther’s words above, “I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures…my conscience is bound in the word of God.”

Much like Josiah 2100 years earlier and every other “reformer” that God has raised up for His own glory, Luther was the product of divine grace working in the heart.  This work of grace was and always is the first reformation and for Luther, it was his most lasting reformation.  From beginning to end, reformation, whether internal in the heart or on the world’s stage, is entirely a work of God.

To God Alone be Glory.

The Motivation of Luther

 

In our first post on the Reformation, in this broader series on church history, we simply introduced the Reformation with a few general thoughts on how some of the events surrounding this historical occasion have been subjected to tradition.  Here, we’ll discuss Luther’s 95 Theses as well as some correspondence surrounding the event to gain additional insight into his motivation.

When articulating Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses, we often hear his motivation presented as a desire to uphold “justification by faith alone” or sola fide.  However, it should be noted that Luther posted his theses, intended for academic debate only by the way, in 1517, while his doctrine of justification likely evolved and developed from at least that time (possibly a year or two earlier) until its full gestation around 1531 when he formally taught Galatians and penned its commentary.  Despite this, it’s probable that for Luther, “justification by faith alone” became part of his vernacular in 1519, two years after posting his theses, and the year which he taught the Psalms for the second time.  At the very least, it was likely this year that Luther became a Christian, at least as he describes in his own words.

Additionally, as we look to Luther’s own 95 theses, we would find them to largely espouse Roman Catholic doctrine and not, as we may have been led to believe, a protestation against her doctrine, instead upholding it.  Regarding the theses, Phillip Schaff writes, “They sound very strange to a modern ear [1858], and are more Catholic than Protestant.  They are no protest against the Pope and the Roman Church, or any of her doctrines, not even against indulgences, but only against their abuse.  They expressly condemn those who speak against indulgences (Th. 71), and assume that the Pope himself would rather see St. Peter’s Church in ashes that have it built with the flesh and blood of his sheep (Th. 50).  They imply belief in purgatory.  They nowhere mention Tetzel.  They are silent about faith and justification, which already formed the marrow of Luther’s theology and piety.  He wished to be moderate, and had not the most distant idea of a separation from the mother church. “  Citing Luther’s own comments on the republication of these theses in his collected works, Schaff writes, “I allow them to stand, that by them it may appear how weak I was, and in what a fluctuating state of mind, when I began this business.  I was then a monk and a mad papist, and so submersed in the dogmas of the Pope that I would have readily murdered any person who denied obedience to the Pope.” (Vol. 7, pg. 157)

Luther’s first correspondences regarding these 95 Theses was to the Elector, Archbishop Albert of Hohenzollern (Brandenburg; Mayence/Mainz) on October 31, 1517, the same day he posted his theses, where he decries the selling of indulgences without the Electors knowledge and consent.  The excerpt below summarizes the situation well.

“With your Electoral Highness’s consent, the Papal Indulgence for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s in Rome is being carried through the land. I do not complain so much of the loud cry of the preacher of Indulgences, which I have not heard, but regret the false meaning, which the simple folk attach to it, the poor souls believing that when they have purchased such letters they have secured their salvation, also, that the moment the money tingles in the box souls are delivered from purgatory, and that all sins will be forgiven through a letter of Indulgence, even that of reviling the blessed Mother of God, were any one blasphemous enough to do so. And, lastly, that through these Indulgences the man is freed from all penalties ! Ah, dear God ! Thus are those souls which have been committed to your care, dear father, being led in the paths of death, and for them you will be required to render an account. For the merits of no bishop can secure the salvation of the souls entrusted to him which is not always assured through the grace of God, the apostle admonishing us ” to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” and, that the way which leads to life is so narrow, that the Lord, through the prophets Amos and Zechariah, likens those who attain to eternal life to brands plucked from the burning, and above all, the Lord points to the difficulty of redemption. There fore, I could be silent no longer.”

As mentioned earlier, this letter affirms the motivation of Luther in calling out those who were preaching the sale of indulgences for salvation from purgatory as being out of step with the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.  He therefore was not protesting against the RCC, but was appealing to her in order to correct these perceived deficiencies. Boiling down Luther’s focus, essentially he was shining a light on greed and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church and it was this, the love of money, not a disagreement over the pure doctrine of Scripture or even the inconsistent application of Rome’s corrupt doctrine, that would warrant such a strong response from the Pope.

He concludes his letter above, which accompanied a copy of his 95 Theses, with these words

“What else can I do, right reverend father, than beg your Serene Highness carefully to look into this matter, and do away with this little book of instructions, and command those preachers to adopt another style of preaching, else another may arise and refute them, by writing another book in answer to the previous one, to the confusion of your Serene Highness, the very idea of which alarms me greatly. I hope that your Serene Highness may graciously deign to accept the faithful service which your insignificant servant, with true devotion, would render you. The Lord keep you to all eternity. Amen. Wittenberg, the night before All Saints’ Day 1517.

If agreeable to your Grace, perhaps you would glance at my enclosed theses, that you may see the opinion on the Indulgences is a very varied one, while those who proclaim them fancy they cannot be disputed. Your unworthy son, Martin Luther”

This letter isn’t earth-shattering, but it does go along way in showing that Luther wasn’t initially acting as a revolutionary, nor was he acting in isolation from his superiors, rather he was appealing to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to bring resolution to the errant ways of the indulgence preachers.  Remember that Luther posted these theses for academic debate.  The problem was that not one single professor or academic responded to the challenge.  For Luther, the real reformation, namely an internal one, was yet to come.  However, the match that the Lord would use to ignite the reformation had been nailed to the door.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Ephesians 4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"