During our evening service Andrew took us through Eliphaz’s final speech to Job. In this text we saw Eliphaz’s wisdom turn to folly for he does 3 things in this text that we need to be aware of and ensure that we are not doing the same:
In our summer series on Holiness we began looking at Our Holy Godin Isaiah 6, then moved on to His Holy Peoplein 1 Peter 1, we saw David’s Longings for Holinessin Psalm 101, and we heard the Lord roar from Zion Rebuking Unholiness in Amos 5. Today we continue to look at holiness from the viewpoint of the congregation at Corinth. And in a sense, last week’s message in Amos and this week’s message in 1 Cor. go hand in hand. Amos showed us what happened when Old Testament Israel grew spiritually lazy and allowed unholiness among them. They were thoroughly rebuked by God and sent into exile. Today as we venture into the sins of the Corinthian congregation Paul will show us much of the same. What happens when a New Testament Church grows spiritually lazy and allows unholiness among them? They also are thoroughly rebuked, but there’s more. Paul does rebuke them, he does give them certain instructions to follow in such an instance, but he doesn’t only do these things. He gives them gospel comfort. To see these things play out I’d like to invite you to turn with me to 1 Corinthians 5-6 where we see the instructions given on how to handle sin (or unholiness) in the life of the Church.
After addressing the Corinthians tendencies to form cliques, after addressing their tendencies to latch onto celebrity pastors, and after addressing their tendencies to be divided in all kinds of ways, you’d think he’d be done exposing their sin but there’s more sin present in them that needs to be dealt with. Specifically in chapter 5 Paul speaks to a situation of unholiness and calls for discipline that works towards the good of the wayward individual as well as the purity of the Church. Then in chapter 6 Paul gives question after question speaking more broadly about even more kinds of unholiness they were involved in. To sum it up we could just say this: the Church in Corinth was a mess. That is clear. Did you catch 5:9? It mentions that Paul wrote a previous letter to them. This means 1 Corinthians is most likely 2 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians is most likely 3 Corinthians. Albert Mohler once laughed at this commenting that these letters were so full of sin that the Holy Spirit only allowed us to see two of them!
Well from diving into this mess, we’ll see their many sins, we’ll see how to deal with our own sins, and as I just said, we’ll see much about how gospel comfort brings us and moves us toward holy living within the Church.
Sin, Discipline, and Holiness (5:1-6:8)
Listen to Paul describe the specifics in 5:1, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.”
Widely known for it’s licentiousness and loose living Corinth was one of the chief cities especially suited for sowing wild oats. So many oats were sown that Corinth reaped a widespread reputation for being the epicenter of vice in the 1stcentury. But sadly, within Corinth itself the Church had a worse reputation and to this very day whenever one speaks of the Corinthians the sin of chapter 5 quickly rises to the surface.Why? Not solely because of sexual immorality. No, something worse was allowed to exist among them, something so atrocious that the pagans even blushed at it. “…for a man has his father’s wife.” This man’s mother had most likely died and he was now living with his stepmother who may or may not have already divorced his father because of this sinful relationship.Whatever the details were there is no doubt about what’s happening here. 5:1 implies that this had been going on for sometime and was still going on at the time Paul wrote this letter to them. In such cases Paul is clear. The Church in Corinth must discipline the wayward man. Listen to 5:2-5, “And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
Yes this man’s sin needs rebuking, but see how Paul calls out the Church in Corinth for how they’ve tolerated this man’s sin and allowed it to exist? This sin should’ve humbled them, shamed them, and brought the Church to repentance but v2 says they were arrogant. Perhaps they justified this man’s sin away saying it was a unique circumstance that required some more thought before any action is taken. Perhaps they saw it as a matter of this man’s Christian liberty to do as he pleased. Perhaps because such stout early Church theologians had taught them they thought God would overlook such things. Notice what Paul’s instruction is. Does he say this man’s membership is to be suspended? Or that this man should be enter into a lengthy counseling program? Or even that this man should be sent off to a rehab center where he can heal and grow. No, none of that is in play here. Paul’s instruction is simple and straightforward. “Let him who has done this be removed from among you…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh…” On this man Paul has already pronounced the judgment the Church wouldn’t. So, he says, the very next time they assemble together in the name of the Lord Jesus, to worship the Lord Jesus, they are to remove the man who refuses to obey the Lord Jesus. Why? For His own good. To destroy the unruly lusts of his sinful flesh for sure, but more “…so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” If he refuses to obey Christ, the Church can no longer affirm his profession of faith in Christ, which means he must be removed from the Church of Christ for the very purpose of rebuking him, humbling him, bringing him to repentance so that he’ll be saved, in the end, on the day of Christ.
Many think this kind of excommunication is arrogant judgment within the Church that’s inconsistent with love, but it’s in fact the opposite. Love cannot be true where there is no discipline. Hebrews 12:6 tells us “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines…” Remember, as the Father let his prodigal son wander off with his inheritance to allow the bitter consequences of what he’d chosen be experienced, so too this man in Corinth was to be removed so he’d experience the consequences of his sin.To not obey the Lord in removing this man who’s not obeying the Lord is also sin against the Lord. The Corinthians apparently weren’t willing to do it, so Paul commanded them to do it, for this man’s own good, in effect saying, ‘Love him in this way.’
Paul goes further. He says the wayward man in view shouldn’t only be removed for his own good, but should be removed for the good of the Church as well. We see this in 5:6-13 where Paul warns them of the effects sin can have when left undealt with. It’s like pickles…follow me here. Pickles are to some people what make the sandwich or burger complete, providing that last little garnish that elevates the flavors to their highest potential. These people are wrong. Why take a perfectly good cucumber (or anything for that matter) and drop it into vinegar to make it better? I hate pickles. Not only do they taste awful, they leave a residue that is impossible to remove. For example…once at Chick-Fil-A I ordered a spicy chicken sandwich without pickles. Accidently someone put pickles on it, it was brought to the table, I picked it up and opened it to see if pickles were left off or not (as has become my custom)…and to my dismay they were still there! I knew what was going to happen. As quick as I could I reached down and took them off, cleaned my hands off, and looked back at the bun and saw those two little green circles where the pickle juice had soaked into the bun. It was all over. I ate the sandwich, don’t hear me wrong, but the instant I bit near those circles you could taste and smell the green ooze of pickle juice…it had invaded this perfectly good sandwich.
Lesson? Sin left undealt with is like pickles, it invades everything in a church. Paul uses another image, one from the Passover. Like leaven that easily and quickly goes through the whole dough, sin left alone in the congregation eventually effects and impacts the whole congregation. Or to say it another way, sin no one deals with eventually becomes sin that everyone deals with.What can they do to become pure once again? They must remove the old leaven so they would become a new lump. This is, after all, why Christ the true Passover Lamb was sacrificed – to make His people pure and holy. As Israel was set free from Egypt as a result of the Passover and made a clean break from them, so too the Christian from the work of Christ the Passover Lamb has been set free from the world, the flesh, and devil and because of Christ’s work we are now to make a clean break from the sin that entangles us.If the Corinthians continue in their sinful arrogance they show themselves to be soaked through with the leaven of malice and evil, when they were bought and redeemed and filled with the Spirit of God in order to soak them through with the gospel leaven of sincerity and truth.
‘I told you this already!’ Paul says next in 5:9. ‘Do not associate with sexually immoral people’ is his instruction. Helpfully he clarifies that he is referring to those inside the Church not those outside the Church. For if we were to not associate with anyone who is sexually immoral we could not be in society and would be forced to set up monasteries shut off from the world as a whole. Rather, those who are sexually immoral and profess to be brothers and sisters in Christ, those people are the ones we’re not to associate with, and more so, not even eat with. Don’t worry about those outside, he says, God will judge them. You worry about those inside. Here Paul quotes a whole host of passages from Deuteronomy saying the Church is to purge, remove, excommunicate, the evil among it to remain holy. Apparently Paul believed, and spoke as if the Corinthians should’ve believed, that the Old Testament calls for community holiness apply to New Testament churches as well.
The Church, therefore, isn’t called to reform society but to always and ever be reforming itself ensuring we remain distinct from the world in order to be a distinct witness for the world. Because whether we like it or not, it is the Church that displays the character of God to the watching world. Which means we should ask, is the world learning truths about God by looking at us? Or are they learning errors about God by looking at us? All of this is why Church discipline matters in regards to holiness. When a member of our congregation attends regularly without hiding any sin or secret rebellion, even if they struggle with sin deeply and know the Church is a hospital for sinners we consider them to be members in good standing. But when a member of our congregation, someone inside the Church who professes to know Christ, begins keeping their distance from the body of Christ and acting in ways that are against Christ, we approach them about it and challenge them to repent and return. If they repent, we all rejoice! If they do not, we warn them of the end of this road…if they do not repent and continue in their sin after all the warnings we will give we will excommunicate them to keep the congregation holy.
If we see this and do nothing about it, or if you see this and do nothing about it, we become partners with them in their sin and the leaven of evil will saturate us. This man was openly committing wicked acts in Corinth and they did nothing, so Paul instructed them to remove him, for his good yes, but also for the good of the Church.
After dealing with this specific issue going on among them, Paul turns to even more sins present in the Corinthian congregation. We see this as chapter 6 begins and the questions begin flowing out Paul’s pen. 6:1-8. “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!”
If Christians are to sit in judgment over the world and sit in judgment over angels, can we not handle the smaller matters and disagreements between ourselves? Paul thinks they should be able to do this, and that there are wise enough people among them to handle these things. Yet it seems the Corinthians, not unlike ourselves, were more concerned about how they were mistreated then how they ought to be showing the unbelieving world a Christ-like gospel love. This, Paul says, is already a defeat for them and their witness in Corinth. They ought to be content when treated wrongly by another believer and seek, insofar as we can, to resolve the matter among other believers. We too must learn the same in an effort to maintain our witness to the world. Of course they are times when we are legally obligated to go before a civil court where unbelievers will oversee, but even there the Christian is to glorify God in all things and not seek the advantage of self to the harm of another brother or sister in Christ.Mark Dever rightly calls to us here saying, “My brothers and sisters, we claim to follow Christ, but which way did He go? He went the way of self-giving. Think again, do you really want to follow Him?…Do you find yourself feeling sharply the wrongs others have done to you? Do you remember the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven others? What would need to change in your own heart for you to be more content at being wrongly treated?”
Charles Spurgeon one time said “I believe one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has much influence over the Church.” May we ever seek, not to master, but to be mastered and influenced by God not the world, that we would live holy lives and be a witness of gospel light in this dark and sinful world.
Sin, Gospel, and Holiness (6:9-11)
After all of this, our passage ends today with Paul giving a gospel reminder in 6:9-11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Here, as Paul winds down his rebuke and instructions concerning their many sins, we get why he would say v9-10 before moving onto another theme, but why does he say v11? After this passage so full of sin to speak such a gospel reminder seems like a deviation from Paul’s purpose. But is it? Of course not. In fact, v11 is meant to reinforce everything he’s just said. They were acting like their former selves before they were converted. The list in v9-10 described who they used to be, but having turned from sin and turned to Christ in faith v11 reminds them that they have become something new. Their problem was that they had returned to previous sins. But they were washed, sanctified, made holy, and justified fully and forever in Christ…by Christ…and now they must live for Christ. In other words, this is what you used to be, but God has made you holy, live holy in the Church.
v11 is evidence of the remarkable fact that although this congregation (and ours as well) is full of sin we are still the Church of Christ.In 1:2 Paul introduced this letter calling them saints! Would you believe it if he hadn’t written it? No way! But they are. And so the call to holy living in our holiness series this week is a call to holiness within the Church…which is really the same as the call to holiness outside the Church…be who you now are.
May God continually make us like pickles, growing more and more holy by being irreversibly saturated by gospel grace.
Join us this week as Adam & Andrew lay the ground work for our understanding of Eschatology. They will accomplish this by looking at the importance of understanding the Old Testament properly and reading the whole of Scripture with Christ in mind.
This week’s evening service was preached by one of our Pastoral Apprentices: Michael Joas.
One of the things we love to do at SonRise is give our apprentices opportunities to hone their gifts through preaching in our evening services. Take a listen as Mike unpacks for us Job’s response to Zophar in chapter 21.
In their recent book Sing Keith and Kristyn Getty begin with the following words, “When singing praise to God, so much more than just the vocal box is engaged. God has created our minds to judge pitch and lyric; to think through the concepts we sing; to engage with the intellect, imagination, and memory; and to remember what is set to a tune.”From this beginning they go on to reveal the beauty of how God has made us. He has created us to sing, He has commanded us to sing, and because of His grace to us in Christ, He compels us to sing. God loves the praise of His name on the lips of His people, there is no doubt about this. But have you ever asked yourself if there is a time when God does not love our songs to Him? More so have you ever asked yourself if there is a time when God wishes or even commands that we stop singing? There are over 400 references to glad hearted and whole souled singing to God in Scripture, but there are a few times and a few occasions when, because of our sin, God would rather have our silence than our songs. Our passage today is such a text.
Thus far in our summer series on Holiness we have covered much: Our Holy Godin Isaiah 6, His Holy Peoplein 1 Peter 1, and David’s Longings for Holinessin Psalm 101. Today we continue looking at holiness from the viewpoint of the prophet Amos. In the book of Amos God is concerned with His people’s unholiness and specifically in Amos 5:18-27 we find God Rebuking Unholiness. Before we arrive at 5:18-27, allow me to explain the context of this book first.
Amos is considered to be a minor prophet, not because of his unimportance, but because his book is shorter than the books of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. His ministry, around 750 B.C., places him in the same time as Hosea, Isaiah, and Jonah. And as with most of the prophets we only know a little about Amos. 1:1 gives us some insight as his book begins saying, “The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”
At this time Israel had already been split into two kingdoms, Judah in the south, Israel in the north. Uzziah reigned in the south and Jeroboam reigned in the north. Amos wasn’t a prophet from birth, but was a simple shepherd in the country town of Tekoa. And being that Tekoa was a city in the southern kingdom of Judah and that God called him to preach in the urban capitol of the northern kingdom of Israel means Amos wasn’t quite what Israel expected. They treated him as an outsider, a foreigner even…perhaps similar to how someone living in New York City would view someone from rural Mississippi. We’re also given the detail that he brought these words to Israel two years before the earthquake. We don’t know which earthquake this was exactly, but we do know that this region was then and still is today prone to having very large earthquakes. For example, the historian Josephus wrote of an earthquake in 31 B.C. that killed 31,000 people. That Amos refers to this one as just ‘the earthquake’, and that Zechariah does too in Zechariah 14:5 means this quake was one for the record books. Some even believe Amos’ words to Israel and Jonah’s words to Nineveh (maybe the same quake?) reverberated louder than originally given because the great earthquake came after it.
This is Amos the prophet, but what about the people he was sent to? What about the northern kingdom of Israel? Well, when God sent Amos to them even though they had one of the most wicked kings of Israel’s history the nation was experiencing it’s largest period of peace and prosperity since Solomon’s day. 2 Kings 14 mentions this as it describes Israel’s border growing and expanding to the largest it’s ever been. Into that context God sends Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa, to awaken His people from their prosperous ease. Hence, 1:2 probably would’ve sounded like an earthquake coming to them when Amos said, “The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.” You may not think of a lion’s roar as something to cause much trembling because today we mostly look at them safely in a zoo. This was not the case for Israel. They roamed free throughout the nation. So they knew the power, the speed, and the mere force of a lion and to hear its roar would have filled them with terror reminding them how such a beast could quickly destroy them. Such is the manner of the Lord’s proclamation through Amos. God doesn’t merely talk to them, or share what’s wrong with them, no. He roars as a lion in judgment.
More so this Lion roars from a specific location. From Zion, or from Jerusalem. This matters because after the nation split into two kingdoms Jeroboam I built fake Jerusalem’s all over the northern kingdom so the people would never have to go to the southern kingdom to the true Jerusalem for worship. And what makes it even worse is that in some of them he placed golden calves! Clearly, these altars are false. Hearing Amos say the Lord is roaring like a lion in judgment is enough by itself to frighten them. Hearing Amos say the Lord is roaring like a lion in judgment from Zion, from Jerusalem, would’ve been enough to terrify them and bring to mind all their past sins.
But what are their sins? God is clear on that as well. After rebuking the nations around Israel for their many sins in chapter 1 and the first half of chapter 2 you can imagine Amos’ hearers would’ve been in agreement with him. ‘You’re right Amos, you’re southern accent may be strange but preach on, these pagan nations are wicked and they deserve to be judged by God!’ But then a hush would’ve come over the crowd as he begins rebuking Judah in 2:4, and then Israel in 2:6 for their many sins. Then for the majority of the book God through Amos takes direct aim, not so much at the people in general (which He does some of) but mostly at the leaders of the people and specifically the leaders false religion. What makes their religion false? In chapters 3-5 God says He’ll destroy the altars at their fake Jerusalem sites, He’ll destroy their vacation homes (both summer and winter), and all their mansions or great homes will come to an end…calling them cows who drink wine in bowls, laugh at the needy, oppress and trample on the poor, build massive homes with large vineyards while passing by the needy and then after doing all of this they come to the altars at Bethel to make offerings and sacrifices to God of all kinds. God had been good to them, He’d blessed them, restrained much of the evil that could’ve come on them, but His goodness to them did not produce gratefulness in them. Five times in 4:6-11 one phrase is repeated “…yet you have not returned to Me.”
One such example is that while the nation was experiencing vast blessing, the wars that bought their peace had exhausted the lower classes of people and brought many of them to poverty. Once this occurred the wealthy in Israel swooped in to save the day handing out loans. But the loans were intentionally un-payable, so the poor were forced to give over their land and eventually themselves to settle these debts, reducing them to slaves to the rich. The political and religious leaders did nothing to stop this oppression. They only kept reminding the people that they had no reason to fear, that things were going well, that their armies were victorious, and that their city had high walls. They were the chosen people of God and are forever in the clear from God’s judgment.From allowing evil they forsook what is good. Rather than loving good they showed how they truly loved evil. Rather than establishing justice they forsook justice and by doing so they upheld oppression. Because they did these things God says in 4:12, “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
Charge 1 – Eagerly Awaiting Future Salvation Wrongly Believing It Will Bring Redemption
v18-20 says, “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?”
Many of the prophets spoke of the great ‘day of the Lord’ including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Obadiah, Zephaniah, and Malachi. But Amos was likely the first prophet to use the term. Most of the hearers of these prophets believed ‘the day of the Lord’ was the day when God would intervene in the world’s affairs, conquer all His enemies, and put His chosen people Israel at the head of the table, if you will. It was to be a day of great power, where the sovereign God of Israel would show Himself to be unmatched, unrivaled, and unequaled in all power, might, and glory. It took many years for Israel to win their current peace, it would only take God one moment to permanently defeat all His foes. Because of this the people greatly hoped and wished for the dawning of this day, yet surprisingly Amos (as the rest of the prophets do) spoke of this day as a woe. They think it will be light for them but it will be darkness. They think it will mean ultimate salvation and redemption for them, but it will be judgment. Amos describes their misplaced anticipation by speaking of surprises in v19. Their hope for this day will be like a man who escaped from a lion, thought he was safe, but turned around and saw he was face to face with a bear. Or as if a man went into his house to rest, leaned on the wall in relief and was bit by a snake. By speaking this way Amos agrees with them, that on the day of the Lord God’s enemies will be judged and destroyed, but he implies that God’s people and God’s enemies are one in the same.This would have been a stunning and surprising reversal.
This kind of sudden surprise reminds me of the time when the young Martin Luther was deeply angered by the abuses of the Roman Catholic church and deeply desired to warn the Pope but ultimately found that the source of all these evils and more was the Pope himself. For Israel…disaster, darkness, gloom, trouble, distress, misery, and death will abound on this day they desire to see, not rescue. This first charge is clear. They should not desire the day of the Lord; it is endless devastation not eternal deliverance.
Charge 2 – Indulging in Worship while Ignoring Injustice
v21-24 says, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
While God’s first charge warned them of what was to come on the day of the Lord, His second charge told them why that outcome would be certain.
v21 is an interruption of God’s voice. Amos was speaking in v18-20 and as v21 comes there is a glaring omission. Usually when we hear from a prophet they begin with the standard refrain “Thus says the Lord” to prepare the people to hear from God. Not here. God just begins speaking about His hatred. Hatred of what you may ask? Everything in this middle portion pertains to God’s hatred of their worship. Feasts and solemn assemblies in v21. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings in v22. Songs, melodies, and instruments in v23. Notice there’s no mention of a sin offering in v22? It’s either implied here in these other offerings, or because they had given themselves over to a lavishness and luxurious ease it’s likely they had done away with the sin offering long ago to remain in ease and comfort.All of these things are integral to the worship of Israel whether they were participating in a special yearly celebration, a festival, or the weekly Sabbath. v21-22 are strong, but when we get to v23 God notches it up a level when He says not only that He won’t listen to their songs or the melody of their harps, but that He desires them to stop because rather than pleasing Him they disturb Him.
We know from other parts of Scripture that they’re worship was false. They wrongly made fake Jerusalem temples, and they wrongly put idols within them and encouraged false worship. On top of all of this there is v24. “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
In the religious activity of the nations around Israel one was allowed to be privately wicked and immoral as long as they were present and enthusiastically engaged pagan worship.God did not allow such a contradiction to be present among His people. Faithfulness to Him looked like a steady commitment to righteousness and justice. One could not be occasionally obedient to God. One could not obey only when it was convenient for them or safe for them. One could not worship rightly while living wrongly. That would be like committing adultery every now and then while claiming to be faithful to your spouse.God commanded a consistent covenant keeping from His people. That’s why it’s likened here as an ever flowing strong stream in v24. It’s doesn’t start here and stop there like most streams in the desert, running in rainy season and dry for the rest of the year. Rather, life rightly lived before the face of God continues flowing in obedient directions day and night, never going dry.
This was the foundation of these three charges in chapter 5. This was the reason why God hated their songs and told them to stop singing. This is why the day of the Lord would be darkness and not light for them. This second charge is clear, if they continued in their current path God would ensure that on the great day of the Lord He will cause justice to roll down like waters over them and carry them away in His own righteous judgment.
Charge 3 – Carrying on Their Religion while Refusing to Repent
v25-27 says, “Did you bring to Me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves, and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.”
God brings up their past wilderness wanderings to further rebuke them. Not much went right in the wilderness for them. It was a time of grumbling, complaining, and sinning…even when they made sacrifices to God. It was by doing these sacrifices that they thought they were doing right by God and living in an obedient manner, but were they? Of course not! Like these Israelites their hearts were far from Him while their hands offered up sacrifice after sacrifice. And to make matters worse now, these northern Israelites had progressed to a more modern and sophisticated religion by adding visual representations on top of their altars.Not only did they have a few golden calves, they had images of two pagan astrological deities (Sikkuth and Kiyyun) in their temples. Sure they made sure to keep practicing certain covenant rituals but they neglected they weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). Because of this, God hates, God rejects their worship and will uproot them allowing them to be carried off by their Assyrian enemies into exile.
So there’s our text for today. Perhaps you’re thinking it already so let me go ahead and ask the question for you. What does this passage have to do with holiness? Answer: everything…God shows us here what can happen to His people when they become content in living unholy lives. Worship continues but in reality is little more than a show because their day to day lives contradict their worship. This is unholy and those who live like this need to be rebuked.
The call of Amos for this original audience is clear. The wealthy people of Israel tried to worship God while keeping the mistress of money happy on the side. They oppressed the poor, and crushed the needy, while living in wealth and luxury. Because of this their worship became a weak, empty ritual. You hear the call for us today? People who truly worship God above them sacrificially work for justice around them. That’s what holiness looks like. It shouldn’t surprise us that Martin Luther King Jr. quoted Amos 5:24 quite often. In his letter from the Birmingham jail he rebukes some of the white churches in Birmingham for not coming to their aid even though they thought this cause was true. They knew oppression was rampant, they knew it wasn’t right, and he pleaded with them asking justice to roll down like waters using Amos 5:24 to join the cause. But they didn’t join him. Instead they kept on worshiping week in and out unwilling to reach out to their brothers and sisters being treated unjustly.
In many ways the state of affairs in Israel during Amos’ day is very similar to the state of affairs in America today. Donald Trump’s motto ‘Make America Great Again’ could very easily be applied to Jeroboam II’s aims to ‘Make Israel Great Again.’ Wealth and prosperity flowed easily and brought with it an idolatrous promise of ease and security that produced spiritual sloth of all kinds, especially related to matters of justice and oppression. They were quick to sing with their mouths, they were quick to raise their hands in worship, but they were slow to speak for the oppressed and slow to work against injustice. “Praising God above them while ignoring justice around them. God hates ‘worship’ like that.”
Church, holiness doesn’t look like trying harder to be a better person, it looks like saturating ourselves with the gospel more and more everyday until our lives begin to reflect it’s truth. Jesus Christ has been put forward by God to be the wrath bearing sacrifice for sinners. God will now gladly welcome the poorest and dirtiest sinner into his arms who comes by faith. Do we believe that? That gospel, that good news, ought to move us toward a humble service of others not a prideful posturing over others.
In this week’s Podcast we dive into a realm we enjoy greatly: Books. In this Episode we discuss what books are most beneficial for a believer at different stages in their Christian walk, also we examine why books are a helpful addition to your personal study of scripture.
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If Job 18 was Bildad’s description of the hell Job will one day experience, than we can easily say Job 20 is Zophar’s description of the hell Job will one day experience. While Bildad spoke of Job’s existence in hell saying it would be like a downward spiral into terror, filled with increasing terror, plunging all the way down to the king of terrors himself, Zophar speaks of the moment prior to that when all of Job’s sinful secrecy will be made plain for all to see as God devours him in judgment. Most of what Zophar has to say here is a reaffirmation of what Bildad said in chapter 18 but from another angle and through Zophar’s personality.Both are terrifying descriptions of hell and both Bildad and Zophar, by saying these things to Job, are aiming at unfolding the wrath they feel is sure to come.
v1-3 launch us out into these turbulent waters saying, “Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: “Therefore my thoughts answer me, because of my haste within me. I hear censure that insults me, and out of my understanding a spirit answers me.” Zophar is upset. But that doesn’t quite get at it does it? Zophar is more than upset, he is furious with Job for his words in chapter 19. After what Zophar surely thought was a good sermon on hell from Bildad in chapter 18, Job responded in chapter 19 by saying that it wasn’t he who was headed for such a place of terror but his friends instead, and that it is they who ought to be afraid of the sword to come (19:28-29). This brings Zophar to an angry place and causes him to keep unfolding the vision of hell Bildad began earlier. The phrase at the end of v3 is a strange one, “…out of my understanding a spirit answers me.” This isn’t to teach us that other spirits have come to Zophar who have taught him and told him what to say, no. Eliphaz says things like that, Zophar does not. What this phrase is intended to communicate is that Zophar’s anger has almost involuntarily prompted his spirit to respond with his own wisdom. Such promptings are sure to be familiar to us as we all, in our own anger, respond to various things in sinful ways. The difference is that we usually are aware when we’re sinfully responding out of anger and need to cool off and repent. Zophar does not know such things. He feels completely justified in his words, so he lays it out clearly and aggressively here.
Three things come out of Zophar in chapter 20. First he describes Job as a vapor in v4-11, he then speaks of Job as a devourer in v12-19, and then lastly he speaks of God as a devourer in v20-29.
Job the Vapor (v4-11)
v4-11 says, “Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ He will fly away like a dream and not be found; he will be chased away like a vision of the night. The eye that saw him will see him no more, nor will his place any more behold him. His children will seek the favor of the poor, and his hands will give back his wealth. His bones are full of his youthful vigor, but it will lie down with him in the dust.”
Whatever height the wicked reach in this life whether it be above the clouds or even up to the heavens it will not change the simple fact that the wicked will have a quick and complete end. The imagery of height is used here to call forth the notions of particular brand of wickedness: pride and arrogance. Pointing out that those who are prideful are the ones who think they’re above all others. That the proud will end up a vapor is as Zophar says, a law that is of old. So old that all those who are serious about religion know it, live by it, and have seen it prove true time and time again. He likens the wicked to dung here that perishes and washes away down the sewer, or like a dream that flies away, or like a vision that is chased away never to be found again. Zophar believes Job is so wicked and that those who once knew him will soon ask ‘Where is he?’ And with his departure goes all his belongings and wealth, which causes the statement in v10 about his own children seeking the favor of the poor. This either means upon his death his children will be plunged into such deep poverty that they will have to ask the poor for aid, or that his children will have to pay back to the poor all that their father stole from them.It’s probably the latter option in view here since v19 implies Job’s mistreatment of the needy. Either way, Zophar says Job, even though being full of youthful vigor (v11) he will die, quickly vanish away, and leave no lasting legacy or helpful inheritance to his kids…only strife and struggle.
Job the Devourer (v12-19)
“Though evil is sweet in his mouth, though he hides it under his tongue, though he is loath to let it go and holds it in his mouth, yet his food is turned in his stomach; it is the venom of pcobras within him. He swallows down riches and vomits them up again; God casts them out of his belly. He will suck the poison of cobras; the tongue of a viper will kill him. He will not look upon the rivers, the streams flowing with honey and curds. He will give back the fruit of his toil and will not swallow it down; from the profit of his trading he will get no enjoyment. For he has crushed and abandoned the poor; he has seized a house that he did not build.”
This section reminds me of Edmund’s desire for the White Witch’s Turkish Delight in chapter 4 of Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Witch was originally horrid and cruel to Edmund but turned strangely curious and warm to him once she found out he was a Son of Adam. He was cold, she gave him a fur coat. He was thirsty, she gave him a hot drink. He was hungry, asked for Turkish Delight, and the Witch gave it to him. After he finished all of it, he felt awful, sick, and bloated. But Lewis comments near the end of the chapter that the food of the Witch is so deceptively poisonous that one could keep on eating and eating and eating until they die. Edmund doesn’t know this, he just keeps on eating the sinful sweets until they’re all gone. And even though he felt all kinds of sick, the only thing he could think of is having more of it. This is quite a picture of sin given to us here in Lewis’ Chronicles. It’s a picture similar to what Zophar says here of Job’s devouring nature.
Zophar says Job loves wickedness so much that (v12-14) he rolls it around in his mouth savoring all he can out of it before swallowing it down. But once swallowed it turns his stomach and feels like the venom of cobras. Proverbs 20:17 makes this point when it says, “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.” In v15 Zophar says this is how Job has accumulated all his wealth and riches. He unjustly gained wealth and though God caused it to come back up again and again Job kept swallowing the what Zophar calls cobra and viper poison confirming his vile character. Because of this he will not look on the health spoken of in v17, pure lands flowing with rivers and streams of honey and curds. No Job’s experience will be v18, never again to enjoy his work, or keep the profits of it, giving away the rewards of his labor and not keeping it for himself or swallowing those good things down. Why again is this Job’s judgment? Because he has devoured, crushed, and abandoned (v19) the poor, claiming all the labor of their hands as his own.
For his continual sinful devouring, Zophar now says God will devour Job. This is how the argument unfolds as we begin the final portion of Zophar’s speech in v20-29.
God the Devourer (v20-29)
“Because he knew no contentment in his belly, he will not let anything in which he delights escape him. There was nothing left after he had eaten; therefore his prosperity will not endure. In the fullness of his sufficiency he will be in distress; the hand of everyone in misery will come against him. To fill his belly to the full, God will send his burning anger against him and rain it upon him into his body. He will flee from an iron weapon; a bronze arrow will strike him through. It is drawn forth and comes out of his body; the glittering point comes out of his gallbladder; terrors come upon him. Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed. The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him. The possessions of his house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God’s wrath. This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.”
As Edmund was insatiably hungering for Turkish Delight Zophar rebukes Job saying he has been insatiably gathering and hoarding riches for himself. Contentment has been as far from Job as the East is from the West. Thinkingit will make his belly full and his soul satisfied Job will actually only experience the burning anger of God raining down, literally, into his body. Zophar is saying because Job has devoured the poor to make himself rich, God will devour him and make him the epitome of destitution before tossing him into the eternal inferno of His hot anger. In his fret Job may try to flee from one weapon only to be met by another stronger weapon. Though the iron weapon may miss him the bronze arrow will sink into his gallbladder, and when Job pulls it out of his gallbladder the sense is that bile (or corruption) will flow out finally testifying of Job’s sinful ways…terror will seize him as he realizes his doom and destiny with an angry God…where a dark fire so hot that it doesn’t need to be fanned will consume him forever. Zophar says there is no escaping this, even the heavens and earth testify against him. Thus, the Job-devouring God will be drag Job off in the day of His wrath. So Zophar concludes in v29 saying, “This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.”
We could conclude in many ways this evening speaking of innocent suffering of Christ, speaking of Christians drinking the cup of Christ to varying degrees in this life as we suffer. But I’d like to end elsewhere. The ESV Study Bible is helpful here to end with this evening…note for Job 20:27 on page 901. Listen to what it says, “Although it is not his purpose, Zophar hints here at the central tension of the book: what is the relationship between what is true before God and what takes place on earth? The friends wrongly assume that Job’s circumstances on earth are a transparent indicator of his guilt before God in heaven. Job has governed his life by a belief that God is indeed just, and his lament reflects his desire that God’s justice would be manifested more than it is in his present life on earth. In the end, Zophar will realize that what the heavens will reveal is his own error, not Job’s iniquity.”
As political campaigns have come and gone throughout the years there have been many promises made and few promises kept. Some of them have been made out of good will and upright intentions while others, no doubt, have been made out of complete absurdity. For example Ferdinand Lop, who ran for the French presidency in 1938, promised he would relocate Paris to the countryside so that the people could enjoy fresher air. In 1963 Lord Sutch, running for a parliament position in the UK, promised he would put joggers to good use by forcing them to run on treadmills that would power the city.Or perhaps we remember more recent promises made like building a large wall on our southern border and getting Mexico to pay for it.
All these promises, whether noble or absurd, seem to function as little more than political props to get one elected. Because of this we look on most political promises through a lens of suspicion. In a manner of speaking it’s the reverse of our legal system, to us most politicians because of these unkept promises are guilty until proven innocent. We ought to recognize such things about our natural distrust of those in authority because of our text in view this morning. Many believe the context of Psalm 101 was near the beginning or just after the beginning of David’s rule as King. Because of this the Psalm is known as the ‘Prince’s Psalm’ or the Psalm of ‘Pious Resolutions’ as Charles Spurgeon put it.In it David states his declaration of and determination after a holy walk, a holy rule, and a holy house.David did long for holiness and labor to keep these promises. This Psalm is one of the reasons David is called a man after God’s own heart. And it’s right for Psalm 101 to be where it is, for after many Psalms of praise it is fitting to have a Psalm of practice because “we never praise the Lord better than when we do those things which are pleasing in His sight.”
Aiming at these things this morning, Psalm 101 portrays the following to us: David’s holiness in private (v1-4), David’s holiness in public (v5-8), and lastly we must look further than this Psalm itself to see David’s Failure.
Holiness in Private (v1-4)
There is much to point out in these four verses. David will speak of five things here: his mouth, his mind, his feet, his eyes and his heart.
First, his mouth.v1, “I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to You, O Lord, I will make music.” Six times in v1-4 we read the common refrain ‘I will’ and before he promises to do anything else he promises to sing. This is of worth to note. David was known as a man who could handle himself. He had killed a lion and a bear in the wilderness, He knocked down Goliath, the champion of Gath, with a just a single stone. He knew his way around the battlefield and did not shrink back from it. He was a man who had a reputation of killing tens of thousands of the Lord’s enemies. He was a man’s man, the likes of which makes Chuck Norris look like a toddler. See what this man’s man is employing all of his strength to do here? Not to fight, not to chase down enemies, no. He promises to sing to the Lord, sing of the Lord, and sing about the Lord. This not only shows us that true manliness is spiritual in nature, it shows us that everything in God, when thought about deep enough and long enough, will become in us a song. And we haven’t thought about Him or His glory deep enough until it becomes a song. David sang of God’s steadfast, devoted, covenant love as well as God’s justice and judgment because there is as much wonder and delight in God’s comforts that cheer us as His afflictions which purge us.
So, in all the holiness put forward for us to see in Psalm 101 do you see where it begins? With song! God will have all David’s praise, will He have all of yours?
Second, his mind.v2a, “I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will You come to me?” David is not content to merely sing of God, he wants to walk in a way pleasing to God such that his holy song is joined with a holy life. This word ponder indicates a desire to press into and come to understand something in order to gain wisdom. What will he ponder? What will he think over? The blameless way, the holy life. Yet again we come to the theme of mental activity and holiness. Last week we saw, in 1 Peter 1, God’s command to be sober-minded, to gird up the loins of our minds in an effort to be holy as God is holy. Here is David’s way of saying the same thing, ‘pondering the way that is blameless.’ Think Church, what subjects run through your mind day by day? It’s likely that those things you think upon most are the things you love deepest. What is that for you? God called out to His people through the Hosea in this very regard rebuking them in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” He then pleaded with them in Hosea 6:3, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord…” But they remained unwilling to press into true knowledge so God told them in Hosea 8:12, “I have written to him the great things of My Law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” Spurgeon warned his hearers of the same things when he said, “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers…the science of Jesus Christ is the most excellent of sciences…would you know astronomy? It is here: it tells you of the Sun of Righteousness and the Star of Bethlehem. Would you know botany? It is here: it tells you of Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon. Would you know geology? It is here: it tells you of the Rock of Ages. Would you know history? It is here: it tells you of the most ancient of all the records of the human race…Wise and foolish, babes and men, gray-headed saints, youths, and maidens, I plead with you…respect your Bibles and search them out…Church, did you forget to eat any meals this past week? I doubt it. Eating is a priority for you to remain alive, is it not? Yet, how many of you forgot to eat spiritually this week? I fear that too many of us are thriving physically while deteriorating spiritually. How can you know God or know how God would have you live if you don’t ponder His ways revealed in His Word?
From pondering this blameless way David cries out to God “Oh when will You come to me?” because after pondering and learning of the high and holy calling God calls us to he is aware that he can’t do it on his own and needs God’s help to do it. May we feel so dependent as well.
Third, his feet. v2b, “I will walk with integrity within my house.” David promises to walk within his own home with integrity. Literally, he promises to walk blamelessly in his home. His holiness will, therefore, begin in private before it ever goes public. This is hard for us because today there are so many avenues to promote whatever kind of public persona we please, so much, that we often don’t give much attention to what our private life is like. And yet, a holy life begins there before anywhere else. If the walls of your home could testify about you, would they proclaim the life of a holy man or a blameless woman? Or would they call out clear contradictions? Are you patient in public and angry in private? Are you disciplined in public and unrestrained in private? Are you loving and gracious in public and rude and ill-tempered in private? Do not be deceived, what you are in private that you are. This deals not only with David at home and us at home, it also deals with David and all the company he kept or allowed in his home. So, do you do life with the Church publically while doing life with the world privately? What you do at home and who you do those things with speaks volumes about who you really are. It would be a tragedy if your private life were unsaying all that your public life boasted of. May there be a deep harmony in you, more so, may all that you are in public come from and be formed by what you are in private.
Fourth, his eyes and heart.v3-4, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” David knows the actions of the hand come from the inclinations of the heart, which come from the decisions of the mind, which come from what we see with our eyes. Remember, it was Eve who saw the fruit, counted it as a delight to her eyes as she and Adam reached for it, and ate it. We thus have a need to guard our eyes and hearts because worthless and evil things abound around us. Proverbs 4 calls the heart the wellspring of life, and in Matthew 6 Jesus calls the eyes the windows of the soul. So those who see to the eyes and heart see to the source of all that enters into man. Last year we we’re watching the movie Zootopia at home with the boys. It’s a funny movie with animals living in ordered cities and horrendously slow sloths working all the government offices. Anywho, we enjoyed the movie until the ending scene when the whole city broke out in a celebration singing Shakira’s song Try Everything. That of course was the point of the movie, that in order to find out who you are you must look inside you and try everything, even those things that are not usually welcomed in society. Holly and I picked up on some of these undertones, the boys most likely did not. But we decided to address some of the larger issues presented in it later during our family worship for the evening and we had a good discussion about how we find out who we are in Jesus and not in us. Yes, try all sorts of things, indeed! But stay away from pursuing as a goal the very things the Bible tells us will ruin our souls.
So we guard our eyes and guard our hearts because there are many things around us that aren’t good for us. Or, we cannot love and practice that which is holy if we do not hate and flee that which is sinful.Let’s ask a question. How do we define what is worthless? Rather than dying the death of a million qualifications here, I’ll just say this. Anything that leads you away from God and closer to sin is worthless. Anything that makes worldliness seem normal and holiness seem strange is worthless. Of course spiritual maturity, Christian liberty, context, and culture determine a lot of what’s in view here but these overarching principles remain fixed and firm in all times, all places, and among all peoples. More so, notice David includes worthless people here? Not only are worthless things to be far from us, worthless people are to be far from us as well. This means for the believer, our closest companions must share our deepest convictions. Why? Because the company we keep eventually determines who we are. Of course pursue the lost, take them to lunch, have their families over for dinner, and get to know them for the sake of winning them to Christ. However, are these the people you want giving you counsel in hard times in any area of life? No way. Scripture warns us of this for a reason. We will become corrupt if our closest company becomes corrupt. Are we willing to do as David says here? To set nothing evil before our eyes, to guard our hearts, and to know nothing of evil? Church, a pursuit of holy living isn’t passive. No one becomes holier by accident. “If you do not resolve to do well you will likely do ill.”This is what we’re called to.
Holiness in Public (v5-8)
We now transition in v5 from David’s longings for private holiness within his house, to his longings for public holiness within his kingdom. He has determined to lead an upright life, and now he determines to lead an upright administration. As the King David promises to punish the wicked in v5, v7, and v8 while David promises to bless the faithful in v6.
This second group of promises can be summarized in one word, David promises to be a just King.
v5-8 says, “Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes. Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the Lord.”
Here David makes it plain that as King he will wield the sword of his office strongly in two directions. On the one hand, David promises he will come down hard against those who give themselves to vices of every kind (the slanderer, the haughty, the arrogant, the deceitful, the liars, the wicked, and the evildoers). He will bring them swift justice and the punishments they rightly deserve. He will not let them get away with wicked works, and as he appoints people in every area throughout his administration he will see to it that none of the wicked will labor alongside him in positions of power over the people. For David a sinful life blocks a person from public office. Or we could say that David in v1-4 not only sets out the pattern of life he will endeavor towards, but by so doing is himself recommending the pattern of life he wishes everyone in the kingdom would live by, and those who don’t are guaranteed his Kingly wrath not his Kingly favor.
On the other hand, David promises to look in favor or look with a wholehearted trust on the faithful in the land. It is this group who live lives characterized by virtues not vices. It is this group of people who live life as he does, according to the ideals in v1-4. The language given in v6 portrays David having a searching eye seeking out all those who are faithful within the city and bringing them near him. These people are not only fit for positions beside him, they are fit to dwell with him in his house, and fit to even minister to David himself. It is these people who make up his closest companions, his inner court, his counselors, his generals, and his mighty men of renown.
Taking both his public promises toward the wicked and the faithful into account we can conclude that David, as he begins his reign deeply desires and promises to be a just and holy King.
Psalm 101 is David’s determination to live a holy life. David endeavored to live a distinct and holy life as he led God’s distinct and holy people. This Psalm has been a favorite throughout Church history. It was read at marriages as new families and households were formed in the Puritan era.It was loved and prized by Nicholas Ridley (an English Reformer) who said the Psalm carries a stern exclusiveness, a noble intolerance, not against theological errors but against the proud heart, the secret slanderer, deceitful worker, and the teller of lies. It is said he loved this Psalm so much that he would pay anyone within his own home who memorized it.This Psalm must be loved and prized by every Christian as well, because in it we find holy resolutions for both private and public life that we should be eager and willing to make ourselves. We need to be reminded of such things. That we can and ought to be aiming at pleasing God by our obedience to His commands.
But we also need to be reminded that ultimately David’s initial determination diminished into disobedience as he failed to keep these promises. 1 and 2 Samuel could be called A Tale of Two David’s because while he’s upright, virtuous, humble, obedient, brave, and bold in 1 Samuel…2 Samuel tells a different story. Sure it’s the same David but he is now comfortable being King, growing lazy in his discipline, staying at home during the time when kings go out to war, committing adultery, lies, murder, not to mention the family strife that plagues the back half of the book!
Shall we then throw out the Psalm as a phony and a fraud or view it as another list of empty political promises? Of course not. Ultimately it isn’t King David in view in Psalm 101, for as soon as he wrote this Psalm of Pious Resolutions he would have to write a Psalm of Repentance, as we would have to do as well. Ultimately it is Christ the King being described here, who alone is able to fully uphold these ideals and fit the character described here. The study notes in the ESV Study Bible are very helpful here when they say, “Christians can sing this Psalm, rejoicing that they have in Jesus the perfect embodiment of the Davidic ideal; this can lead them to reflect on what kind of people they should aim to be, with such a King over them.”So Church, with such a King over us in Christ, what kind of people ought we to be? A people who long for holiness in private and in public. How does this happen? Well it surely doesn’t happen with our effort or our work does it? We, like King David, must be aware that our sins are many. So how do we become holy? From Christ the King who has already declared us to be what He is now making us into. Let me explain. At the moment of our conversion Jesus, by His own work, declared us to be what we we’re not – righteous. This is stunningly gracious, but there is more. From that point on as He grows us in His grace He actually makes us into what He has declared us to be – righteous. So from recognizing that we can’t, recognizing that He has, and recognizing that He is now making us holy is what moves us toward a greater holiness.
So Church, leave by hearing Peter call you to this in 2 Peter 3:11-14, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.”
Welcome to our new weekly podcast. Every week Andrew & Adam will be chatting about a wide variety of topics and issues in life and the church.
This week’s episode features a question from a SonRise church member in regards to the use of scripture without context, such as in the case of John 3:16, and to what degree this could cause someone to be further pushed into error rather than into truth.
This week one our our pastoral apprentices, Sam Knox, brought us the Word of God from the book of Job. I hope you will be encouraged and edified as you listen to this next chapter in the book of Job.
This past week most of the major denominations in our country had their yearly meetings or assemblies where they gathered together to be encouraged and vote on certain matters. In talking about some of these meetings this past week I was reminded that most denominations have certain acquired reputations over the years. Think of the early Methodist’s. John and Charles Wesley began what they called the ‘holy club’ and out of this grew a denomination characterized by rigorous methods for attaining holiness. Think of our Pentecostal brothers and sisters. One of the nicknames they’ve received over the years is the ‘holy-rollers’ due to their dedication to live godly lives before an ungodly world. And then think of congregations like ours steeped in historical Reformation theology. Over the years we’ve not been characterized by a pursuit of holiness, rather we’ve been characterized by inaction being called the ‘frozen chosen.’
This reveals something about us that we should just be honest about. We don’t really care about holiness do we? I mean, we love the gospel, we love the cross, we love the resurrection, and we love the grace of God. And this is right for us to love grace this deeply, God has saved us from so much hasn’t He? But why is it that we give so little attention to all that God has saved us to? Shouldn’t those most passionate about the gospel and God’s glory revealed in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ also be those most dedicated to the pursuit of godliness? Indeed we should.
Perhaps it’s because we don’t care about holiness. Perhaps it’s because we have no idea what a holy life really looks like and think holiness is a simple refrain of don’ts. ‘Don’t dance, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls who do.’ Perhaps we fear being legalistic, or getting into a religion of rules and are frightened by words like effort, discipline, and work thinking they’ve got no place in a faith centered on grace and justification by faith alone. Well, whatever you’re opinion of holiness is I’ve found that most people have one thing in common – we know we’re not holy. The subject of holiness is of the deepest importance for every Christian. I am aware that I could have chosen a subject more agreeable this summer, and I know for a fact I could have chosen a subject easier to handle than holiness, but I’ve chosen such a topic this summer because I aim to make you aware that few things are as profitable to the eternal well-being of our souls than the subject of holiness. Holy is what God is, and holy is what God’s people are saved to be. We began last week laying the foundation for this series in Isaiah 6 looking at ‘Our Holy God.’ Today we continue in 1 Peter 1:13-16 looking at ‘His Holy People.’
As we enter 1 Peter 1:13-16 we find Peter concluding a section about how we’re to live in present while we’re waiting for the future return of Christ. After beginning his letter Peter says in 1:3-5, “According to (God’s) great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” It is this living faith of ours, though tested and tried, that will bring glory and praise and honor to God at the revelation of Jesus Christ. It is this living hope in being resurrected from the grave of sin that fills us with joy inexpressible and full of glory, as we await His return when we will obtain the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls. It is this salvation that was searched out, carefully inquired into, and proclaimed in the power of the Spirit by the prophets of old. And also, it is this redemption that Peter says the angels long to look into.
Recall, Peter wrote 1 Peter to a group of believers persecuted and abused by the society in which they lived. Rather than calling them to hide themselves away hunkering down until society at large accepts them Peter tells these Christians how they’re to live godly lives in an ungodly world.In v13-16, our passage for this morning, and by beginning with the word ‘therefore’ Peter draws his first major implication of how they’re to live lives in the present while they wait for Jesus to return.
In this passage we learn holiness is a response to future grace, holiness is a rejection of former sin, and holiness is a reflection of God’s fullness.
Holiness is a Response to Future Grace (v13)
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Notice that it’s the grace we’ll receive at ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ that moves us to do certain things here and now. v13 calls us to ‘prepare our minds for action’ and to be ‘sober-minded.’ Literally Peter says here to ‘gird up the loins of our minds’ or something like ‘roll up your mental sleeves.’For most of Biblical history men and women wore robes in daily life. Even the soldiers would wear robes with armor on top. As you can imagine when the common person ran around or when the soldier went into battle these robes would get in the way. So, they would literally pull them up above their knees and tie them or fasten them in place with a smaller belt to prepare them for agility and fast movement. Peter uses this image to call his readers to a certain kind of mental activity.Now it’s true that just thinking the right things cannot get you into heaven, but it’s also true that God has created us in such a manner that the route to the heart is through the mind. We cannot love deeply that which we do not know truly. Which means when God comes into view you cannot leave your mind behind, it must come with you and be prepared to be active and engaged. This is how Peter begins addressing his readers.
He then adds ‘set our hope fully on the grace to come.’ Hope once again comes into view. He earlier told us of the new birth to a living hope in our past conversion, and now he tells us that living hope is to be set upon grace yet to come in the future. This isn’t a pop psychological hope leading us to a kind of positive thinking or fanciful wishing (like I hope next year will be better than this year, or I hope my team will win it all this season), but a Christ-centered boast of what He has done in the past and what He will one day do in the future. Or to say it another way, we do not hope for the return of Christ (though we do). No, rather based on the return of Christ we’re to live lives of hope now.Or to say it yet another way, because we have a hopein God we should set our hopeon God.Which reveals an underlying principle at work here – what we ultimately hope in changes how we live day to day. If you live in a war zone you hope for peace. If you’re single you hope for a spouse. If you’re unable to have children you hope for kids. If you’re sick you hope for healing. All of these are good things but when we make good things our greatest hope those good things become functional saviors. And when they don’t deliver we’ll be crushed in our idolatrous ways.Peter is reminding us to do the hard work of using our minds to place our hope where it ought to be, in God, and specifically in His grace to come.
These phrases ‘prepare your mind for action’, ‘be sober minded’, and ‘set your hope fully on’ are not terms of inaction. They’re not passive phrases. They’re terms describing discipline, effort, and work in regard to spiritual living. Or to say it another way, these phrases are a call to work hard at becoming holy. But see the direction we work hard towards? We do not set our hope fully on our own discipline, effort, and work. No, we set our hope fully on God’s grace yet to be revealed. All of this indicates that knowledge of future grace to come will lead to living lives of holiness now. Do you see that? Knowing that God in His grace will one day come and make all things right when Jesus returns ought to lead us to prepare our minds for action and be sober minded today.
The grace in view here is both past tense and future tense. The verses leading up to this passage, particularly v1-7, make it plain that in Christ we have received grace; and v8-13 make it plain that we will one day receive more grace when Jesus returns. Grace behind us and grace before us, changes how to live right now. It’s just like a springtime flower. As the flower’s natural response is to open and blossom when it feels the suns warmth and light, so too, the Christian’s natural response is to live a holy life when it beholds and basks in the pure light of the Holy Christ.
Holiness is first and foremost a response to future grace.
Holiness is a Rejection of Former Sin (v14-15)
As Peter continues he says in v14-15, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” v14 and v15 say the same thing in different ways. v14 says it negatively “…do not be conformed to ignorant passions…” and v15 says it positively “…be holy in all your conduct…” When you combine the commands in v14 and v15 you have a clear picture of what the pursuit of holiness looks like. As God’s true children we’re called to be obedient children, who are also to be nonconformists. Not nonconformists in an Amish sense rejecting things like electricity and cars because the world uses them, but ethical nonconformists.Peter is saying if you’re a Christian, you’ve been saved and reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit who’s given us a new heart. This new heart produces new desires, new loves, and new aspirations that change the way we live daily life. Formerly we walked around in ignorance hating God and hating one another. Now, being saved, God expects us to walk differently. How so? Since we’re called to not conform to the ignorant and wicked passions of our former lives, we’re to be holy so we conform to what is truly good, true, and beautiful.
We’ve seen this in Old Testament Israel. They were set apart and made distinct by God from the surrounding nations to be holy. After God redeemed them He gave them His Law to reorder their lives to be different from how they lived before. Today Christ’s Church, full of converted men and women, is similarly set apart from sin and the surrounding world to be holy herself. Israel, though in the world, was to look different from her neighbors, and now the Church, though in the world, is to look different from the world. Our boat, if you will, is to be in the ocean but none of the ocean is to be in the boat, lest we sink. Peter is aware that Christians will still feel pulled and tempted to live in certain ways in line with our former lost lives and the sinful world around us, he doesn’t deny this. What he does deny is the Christian not resisting our former sinful lifestyle after conversion.v14 calls this ‘obedient.’ v15 calls this ‘holy.’ Therefore obedience and holiness means conforming to Christ rather than the world around us. This means holiness is not optional for the Church. Holiness is not just something for mature Christians, holiness is not just something for pastors and elders, holiness is for all Christians, in all times, in all places. Eph. 1:3-4 says this is why God predestined us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”
I know that each of you has at one time or another asked God this question, ‘God, what is Your will for my life?’ Listen to 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” You can’t get clearer than that right? Sanctification is the ongoing work of God’s free grace in the believer to make us, move us, and mature us toward holiness. What is God’s will for you? His will is that you be holy. This isn’t something to pray about, as if we could sit back and ask God ‘God do you want me to be holy today?’ The answer is clear and simple – YES! Ecclesiastes 3 said it first and The Byrds said it second in 1965 that there’s a time fore everything under the sun, a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to tear down, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, and a time to weep. You ever notice it doesn’t say ‘a time to be holy?’ This is because there is never a time, not even a second, when the Christian is not to be holy. Out of all the things in our lives, holiness must be the Christian’s main pursuit. Why? Because it is who we are.
So we have a question to answer before us: what does a pursuit of holiness look like for you and me? J.C. Ryle in his book ‘Holiness’ (1877) gives us 10 markers of true holiness. I’ll walk through them quickly:
1) Holiness is being of one mind with God – this means we agree with God in His Word, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
2) Holiness is to fear God – not a slavish fear but a reverent fear, understanding that fearing God is the beginning of wisdom, and that through the fear of God men depart from sin.
3) Holiness is an endeavor to shun every sin and keep every commandment – meaning in all things we aim to obey God, which of course implies the opposite – in all things we aim to never disobey God.
4) Holiness is to be humble – slow to speak, quick to listen, not rash or hasty but gentle and confidently calm, counting others as more important than ourselves.
5) Holiness is to watch our life closely – not acting on every impulse, but weighing them carefully – rejecting some while embracing others.
6) Holiness is to be charitable – in all that we do in life Christians are to be merciful and gracious people who remember the golden rule, doing as we would have others do to us.
7) Holiness is to be pure – hating all things corrupt and impure, setting no vile thing before our eyes, the Christian seeks to flee immorality of all kinds recognizing it for what it is, sin.
8) Holiness is to be faithful – this is an awareness that in all things: work or play, public or private, at home or abroad, all of life is to be lived as to the Lord, seeking to do the best we can do in all we do.
9) Holiness is to be spiritually minded – endeavoring to place our minds entirely on things above not on things below. Believing our treasure is in heaven and not on earth, and thus making it a pattern in life to be much in the Word and much in prayer.
10) Holiness is striving to be like Jesus – meaning not only seeking to live life as He did and draw all of our strength from Him, but pressing forward to be conformed into His image.
So after hearing these ten things describing what a pursuit of holiness looks like let me ask you – are you holy? Do you know the holiness I’ve been speaking of? I am not asking if you attend church regularly, or if you’ve been baptized or have taken the Lord’s Supper. I am not asking you if you wear the name ‘Christian.’ I am not asking if you approve of holiness in others, or like to read books about the lives of holy people, or like to talk about holy things, or own many holy books yourself. I am not asking you want to be holy or hope to be holy some day in the future. I am asking something more – are you holy? Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Others will see the God in your life if your pursue holiness. You will see the God more clearly if you pursue holiness. More so, the world will see the character of God in our church collectively if we all are pursuing holiness individually.
Think of a lighthouse. They blow no horns and demand no applause, they just shine, and in their light others can see things for what they really are. Do you just seek to shine? Or do you demand applause for living holy?
Holiness is a Reflection of God’s Fullness (v16)
It is said that the moon, though appearing to be very bright, has no light of it’s own – it only reflects the sun. The same is true of us, in and of ourselves we have no holiness, we are mere reflectors of God’s pure light. Peter says this in our passage in v15 and v16. In v15 he said “…as He who called you is holy, you also be holy…” while v16 quotes Leviticus 11:44 where God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus is largely ignored today as out of date or too difficult to read. Yet it’s main point is that a holy God can only be approached by a holy people. Throughout Leviticus there are many descriptions of how God separated certain things from what was common and made them holy. This pertains to all that is involved in the worship of God, all those who come to worship God, and the God being worshiped! Peter reaches way back to Leviticus and pulls this forward to show us the command to be holy is rooted in Scripture. And not only so, he wants to show us that the foundation of our own holiness is rooted in God’s own holiness, which makes our holiness a reflection of God’s holiness.
This should come as no surprise to you…1 Peter 1:1-2 make it clear we have already been made holy. God has chosen us (v1), sanctified us in the Spirit (v2), and sprinkled us clean with Jesus’ blood (v2). This means the whole of what he will say in these chapters to come is not ‘be holy because you’re currently not’, but ‘be holy because you already are.’ Or, be who God has made you to be.God has redeemed us, we belong to God, and all that belongs to God becomes holy by association.
So yes in our holy living we must be distinct from the world. Do you see here that hope and holiness are tied together in this passage, leading to the thought that our deepest hope doesn’t come from our own efforts in holiness, but from Jesus Christ the Holy One, who has by His work already made us holy and blameless. May we, by such grace, be who God’s made us to be.
Most of us, at one time or another, have read the entirety of or at least certain parts of the most famous sermon ever preached on American soil. Of course you probably know that I’m referring to Jonathan Edward’s sermon ‘Sinners In the Hands of an Angry God.’ The most often quoted paragraph in that sermon is as follows:
“…there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of; there is nothing between you and the Hell but God…if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a spider’s web would have stop a fallen rock…The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready to string and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”
I begin with this truthful and powerful warning from Edwards this evening because as we read Job 18 we read something very similar. In this second speech to Job Bildad warns Job of the end of the wicked by telling him of the fires and torments of hell. It is a good sermon on hell, and we all should be so warned of these things. But because Bildad applies it to Job his sermon on hell is unhelpful, yet in understanding why his sermon is unhelpful will nevertheless prove to be helpful to us.So Job 18 can rightly be called, ‘Sinners In the Hands of Bildad’s god.’
He begins in v1-4 saying, “Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said: “How long will you hunt for words? Consider, and then we will speak. Why are we counted as cattle? Why are we stupid in your sight? You who tear yourself in your anger, shall the earth be forsaken for you, or the rock be removed out of its place?”
The ‘you’ in v1 is plural which indicates Bildad isn’t addressing Job in isolation but is addressing him now as part of the larger category of the wicked. It’s as if, according to Bildad, that Job no longer belongs to their company or fellowship but belongs to the whole host of the wicked who hunt down words to justify themselves in their sin. His first call is in v2 when he asks Job to ‘Consider’ or ‘come to his senses’ and realize how wrong he’s been. Back in 12:7 Job said the counsel from his friends was so poor that he might as well ask for counsel from cattle and other beasts of the earth. Apparently Bildad remembers this comment because he brings it up again here in v2 asking Job why he likens them to stupid cattle who don’t serve him well. Bildad doesn’t think he’s as dumb as an ox, he’s taking offense to that, and is about to respond in v5-21. But first in v3-4 he responds to Job’s comments about God ‘tearing at him in His wrath’ (16:9) and tells him what’s really happening to him isn’t God’s wrath coming against him to harm him but self-harm that’s plaguing him, which in turn is causing Job to want even the stability of the earth to change so he can feel better. The picture at the end of v4 is of an orderly universe which Job wants to disrupt and remove things from their rightful place for his own comfort. Bildad believes Job is acting like a rude houseguest who comes in and wants to trash the place for his own selfish purposes without regard for anyone else.
Now we come to the main portion of chapter 18. v5-21 say the following, “Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine. The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp above him is put out. His strong steps are shortened, and his own schemes throw him down. For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walks on its mesh. A trap seizes him by the heel; a snare lays hold of him. A rope is hidden for him in the ground, a trap for him in the path. Terrors frighten him on every side, and chase him at his heels. His strength is famished, and calamity is ready for his stumbling. It consumes the parts of his skin; the firstborn of death consumes his limbs. He is torn from the tent in which he trusted and is brought to the king of terrors. In his tent dwells that which is none of his; sulfur is scattered over his habitation. His roots dry up beneath, and his branches wither above. His memory perishes from the earth, and he has no name in the street. He is thrust from light into darkness, and driven out of the world. He has no posterity or progeny among his people, and no survivor where he used to live. They of the west are appalled at his day, and horror seizes them of the east. Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.”
Bildad gives us five pictures of the ‘place’ the wicked will ultimately dwell. First, hell is darkness. In v5-6 four words are used to express this, ‘light’, ‘flame’, ‘fire, and ‘lamp.’ In each of these four instances when the wicked enter into hell all light will go out, the flame will not quenched, the fire will not blaze, and the lamp will be put out. Job earlier said in 10:21-22 that he feels as if God has taken him on a one-way trip to the land of thick darkness. Later in 17:13 Job said because of his great suffering he now must figure out how to make his bed in this darkness because he feels it won’t ever lift. By using Job’s own images and words of darkness here in chapter 18 Bildad is agreeing with Job, stating that Job is really in darkness, but he’s implying that the only people who suffer such a fate are the wicked.
Second, hell is inescapable. In v7-10 we find six words describing one being trapped. One who thinks he is a strong and pure man is really just a man well on his way to having his steps shortened by his own deceitful scheming. By living in the wicked manner he has, this strong man will come into ruin and dismay. How? His own feet will be the means which cast him into a net, and once in that net he’ll continue to try and walk but only find that his feet become further entangled and ensnared in this net. He has been seized, trapped by a rope he never saw coming, and laid hold of by his own sins and now faces the punishment of those sins, a punishment so thorough that he cannot ever hope to escape it. Again, Job has before used such language. In 3:23, 10:16, and 13:27 Job has said God hunted him, trapped him, ensnared him, and hedged him in…so deeply that he can never hope to be set free again. Bildad agrees with him but implies, only the wicked experience such punishment.
Third, hell is terror. In v11-14 Bildad says hell isn’t only darkness and an inescapable trap, it is full of terror. Surrounding the wicked on every side, chasing them down, wearying out their strength, bringing calamity and stumbling on them, consuming their health, tearing away all their fortresses they formerly trusted in, and (perhaps most horrific of all) ushering them into the very presence of the king of terror, Satan himself. In this sense the terrors of hell, to the wicked who experience them, feel something like the Nazgul or the Black Riders in the Lord of the Rings ever chasing and aiming to bring you before the Dark Lord Sauron. Or like the evil wolves running out of the icy castle of the White Witch in Narnia aiming to capture you for her. Again, Bildad uses Job’s former words against him here too. Job has said in 6:4, 7:4, 9:34, and 13:11-12 that he feels as if the terrors of God are aimed right at him, which cause sleep to flee from him, bringing fear and terror to his heart before the angry majesty of God. Bildad agrees, and says the reason Job is experiencing this terror is because he is wicked and headed for greater wickedness in hell where he’ll be brought before the king of terror.
Fourth, hell is total desolation. In v15-20 the picture painted is a bleak one as Bildad brings his second speech to a close. The life of the wicked is likened to a plant, where the fire and brimstone and sulfur of hell beneath burns up all roots under the earth and destroys all the branches above. The wicked also experience a total loss of all things near and dear to them. Their memory fades on earth, no reputation lingers, they are blotted out forever and ever. Thrust into darkness, driven out of the world, outside the camp where dryness abounds and no satisfaction is found. Locally, Bildad states the descendants of the wicked will not remember their wicked ancestors, who have been removed for the many sins. Globally, Bildad states the whole world east and west will be appalled and horrified at the fate of the wicked.
Because of all these things Bildad makes a conclusion in v21 saying, “Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous, such is the place of him who knows not God.” Nowhere does he mention Job’s name here, but by using all his former words in his sermon to condemn him Bildad is invites Job to draw his own terrifying conclusion about what will happen to sinners in the hands of his god.
First, notice Bildad does not call Job to repentance as he did before. All he tells him here in chapter 18 is that his present suffering clearly shows he is already experiencing the terrors of hell and that greater and more horrific terrors await him. Perhaps, Bildad doesn’t call him to repentance because he feels Job is too far gone for such counsel. Instead, it seems to be that Bildad believes Job now only needs to be rebuked and told of the judgment that awaits him.
Second, notice Bildad’s words here about hell are accurate and powerfully persuasive about the wrath to come. God has made all things in an orderly fashion and it is true that the sin of man in general and the sin of the wicked specifically has brought chaos and disorder into His perfect creation. One day, as Bildad has said, God will tidy up His world, bring His children home, and usher the wicked and unbelieving into everlasting hellfire and judgment. What Bildad describes here is a horrifying picture of the suffering of hell that reaches its apex as the wicked are brought lower and lower into hell to the point where they are led straight in front of the king of terror.
Third, though his words of hell are accurate. Bildad is wrong to apply them to Job. Again we come back to the pronouncement God has made. Job isn’t wicked, rather he is an upright and blameless man as chapters 1-2 made clear. Ironically while Bildad is quick to deal out death and judgment to Job, he is himself in more danger of the very things he speaks of because he doesn’t know God.
Fourth, be grateful. Chapter 18 is a description of what Jesus endured on the cross for all who will one day believe. We need fear no judgment because Christ has been judged already and been found righteous. Trip Lee puts it like this, “I hear the drummers coming for me death is at my doorway. Fear says Imma perish but that ain’t what my Lord say. He said I ain’t guilty though I still ain’t have my court date, I’ve tasted and I’ve seen even though it’s just a foretaste.”
Fifth, be warned. Chapter 18 is a description of what the wicked will endure in hell. This ought to move you to repent from your sin if you’re not a Christian here tonight. And, this ought to move you share the gospel with the lost in your life if you’re a Christian here tonight.
Sixth, hear and heed the end of Jonathan Edwards famous sermon. “And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the Pit of Hell, whether they be old Men and Women, or middle Aged, or young People, or little Children, now hearken to the loud Calls of God’s Word and Providence. This acceptable Year of the Lord, that is a Day of such great favor to some, will doubtless be a Day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s Hearts harden, and their of an angry GOD. Guilt increases apace at such a Day as this, if they neglect their Souls: and never was there so great Danger of such Persons being given up to hardness of Heart, and blindness of Mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his Elect in all Parts of the Land; and probably the bigger Part of adult Per- sons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little Time, and that it will be as it was on that great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the Apostles Days, the Election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the Case with you, you will eternally curse this Day, and will curse the Day that ever you was born, to see such a Season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit; and will wish that you had died and gone to Hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the Days of John the Baptist, the Ax is in an extraordinary Manner laid at the Root of the Trees, that every Tree that brings not forth good Fruit, may be hewn down, and cast into the Fire. Therefore let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and y from the Wrath to come. The Wrath of almighty GOD is now undoubtedly hanging over great Part of this Congregation: Let every one y out of Sodom: Haste and escape for your Lives, look not behind you, escape to the Mountain, least you be consumed.”
In chapter 42, of Herman Melville’s great American novel Moby Dick, Ishmael reflects on the whiteness of the whale. He makes a lengthy argument that ‘whiteness’ is normally characteristic of beauty and purity, like in a pearl or the whiteness of untouched snow. Yet, when it came to Moby Dick, that great albino whale, it was precisely his whiteness that appalled Ishmael the most. Why? Because it didn’t lead him to thoughts of beauty of purity, it led to him to believe the whale was wholly other than any other creature of the deep, a singular and incomparable monster created in Leviathan like manner to bring ruin onto men…and in the face of such ghastly grandeur, Ishmael felt like nothing.
In all the reading the late Dr. R.C. Sproul did in his life, he said it was here in chapter 42 of Moby Dick that he felt like he was reading Isaiah 6 where the unholiness of mankind is felt in comparison to the majesty of God’s holiness. Such things are good for us to feel. I say all this because this morning we’re beginning a summer sermon series on holiness. We’ve titled it HOLINESS: Distinct From the World – Distinct For the World.There is much more to explain about this but for today, it is our hope to present one thing and one thing only: the holiness of God. To do so there is no better place for us cast out into this ocean than Isaiah 6.
Let’s slowly walk through it and point out five glory’s God gives us here.
First, the Context.
“In the year that King Uzziah died…” In the 52 years King Uzziah reigned the people of God enjoyed prosperity and ease. It was such a prosperous time that King Uzziah began to grow prideful and the people followed suit.They began growing dull, a spiritual decline set in, and everyone began to feel it (2 Kings 15, 2 Chronicles 26). Interesting to note that in the same year King Uzziah died another great city was founded in Italy on the banks of Tiber River, the city of Rome. So in the same year that King Uzziah was dying and the people of God began to decline and the city of Rome was founded and began flourishing, it’s during this year that Isaiah is called into ministry by a stunning revelation of God’s holy glory.
Second, the King
It is not a mere detail that the King died. Isaiah wants us to see a contrast here. As the earthly King expires Isaiah saw the Greater King still ruling and reigning on His heavenly throne. This would’ve encouraged Isaiah that God’s purposes continue for His people even when the nation’s ruler dies and the nation despairs. It would’ve reminded Isaiah that God is not undone by what undoes man.It also would’ve reminded him that while all men come and go God remains forever. Psalm 29 says it, “The Lord sat enthroned as King over the flood, the Lord sits enthroned as King forever.” Psalm 90:2 echoes it, “…from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” This means there will never come a time when God is not. Regardless if Time magazine proclaimed God to be dead in 1966, He remains (!) and always will. John Piper once said God, “…will be living ten trillion ages from now when all the puny attempts against his reality will have sunk into oblivion like bb’s at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.”Or in other words, God not only deserves to reign supreme, He does reign supreme. No one makes Him Lord, He is Lord forevermore!
6:1 says Isaiah “…saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple.” Isaiah did not see this glorious vision of a god sitting in a field, or on white shores, or in a flowery mountain side. He saw Him on His throne. This is raw authoritative majesty that will never change. We all know what this means when it speaks of the train of God’s robe. In a wedding the train of the bride’s dress is long for a reason, it signifies the beauty of the bride. It exists to make much of her. I can still remember standing up front seeing the doors in the back of the church swing open to reveal Holly in her wedding gown, walking down the aisle. It was a sight to see, it was gripping, captivating, beautiful, and magnificent to behold. The train of her dress flowed behind her, and the whole moment seemed to be filled with wonder and awe. Similarly, when we see the train of God’s robe filling the temple we’re meant to see and feel similar things. It is meant to signify the magnificence of His beauty. It doesn’t merely take a few people to hold His train, God’s robe spills out over the sides of His throne, moving across the floor, completely engulfing the whole of the heavenly temple! Lesson? His majesty is unparalleled. His beauty is unequaled. His splendor is unending.
Third, the Seraphim
6:2 mentions creatures called seraphim who are standing above the throne. With two wings they covered their faces, with two wings they covered their feet, and with two wings they flew. The word “serapim” means “burning ones.” This is telling because the word refers to both the fiery angelic beings themselves and what they were created by God to do – burn in worship before the Lord of hosts! These seraphim are not mere mosquitoes buzzing around the throne or fat baby like angels with a cute bow and arrow. They are heavenly angelic fiery beings worshipping the only One worthy of worship. These are creatures that if we were to see them we would think that we had died and were standing before God Himself. There’s a reason every time an angel shows up the firsts words they say are “Don’t be afraid.” They, in themselves, are a sight to behold, they’re terrifying, but not nearly as terrifying or awe-some as the One who made them.
6:3 says, “One called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory!” The significance of the anthem of the angels is massive. The Jewish people had various ways to express emphasis in their literature, and they used these expressions in the Bible. We do the same today to emphasize things: we may use italics, we may put a word in all caps or bold letters to draw attention to it, or maybe even attach very intense or alarming descriptive adjectives to the word we want to emphasize to get attention. Isaiah did the same and in his culture the way to communicate supreme importance was repetition. See here in v3 a rare threefold repetition, so rare even has been given the name the Trisagion (thrice holy song). Notice how 6:3 is phrased? The seraphim cry out in response to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” What does this mean? This means first what it says, that God is holy. But it means more. In all of the Scripture from Genesis – Revelation this verse is the only place where we see an attribute of God raised to the third degree. God is not just “holy”, He’s not just “holy, holy”, He’s “holy, holy, holy.” Nowhere do we see the Bible say that God is sovereign, sovereign, sovereign – or love, love, love – or mercy, mercy, mercy – or righteous, righteous, righteous – or just, just, just. Nowhere in Scripture do we see an attribute of God have such importance.
Now I am aware that it is dangerous and bad theology to try to pit one attribute of God against another, or to try and assemble a hierarchy of attributes so as to make one more important than others. This is an error people make all the time. In talking with others about God’s character, especially when we’re talking about His sovereignty or justice, or wrath, I often hear people say, “I don’t believe that, my God is a God of love, He would never do such a thing.” Well surely God is a God of love, but just as we can’t come to the Bible as if it were a cafeteria line, putting things on our plate only if they are pleasing to our tastes, leaving the others we don’t like…so too we can’t come to the Bible on our terms but on its terms. We cannot construct a hierarchy of attributes as if one were more important than others, BUT if the Bible shows us that out of all the attributes of God there is one that rises to the top – we must believe it. Such is the holiness of God. The use of the threefold repetition of Holy, Holy, Holy teaches us that the one defining characteristic of God’s nature is His holiness; it is who He is. Therefore we must speak of all of God’s attributes underneath God’s holiness. His love is a holy love, His wrath is a holy wrath, His mercy is a holy mercy, His justice is a holy justice, and so on, and so on.
But notice the lyrics of the song as it continues. When it says in 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” why does it not say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His holiness?” If holiness is the one defining characteristic of God, why does it say the earth full of God’s glory and not His holiness? It would seem then, that the text is implying that there is a connection between God’s holiness and God’s glory. What is that connection? Based on this passage, the Glory of God is the holiness of God put on public display. When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory. Or think of it like this, the basic meaning of holy is “separate” from what is common. You see God is unique, there is none like Him, He is one of a kind. We value gold and diamonds over tin and copper because they’re rare or uncommon. Since God is one of a kind, since there is none like Him, since He is separate, since He is holy – God is infinitely precious and valuable above all other things. When His infinite value is put on display before the eyes of the seraphim and Isaiah, they call it “Glory!” So, God’s glory is the radiance (or the shining-forth) of his holiness, the out-streaming of His incomparable worth.Nothing is more beautiful than this, nothing is greater than this. His glory is so immense that though we see 6:3 say it fills the whole earth we can be sure the whole of the universe isn’t large enough to contain this majestic glory. But though the earth can’t fully contain it, the whole earth does truly display it. Indeed all of creation is the theater of the glory of God. That the holy glory of our holy God fills the earth to the brim means it is God’s will to make all the earth an extension of His heavenly throne room. Habakkuk longed for this day when the “…earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).The evidence that God is actually doing this is everywhere, in fact there is so much evidence of God’s glory in what He has made in creation Paul says in Romans 1:19-20 that all men are without excuse. The beauty of a sunrise, the calm of a sunset, the vastness of the oceans, the immense expanse of the skies, the cry of a baby, the friendship between two people, the love between a husband and wife. Ever since Genesis 1 when God said “Let there be light” it seems that there has been a kind of symphony to behold in all of creation, which all that has been made joins in on. When was the last time you noticed it? When was the last time you remembered that you were made walk in step with this great song of Glory?!
Fourth, the Prophet
We see Isaiah’s response to the scene unfolding before him in 6:4-5, “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost (ruined, undone); for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Immediately we see the foundations of the heavenly temple shaking in response to the vibrant worship happening before the King. Their worship was intense, their worship was deep, their worship was white-hot! Friends, do you shake? Do you tremble when you worship the King? Is there a reverent fear when we worship? We need to be rebuked. Nowhere throughout the whole of the Bible do we see anyone coming into contact with God and leave that meeting feeling disinterested! The whole temple shook with worship, it filled with smoke, and yet here as we worship in this room and what do we do? Stand here unmoved by the glory of God, think about checking Facebook, take a sip of coffee, give a tip to God in the offering plate, start itching to leave early to see the game? Far too many of us are duped into thinking that God’s glory, God’s holiness, God’s perfections, beauty, majesty, and awe are not practical – so we avoid these things and deprive ourselves the richest resource to feed our souls! Pragmatist’s do not linger over the glory of God, only those who’ve seen it and savored it linger on this the greatest of all things. Jonathan Edwards did this and from it he concluded that, “One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute than anything else.” God is ultimate reality, there is no One more real, there is no reality more practical than Him.
But did you notice that we don’t only see the foundations of the temple shaking? We see Isaiah shaking too. When Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up, shining forth in all the beauty of His infinite and incomparable glory, Isaiah gained knowledge of two things: for the first time in Isaiah’s life he found out who God was, and for the first time in Isaiah’s life he found out who Isaiah was as he was deconstructed in God’s presence. As opposed to the angelic beings pure worship of God Isaiah knew he was utterly different, opposite even, being a ruined man of unclean lips dwelling among a people of unclean lips. The Hebrew word for glory means ‘weight’ and upon seeing the weight of God’s holiness Isaiah’s knees could no longer support him.
Therefore, the first oracle, or prophetic announcement Isaiah delivers as the prophet of God is not delivered against Babylon, Moab, Egypt, Philistia, or even Israel – the first oracle the prophet Isaiah pronounces in his ministry is against himself. We can be sure that some modern psychologist would say this is an example of someone with low self-esteem and that this is a bad thing for us to emulate. I am 100% positive that Isaiah lost all self-esteem when he gazed upon the Lord of glory, and that it was a best thing that ever could’ve happened to him – for in that moment he gained God-esteem that could never be taken away from him, and would prove to be the foundation of all his life and thought regardless of what life’s circumstances threw his way. This affected Isaiah deeply and from here on out his preferred title for God is ‘the Holy One of Israel.’Church, nothing that reveals the unholiness of man like the holiness of God. It’s like comparing the brightness of a small match to the blazing light of the sun. Sin rightly seen isn’t just damaging to man, it is dishonoring to God.
John Calvin said it like this, “We see men who in God’s absence normally remain firm and constant, but who, when taken before the manifest glory of God, are so shaken and struck dumb as to be laid low by the dread of death…man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.”
Fifth, the Pardon
After the woe he pronounces upon himself we read in 6:6-7, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” While worshiping, one of the seraph’s moves away from the throne and comes near Isaiah holding a burning coal he took from the altar. It isn’t hot because it’s burning, it’s hot because it’s holy. And when the heat of the coal’s holiness touches the unholiness of Isaiah’s mouth it doesn’t hurt him, it heals him.In this moment the transcendent God showed Himself to also be the immanent God with Isaiah. This doesn’t make sense. I mean, what judge in Pasco county would keep his job if he forgave sin and didn’t punish lawbreakers? As a judge you can’t just sweep sin under the rug. How much more is at stake when it is God, the just Judge of all the universe, taking away sin from Isaiah? This coal was taken from the altar of atonement, and with it God removed the sin of Isaiah, as far as the east is from the west, so much so that Isaiah himself can say in his own book “though your sins be like scarlet, God can make you white as snow” (Isa. 1:18).
This doesn’t make sense – until we read John 12:41. John says in 12:41, “Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” What does this mean? What did John just say? He said very simply, and clearly, that when Isaiah saw the Lord high and exalted, sitting on His throne, watching the train of His robe fill the temple, beholding angelic beings worship Him crying Holy, Holy, Holy – John is saying that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus, was deconstructed by Jesus, and was forgiven and healed by Jesus. Then Isaiah would spend the rest of his life using those forgiven and healed lips to proclaim the glories he’s just beheld.
The pattern remains the same for us. Remember, God’s glory is the radiance (or the shining-forth) of his holiness, the out-streaming of His incomparable worth. In whom does the glory of God shine out of in the clearest and greatest manner possible? His Son. Therefore, Jesus, the Son of God, is infinitely precious and valuable above all other things because He is as Hebrews 1:3 states, “the exact representation of God’s being, and the radiance of the glory of God.” When we see His glory we must be deconstructed, we must be shocked almost speechless that the Holy Christ would die for His people on the cross and come to that fountain to be washed white as snow. Then we must spend the rest of our lives spreading and proclaiming His good news for sinners like us.
Nothing is more beautiful than this, nothing is more practical for your life than this, “One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute than anything else.”
This is our Holy God.
This week, our newest staff member; Andrew Jaenichen filled the pulpit and brought the Word to us while continuing our study through the book of Job. In this text we saw Job reply to his friend Eliphaz’s attack on his character and his relationship with God, as such Job refuted the charges against him and plead to God to vindicate his character.
Please take a listen and be encouraged.
“Church leadership is a peculiar thing. It often attracts those with mixed and sometimes downright sinful motives. The seeming prestige of leadership attracts some. The lure of power attracts others…Some, I think, like the idea of having access to the secrets of others and access to the mysterious inner workings of the church.”These are all vain pursuits of course, but it does leave us with the question. Who or what kind of person, what kind of quality, or what kind of characteristics should be present in those who lead the Church? When looking into the qualifications of the New Testament elder, you may be surprised to find that the Bible has a lot to say about this. And they’re the opposite of what most people think they are. Perhaps you think those who’ve been faithful members the longest should qualify? Perhaps you think those who’ve given the most money to the church qualify? Perhaps you think it’s the faithful Sunday school teacher, or soup kitchen coordinator who qualifies? Perhaps you think those who lead their own business out in the world qualify to lead in the Church? These things make sense right? Wrong. What then are the qualifications? 1 Timothy 3:1-7 gives us the qualifications for this office and no surprise, they all have much to do with the Gospel.
First, the Elder’s Desire
1 Tim. 3:1 says, “The saying is trustworthy: if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The office desired here in v1 is the office of overseer orepiskoposin Greek (meaning bishop), which throughout the New Testament is synonymous with the Greek word presbuterous(meaning elder). To desire this office is a noble (good, beautiful, pleasant, or excellent) desire. This brings up a question: why would one someone see the office of elder as a noble, good, or beautiful task when it involves so much labor, stress, exhausting work? Well, it’s a beautiful and noble task because it’s Gospel work, and nothing is more noble or beautiful than the Gospel. Therefore the desire to be an overseer or elder is a good desire. Peter said it like this in 1 Pet. 5:2, ‘Shepherd the flock of God among you, not out of compulsion but freely…’ (or willingly). These two passages both speak of the same thing – when it comes to being an elder you’ve got to want it, and those who want it, want a beautiful thing. Or we could say, there are no elders in the New Testament who take up the office of elder disinterestedly as if they felt it an obligation or a cold duty. No, an elder has to deeply want to be an elder.
I’ve often found that it’s this inner desire for the role of elder that keeps me going in hard and difficult times. I recall one particularly hard season of ministry that was so difficult I developed a twitch. And being someone who can fall asleep in seconds as well as someone who can sleep through a hurricane I found sleep a hard thing to find in this season. You know what kept me going during that time? I know God has called me to this work, therefore, I deeply want to do this work. That knowledge keeps me going and gives me a confidence in the dark days that often accompany this work.
Now, this doesn’t mean that just because someone desires to be an elder or sees eldering as noble and beautiful is reason enough for them to become one or begin campaigning for become one (as we’ll see shortly in the other qualifications).This does mean that if the desire isn’t there, you shouldn’t be an elder.
Second, the Elder’s Life
Paul continues in his words to young Timothy saying this in 3:2-3, “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” Rather than instructing us to look for those who are gifted leaders, the Bible again and again puts the emphasis on the character of a man, not his ability. 10 of 10 times it would be better to have a godly man who must learn how to lead as an elder than a charismatic leader who’s spiritual life resembles a train wreck. ‘Above reproach’ is the main call in these verses. This means the elder must do nothing that contradicts the Gospel, and must do everything that commends the Gospel.Being above reproach means the elder lives a life that’s above accusation, unblamable, one that you cannot lay hold of and charge with sin. Now, be sure that the call to being above reproach doesn’t imply that elders must be sinless, if that we’re the case no one but Jesus could be an elder. The call of being above reproach is a call to be an example of Christlikeness to the Church. Which makes the elder a living model of how to be a Christian. So…when the elder encounters the grace of God and is thankful we see how we’re to rejoice and be thankful. When the elder prays we see how we’re to pray. When (not if) the elder sins and repents we see how we’re to repent. When the elder worships, gives, serves, works, loves, and leads we see a real life example of how we’re to worship, give, serve, work, love, and lead. The high calling in the life of an elder is this: do you want to see what Jesus is like? Look to your elders.
Above reproach means not only seeking to avoid evil, but also seeking to avoid the appearance of evil. This is what the word blameless is getting at. Picture this: suppose I’m driving down US-19 and need to make a U-turn because I’m stuck and traffic and don’t want to be late to a meeting. Then suppose I see that my only option to around anytime soon is the empty parking lot of a strip club. What do I do? Do I turn in and turn around? Of course not! I wait in traffic for the next possible spot to make the U-turn! Now, if I made a U-turn in the parking lot of such an establishment and someone who knows me sees my truck, how will they interpret my actions? They’ll perceive that I frequent such places, conclude that I’m a hypocrite, tell all their friends, get an awful taste for Christianity, and likely never return to our church. It is true that perception is not reality, reality is reality, but perception does matter. If I give the appearance of evil, as an elder, I am not living a life that’s above reproach.
Perhaps think of it like this. We are surrounded by a world that says no to nothing…surrounded by a society that holds itself back from nothing…and surrounded by people who give themselves to anything and everything. Contrast all this to the elder, who must be, “…sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunk, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” This meaning is plain to see isn’t? The elder must be able to recognize ungodliness and renounce ungodliness. But saying no to sin isn’t all there is, the elder must endeavor towards and embrace godliness. Which means in a world that says no to nothing, the New Testament elder will stick out like a sore thumb.He is not to be characterized with things like: insults, boasting, disrespect, combativeness, argumentativeness, domineering, explosiveness, or addictions to substances or money. Rather the elder is to be a peacemaker rather than a fire starter, a gentle giant rather than a proud talker, a tender warrior rather than a troublemaker, a lion-hearted and lamb-like leader rather than a totalitarian general. The elder is to be like Christ. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of wrong, the charges didn’t stick because He was above reproach. When dealing with the proud He was straightforward and clear. When dealing with the sick or sinful He was gentle. Jesus is the Great Shepherd of His sheep, and is in Himself the model for all under shepherds, for all elders.
Third, the Elder’s Teaching
1 Tim. 3:2 lists a qualification we sometimes forget. Right there in the middle of the verse it says “…able to teach…” It’s at this point we come across of the most untaught truths on elders. Many people think the pastor is the CEO while the elder’s are his board of directors or trustees, wrong. In the New Testament there’s not an office of pastor, we only find two offices: elder and deacon. And the biggest difference between the two is that elders are to be ‘able to teach.’ This means, elders are pastors and because they’re pastors they’re teachers. That elders must be able to teach means at least, 2 things. First, elders must participate in the teaching ministry of the church. As you can imagine many elders shy away from this because they think their amateurs because they don’t usually have a seminary degree, or are too busy throughout the week to prepare a full and complete message. No excuses. It’s the elders of each congregation who are entrusted with teaching that congregation the truth. This means the most important teachers and pastors in your life aren’t the ones you listen to online or the ones you go see at conferences or the ones whose books you read, no. The most important pastors in your life are the ones you see and hear from each week of the year. Whether it’s a Sunday sermon, Bible study, prayer meeting, membership class, private discipleship relationship, or any other venue, it’s the elders who teach the church.
Second, elders must protect the teaching ministry of the church. In the qualifications given for an elder in Titus 1, Paul tells Titus this in 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Able to give instruction…able to rebuke those who contradict. The elder must recognize truth from error, and when he sees error he must warn the church. This is why Paul called out many people by name in his letters, to protect the sheep. This is frowned upon today. Sadly, it’s commonly held that those who call sin sin and warn those in sin to leave that sin are the ones who destroy the unity of the Church. Yet do you see here in these qualifications that it’s the elder who protects the unity of the Church by doing this very thing? Is it loving to see someone wander off into error and not warn them? No, if you love someone you’ll want to warn them. So the elder must know the real thing to be able to smell a counterfeit easily. Therefore elders protect the church by not only living lives that are above reproach but also by teaching in a manner that’s above reproach as well
Fourth, the Elder’s Family
1 Tim. 3:4-5 says, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” v3-4 teach us that a man’s private family life tells us much about who the man really is. The elder must be a ‘one-woman man,’ a devoted husband, faithful to his wife, loving and caring to his wife, respected by his wife. He must serve her as Christ serves him, care for her as Christ cares for him. He must lead her to a holy life and progression in it. He must be willing to lay down his life for her at any moment. As the husband, he must love his wife with an exclusive love, similar to the love God has for His people. His wife must feel treasured, adored, and prized by him. Similarly, the elder must also be a devoted father, a loving father, who wields a strong yet caring hand, who recognizes that the children are not his friends but his children and not the center of the family. His children must respect him, obey him, and show him regard in all matters. As parents submit to God, his children must submit to him. It’s his calling to teach his children the Scripture, when they rise, lie down, walk, and go throughout life. And he must not only teach his children the truth, he must show them the truth by his life effectively saying ‘Do you want to know how do life? Watch me.’ Bottom line: if the elder is to be a pastor within the church, he must first be a pastor within his home.
A comparison may be helpful for you: compare the business world with the church. It’s seen as normal in our culture to separate ones public life and private life. When a leader in the business world is evaluated he is examined solely on his performance or his sales numbers, not on his marriage, kids, or family life. The business says, ‘Who cares what he does at home, as long he’s bringing in high numbers.’ It’s not like this within the Church. If a man is a very successful leader in a business while he leads his family very poorly, that same man would be disqualified for leadership within the church, simply because he leads his family poorly. Why? How he treats his bride will tell us how he will treat Christ’s bride. How he treats his children will tell us how he will treat God’s children. While the world overlooks the family life and only looks at a resume, the elder’s resume is his family.
Fifth, the Elder’s Maturity
1 Tim. 3:6-7 says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” The elder must be a mature man, not a new believer, or an immature believer. There is no age one must reach in order to be an elder, we look to the spiritual age, not physical age. But the warning is clear: if a new believer, or an immature believer is made an elder, he’ll quickly become puffed up with pride and will fall into the condemnation of the devil. If a new believer is made an elder it’s highly likely he will see the office of elder not as a noble task but a badge of honor. This implies the elder is a man who presses into personal growth and sanctification, who studies the Scripture, who seeks to know God better and better each day. And notice that this maturity must not only be evident to the man himself in private but it must be evident to those who do life with him, believers and unbelievers. The elder is to be a man who is thought well of, who is respected, who lives out the gospel in the church and out of the church. If your neighbors see you only as ‘that angry guy on the corner’ you’re not an elder.
Sixth, the Elder’s Maleness
Perhaps you’ve picked up on it by now but let’s just make it plain because of all the confusion surrounding gender today. Rather than being a general rule for all women in all places the context around this passage makes it clear that there are two things, and two things only, here that are prohibited from women: to teach and to have authority. Notice that these two things are also the same two things that distinguish the elder from the deacon. So the argument for Paul here is that elder should be men, why? If you look closely you’ll see that Paul’s reasoning for this comes from creation in Genesis 1-2. Adam was created as the head of the Eve. Thus Adam was to be the head over his wife, which means he was to be the source of authority, protection, and provision for her. When he failed at this and blew it in Genesis 3 with his sinful passivity it was Adam that God called to give an account, not Eve. Follow this through to Christ and the model we’re given in Ephesians 5. There we see that just as Adam was the head of Eve, Christ is called the head of the Church and all the same things are present there. So for the Church Christ is the source of authority, protection, and provision and where the first Adam failed the last Adam gloriously succeeded. So Paul brings all of this forward and says the pattern continues. Within the family it’s to be a husband’s loving sacrificial headship and a wife’s loving submission in which the wife and the children experience protection and provision. The pattern also continues within the Church with a male elder’s loving sacrificial headship and a member’s loving submission where the congregation experiences protection and provision. And if a congregation fails to do this, who does Hebrews 13 say will be called on to give an account as Adam did before? The elders.
So to end let me just say this. The calling and office of the New Testament elder is a high and holy one, that no man is able to do alone. Which is why there must be a plurality of elders rather than just one in each congregation. Of this plurality Jeramie Rinne speaks righty when he says, “When a plurality of elders exist rightly it’s harder for one man’s views to dominate…The gentler elders temper the fiery elders. The activists move the analyzers toward actually making decisions. The big-faith elders keep decisions from being exercises in risk management while the practical elders prevent stupid decisions from happening under the pretense of trusting God. This sort of mutual balancing creates an environment that’s hard for egotist’s to survive.”This has certainly been true for us here, and I praise God for it.
Taken together the lives of the elders are vastly important because overtime what the elders are personally is what the church will become corporately. As goes the leaders so goes the people. So if the character of the elders beautifully adorns the gospel to the congregation it means the congregation will beautifully adorn the gospel to this lost city, and in this there is much hope!
It’s worth noticing that 1 Timothy 3 ends with Paul giving a summary of the Gospel saying in 3:16 “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” A few verses earlier he said the Church is the pillar and buttress of this gospel truth. Question: why end a passage about the character of elders (v1-7) and deacons (v8-13) with a summary of the gospel? Answer: to show that the heartbeat of elders and deacons is to love the Jesus of this Gospel and to live out His Gospel in all of life, by leading under the authority of Christ, caring for the body of Christ, teaching the Word of Christ, and modeling the character of Christ.
Having worked through the first cycle of speeches in Job 4-14 we now move to the second cycle of speeches in Job 15-21. It was the older, patient, and friendly Eliphaz who began cycle 1 in chapters 4-5, it is now the angry, impatient, and offended Eliphaz who begins cycle 2 in chapter 15. His response to Job comes to us in two large sections. First in 15:1-16 Eliphaz rebukes Job for his foolish words and calls him a man who has drunken injustice down like water. Second, in 15:17-35 Eliphaz begins by saying he will counsel Job but ends up just continuing the rebuke calling him a wicked man who fears the consequences of his wickedness and who will have a horrific fate from his wickedness. So we have options here before us as to how we’d like to view this second speech from Eliphaz. Whether we want to see this chapter as one large rebuke to Job or whether we to see it as two sections that both serve to rebuke Job, the same thing is in view. Eliphaz has one point to make, namely, Job is a wicked man, and because he is a wicked man he must be warned of what comes to the wicked in life and in death. This is the agenda of Eliphaz in Job 15.
Job’s Words are Empty (v1-3)
“Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?”
With all this wind talk about Job’s own words Eliphaz is making a point. Job is in all his knowledge, as we would say, full of hot air. The east wind referred to in v2 would have been for them a wind coming to them from out of the desert, which would’ve been very hot and unpleasant and unfruitful because it wouldn’t have brought any rain to them. In the same way Job’s words are themselves unpleasant and unfruitful because they’re not bringing anyone any kind of good.
Eliphaz’s words about Job’s words here remind me of the usefulness of drinking saltwater when one is thirsty. I think at one point or another we all come to the point where we learn about this. I remember as a kid being out in the ocean and after playing for a time I was becoming thirsty and thought about drinking the water. So I asked my parents if that was ok and they then told me that the water would actually do the opposite of what I wanted and make me thirstier and would dry me out even more. When children here this there is an immediate shock that so much water can’t do anything to quench our thirst. Eliphaz is saying that Job may think his words are helpful and true but the more he talks the more damage he does to those hearing his words.
Job’s Words are Dangerous (v4-6)
“But you are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you.”
Job is, Eliphaz thinks, hindering pure and proper religion. This is what’s in view when he speaks of ‘meditation’ before God. It’s the way of life for the holy and godly ones. By speaking like he is Job is doing away with the fear of God, which, if true would be a very dangerous effect of his words. Perhaps v4 is the Old Testament equivalent to Jesus’ own words when He says in Luke 17:1-2, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Eliphaz no doubt, thinks Job’s words are such stumbling blocks for all that hear them. But he goes on in v5-6 speaking of the source of Job’s words, placing their origin in Job’s sin which causes him to speak as he does. Thus, Job’s mouth is the very thing that condemns him, not Eliphaz.
Job’s Words are Haughty (v7-13)
“Are you the first man who was born? Or were you brought forth before the hills? Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself? What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not clear to us? Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us, older than your father. Are the comforts of God too small for you, or the word that deals gently with you? Why does your heart carry you away, and why do your eyes flash, that you turn your spirit against God and bring such words out of your mouth?”
Perhaps you’ve heard an older person refer to them being ‘as old as the hills’ seeming to imply that their as old, or older even, than the earth itself. This is what Eliphaz thinks Job’s words say, that he is a kind of original creation of God before anything else was in existence, better than all else that followed after.Ironically Eliphaz uses the same argument to shame Job in v8-10 saying that he ought to remember that they’re older than he is and not be surprised that they also know things as well. This is why he references his gray hair, that Job most likely does not share with them. As he continues on in v11-13 Eliphaz asks Job some more questions. If the counsel and truth of God (that he is so wonderfully and clearly presenting to Job at the moment) is good enough and for everyone else, and good enough for them in their old age, why are they not good for Job? It must be that Job’s heart (read there, Job’s sinful heart) has carried him away off into folly which has caused his whole being to move into wickedness. Now, his eyes flash, his soul turns against God, and his mouth opens as the floodgate of folly rolls outward onto all nearby.
Job’s Words are Filthy to God (v14-16)
“What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, Godputs no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!”
In v14 Eliphaz levels the playing field saying all men born in this life are impure and unrighteous. In fact in v15, God is so holy that even the angels and heavenly host aren’t pure either. If this is all true, what hope does Job have? Here in what could be Eliphaz’s final thoughts for Job in this first section, he makes something of a concluding statement that captures the essence of what Eliphaz was trying to say all along. ‘If all the rest of the entire creation isn’t as holy as God is, how can you be Job? You aren’t. But by claiming to be you show yourself to be abominable and corrupt, or vile, filthy, and repulsive to God. Injustice isn’t something you do once in a while, it is as normal for you as drinking water.’
As we prepare to enter into the remainder of this chapter, notice what comes into view in v17-35. In v17-19 there is a common refrain we’ve seen in these speeches before. After the initial outburst of rebuke there then comes a shift when the speaker will stop rebuking and begin instructing. This is what Eliphaz says he will do in v17-19. “I will show you; hear me, and what I have seen I will declare (what wise men have told, without hiding it from their fathers, to whom alone the land was given, and no stranger passed among them).” Remember Eliphaz was the one with the spooky night vision in chapter 4-5 that we concluded was really a Satanic visitation filling his mind and heart with falsehood. Here the same Eliphaz says he will once again declare what he has seen. And again, what he’s about to say goes back farther than just him. v18-19 are a strange couple of sentences that can be taken a few ways. It seems to be that these ‘wise men’ began life as they now know it. And the teaching coming down to them from these wise men is pure because first they told it to the ‘fathers’ and second they didn’t allow a stranger of doctrine to come into their land. I do think that’s the gist of v18-19.
As to what the wise men taught, Eliphaz will now unfold. And it comes down to two things from v20-35, the fears of the wicked and the fate of the wicked. Let’s read this final section in its totality. “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless. Dreadful sounds are in his ears; in prosperity the destroyer will come upon him. He does not believe that he will return out of darkness, and he is marked for the sword. He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’ He knows that a day of darkness is ready at his hand; distress and anguish terrify him; they prevail against him, like a king ready for battle. Because he has stretched out his hand against God and defies the Almighty, running stubbornly against him with a thickly bossed shield; because he has covered his face with his fat and gathered fat upon his waist and has lived in desolate cities, in houses that none should inhabit, which were ready to become heaps of ruins; he will not be rich, and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the earth; he will not depart from darkness; the flame will dry up his shoots, and by the breath of his mouth he will depart. Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself, for emptiness will be his payment. It will be paid in full before his time, and his branch will not be green. He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine, and cast off his blossom like the olive tree. For the company of the godless is barren, and fire consumes the tents of bribery. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil, and their womb prepares deceit.”
Nowhere in this final section does Eliphaz say Job is this wicked man. But by discussing the fears and fate of the wicked after calling Job wicked in v1-16 it is crystal clear who he is referring to here. Which, in a way, makes this a certain kind of instructive warning to Job. Namely that this is what is before if he continues in his sin. v20–24 focus on the anticipation of dire fate, for “the wicked man is forever plagued by an awareness of his doom; he lives continually with the signs of Death and his attendant forces waiting to consume” him.It’s as if his sin will cause him to be a wanderer going around scavenging for food and brings him endless anxiety and distress. Eliphaz has listened well, Job throughout the past has described himself like this in many places throughout his own speeches in cycle one and so Eliphaz states here that if Job feels like this than the origin of his pain is his own evil. Continuing on, in v25-27 Job may say he is a warrior fighting against these things but in reality he has been fighting against God and has gained the double chin and heavy belly of a rich man whose eaten too much food in his ease and luxury.Thus, bankruptcy, darkness, emptiness, and fruitlessness are before him because he has not only done wickedness himself, he keeps a wicked company as well which will only produce more wickedness to come in the years ahead.
Therefore, because of his sin, Job’s life will be full subjective doom and will end in objective doom as the judgment of God heavily comes down on him. Ash ends his commentary with the following words. “The lesson of The System (that Eliphaz and friends are putting forward) is simple: your current state proves you are a sinner. Wherever grace is denied, cruelty follows. It is this harsh, grace-free system that Job is challenging with his insistence that his sufferings are undeserved. Let us learn from Eliphaz to recognize the natural man’s objections to grace and take great care not to let the grace leach out of our teaching and our convictions. It is frightening how you and I can hear ourselves saying what the comforters say and how close they are not only to religions like Islam but also to some so-called Biblical Christianity. The more we find ourselves in sympathy with the comforters, the less we have really grasped the gospel of grace.”
Throughout my life I have grown to love two seemingly contradictory things. On the one hand I love palm trees basking in the sun, and on the other hand I love thunderstorms and the dark skies they make. One of the glories of living in Florida is the opportunity to see both of these things happen simultaneously. For example we were at the beach sometime ago and we saw that there was a storm brewing inland and yet as we turned around toward to gulf there was the sun shining brightly out over the water. I turned to look inland again and noticed a row of palm trees shining in the sun with a dark stormy sky behind them. It was breathtaking to behold the scene!
I bring up all this because as our passage today begins we glimpse something of a similar scene. The Satanic storm of Judas’s betrayal has just walked out of the room leaving Jesus with His 11 remaining disciples. As Judas, now indwelt by the devil, leaves the mood of the text immediately lifts and an ease seems to land on the group as Jesus continues teaching them…though they all know a dark and treacherous storm is drawing near on the horizon. It’s in this context that Jesus gave His famous new commandment concerning love. But as we examine 13:31-38 we find this love is rooted in the glory of the Father of the Son, the shame of the cross, and is challenged by the pride of man. Those are our three points this morning. Let’s look at these things as they come to us in turn.
The Glory of Father and Son (v31-32)
Before Jesus gives His new commandment He begins with the theme of glorification. He begins in v31 saying, “When Judashad gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” The departure of Judas to betray Jesus as ugly and wicked and treacherous as it was, it seems, was the very act that began Jesus’ hour of glory. Because the betrayal is now taking place, His arrest – His trial – and His execution shall soon follow.Jesus knows this so, in no uncertain terms, He says “Now is the Son of Man glorified…” And the disciples probably think, “My goodness! Every time God has glorified Himself in the past throughout history there has been a magnificent display of power, a bright and blinding holy light, a grand quaking of the very foundations of the earth. What is Jesus’ glorification going to be like?” In a true sense it is right for them to think like this because the phrase Jesus uses here ‘Son of Man’ would take them back to Daniel 7:13-14 where we read of the everlasting dominion, kingdom, and power this Son of Man possesses. Yet here in John’s gospel notice the contrast presented to us. Five times the word glorification appears here in v31-32, but John doesn’t speak of it as we expect him to. He says the supreme manifestation of Jesus’ glory is powerfully displayed to us and “connected with what appears to usas the very opposite of glory,”the humiliation and shame of the cross.
Jesus continues. In this hour of shame and suffering Jesus is not only glorified, He says at the end of v31 that the Father is also glorified in Him. Which means the operation of the Son and the Father are so intertwined that the glorification of the Son is also and at the same time the glorification of the Father. He expands on this in v32, “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once.” Three certainties are presented to us here.First, the Father is glorified in the Son. Second, the Father will glorify the Son in Himself. And third, the Father will glorify the Son at once. I’m aware that this language is immensely deep and is a bit boggling to the mind with all this interwoven Trinitarian glory here. But hunker down with me and see what Jesus is saying here.
In these three certainties given in v32 about the glorification of Father and Son there is a now and a not yet element.The not yetis seen in that the Father and the Son did indeed look past the humiliation of the cross to the glory they would once again enjoy after it was over. That’s in view certainly.But that’s not all in view here, there’s also the nowelement. In this nowsense there is an immediacy in view. The Father and the Son looked at the cross itself as the moment or ‘hour’ when they both would be glorified and made much of. This, in John 13, was only hours away. The Father’s wrath completely poured out on the Son, entirely satisfied by the Son, and (praise God!) fully quenched by the Son. Which, created and purchased a people who would be freed from the penalty of sin and freed to glorify both Father and Son forevermore. Not yetglory is in view in their reuniting after the redemptive work is done, and nowglory is in view in the cross which becomes the centerpiece of God’s redemptive work enabling all of the subsequent glories to exist.
If you’re still boggled that’s ok. The unique yet interwoven roles in redemption of the Father and the Son are an inexhaustible mine of wealth for our souls. These two verses show us some of those riches. Remember, this is all here for a reason. Before we get the famous new commandment to love one another in v34-35, Jesus gives us the foundation of that love in v31-32 rooting His new commandment in the glory of His cross. Why? Because it is the cross of shame that displays the greatest act of love the world has ever known, which in turn sets the tune for our love to one another, which then all leads to God being glorified among us. All of that is why v31-32 comes before the commandment in v34.
The New Commandment (v33-35)
Now in v33 Jesus continues saying, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’” With fatherly affection He tells them what He told the Jews before in 7:24 and 8:21, that only a little time remains, and though they seek Him they will not find Him because where He is going they cannot come. Having brought up His betrayal and knowing it will lead to His departure (referring to His death andascension), Jesus now seeks to prepare His disciples for what’s to come and instructs them how they’re to live their lives in His absence. He does this in v34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and deep enough to sanctify and rebuke the most mature believer for how poorly they put it into practice.How does Jesus instruct them to live their lives in His absence? Simply put, He tells them to live a life of love. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes onto say this love isn’t to be a general disposition or a universal love to all mankind, but a love toward ‘one another’ or a love to those who also follow Christ. And more so, it’s not just warm affections or a nice smile for those in the Church, it’s a love that mirrors God’s love to us in Christ. How did God love us in Christ? The cross. Thus, the love commanded by Christ we’re to give one another is a costly and sacrificial love. A love that’s not only willing to be inconvenienced by one another, but a love that’s willing to lay down our lives for one another. In this sense it is a new command. Love isn’t new. Leviticus 19:18 commands to love our neighbors as ourselves and throughout time the Jews watered this command down so they could love whoever they wanted to.The newness appears in the motivating purpose fueling and informing this love in that the love Christians have for one another is to exist on account of or because of Christ’s great love for us.Or, Christ’s followers love all other Christ followers for the Christ’s sake and when that happens the world notices and learns who Christ’s followers truly are. v35 isn’t an add on detail at the end, it gives the command to love a missional, outward, and spreading bent to it.
As you go through Acts and the New Testament letters commentator Kent Hughes says the scene we now behold is one where “Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, male and female, Jew and Greek, learned and ignorant allsat down at one table, and felt themselves all one in Christ Jesus. They were ready to break all other bonds, and to yield to the uniting forces that streamed out from His cross. There had never been anything like it…and from seeing it the world began to wonder.”A New Covenant had been made, a new creation had begun, the disciples were living new lives, in a new community, directed by this new commandment. It is said consistently among the early Church Fathers that the pagans of their day used to notice the love present among the Church and say, “See how they love one another, and are ready even to die for one another!”
This is the new command…and this is so hard…because we are such selfish people.
I remember a time early on in our marriage when Holly and I were eating at a Chili’s with our pastor/my mentor. When the appetizer’s he ordered arrived I immediately grabbed a small plate and began stuffing my face. To my rebuke our pastor also grabbed a plate, handed it Holly, and waited patiently for her to grab some food before he did. I was thoroughly rebuked and humbled as I sat there with my cheeks full of food. That’s a tiny example of this kind of love in view here where we put the needs of others before ourselves. But don’t overlook those tiny lessons. I found in that moment and I’ve found in thousands of moments since that it’s often it’s in these tiny moments that humble us where God teaches us the big lessons of hard costly sacrificial love. And having learned them back then we’re more prepared to act in accord later.
Do you believe this? I’m sure most of you say you do, but when the rubber meets the road and a brother or sister in Christ wrongs you, would you still love them like this? Not just wronged you as in eating before you at dinner, I mean really wronged you. So much so that when you think of them your pulse increases, your face reddens, and you get all sorts of angst about seeing them. Would you love them in this way? Or does a list of excuses as long as your arm start to come together when you think about loving them this way? O that you would remember the cross and see in it the great love of God! Aren’t you glad God didn’t give excuse after excuse when He thought of loving you? He would have done no wrong if He chose not to love you. Yet, in full view of all your sin against Him, none of it was strong enough to change His mind. Why then, if we have been so loved by Christ do we think certain reasons are strong enough to not love each other? I know some wounds are deep and take time to work through but in all the wounds we’ll create or make in this fallen world this kind of costly, sacrificial, cross shaped love isn’t just for mature Christians, it’s for Christians. And those who do love like this show themselves to the world to be Christians while those who don’t show themselves to be false.
Praise God that in His Son’s absence we have His Spirit’s presence to empower, equip, and enliven this new commandment within us.
The Old Problem (v36-38)
We now see what the disciples were really interested in. Though Peter speaks first, as he often does, it is likely he is expressing what everyone else is thinking in v36 when he says, “Lord, where are you going?” It’s as if the disciples, hearing v31-33 are so concerned about Jesus’ departure that they didn’t even hear what Jesus said in v34-35, or if they had truly heard it they showed themselves much more concerned about His future plans than obeying His call to love. Jesus responds, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward.” Jesus will soon be glorified through the shame of the cross, Peter will not be so glorified…yet. One day Peter will follow Jesus in death, a death that would glorify God (21:18-19), and then he will join Jesus in glory.Peter then responds not so much out of anger but out of confusion saying, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Clearly, Peter has a high estimation of his ability to follow Jesus through whatsoever comes to pass. He is overwhelmingly ignorant of his own weakness and tendency to fall away. D.A. Carson reflects on Peter’s words saying this, “Good intentions in a secure room after good food are far less attractive in a darkened garden beforea hostile mob.”See here in Peter man’s oldest problem that challenges the love Jesus just commanded, pride. If humility is thinking of oneself less, pride is thinking of oneself too much.
It is thinking as Peter thinks here, that we can do what God calls us to do without His help coupled with a shock that we would ever think about doing the opposite. It is ‘the great sin’ as C.S. Lewis put it. “…the one vice of which no man in the world is free, which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else, and of which hardly any people (except Christians) ever imagine that they are guilty of themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.”Pride is what turned Lucifer into the Devil. Pride threw our first parents into sin and death, and ever since man has been repeating the same mistake, so pervasively that we could rightfully say pride lies beneath every other sin.
So we have a need to gain humility if we’re to truly love one another and the first step towards humility is a bit surprising, we must realize how prideful we are. If you think, as Peter does here, that you’re not prideful, that you can and do already love others in a truly cross centered manner, or that you’ll never fall away from Christ or deny Christ, I’m pretty sure you’re already on your way down. A newspaper once asked G.K. Chesterton, an English theologian of the early 20th century, what was wrong with the world. He could have given any number of responses with what was going on in the world at that time. The industrial revolution was in full swing which caused pollution, disease, sickness, and ghetto’s of all kinds to grow faster than doctors or humanitarians could help. World War I had ended and World War II was about to begin. Chesterton though, answered in a highly unexpected manner. The question was, “What’s wrong with the world.” His reply was short, “I am.”
Lesson? All those who are spiritually healthy will honestly admit their own lack and fallenness. Would you answer similarly if someone asked, ‘What’s wrong with your church?’ Would say ‘That man who’s sinning, or that woman who’s gossiping’? Or would you say, ‘I am’?
Well, Jesus rebukes Peter in v38, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times.” From all we can tell this rebuke sank into Peter deeply. We know this because Peter has so far had no issue interrupting Jesus and blurting out what he thought…yet we don’t hear from him or hear of him again until John 18:10. Therefore, Jesus’ rebuke most likely shocked him, which is why he remained silent throughout the remainder of the Upper Room discourse.I pray it similarly shocks you.
Today we’ve seen the new commandment of love from Christ, rooted in the glory of both the Father and the Son, and the old problem of pride that challenges this command. Ask a question here: how can we overcome to our pride and display the love we’re called to? Answer: by remembering the cross. v34-35 made it clear that our community will not be a good gospel witness if we only love those who share similar life experience to us, who share a similar ethnicity to us, who share similar needs as us, and who have similar social positions as us. No. We will only be a compelling gospel community to our city if, despite all our differences and despite all the ways we sin against one another, we who are in Christ love one another as Christ loved us, for the sake of Christ.
May your love abound more and more for one another, and may our church grow more compelling to this city from seeing such a cross centered love.
Tonight we come to the end of the first cycle of speeches in Job as Job responds to Zophar’s counsel in 12-14. These three chapters are split up into two large sections, and one short comment at the end. First in 12:1-13:19 Job rebukes his friends for how they’ve counseled him so far. Second in 13:20-14:17 he pleads with God, asking Him to grant him two specific requests. Lastly in 14:18-22 Job leaves us with a final word of despair. Since these three sections are large we’ll go through them in smaller chunks to see how they fit together as a whole.
Job’s Rebuke (12:1-13:19)
First look to 12:1-6, “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these? I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called to God and he answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock. In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune; it is ready for those whose feet slip. The tents of robbers are at peace, and those who provoke God are secure, who bring their god in their hand.”
Job begins his response to Zophar by speaking to all three of his friends. Speaking somewhat mockingly or sarcastically in v2-3 he says he’s worried that when they die wisdom will no longer be present in the world! Really though, he wants them to see how egotistical they are to think they’ve got a corner on the truth of God when he knows his stuff as well. v4 Job feels he has become a laughingstock to them. v5-6 Job says they, who are at ease, really have no understanding and no comfort to give those who suffer. Rather they who “bring God in their hand” to Job are robbing him of true comfort and causing his misfortune to increase. Job likens them as robbers who sleep in peace, when in reality they ought to be the ones who are vexed in the error of their ways, not him.
Job expands on this in v7-12, “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Does not the ear test words as the palate tastes food? Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”
Here Job says that what he is about to say in v13-25 is not hidden in disguise but clear for all to know. Even the creatures of the earth (beasts, birds, fish, even the bushes) know it as true and don’t fight against it. ‘Why do you?’ is the implied question for his friends. In God’s hand is all things, and all know it. Job illustrates this by saying as the tongue tastes food and discerns flavors of different sorts, so too the ears of all (especially the ears of the aged in v12) hear this to be true.
Then in v13-25 Job tells us what is clear and known to all, “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and sound wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away stripped, and judges he makes fools. He looses the bonds of kings and binds a waistcloth on their hips. He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the mighty. He deprives of speech those who are trusted and takes away the discernment of the elders. He pours contempt on princes and loosens the belt of the strong. He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a trackless waste. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man.”
In this passage Job labors to strip away the wisdom and might of his friends by saying God alone has wisdom and might.More so, God not only knows what is right, God not only knows what to do with that knowledge, God alone has the power to act on that knowledge perfectly. So in v14, man cannot rebuild what God tears down. In v15 God alone sends drought and famine and man can’t stay His hand. In v16-24 Job describes God undoing counselors, judges, kings, priests, the mighty, elders, princes, the strong, nations, and the chiefs of peoples. Then in one final rebuke in v25 Job says all of these, because of God’s undoing work, will grope in the dark without light, and stagger like a drunken man. This is how Job rebukes the ‘wisdom’ of his friends. God will undo you as well. Christopher Ash writes here “This God is wild and dangerous. He is dangerous in nature, dangerous with leaders, dangerous with nations, and especially dangerous to all human beings who think – as Job’s friends do– that they have the universe sorted out and have attained wisdom.”
Job’s rebuke isn’t done. He continues on in 13:1-12, “Behold, my eye has seen all this, my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God. As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all. Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom! Hear now my argument and listen to the pleadings of my lips. Will you speak falsely for God and speak deceitfully for him? Will you show partiality toward him? Will you plead the case for God? Will it be well with you when he searches you out? Or can you deceive him, as one deceives a man? He will surely rebuke you if in secret you show partiality. Will not his majesty terrify you, and the dread of him fall upon you? Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.”
As they have spoken with him in the past chapters now Job speaks to them. For all of their wisdom, his friends don’t seem to know this but Job says he does know all these things and is not, therefore, beneath them as they have been treating him. So Job will bring his case to God, not these whitewashed and worthless physicians, for if they were truly wise they would’ve remained silent. But they didn’t. They spoke falsely and deceitfully, without partiality for him as they pled their ‘case for God.’ But, v9-11, God will not be mocked and will search them out thoroughly rebuking and terrifying them with His majestic dread. Thus, Job says in v12 that their maxims and defenses are nothing but ash and clay, weak things that cannot stand in the face of reality, suffering, or truth.
In 13:13-19 Job makes an interesting transition. Having rebuked his friends he will now turn to this dangerous God as he said he would back in 13:3 and present his case. v13-19 shows how Job prepared to do such a thing.“Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hand? Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. Who is there who will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die.”
Come what may, Job will argue his ways to God’s face, and though He slay Job, Job will hope in Him. This text is a strange mixture of almost a brash boldness before God and a submissive hope in God. I will come before Him (!) mixed with and I am ok with whatever God does to me (!). But even as He does this Job tells his friends to listen in to this. why? They have said he cannot stand before God because of his sin, but Job knows he doesn’t have sin, so as he comes before God Job believes he is about to be consoled while his friends are further rebuked.
Job’s Plea (13:20-14:17)
His plea to God begins in v20-22, “Only grant me two things, then I will not hide myself from your face: withdraw your hand far from me, and let not dread of you terrify me. Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and you reply to me.” Job wants two things, and two things only from God. First, he wants God to withdraw His hand from him, because he doesn’t want to continue being gripped by the terror and dread of God. And second, he wants God to respond to him once he’s made his case.
Hear now the entirety of Job’s plea to God found in 13:23-14:17, “How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin. Why do you hide your face and count me as your enemy? Will you frighten a driven leaf and pursue dry chaff? For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth. You put my feet in the stocks and watch all my paths; you set a limit for the soles of my feet. Man wastes away like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten.“ Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not. And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day. “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant. But a man dies and is laid low; man breathes his last, and where is he? As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep. Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come. You would call, and I would answer you; you would long for the work of your hands. For then you would number my steps; you would not keep watch over my sin; my transgression would be sealed up in a bag, and you would cover over my iniquity.”
Job knows sin is his problem, so he asks God to reveal it to him because he doesn’t see it. Job entertains the thought that God is punishing him for the sins of his youth, hiding His face from him, and putting him to open shame for old sins he’s committed and now he is reaping the fruit thereof. Whatever the reason is that moved God to punish him as He is Job believes his sin leads to a reality of his mortality. That he is little more than a man, born of woman, and full of trouble. Or a rotten fruit, or moth eaten piece of clothing, or a short lived flower, or a fleeting shadow. There may be hope for a tree, for once it is cut down it will spring back up as a new tree takes root in it’s place. But for a man like him, sin has lead to an awareness of his mortality, and his mortality is a reminder that when he dies he will not rise and nothing will spring up in his place. So Job desires, 14:13, to be hidden from God’s wrath.
But, in 14:14-17 Job expresses the hope of God doing the miraculous and bringing renewal to Job, watching him rather than watching his sin, forgiving and covering his sin, and God longing for Job as Job longs for God. This is a brief preview of the loving God of resurrection we ultimately in Christ who covers the sin of all those who come to Him in faith, but almost as soon as Job mentioned hope he returns to despair at the end in v18-22.
Job’s Despair (14:18-22)
“But the mountain falls and crumbles away, and the rock is removed from its place; the waters wear away the stones; the torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so you destroy the hope of man. You prevail forever against him, and he passes; you change his countenance, and send him away. His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; they are brought low, and he perceives it not. He feels only the pain of his own body, and he mourns only for himself.”
Just as the wind, rain, and floodwaters wear away the rocks and mountains of the earth, so too the judgment of God ‘destroys the hope of man.’Whether or not his sons and daughters meet with honor in life, he will not know because the only thing he’ll know is his own grief and pain.
There are specific Sundays marked out on the yearly Church calendar where you know certain truths will be focused on. For example on Palm Sunday you’ll most likely hear a sermon on the Triumphal entry. On Good Friday you’ll most likely hear a sermon on the cross of Christ. On Easter you’ll hear of the resurrection, near the end of October you’ll hear of the Reformation, and during the Christmas season you’ll hear of the birth of Christ. But most of us (especially those of us in the reformed protestant world) do not know that there are two other celebrations in our calendar around the beginning of summer.
The first is Ascension Sunday where we remember and rejoice Christ’s ascent to sit on the throne of God to rule and reign at the Father’s side until He comes again in glory and power. Ascension Sunday is known to us here at SonRise, we’ve talked much about the ascension in years past. But I do wonder if we know the second celebration at all. After Jesus ascended to the right hand of God, the Spirit of God descended to indwell the Church Jesus purchased with His blood. So today we’re taking a break from our series in John’s gospel to remember and rejoice in the events of Pentecost Sunday.
Our text will be Acts 2:1-13 as you heard read just a moment ago. But in order to see the full scope of what took place at Pentecost we must return all the way back to Genesis 1 and slowly progress towards Acts 2. So let’s take a journey shall we?
We first meet the identity and see the activity of the Holy Spirit in the first few verses of Scripture in Genesis 1:1-2. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” From reading how the Spirit hovered over the dark void we get a sense of expectation, that God through His Spirit is about to do something. And of course He was about to do something in making everything from nothing. How did God do this? Through His Word. So in the first two verses of the Bible we have the coupling of God’s creative power in His Word and Spirit.
Moving ahead in redemptive history we come to Exodus 19 where God descends on Mt. Sinai in fire. This is another scene where God’s Spirit descends to His creation, and by God descending like this in thunder and lightning and thick cloud surrounding the mountain the people were terrified. What happened after God fell in fire on this mountain? He gave the Law to His people. Again we have the imagery of God rescuing His people, descending to them to meet them in both Word and Spirit.
Move ahead a little bit to Exodus 28 where instructions are given for making Aaron’s priestly garments. It says in 28:2 they were designed for glory and for beauty. Then in 28:3 it says God filled Bezalel with His Spirit to make these clothes. Then in Exodus 31 God gives instruction on how the tabernacle is to be built. And in 31:1-3 God says He fills Bezalel and Oholiab with His Spirit to make all that is required for the tabernacle’s construction. In these instances we again see Word and Spirit united in operation. God filled certain people to make certain things, things that would be used in the ministry of God’s Word to God’s people.
Move much further ahead to the histories and prophetic books of the Old Testament and we find that the normal operation of the Holy Spirit was one of a temporary filling. Prophets, priests, and kings would be filled with God’s Spirit for a certain time, for a certain moment, for a certain purpose and then the Spirit would move on. But the further we progress into the prophets we find a new reality and new operation slowly coming into view. One day the Spirit would no longer function in a temporary filling but would Himself be the very Person who raises people from Spiritual death to spiritual life, who recreates the heart into a soft and moldable heart, and who then permanently fills the soul causing us to submit to the Word of God and walk in the ways of God (Ezekiel 36-37). Again notice Word and Spirit coupled.
Move ahead now a little bit to Joel 2 where we find the grand promise given concerning the Spirit of God. As Joel is prophesying about the events that would usher in the kingdom of God, the age to come, the last days he says in 2:28-32, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke (notice the similarities with Sinai?). The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.” This grand prophesy concerning the activity of the Spirit of God has to do with the events of the last days. Specifically, it’s about the moment the last days begins. During this time the Spirit of God will fall on and fully fill all those who call on the name of the Lord to be saved as they hear and respond to the preaching of the gospel. Once again, see here the same elements of Word and Spirit being coupled together.
Now, as we move out of the Old Testament where God has made promises and move into the New Testament we see firsthand how God has kept those promises.How has He kept His promises concerning His Spirit? We see it first in Jesus, specifically at His baptism, where He the very Word of God was empowered by the Spirit of God to do the will of God in His redeeming work. And during that redeeming work, specifically in John 14-16, Jesus promises that He and the Father will send the Spirit to them and by the power of the Spirit they will be able to do greater things than they’ve ever seen. Notice Word and Spirit are coupled once again in the gospels.
And now, in Acts 2 we find the events that occurred on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost, to say the least, was a very important day for the Jews. The word Pentecost itself means fiftieth in Greek being that it was exactly fifty days after Passover when the people would, each year,celebrate God giving them the Law on Mt. Sinai. It was also called the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest because it was held at the beginning of harvest season. As Luke explains this event he describes it in two parts. In v1-4 we see the events of Pentecost, and in v5-13 we see the effects of Pentecost.
The Events of Pentecost
v1 mentions all the disciples were present and gathered together. This group included the disciples, Matthias (who was chosen to replace Judas in v26) and all the other believers, which 1:15 told us was around 120 people. When the day began they had planned to celebrate Pentecost, God’s giving of the Law and the formation of His covenant people at Sinai, but unbeknownst to them they would end up celebrating the formation of a new covenant people. Notice the four elements resounding from these first four verses include similar elements of all the Old Testament texts we began with today: a mighty rushing wind, tongues, fire, and a filling.
First, a mighty wind in v2, or in the Greek a mighty pneuma (Spirit). This mighty and sudden wind that blew was no mere weather event. It was the strong breeze of God’s Spirit that no man could resist. It resembles the Spirit hovering over the dark void in Genesis 1:2, it resembles the storm surrounding Sinai in Exodus 19-20, and it resembles the wind/Spirit that rattled through the dry bones in Ezekiel’s Vision to recreate them anew as a vast army fit for the Lord of hosts. Just as the wind of God’s Spirit hovered over, filled, and consecrated the Old Testament temple, so too here the wind of God’s Spirit is consecrating the new temple made up of the new covenant people of God.
Second, tongues in v3. Recall it was in Babel that the people desired to make a name for themselves by building a large tower reaching into the heavens. The reason they were able to build such a wonder of the world is given in Genesis 11, they had a common tongue. The text says God came down from the heavens to see it (which means it wasn’t really that tall at all) and confused their common tongue because they were laboring for the glory of man. The curse of Babel was immediately felt as all those present dispersed over the entire world. The curse of Babel and the curse of sin in general began to diminish at Pentecost as those of many nations heard the gospel, not in a common tongue, but each in their own native tongue. This meant the new covenant people now being created would be a people no longer made of one nation but made of many peoples and many nations.Therefore, the tongues present at Pentecost were given by God primarily to show us the formation of a new covenant global people, not to prove that speaking in tongues is a proof of being filled with the Spirit.
Third, fire in v3. Fire often indicated the presence of God with His people. It was a smoking fire that walked through the animal pieces in Genesis 15 confirming the Abrahamic covenant, it was a burning bush that God spoke to Moses out of, it was fire that thunderously fell at Mt. Sinai, it was a fiery pillar that led them by night, it was wonders of fire that Joel spoke of long ago, and now it is fire appearing above each believer. God is, after all, a consuming fire is He not? That the fire of God’s presence symbolized here is present over each individual believer rather than over the whole of them means each believer is himself or herself indwelt by the very presence of God and yet is not consumed, as the bush of old.
Fourth, a filling. v4 says all the believers that day were “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Before the Ascension Jesus told them in 1:5, “…John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” This of course happened a few days later as Jesus filled, or baptized, these believers with the Holy Spirit. 1:8 speaks of the same thing when it says the Spirit ‘comes upon’ us. 2:38 also does this speaking of how we ‘receive’ the Spirit upon believing the gospel. This Pentecost moment marks a unique change in how the Spirit operates with God’s people. David experienced the Spirit coming on him and leaving him for various times and purposes, which is why he said in Psalm 51:11, “Cast me not away from Your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” Now, in the New Covenant we experience, not a kind of second blessing experience of the Spirit after conversion, but a one time full and forever filling of the Spirit at conversion. Ephesians 1:13-14 speaks of it like this, “In Him you also, when you heard the Word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.” Notice once again the pattern of Word and Spirit continues.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in one of his daily devotionals, tells the story of attending a political meeting where two politicians were scheduled to speak. He said the first spoke brilliantly about politics and was clearly a very articulate man. But the second, though not as polished or formal, spoke with a power that surprised Lloyd-Jones. When thinking over why this second man affected him so Lloyd-Jones said, “The first man spoke as a educated advocate, but the second man spoke as a man who experienced and was deeply persuaded in his cause, because of this he came forth not merely as an advocate but as a witness!”Think about this. The disciples knew Jesus, walked with Him, heard His teachings, listened to His sermons, watched His miracles, they saw Him die, and they saw Him rise. If anyone were able to testify to these things it was them. “And yet, Acts 1:8 tells us they would be quite unable to do this until they had been baptized with the Holy Spirit.”Or we can say it like this, without the Spirit in Acts 1 they were held back, but with the Spirit in Acts 2 they were sent forth.They were filled then and we are filled today that we would be, not mere spectators – onlookers – observers, but witnesses! This Pentecost moment begins the same steady theme throughout the entire book of Acts. When one hears the gospel and comes to the Lord by the power of the Spirit, what happens is that person begins preaching the gospel in the power of the Spirit. Just as God once filled and gifted Bezalel and Oholiab with His Spirit to make the priestly garments and build tabernacle, so too God now fills us and gifts us with His Spirit to build the Church of Jesus Christ. Just as those former things were made by the Spirit for beauty and glory, now we work by the Spirit to spread the beauty and glory and of Christ!
An intentional parallel and contrast are presented to us here. At Sinai the Spirit thundered mightily and the people were filled with fear as they backed away from God though God was making them a people and entering into covenant with them by writing outwardly on the tablets of stone. Here at Pentecost, the Spirit blew mightily as God wrote inwardly on tablets of human hearts and the filled the people with a holy boldness as they drew near to God and preached the gospel courageously before a hostile crowd.What was the result of this? In one day more people were converted and added to the Church than in the entire earthly ministry of Jesus. Remember Pentecost was called the Feast of Harvest because the first fruits of the crop would be brought in? This suggests that the 3,000 converts that became part of the new covenant people that day were only the first fruits of more gospel harvest to come!Derek Thomas describes this saying, “Pentecost signaled that something had been done (the atoning work of the Messiah) and that something had not yet been fully accomplished (the gathering of the people of God into the visible Church of Jesus Christ).”Question: how are God’s people going to be gathered in? Answer: by the Spirit empowered gospel preaching of Spirit filled disciples of Christ. Once again, it’s Word and Spirit in view. They were together there at creation, they were together at Sinai, and they’re still together in God’s work of new creation at Pentecost. What God joins together let not man separate!
All of this means the Pentecost event is unrepeatable. Or as the Gospel Transformation Study Bible says, “Luke’s focus in Acts 2 is on the fulfillment of prophecy, not on paradigms for personal experience.”Peter will soon bear witness in just a moment (2:17-18) and tell us that this Pentecost event is what Joel’s prophecy was all about! That Joel 2 was being fulfilled here means Pentecost marked the beginning of what is known as the last days. Jesus had come announcing the arrival of the Kingdom throughout His earthly ministry, and now by sending His Spirit He emphatically declared that the last days had now fully come, that the old was gone, that a new era had dawned, at a New Sinai, where a New People were created, called into a New Covenant, and given a new commission to be carried out “not by might, nor by human power, but by My Spirit says the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6)
The Effects of Pentecost
We then see the crowd react in v5-13,“Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
The large crowd that was already assembled, it seems to tell us, hadn’t seen the tongues of fire land on the disciples in that room but they indeed heard the great and mighty wind and saw the effects of that fire as v11 says, the mighty works of God were proclaimed. The response was varied, words all throughout v5-13 show us what they were ‘bewildered,’ ‘amazed,’ ‘astonished,’ and ‘perplexed.’ In v12 many of that group believed asking ‘What does this mean?’ But others sadly mocked, and concluding all these folks were drunk at nine in the morning! Many may similarly mock today and say all this is hogwash and nonsense! But praise God that not everyone will mock, some will be amazed and will look into the meaning of these things…and find the very fullness of God in the gospel of Christ through power of the Spirit.
So Church…may you, when you hear the Word of truth, the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners, may you repent and return, may you believe in Him, and from believing may you know and experience the one time full and forever filling of God’s Spirit, and find all the strength, to live all of life, to the glory of God.
When we come to chapter 11 we meet the third and final friend come to bring comfort to Job. Zophar is his name, and as you’ll see he doesn’t have much to say by way of comfort, rather he comes with a rebuke. Before we get into what this last friend says I want to point out something about these friends. If you haven’t noticed it yet, you will here in chapter 11. Job’s friends say things that are often very similar to things we say to one another in the Church.For example, we feel consoled when we hear Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that life abundant is given and had and enjoyed only in Him, but Zophar says something very similar in Job 11:15-19. Another example, we rejoice with Paul as he explodes in praise after the robust theology of Romans 1-11 in Romans 11:33-36, but Zophar says something very similar in Job 11:7-9. Surely we don’t conclude that because Zophar is rebuked at the end of Job for not speaking rightly of God, that Jesus and Paul are wrong as well. Not at all.
But if that’s not the case, we then have a new question. When someone says things about God that are correct, how do we know if they’re a Paul or a Zophar? We could speak as a realtor here and use one simple phrase: location, location, location. In John 10:10 Jesus is speaking to His disciples, and in Romans 11 Paul is speaking to the Church in Rome. In both of those places the truth spoken about God is meant to encourage and edify the Church. Job’s friends may say right things about God, but they’re not aiming at edification for Job, they’re using truth to tear him down. So, in a true sense they may be right what they say but they’re wrong in how they apply those statements about God.
Therefore, as we look into Zophar’s response to Job in chapter 11 let’s be encouraged to be careful and cautious about how we speak of God to others, ensuring that we’re not mirroring Job’s friends at all.
Chapter 11 is broken into three sections:
v1-6 – Accusation
v7-12 – Confrontation
v13-20 – Instruction
“Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you? For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.”
One of our church members recently sent me a message about an article they read from a former pastor of theirs. The article was, in essence, this pastor’s belief that Christian music seeking to give voice to those who are suffering and seeking to trust God in the midst of that suffering is foolishness. The article went onto say that lamenting in song to God is really just complaining and whining. This particular church member was rightly furious about what was said in the article, so furious that they then asked me, not if, but how they should respond to it. So we discussed a few things about how they might do that and are praying it is received well. I share this little story because this church member was vexed about what this author so boldly said. So vexed and angered by it that they felt they could not remain silent about it, but had to respond to it. In a similar manner, Zophar has heard Job’s words and has been so enraged by them that he feels he can no longer remain silent. So in v2-3 he calls Job out for babbling on and on with a multitude of words. He calls Job out for mocking them as they try to give him counsel. Zophar feels Job has shamed them with his words so far, and so he now feels that Job should be shamed in return.
In v4 Zophar accuses Job when he says, “For you say ‘My doctrine is pure and I am clean in God’s eyes.’” But this isn’t what Job has said so far is it? Far from it. Job would be the first to admit that he is confused and vexed himself currently rather than doctrinally pure. Sure he has said some pretty weighty things about God, but these statements (like the one in 9:22 and all throughout chapter 10) aren’t calm and cool statements of doctrinal clarity. No, they’re the agonized conclusions of a man in desperation.And Job doesn’t claim to be clean or perfect in God’s sight. He is a blameless man for sure, but the two aren’t the same. Zophar is so provoked by Job that he wishes God would speak up now and open His lips because if He did Zophar seems pretty sure what God would say to Job. What would He say? God would, look at v6, divulge secrets of wisdom and in His manifold understanding He would rebuke Job’s partial understanding. Then it comes. One of the most cruel things said to Job thus far. “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” Zophar is saying that God causing Job to be bankrupt, taking away all his animals, all his servants, all his children, and all his health is only part of what Job really deserves. Such that, if God were to truly give Job all of what he deserved his suffering would be dramatically deeper. This is what God would remind Job of, Zophar thinks, if God were to reply back to Job right now. Yikes. Not only is this a fantastically cruel thing to say, it is arrogantly ironic because even though God’s wisdom and understanding are secret (see v6) apparently Zophar has plumbed the depths of these secrets himself and found it all out. This is his accusation to Job.
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. If he passes through and imprisons and summons the court, who can turn him back? For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it? But a stupid man will get understanding when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!”
Here Zophar rightly speaks of God saying He and His knowledge in all His fullness is higher than heaven, deeper than sheol, longer than the earth, and broader than the oceans. This would be a beautiful statement indeed if Zophar applied it to himself and not only Job. But he doesn’t. He just tells Job that he cannot know God well enough to be able to know God truly. The implication though is that Zophar can, in his own finite mind, penetrate higher than heavens, deeper than sheol, longer than the earth, and broader than the seas to find out the infinite knowledge of God. Again, what does Zophar know that Job doesn’t? The thought is that when God passes by He imprisons the one with iniquity and summons a court together to pass judgment on him. Zophar believes this one imprisoned for his sin about to be judged is Job. And Job, in his partial knowledge, would be foolish to try and argue with God who has perfect knowledge. To try and do so resembles the folly of a wild animal instinct in man. God knows the sin of all men, does Job really believe God will pass by and won’t consider his own sin?
So after calling Job as stupid as a wild animal and telling him God is giving him less than he truly deserves, he decides to give him some counsel.
“If you prepare your heart, you willstretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear. You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away. And your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security. You will lie down, and none will make you afraid; many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”
Zophar’s advice can be deduced to a list of things to do. First, above all other things Job must prepare his heart…to do what? To stretch out his hands toward God…to put iniquity far from his hands…and to not allow injustice in his affairs. If Job does this, Job will lift up his face without shame or embarrassment and will experience a list of blessings. Namely, if he does these things Job will be secure and not afraid, he’ll forget his misery as waters that have washed away (perhaps the common saying ‘water under the bridge’ pops in your head here).His dark life will be bright as the high noon, he’ll feel dawn push back the night in his soul, and from this Job will feel secure and hopeful and in this newfound security Job will rest, lie down, while many once again come to him for counsel and pursue him for fellowship. Zophar’s instruction to Job is that Job will gain all these things, these blessings, if he puts his sin away from him. As beautiful as the things in v15-19 are they form a vivid contrast to the dark list that ends his instruction. If Job does not do these things v20 will ever be his reality. His eyes will fail, he won’t see things rightly (or as they are), he won’t see light at the end of the tunnel, he’ll be cemented in his suffering and lost condition, and the only thing he’ll look forward to is his own death when he breathes his last.
There are two problems with this instruction. First, Job has no secret sins to repent of, we are again reminded of that as we read this. And second, Zophar’s motivation for Job to repent is exactly the same motivation of Satan’s accusation of Job. Remember, Satan thinks Job was only a holy man because of all the blessings of God. So if Job repents from his ‘sin’ in order to gain all these blessings, as Zophar instructs him to, he’ll prove Satan right.
So here at the end of the first cycle of speeches of Job’s comforter’s we see now, having heard from all of them, that they’re all basically saying the same thing. Job’s suffering because he’s sinned. Thus, the counsel is simple: repent and return. Yet ironically, it is the friends who must repent and return, not Job, which we’ve seen in all of Job’s responses to them thus far.
But linger back on v6 with me as we wrap this up tonight. Zophar believed Job was receiving less then He truly deserved from God, and that if God really did give Job what he deserved his suffering would be vastly greater. There’s a gospel tune playing here for us if we have ears to hear it. God truly has given us, in Christ, not only less then we deserve, but what we don’t deserve at all! We deserve death, for death is the wage of sin. But in His mercy He didn’t give us those wages, Christ paid them in full and now in His grace we’ll never have to pay them ourselves! Instead He gave us the reward we didn’t earn – eternal life! This song is playing in v6 for us to hear, and by faith we must live by this gospel tune as well.
“In my dream I was carried away to a great and high mountain where I saw that great city…the Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem. Around the city, as around the earthly Jerusalem, there ran a wall great and high. There were twelve gates, north, south, east, and west; and every gate was a pearl, and at every gate stood one of the Great Angels. On the gates were written the names of the Twelve Tribes of the Children of Israel, from Reuben to Benjamin. The wall of the city stood upon twelve massive foundation stones, and on each stone was the name of one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb; and as I walked around the city, thrilling with joy and rapture at the glory and splendor of it, I read the names written upon the twelve stones—Peter, James, John, and all the others. But one name was missing. I looked in vain for that name, either on the twelve gates or on the twelve foundation stones—and that name was Judas.
The longest night in the history of the world is drawing to a close. The night is passing, but the day has not yet come. Far to the east, over the mountains of Moab, there is just the faintest intimation of the coming day. The huge walls of Jerusalem and the towers and pinnacles of the temple are emerging from the shadows of the night. In the half darkness and half light I can make out a solitary figure coming down the winding road from the wall of Jerusalem towards the valleyof Kidron. On the bridge over the brook he pauses for a moment and, turning, looks back towards the Holy City. Then he goes forward for a few paces and, again turning, halts and looks up towards the massive walls of the city. Again he turns, and this time he does not stop. Now I can see that in his hand he carries a rope. Up the slope of Olivet he comes and, entering in at the gate of Gethsemane, walks under the trees of the Garden. Seizing with his arms one of the low-branching limbs of a gnarled olive tree, he draws himself up into the tree. Perhaps he is the proprietor of this part of the Garden, and has come to gather the olives. But why with a rope? For a little he is lost to my view in the springtime foliage of the tree. Then, suddenly, I see his body plummet down like a rock from the top of the tree. Yet the body does not reach the ground, but is suspended in mid-air. And there it swings slowly to and fro at the end of a rope.”
This was the imaginary vision of Clarence Edward Macartney. It shows us the midnight of Judas’ life, and that he would never again wake to the sunshine of Christ’s countenance.It is a sad picture indeed.
Last week we worked through one of the brightest and most glorious passages in the New Testament, where Jesus shockingly yet humbly and graciously washed the disciples feet. He then told them what this humble action meant by instructing them to live humbly and sacrificially with one another and added that they’d be blessed if they did so. But in the midst of this there comes certain details, like v11, where we find some ominous hints of a near betrayal.And as v18 comes we’re thrust away from the high altitude of Christ’s bright love and are plunged into the subterranean caverns of Judas’ dark deed. Jesus told them He would love them to the end in v1 but in v18 we see that He wasn’t speaking about all of them. v18-30 is our text this morning. First, in v18-20 we have the foretelling of betrayal. Second, in v21-30a we have the trouble of betrayal. And third, in v30b we have the darkness of betrayal.
The Foretelling of Betrayal (v18-20)
In what had to be a moment of utter clarity Jesus spoke words that put fear in the disciples, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen…” Jesus has, we know, chosen His own from before the foundation of the world. This has been made clear throughout John’s gospel many times and is echoed throughout the Scriptures in many other places. And in that vein Jesus will now speak of a particular person He’s chosen for sure, but chosen for a vastly different purpose.The Scripture must be fulfilled He says, “He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against Me.” Jesus reaches back to Psalm 41 to explain Judas’ betrayal. David wrote Psalm 41, and in the immediate context David painfully traces his hurt of being betrayed by of one of his closest friends and counselors, Ahithopel, who…hung himself after betraying David. In v5-10 of Psalm 41 David describes these things saying, “My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?” And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad. All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.” Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. But you, O LORD, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!”
Jesus quotes Psalm 41 in v18 to point out that though the immediate context is about the betrayal of Ahithopel, the ultimate meaning of Psalm 41 points to and finds fulfillment in the greater betrayal of Judas, who would share a similar sticky end. It’s as if Jesus was saying “Men, we have an Ahithopel in our midst.”By pointing to Psalm 41 and saying the Scripture will be fulfilled means Judas’ betrayal isn’t merely coming soon, but that it was foretold long ago by the Scriptures. Jesus implies this in v19 where He says the reason for telling them this is so when the betrayal happens they wouldn’t be caught off guard or be too shaken by this action but would rather grow in their belief in His deity and His command over all things. Literally in the Greek, that when this takes place they would believe He is ‘I AM.’ Lesson? When Judas betrayed Jesus, as the Scriptures foretold, Jesus was not a helpless victim of surprising treachery, but One sent and delivered purposely by God into the hands of those who would execute their treachery on Him for God’s redemptive purposes.
The conclusion Jesus draws from all this is in v20, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives the One who sent Me.” A parallel is in view here. Jesus speaks of His disciples being sent as He has been sent and He speaks of people receiving them as they have received Him. The parallel is that the high and holy calling of Christ sent by the Father to a lowly and humble service is the same high and holy calling of the disciples sent by Christ to a lowly and humble service. That parallel is clear. But, how does this parallel link to the betrayal already spoken of in v18-19? Or, why talk of being sent after talking of betrayal? What’s the connection? Answer: as Christ has been sent by the Father so too Christ sends His own. As Christ was betrayed by those who should’ve received Him, so too, Christ’s own will be betrayed by those who should receive them. In other words, why would those who are sent out by Jesus have a different experience than Christ who was sent out by the Father? They won’t. Thus, they shouldn’t be surprised if the world hates them because it hated Christ first. Or like v16 said earlier, a messenger isn’t greater than the one sending them. They should not be surprised of these things, and neither…should…we. If we’re truly following Jesus, eventually the culture around us will turn on us…as it once turned on Him.
This makes me examine my life. Why? Because I wonder what it means if I do not experience any opposition. If I don’t, I fear I only have two options. I either fit in too much with this world, or I am not out in the world trying to win the world. Either way, if unbelieving opposition never comes my way or into my life, my life must not seem offensive to them. Therefore they must recognize me as one of their own and not as something alien to them.
The Trouble of Betrayal (v21-30a)
A very human Jesus is portrayed to us here in v21. “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’” John shows us here how Jesus is truly divine and in full sovereign command of all things, as well as showing us how Jesus is truly human and struggling with these events as they play out. Just as He was troubled before the tomb of His friend Lazarus, just as He was troubled in prayer in 12:27, so too Jesus is troubled (agitated, distressed, grieved, stirred up, and unsettled). Why? An intimate friend will betray Him shortly. Of course this trouble was only the firstfruits of agony Jesus would experience on His road to the cross, but it was agony nonetheless.Here we must recognize that this isn’t a cold action of betraying a mere acquaintance, but the betraying of a close intimate ‘friend.’Judas was one of them, he was an insider not an outsider. It’s one thing to be hated and betrayed by your enemy, but by a friend? By someone we thought we knew but turned out to only be using our ‘friendship’ to further his or her own devious schemes.That kind of betrayal carves a deep wound, a wound that some of you have felt personally (an unfaithful spouse, a thieving co-worker, or a child who continually abuses a parent’s love). Here learn that Jesus felt that wound. George Herbert aimed to expressed this grief in poetry, “Mine own Apostle, who the bag did beare. Though he had all I had did not forbeare. To sell Me also, and to put Me there: Was there ever grief like Mine?”
Imagine this hitting the ears of the disciples for the first time.They have heard Jesus speak of the grim events in front of Him for sometime now. He had told them His hour would one day come, He had told them He would die, He had told them He would depart and return to the Father. But when He told them His hour had come to die, you have to believe they we’re all kinds of mixed. They loved this Man, followed this Man, believed His teaching, and confessed Him to be God. Now He was not only about to die, but one of them would be the very ones to deliver Him to death? It was too much to bear. Jesus’ trouble it seems, troubled them.
So in v22 they all look around at one another wondering who Jesus is talking about. This is no minor detail. That they don’t immediately know who the betrayer is…shows us, not that the disciples are thick headed buffoons, but that Judas hid his deception very well. So, as Jesus is troubled by the reality of v21 so too the disciples are troubled by the reality in v21. Which is what prompts the quiet conversation in v23-25 between Peter and John. (side note: notice how John refers to himself throughout his gospel as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved?’ This, in and of itself, tells us something of how John chiefly took delight in the fact that he, a sinner, was so marvelously loved by Christ. May we all see ourselves in such a manner, amen?!) Anywho, in his angst Peter eyed John and motioned for him to ask Jesus who the betrayer was. John nods and then leans back against Jesus and said “Lord, who is it?”
v26-27 show us how Jesus answered and what happened next. “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Though implicit, it seems Jesus said this quietly to John, because in v28-29 we get the small detail that no one else at the table knew why Jesus said this to Judas. Perhaps, they thought, Jesus said this because Judas was the treasurer of the group and had to go make preparations for their feasts, or that Judas went off to be generous to poor, like they always assumed he was doing. The reaction to the rest of the group to Jesus’ statement to Judas and Judas’ leaving the meal seem to show that Jesus’ comment to John in v26 was quiet, that seems clear. What’s not so clear is why John, now knowing who will betray Jesus, does nothing about it? We didn’t see him stop Judas from doing this, we don’t see him respond to Jesus, and we don’t even see him tell Peter what Jesus told him, even though it was him who wanted him to ask Jesus about this in the first place. Maybe John doesn’t do anything because in v28 we learn that no one at the table (John included) knew why Jesus was speaking to Judas in such ways. Yes Jesus (who knew and also didn’t stop Judas) told John, but it’s likely that the depth of betrayal occurring didn’t fully hit home to John.
The tragedy is unmistakable is it not? When Jesus hands Judas the morsel of bread, Judas takes it, eats it, and we read that at this point Satan entered into Judas. This is the first time we read the devil’s name in John’s gospel and that it says Satan entered into Judas leads us to believe that prior to this moment Satan had just been tempting Judas to do these things, but now has come in and taken a thorough possession of him.The devil does things like this. “First he suggests, then he commands. First he knocks on the door, then once admitted he takes complete possession, and rules the whole inward man like a tyrant.”J.C. Ryle comments on this saying, “Trifling with the first thoughts of sin – making light of evil ideas when first offered to our hearts – allowing Satan to talk to us, flatter us, put bad notions into our hearts and minds – all this may seem a small matter to many. It is precisely at this point the road to ruin begins. He that allows Satan to sow wicked thoughts will soon find within his heart a crop of wicked habits. Happy is he who believes that there is a devil, and believing, watches and prays daily that he may be kept from his temptations.”
Church, we have a need to resist the evil one, and praise the Lord, because of this betrayal (how ironic and how wonderful!), we now resist an already defeated foe!
Things have indeed played out according to God’s sovereign plan, and before our very eyes Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, has become the son of perdition. So Jesus commands him, “What you are going to do, do quickly. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.” Jesus is troubled, the disciples are troubled, Peter and John are troubled, and Satan, the bringer of trouble, enters Judas to cause more trouble…trouble that will ultimately bring triumph, through the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
The Darkness of Betrayal (v30b)
v30 ends with the phrase, “And it was night.” I believe this phrase is meant to tell us of the current time at that moment (the sun had gone down so it was dark). But I also believe this phrase tells usmore. Namely, it tells of the darkness of betrayal. From the very beginning of John’s gospel there has been a theme of strife and struggle between light and darkness. Here before us is a staggering contrast. Jesus, the Light of the World, sits across from Judas, whose soul is black as night, and sent out Judas to betray Him. What does this mean? Jesus has now fully cut Himself off from the light and given Himself into the grip of utter darkness.Even here it is implied that no one takes His life from Him, He lays it down of His own accord. For who? For those in darkness, that they (by faith) would become sons and daughters of light.
The foretelling of betrayal, the trouble of betrayal, the darkness of betrayal…these have been the things we’ve seen in our text today. But I pray you’ve seen more about our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the foretelling of His betrayal see His sovereign plan over all things and rest in His omnipotent hands. Church, much will surprise us in this life, but O the joy of knowing that nothing, even our own sin, will ever surprise Him!
In the trouble of His betrayal see His humanity able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. He knows what it is to be betrayed, He knows the hurt and the pain. Church, much will hurt us in this fallen world, but O the joy of knowing His hurt, of knowing His gospel wounds is where we find healing for ours.
In the darkness of His betrayal see His light shining through even then. Yes the dark would close on Him and shut out the Light of the World for a moment. Church, much of this passage today is dark and gloomy. But O the joy of knowing that it’s only against the pitch black of sin that we see the bright beauties of the gospel.
I have forgotten where I read this but I once read a book that had the following opening illustration. “I have a friend who has a dog named Bailey. Bailey was a two year old basset hound who had a gentle playful temper, eager to love anyone near him. But though this is true, Bailey has a bit of baggage. You see, Bailey was just a puppy when an F-5 tornado came through his backyard that he just happened to be playing in. He survived, my friend got to him in time, but it left a mark on Bailey that has never left, so deep a mark that anytime a storm comes to Bailey’s house and Bailey is in the backyard, he freaks out, runs up to the back door, and barks his tail off until someone comes to his rescue. It could just be a few rain drops and no big deal to any normal person but to Bailey, the apocalypse has come!
A few years after this incident, wildfires were roaring about my friends home and it did eventually catch on fire, and burn down. But the important thing to notice about this fire is that it came to my friends house through the backyard, where Bailey was playing. My friend saw it, ran outside just in time to see his trees light up like fireballs, grabbed Bailey and got to safety. During the time that a new house was being rebuilt for these guys they stayed in a little condo close by. As soon as they got into the condo Bailey had a moment. He walked in, sniffed around, found the bedroom, jumped onto the bed, found my friends pillow, and proceeded to pee. My friend knew what this meant. Bailey clearly felt the need to make a few things clear. First he acknowledged that my friend was the head of the family, (he chose his pillow rather than the others). Second, he was not running away, he was still happily part of the family, knowing he is loved and cared for, but he wanted to make a statement to let my friend know that his life (to him) was out of control and that he didn’t like what was currently happening to him. He had been chased by not only an F-5 tornado, but by a blazing fire and now his home had been destroyed twice! He just couldn’t hold it inside any longer, he had to let out his feelings and make it known that he was not happy.”
Now, I tell you this story, because when we go through tornadoes and blazing fires our their lives we often do the same thing that Bailey does. We don’t pee on pillows, we just act out in different ways. When times like this happen we feel displaced, confused, frustrated, angry, and eventually if we remain in this condition long enough, we reach our breaking point and we crack. I believe Job reached this point in chapter 3 and the evidence of his own cracking is woven all throughout his responses to his friends. Specifically here in chapter 10, Job has just been responding to Bildad in chapter 9 and his suffering is looming so large that he transitions away from speaking to Bildad to speaking directly to God in 10:1. As his words flow out from his mouth, we see His cracked heart coming through clearly in questions…dire questions.There are four of them, and we’ll walk through them once at a time.
Why Are You Against Me? (v1-3)
“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me. Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?”
The matter at hand before us in v1-3 is Job’s struggle to interpret his life rightly in the midst of his current suffering. Job will no longer just talk about God to his friends, no, he’ll give no restraint to his complaints and will now speak directly to God now about the deepest questions he has and cannot answer. This first question really comes to us in v2 where we see Job’s belief that God has condemned him and is now contending against him. Because of this Job loathes his life (v1). More so, in v3, more questions come from this concerning the very nature of God. Does God find it an exercise of enjoyment to oppress and despise the work of His hands? Or does God favor, or literally ‘smile at’ the designs and plans of the wicked?
We know the answers to these questions. We are aware that God does not smile at the designs of the wicked. That God does not oppress and despise the work of His hands. And that God is not contending against or condemning Job. Why then does Job ask these things? Because he is suffering, and as far as he can tell (regardless of what his friends keep saying) he can’t seem to find a reason why he is suffering. So why can we see what Job cannot see? Because we’re not suffering as he is, we’re not in his shoes, and we’ve been given a window behind the curtain that Job hasn’t been allowed to see. All of this shows us something here that will aid us in our own suffering and aid us in speaking with those who are suffering themselves. Suffering can at times fog what is clear, such that we call into question those things that once seemed concretely clear to us. This is what’s happening to Job. His suffering is fogging his view of God and while he’s in the midst of it, it is very difficult for him to see as he ought to see. This aids us in our own suffering by reminding us that when we suffer we’ll probably experience something similar to this. We’ll feel a fog come over us and thus we’ll need to seek out others who will tell us and remind us of what is good, true, and beautiful. This also aids us in speaking to those who are suffering by reminding us to be speaking of what is good, true, and beautiful to those in suffering. Job’s friends should’ve been doing this, but by blaming Job for these things they added more weight onto his heavy burden rather than giving him some kind of relief.
Why Do You Watch Me? (v4-7)
“Have you eyes of flesh? Do you see as man sees? Are your days as the days of man, or your years as a man’s years, that you seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty, and there is none to deliver out of your hand?”
Job here asks God if He has eyes like a man, and if God sees as man sees. If God were like a man and had eyes like a man Job would understand why God would have to look carefully at Job to discern what is truly going on with him.But God isn’t like man. God doesn’t have eyes like man and no, God doesn’t see as man sees. He sees all and knows all, nothing is hidden from His sight. Because of these things Job tells God in v7 that it isn’t right for God to watch him as He does. God should already know he has no sin to deserve such treatment. But in any case Job also knows he is powerless before this God and that none can deliver out of His hand. Thus, since God knows of his innocence it is unfair to be suffering as he is.
Why Did You Create Me? (v8-17)
“Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. Yet these things you hid in your heart; I know that this was your purpose. If I sin, you watch me and do not acquit me of my iniquity. If I am guilty, woe to me! If I am in the right, I cannot lift up my head, for I am filled with disgrace and look on my affliction. And were my head lifted up, you would hunt me like a lion and again work wonders against me. You renew your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me.”
Back in v3 Job mentioned he was the work of God’s hands, here in v8-17 he expands on that more.These verses are beautiful and horrible all at the same time. It is mixed because Job is mixed. As God intimately created him, God now is intimately destroying him. God carefully formed him from the clay, God now is reversing the creation process and returning him to dust. What’s the point of creating him if his end was going to be this? Job speaks of God’s creative work with him being like that of slowly curdling milk to make cheese in v10, clothing him and knitting him together in v11, even granting life, steadfast love, and preservation in v12. Yet v13 reveals that Job remains vexed because God’s purpose in making him so carefully only seems only to be unmaking him so cruelly. Now God only watches him, doesn’t forgive him, fills him with disgrace, and hunts Job like a lion only to work wonders against him. Or as v17 describes it, Job believes God increases his vexation by besieging him with armies after armies, or fresh trouble after fresh trouble.
Now it all leads to this last question.
Why Don’t You Kill Me? (v18-22)
“Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer before I go—and I shall not return—to the land of darkness and deep shadow, the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.”
In a very real sense Job now comes back to the themes of his lament in chapter 3. He wishes he never lived. But because he is alive and suffering so, his wish is that God would leave him alone. If that would happen, Job shockingly concludes that he would find cheer, or literally find a smile in peaceful rest. Though his beginnings were full or order and beauty, his present life is quickly fading into nothing but disorder and chaos.
Listen to how Christopher Ash ends his thoughts on chapter 10 with a beam of hope. “And yet deep in his heart the question ‘why?’ is addressed to the God who seems such a monster. And in that question and that address there lies hope. Whatever Job says, the fact that he says it to God and says it with such vehemence suggests that he knows he has not reached the end of his quest for meaning. There is in Job the inner energy of faith, the mark of a real believer. Job may be wrong in his persuasion of God and of the reality of his situation, but he is deeply right in his heart and the direction of his turning and his yearning. Thank God for that.”
Having concluded part one of John’s gospel where we find the public ministry of Jesus, we come now to part 2 of John’s gospel where John shows his readers the private ministry of Jesus to His disciples and His passion. 13:1 begins part two saying, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This opening verse sets the stage not only for the wondrous act of love we’ll see in our text today as Jesus washes their feet, it sets the stage for all of the Upper Room discourse found in John 13-17.
Notice His ‘hour’ comes back into view here in v1 but it is no longer put in terms of His cross but of His departure back to the Father.So what does Jesus do in these last moments with His disciples? He teaches them deeply and by doing so He loves them vastly, so vastly John can say Jesus “…loved them to the end.” Because of this many Christians down throughout the ages believe John 13-17 to be the holy ground of John’s gospel where Christ’s particular, powerful, and potent love for His own is made known. Yes Christ loves the world and loves all mankind in some ways, but rejoice believer (!), Christ loves His own in all ways. Of this Charles Spurgeon says, “What a title for us to wear, ‘His own’!…The fact that you are truly Christ’s is afountain of innumerable pleasures and blessings to ourhearts…He distinguishes us from the rest of mankind, and sets us apart to Himself…surely this is the highest honor that can be put on us…!”This great love of Christ is shown to us in two ways in our passage this morning. First we see the love of Christ displayed for us in v2-11. And second we see the love of Christ decreed to us in v12-17.
The Love of Christ Displayed (v2-11)
Before Jesus rises to wash the disciples feet in v4 we learn some details concerning this occasion in v2-3. In v2 we learn they were eating a meal together. Matthew, Mark, and Luke would lead us to believe this meal was the Passover meal where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. That John doesn’t seem concerned to tell us if this is that same meal or another meal shows us that John is concerned about other details. What other details? The loving action Jesus is about to do in washing His disciples feet.
A dreadful detail comes next as we move from love to hate, from the Savior to Satan, “…the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him…” Look at the contrast is presented to us here. Across the table from the self-giving Christ sits the self-serving Judas who will very soon betray Him.Judas has already been in question throughout much of John’s gospel and here in v2, v18, and later in v27 his fate is confirmed as we see Judas giving room for Satan to wield him for wicked purposes. Nevertheless, Christ is not daunted by Satan’s work in and through Judas. In v3 we’re reminded of a reassuring reality. Jesus has full command not only of this meal, but of all things. It says there He knew the Father had given all things to Him, and that He had come from God and would soon to return to Him. Knowing the wicked plans Judas and Satan are about to do and knowing the sovereign command of Christ, we would completely understand if Jesus, at this meal, used His almighty power to instantaneously destroy both Judas and Satan for conspiring against Him.That would show His power. That would crush evil. Or would it? Jesus has loftier intentions. What does He do? v4-5 tell us, Jesus “…rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the cosmic Christ, in full command, completely aware of His betrayer next to Him and the cross before Him, takes up the dress and role of the lowliest of servants and washes all of the disciples feet, Judas included. “WHAT?!” ought to be our response to this. How unexpected…how humiliating…how gracious. Remember Jesus entered the city before humbly on a donkey, now He again humbly serves His own by washing their feet.
We see this from a bit of a distance so it may be hard for us to see the gravity of what Jesus is doing here, but by looking at the reaction of the disciples we get a glimpse into what was really happening. And that’s exactly what we have next. There is silence among the disciples until Jesus gets around to Peter in v6-7 where Peter, being Peter, blurts out what everyone else seems to be thinking. “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter’s question is understandable. He earlier confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of Living God so for him it was entirely inappropriate for the Messiah to wash his dirty feet. But Jesus calmly responds and says that even though he may not understand why this has to happen now, one day ‘afterword’ he will. We hear this and immediately think of the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension when both the Father and the Son will together send the Spirit to open eyes, to awaken dead hearts, and to enlighten darkened minds so that they understand the things Christ made known to them. We hear this and think of that. But is there hearing this firsthand, he doesn’t know these things, so he blurts out again in v8 “You shall never wash my feet.” Again, Peter is only thinking about what is socially acceptable and because of that he thinks it’s entirely wrong for the Son of the Living God to be engaging in such lowly duties. ‘He’s the Christ, He deserves the place of highest honor, He shouldn’t be doing this!’ One commentator says here, “Peter is humble enough to see the absurdity of Christ’s actions, yet proud enough to command to his Master.”
Jesus responds to him by saying in v8b, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.” You have to laugh a bit when you see his response to this in v9, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter, doesn’t get it, but he got enough of what Jesus was saying to understand that he didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying and that he is wrong to forbid Jesus from doing this. So he quickly blurts out the opposite of what he said earlier, desiring to receive a whole body washing instead. To this Jesus responds in v10-11, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For He knew who was to betray Him; that was why He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’”
Jesus response in v8b and then again in v10 are game changers for how we understand this washing. Jesus isn’t speaking of mere physical washing, not at all. He is washing their feet and their feet are dirty, no doubt about that. It is certainly a humble thing to do, no doubt about that. But more is in view than clean feet. What’s in view according to Jesus, that Peter doesn’t see, is the necessity of a clean heart! Jesus is saying, ‘Unless you washed clean from sin by My blood (which is about to be poured out for you), you have no share with Me.’ So, let’s make sure we don’t view this humble act of washing feet as merely a lesson in humility. There is cross work in view here.
Hear the language of Paul’s Christ hymn in Phil. 2:5-11 here in this act in John 13. Just asHe rose from His heavenly throne to come into the world not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many, so too He rose from His seat at this meal to serve them. Just as He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant in the incarnation, so too He took a towel and tied it around His waist making Himself a lowly slave. Just as He would very soon pour out His blood to wash away all the sin of all those who would ever believe in Him, so too He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet. And just as He will take His seat at the Father’s side once more after His redeeming work is finished in the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, so too He sat back at the table when He finished washing their feet. So here is One who both Servant and Master present among them, serving them, and teaching them. This isn’t just a lesson in humility, it’s a preview of His greater servant work He’ll complete in a just a few more hours. Yet, even as He ends v10-11 John makes sure to remind us that not all who were washed, were washed. Lord willing we’ll come back to these comments about Judas when we get to v18-30 next week, for now let’s move ahead to v12-17 where we see the love of Christ decreed.
The Love of Christ Decreed (v12-17)
“When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
In these verses we find the implications of Jesus’ act of washing His disciples feet. As we just saw Christ display His love, we now see Him decree His love. Or to say it another way, we just saw Christ compellingly display humility, now we see Christ command the same humility. Or to say it one more way, Jesus used foot washing as a preview of His sacrificial death, now Jesus uses foot washing as model for our sacrificial life. In v12 Jesus asks if they understand what He had just done, He knows they don’t (He even said they wouldn’t in v7), so He is going to help them out by explaining this action further and working out one large implication from it. He begins doing this in v13-14 by speaking about what they call Him. They call Him Teacher and Lord, and Jesus says this is right for them to do so. Because they call Him Teacher and Lord they must do, not only what He says, but what He does also. What has He done? He has taken the role of a slave among them and performed a lowly service for them. Therefore (and this is the big implication He’ll now draw out) because He washed their feet, they ought to wash one another’s feet. Notice how Jesus, as He’s saying this, reverses the titles present in v13-14? In v13 Teacher is first and Lord is second. But as He commands them in v14 Jesus reverses the order and places Lord first and Teacher second. This small shift carries large meaning. It reminds the disciples (and us) that what Jesus has done is not just something to be left in the realm of academic discussion as if He were just a Teacher. No, He is Lord, so this is a command from God Almighty to them that must change the way they live their lives with one another. Because of this we must know in our minds that we cannot be content to leave the truth of God in our minds alone. God’s way with us is from top to bottom. His truth must be known in the mind, experienced in the heart, and then applied to the will as we work these things out in bold (and lowly) service to one another.
So in v15-16 it shouldn’t surprise us when we hear Jesus say, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant (slave)is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” This is the big lesson of the foot washing. Just as a slave wouldn’t see any task his or her master gave them as beneath them, we are the slaves of Christ and we ought to do what He commands. What does He command here? This leads us all the way back to v2-11 again and causes us to see His foot washing in a whole new light. Jesus did not, in washing their feet, intend to establish a sacrament of foot washing within His Church. No, His action of washing their feet is a “…parable in action, setting out the great principle of lowly service which finds its supreme embodiment in the cross.”
How do we apply this to ourselves today? Twofold: there is a sin to repented of here as well as a way of obedience to endeavor towards.
First, the sin is pride and thinking in that pride that any service or task or person or good work toward that person or group of persons is beneath you. If you think of anything as beneath you, what you really think is that you’re above everything. Nothing could be further from the life Christ calls us to here. Think of Paul as an example. He had reason to boast. In Philippians 3:5-6 Paul says he was “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless…” What happened when he met Jesus and saw how marvelously God had loved him Christ? Philippians 3:7-8, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Paul was transformed by gospel grace, he knew gospel grace, experienced gospel grace deep within Him, and that same gospel grace then changed how he did life with others. Not for the sake of charity, not for sake of world peace, not for the sake of earning favor with God by his own works…no, Paul met Jesus, was saved, and for the sake of Christ, for the sake of knowing Christ, for the sake of gaining Christ, he became a servant to all men. Have you? Pride is the sin in view here and pride is thus the sin we must fight here. So fight…to not consider yourself above things that were not beneath Jesus.
Second, the way of obedience to endeavor towards is the way of the cross. Jesus’ washing the disciples feet isn’t about washing feet. Jesus doesn’t call us to do what He has done, but to do as He has done.This whole passage is about recognizing this act as a preview of the cross Jesus was about to bear and than recognizing that the way of the cross must be our way as well. Jesus intends His sacrificial cross to fuel our sacrificial life. In a world searching for genuine community today, do you see how bright a light the Church of Jesus Christ could be if we lived this way? In both our attitude and actions towards one another we are to be people eager to stoop. There are a million ways to bring this home so I’ll just be broad here. We’re to be eager to forgive those who fail, be eager to pursue those who wander, be eager to strengthen those who are weak, be eager to comfort those who suffer or grieve, provide for those in need, sit with those who are alone, and do these things in such a way where we are gladly willing to be inconvenienced in serving one another. We have been commissioned to a great task Church, and by grace we have been welcome into “the fraternity of water basin, and now must live as people of the towel.”
v17 is where we end this morning. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Church, it’s one thing to know, it’s another to do.Knowing is great, learning is great, and thinking is great, but doing, that is where rubber meets the road. In v17 Jesus says the way to be blessed yourself is to be a blessing to others. Therefore, true blessing comes from God into our souls first by being served by Christ in His sacrificial atoning death for our sins, and second by serving others sacrificially in light of it.
May we be people who love, not just in word or talk but in deed and truth.
Having traveled through the first 8 chapters of Job I think it’s safe to say that so far we have learned a few things. We’ve learned the book of Job speaks honestly about our suffering, it speaks honestly about the limits of our ability to understand our suffering, and it speaks honestly about the overwhelming need to trust God in our suffering.I think we see these three things come out clearly in Job’s own words and in the words of his friends. We need to keep these things in mind as we jump back into the middle section of Job, because as Job responds to Bildad in chapter 9-10 we see him bump up against the limits of his understanding and make some weighty claims. We’ll look to chapter 9 tonight and chapter 10 next week.
Eliphaz and Bildad have both said that God is absolutely sovereign and absolutely fair, therefore innocent people never suffer. This means the counsel to Job is simple: you are suffering because you’re in sin, so turn away from evil and turn back to good and God will bring you out of your suffering. Before his suffering began Job would’ve agreed with them, but now that no longer seems a valid option. It’s in this light we must read v2. When Job begins by saying, “Truly I know that it is so…” he does not intend to communicate agreement with what Bildad and Eliphaz have said so far. Rather it is likely something of a “Ah yes, I once knew these things to be true…but I can no longer affirm this system of belief.”The rest of v2-4 shows us what he’s really beginning to believe these days, “But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with Him, one could not answer Him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength-who has hardened himself against Him, and succeeded?” Job’s present longing isn’t to have his family, servants, animals, or possessions back but to (1) figure out how to stand before God guilt free, and (2) truly discern the character of God in his confused and disordered state. If Job had these two things he would be a happy man, but as we’ll see throughout chapter 9 Job cannot get these things he so wishes to have because God is God and he is not.
This is made explicit in v5-12, “He who removes mountains, and they know it not, when He overturns them in His anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number. Behold, He passes by me, and I see Him not; He moves on, but I do not perceive Him. Behold, He snatches away; who can turn Him back? Who will say to Him, ‘What are you doing?’”
In this cascade of powerful imagery Job portrays incomparable God’s strength.Starting with v10 Job says God is the One who works marvelous wonders, and v9 back to v7 he tells of God’s power to create constellations, put them in place, walk on the waves of the sea, stretch out the heavens, and command the sun and stars. Then in potent words Job describes God as the only One who has the ability to unmake all He has made. God can shake the earth out of its place in v6, and overturn or remove mountains in v5. What is Job’s conclusion after noting the potent power of that belongs to God alone? In v11-12 he mentions he believes in God’s power and even in God’s nearness. But he also mentions that because of his suffering he cannot see God, perceive God, or ask God why He does what He does. It’s as if Job is contrasting a new dilemma he feels present within himself. He is truly aware of God’s almighty power and unmatched strength, but he is no longer aware of God’s tender goodness.It is precisely this point that Job latches onto as he continues for the remainder of chapter 9.
v13-15, “God will not turn back His anger; beneath Him bowed the helpers of Rahab. How then can I answer Him, choosing my words with Him? Though I am in the right, I cannot answer Him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.” Because of all Job’s said before about God, he believes God is angry with him and will not turn His anger away from him. The mention of Rahab’s helpers here is telling. In Job the many references to Leviathan and to Rahab are telling the same story. Both speak of storybook monsters of evil, and if they in their massive power cannot even contend with God how can Job expect to be able to?Indeed, even though Job still believes himself to be innocent or ‘in the right’, Job’s only course of action is to plea for mercy to God (whom he sadly refers to as his accuser).
This continues on in v16-20, “If I summoned Him and He answered me, I would not believe that He was listening to my voice. For He crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause; He will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness. If it is a contest of strength, behold, He is mighty! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him? Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, He would prove me perverse.” Job speaks in these verses of what would surely be the most anticipated court case in history. Job vs. Godand each time he speaks of it he knows that he wouldn’t even stand a chance. Even if God does things without cause (unjustly) no one is able to summon God to the dock and force Him to give a defense for His actions. God is mighty and no one can prevail upon Him. Even though Job believes himself to be in the right he knows he’d lose that court case.
So Job laments over these things, continuing to hold himself guiltless and calling God unjust again in v21-31, “I am blameless; I regard not myself; I loathe my life. It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ When disaster brings sudden death, He mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges—if it is not He, who then is it? “My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away; they see no good. They go by like skiffs of reed, like an eagle swooping on the prey. If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will put off my sad face, and be of good cheer,’ I become afraid of all my suffering, for I know you will not hold me innocent. I shall be condemned; why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.” No matter what Job does to show his innocence, to him, the outcome is fixed and immovable, God will be victorious and Job will be condemned.
All of this leads to what is probably the most redemptive moment in all of Job’s first nine chapters. It is bleak for Job, don’t hear me wrong, he’s realizing the difference between he and God and shows his awareness of his weakness in the face of God’s strength. But because God is this much stronger than he is in v32-35 Job cries out longingly for a mediator to restore he and God, “For He is not a man, as I am, that I might answer Him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, and let not dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of Him, for I am not so in myself.” Again the courtroom comes into view in that which would be the most famous of cases. Because God is not like Job, a man, there is no hope for Job in the case Job vs. God. So Job longs for another to be present in the court laboring in his behalf. This arbiter (or mediator) isn’t there for Job, but if he were Job believes he would be able to lay his hand on both of them, remove God’s wrathful rod from him, and take away his terror of God. Then because of the work of this mediator Job would happily speak of God without dread.
What Job longs for he doesn’t have. There is no mediator to do this courtroom legal work, so Job is left hopeless as chapter 9 ends and chapter 10 begins. But we do not remain in Job’s despair. Why? Because “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Or as 1 Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” So what Job longed for God has, in His perfect time, given His people. And it is no coincidence that the imagery of a courtroom is used once more the work of Christ. 1 John 2:1 calls Him our “righteous advocate with the Father.” And when we speak of Christ’s advocate or mediatorial work, in the courtroom of God, in our behalf it is His priestly work that comes into view.
Think of the Old Testament priest. God has ordained and commanded that His people Israel be active in the sacrificial system. This meant that on varying holy days, Sabbaths, festivals, and celebrations the people would be engaged in ritual sacrifice where God’s wrath would be satisfied through the offering up of an animal functioning as a substitute for the people and their sin. These sacrifices were meant to be moments of worship for Israel. Who was it that God called to lead the sacrificial system and tend and keep the tabernacle and temple? It was the Levites, the priests. As Adam was to tend and keep the garden within Eden, so too Aaron (the first priest) and his descendants were charge with tending and keeping the worship of God for God’s people.By leading the priests were literally ‘standing in the gap’ between God and His people. The people brought animals or wheat or grain for an offering, and it was the priest who actually made the offering. Year after year these offerings would have to be repeated, and in particular once a year the high priest would make an offering inside the holy of holies. The priest would get dressed up in holy garb for this occasion and included in his garb was various gems and jewels that signified the people themselves, meaning that the priest entered the holy of holies as the representative or in behalf of the people of God. Contrast this role of priest with that of a prophet. The prophet was to be God’s representative to the people, while the priest was to be man’s representative to God.
This is of course where we see the glory of Jesus Christ being our Priest. Listen again to the first part of the Shorter Catechism’s answer, “Christ executes the office of priest, in His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God…” Held within this answer are three important truths about Jesus functioning as our priest: substitution, satisfaction, and reconciliation.
In His Priestly work of substitution Jesus as Priest not only made an offering as our representative before God, He was the offering itself. He was the ‘sacrificial animal’ or the ‘unblemished Lamb’ that bore our sins. No other Priest ever did such a thing. There was always an animal or something other than the priest himself that he would offer to God. Not so with Jesus. He was the offering. In our place, as our substitute He bore the wrath of God that we deserved.
In His Priestly work of satisfaction we see the first result of Jesus’ substitution. Just as the unblemished animals offered up to God would satisfy God’s wrath and justice on the people’s behalf, so too, when Jesus offered Himself up as our substitute He satisfied God’s wrath and justice on our behalf. That His bloody sacrifice satisfied God’s wrath means His sacrifice is sufficient for all, and efficient for the elect. Nothing else need be added to the work of redemption, Christ’s work alone is able to save all those He intends to. I said sufficient for all, but only efficient for the elect because we must remember the extent of the atonement. The atonement in the Old Covenant sacrifices extended only to the Israelites. No Canaanites, or Jebusites, or Moabites were covered by these sacrifices at all. In the same manner, but largely greater, the New Covenant sacrifice of Christ on the cross extends only to the elect from every nation. Many people say Jesus died for the whole world but this is simply not true biblically. Anytime Scripture says Jesus died for all, or for the cosmos, it refers to all of the elect throughout all of time not every single person who ever lived. If all men were in view we’d have to embrace universalism or a deficient view of the atonement which believes the work of Christ on the cross doesn’t actually save us, but only makes salvation possible. We reject both universalism and this low view of the atonement. That Christ’s substitutionary atoning sacrifice satisfied God’s wrath means it actually saves us.
In John 12:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Think about those who heard this. Perhaps they heard Him say the hour of His glorification had come and thought it meant something else, that Jesus was about to set up His dominion on the earth and crush Israel’s enemies once and for all. To them, this would’ve been confusing and disappointing.‘What? The hour of your glorification has come and you’re speaking of dying?’ What Jesus implicitly stated with the donkey in His triumphal entry He now explicitly states here in an agrarian paradox. For Jesus, the way to fruitfulness lies through death, the way to gain lies through loss, the way to glorification lies through humiliation. Or to say it another way, like the seed whose death is the germination of life for a great crop, so too Jesus’ death produces an abundant harvest.When you hold a kernel of wheat (or an acorn) in your hand you cannot see all that is in it. It looks rather small and unimpressive but it contains a world of life on the inside. How does all that world of life get out? By the kernel being shoved beneath the ground. Then, and only then, life breaks forth out of it for all to see as new plants burst upward out of the ground. By speaking like this in v24 Jesus is saying that by dying He will bear much fruit. He will be plunged beneath the ground in death and put in the tomb. From the appearance of things this will look very unimpressive and disappointing. But this death will cause the life within Him to burst forth from the grave in resurrection power which in turn causes more resurrection fruit to come forth all over the globe.
You cannot believe this verse if you entertain or believe Jesus’ death on the cross just made salvation a possibility. Put away from you any doctrine of the atonement you have that involves any kind of possibility. Possibility is not present here. Christ, the seed in view in v24, does not get plunged into the ground in death in hopes that it might bear fruit. Jesus didn’t come, live, die, rise, and ascend to sit on the throne and fret anxiously hoping that someone will take advantage of what He did and be saved. This is what Jesus wanted Philip and Andrew, and these Greeks, to know. That His Kingdom doesn’t begin with a coronation, but with a crucifixion.That He, the great Seed of eternal life will be plunged into death, not to make a harvest possible, but to secure a harvest plentiful.
In His Priestly work of reconciliation we see yet another result of Jesus’ substitution, that because Jesus bore God’s wrath in our place as our substitute God was not only satisfied but was also reconciled with His elect. Due to sin all men are not merely separated from God, we’re alienated from God. Because of the blood of Jesus, the elect who were once alienated and far off have been brought near and have been reconciled. That we’re reconciled to God means that all believers now have been given the ministry of reconciliation, spreading this message to the ends of the earth through any and every means we can.
As we come to John 12:44-50 this morning we not only come to the end of John 12 we come to the end of the first half of John’s gospel. In chapters 1-12 John gives us a carefully organized picture of the public ministry of Jesus. The beloved disciple has showed us who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what Jesus can do. Anyone with eyes to see and with ears to hear will conclude that this Jesus is unlike any other. To those who believe He had very gracious and soothing words to say, but to those who refused to believe He had very sharp and condemning words to say. But His last public word isn’t one of condemnation, no. It’s one of tender appeal to believe and be saved.
We’re not quite sure who Jesus is speaking to here in v44-50. Earlier in v36 we read about Jesus departing and hiding Himself from the public, but here in v44-50 we find Jesus saying more. Did He come back into the city and speak more to the people? Was He speaking to the disciples in private? Or were these words Jesus spoke earlier on some occasion that John uses here to bring part 1 of his gospel to a close? It’s hard to know which one of these options is correct, I believe it doesn’t really matter which one we’re persuaded to entertain, because what matters is whether or not we embrace the words of Jesus here. In this summary before us we find much of what Jesus has told us before. We find the importance of faith, the unity between the Father and the Son, the contrast between light and darkness, redemption in the present day extended in Christ, judgment executed on the last day by the Word of Christ, and eternal life enjoyed by all those who truly come to Christ. All of this is present in this summary of the gospel message.
And so this morning we’ll be reminded, not of everything we believe as Christians, but of those things that are of first importance for Christians. Such first importance that anyone who denies such things can in no way be a Christian. What are these things? Specifically in this text John places before us the nature of the Father and the Son, the nature of light and darkness, and the nature of redemption and judgment.
Father and Son (v44-45)
Five times in the gospels we read of Jesus crying out.Two of them are on the cross (Matt. 27:50, Mark 15:34). One was when Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Living Water greater than the water flowing out of the rock in the wilderness (John 7:37). Another is when Jesus stands before and cries out into the foul smelling tomb to raise the dead Lazarus to new life (John 11:43). The fifth instance of Jesus crying out is here in v44 where He begins the summary of our faith by pleading with His hearers to believe. But it’s not only a plea to believe, He desires them to know that when they believe in Him they enter into a union with He and the Father. This means the union between God the Son and God the Father is so close that the person who believes in and banks on Christ also believes in and banks on the Father. The union consists not so much in the Father’s sending of the Son, as important as that is, but in the very nature of the Godhead. Though truly distinct in their own right and Personhood (such that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father) the Father is God and the Son is God. Unity amid diversity isn’t found in the depravity of humanity but only among the community of the Holy Trinity. And this isn’t new at all. In John 1:18 John remarked “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.” In John 8:19, “If you knew Me, you would know My Father as well.” Again in John 10:38 Jesus comments and says those who see His works should “…know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.”
Therefore, you cannot have the Son and reject the Father. And you cannot have the Father and reject the Son. These options aren’t left open to us. To believe in Christ is to believe in the Father. To trust in Christ is to trust in the Father. To know Christ is to know the Father. To love Christ is to love the Father. To receive Christ is to receive the Father. “If Jesus isn’t your Savior, God is not your Father.” Christ and the Father are one.This reminds us that Jesus’ coming into the world wasn’t on His own initiative.To believe in Jesus is to believe the Father sent Jesus to save His people. Too many people separate the two and wrongly believe Jesus to be a loving Son who saved us from an angry Father. Wrong. That the Father sent the Son to save means there is a harmony of wills present in both Father and Son.
And more so v45 here in our text we see that to see Jesus is to see the Father. The Greek word here in v45 ‘to see’ is the word theoreowhich is where we get our English words theory and theorize. In this context ‘seeing’ means far more than just ‘seeing.’ By looking at Jesus, by observing Jesus, and by studying Jesus we can see, we can learn, and we can discern what the Father is truly like. Just think of the cross. In seeing Jesus willingly embrace the death we deserve on the cross we see the great love of the Father, that He sent Him for this very purpose. In seeing Jesus forsaken by the Father on the cross we see the great holiness of the Father, that nothing unholy can be in His presence. And in seeing Jesus suffer so excruciatingly on the cross we see the terrible wrath of God against sin. To answer the question: what is God like? We need look no further than Jesus Christ.
Light and Darkness (v46)
The summary of our faith continues in v46, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” Implied in this statement is an indictment of all mankind…that our natural state isn’t one of light but one of darkness. Explicit in this statement is the purpose why Jesus, who is light, came…that we should not continue in darkness. This also isn’t new. Didn’t we learn in 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We learned in the very next passage, 1:6-8, that John the Baptist wasn’t the light but came to bear witness about the light, for “…the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (1:9). We heard in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then again in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And just a bit ago we heard Jesus say in John 12:35-36, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” All of this put together is why there is so much light conversation around the Christmas announcements of Christ’s birth. A people in…darkness saw…a great light. When the magi saw the…star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. That is the reality of Christ’s birth, and that reality of joyful light entering the soul and expelling the darkness is experienced in the heart when one believes in Christ as well when God does in us what He did in Genesis 1. And more so by believing in Christ the Scriptures speak of a positional change we experience. We are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Or simply, to believe in Jesus is to come to the light.
Therefore, you cannot come to the Son (who is light) and remain in darkness. Or, all those who have truly come to Christ (who is light) will not remain in darkness. The light of Christ does two things: exposes and reveals. It exposes darkness and reveals what’s hidden from us by the darkness.So too Christ, coming into the world as light, exposes the darkness of our sinful hearts and reveals who God is in truth because in our darkness sinfulness we can’t draw near a God who is Himself Holy Light. Paul will later tell us how this changes the way we live in Ephesians 5:8-11, “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” See here what kind of lives we’re called to live. Believing in Christ (who is light) calls us to live in the light, to walk as children of light, to center our minds, hearts, and hands around the thing of light, and flee anything that would bring darkness to His light. This means right believing ought to lead to right behaving. Or, if you find yourself unwilling to live for Christ and walk in the light of Christ, it’s highly likely you haven’t come to Christ yet. Church how dangerous a condition it is to be in, to profess Christ and not possess Him by a true and living faith. Hear in v46 the call to live as we ought to. Too many hear these kinds of things and fear that we’ve turned back on justification by faith alone because we’re speaking of the works we must do in life. But may we ever remember that it is the grace of God revealed in Christ that leads us to devote ourselves to good works. Works that were prepared beforehand that we should walk in (Eph. 2:10), works that we’re to do publically, letting our light so shine before men that they may see those good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
Redemption and Judgment (v47-48)
This summary of our faith continues onward in v47-48, “If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”
In v47-48 we read of the same truth in v46 but from another angle.Whoever refuses to believe in Christ and whoever rejects the word of Christ, isn’t judged by Christ (for He came to save not to condemn), but will be judged on the last day by the word of Christ. As clear as this is some have still sought to teach that Jesus was just a normal man who never claimed to be God with a message of love and peace. Surely such passages as this fit into the Bible like a square peg fits into a round hole. See here that Jesus Himself believes it is His Word that will judge all men at the last day. For someone to say this, for someone to believe this, they would be a fool if it weren’t true. Judgment belongs to God and that Jesus believes His Words will judge all men at the last day reminds us that Jesus believed Himself to be God. Again, careful readers of John’s gospel won’t be surprised at this. Back in John 3:17-18 we read, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Then again in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Then once more in John 8:15-16, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true (why?), for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent Me.”
This points us to the purposes of His first and second advents. A.W. Pink comments on this saying, “In a lowly place with a patient grace Jesus broke into this fallen world to save sinners. At the end of all things He shall return in robes of white and judge sinners with His powerful might. Once He came as a lowly servant, one day He shall return as the exalted Sovereign. He came to woo and win men, He shall come again to rule over men with a rod of iron.”Be reminded of three things in v47-48. First, there will be a last day. The great theater of this grand world is in it’s final act, and one day the curtain will fall, the author of the play will walk on stage to receive glory and honor, and the show will be over. This day, this final day will come like a thief in the night, therefore we must live in light of the end and warn all of what’s to come. Second, the last day will be a day of judgment. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD as the hearts of all are exposed for all to see. The ungodly apart from Christ will be judged and found wicked and will be cast into an eternal punishment in hell while the godly in Christ will be judge and be found righteous and will be welcomed into the joy of their Master. Third, this last day of judgment will be a judgment centered on Christ’s Word. The gospel and commands of Christ shirked and mocked by the unbelieving will be the very Word that pronounces guilt on them when the books are opened. When the accounts are settled the judgment will be so thorough that the wicked would rather mountains fall on them than face the wrath of the Lamb of God.
Church, the word of judgment on the last day is no different than the word of life that sounds forth each week in this pulpit. The message of salvation to sinners who repent is also the message of condemnation to sinners who don’t. Does this not make you want to amend your ways this morning as you hear of what’s to come? May you do so, and run to this Savior of sinners.
Father and Son (v49-50)
Finally, as the summary of our faith is wrapped up we find out why the Word of Christ is so strong to save and to condemn. In v49-50 we read, “For I have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me has Himself given Me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told Me.”
We come full circle now and end our passage where we began, on the nature of the Father and the Son. Jesus’ Word is not just His Word, it’s the Word commanded and given from Father to Son. Or, all God the Son told us is all God the Father told Him. So to believe and obey the Son’s message is to believe and obey the Father’s message. Also, to reject the Son’s message is to reject the Father’s message. Therefore it is because Jesus’ message is of divine origin that it is fitting to judge all men on the last day.The message of the gospel is often put in the frame of an invitation to believe. This is in one sense fitting, for all men should be invited to believe. But one of the problems of framing the gospel as an invitation is that many will hear it and believe the gospel is something they can accept or deny. What is put forward to us in v49-50 is that the gospel isn’t an invitation to respond to according to our pleasure, but a command from God that is only disobeyed to our peril.
This is where I’d like to leave you today. We’ve trekked with John throughout the entirety of part 1 of his gospel. We’ve heard the truth of who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what He came to do. We’ve also seen the majority response to these things wasn’t one of belief but of unbelief. Nothing said today is new and because of that I’m reminded of what Paul told Timothy, that it was no trouble to remind him of the things he has already taught him. Church, where are you? Today we’ve seen a summary of our faith, and while we haven’t covered everything we believe we have covered things that are of first importance. But do you recognize them as important? More so, do you believe in them? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to bank your entire life on them? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to obey the commands of Christ and change the ways you behave? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to risk everything to spread this message to the end of the earth? I pray these things are true of all of you. I pray that you would truly know these things, deeply love these things, and be so moved by the Spirit of God to boldly serve one another because of these things.