D.A.Carson on Babylon (Isaiah 47)

From D.A.Carson’s blog For the love of God at the Gospel Coalition:

D A CarsonAT ONE LEVEL, ISAIAH 47 is pretty straightforward; at another, it is subtly symbol-laden and prepares the way for the development of some biblical symbolism in the New Testament.

At the obvious level, this chapter depicts the fall of Babylon that the accession of Cyrus will bring about. Babylon is a pathetically proud and arrogant city. She is the “queen of kingdoms” (Isa. 47:5); she thinks she will last forever (Isa. 47:7)—not unlike Hitler’s thousand-year Reich. She is so confident of her own security she cannot envisage becoming a widow or losing her children (Isa. 47:8). Proud of her wisdom and knowledge (Isa. 47:10) and her devotion to astrology, she thinks she can control her future (Isa. 47:12–13). Her self-deification is frankly repulsive: the repeated “I am, and there is none besides me” (Isa. 47:8, 10) is a direct challenge to God’s identical claim (Isa. 45:5). But God has had enough. The “queen of kingdoms” will sit in the dust (Isa. 47:1); she will become a slave (Isa. 47:1–3). This “mother” will suddenly be widowed and bereaved (Isa. 47:8–9). Astrology will prove futile to save her (Isa. 47:12–13), and sorcerers and magicians will be of no avail (Isa. 47:12). God himself is out to destroy Babylon.

But this text hints at another level. Chapters 47 and 48 are tied together, constituting one large unit. Isaiah 47 condemns Babylon for its defiant arrogance and promises her doom; Isaiah 48 is addressed to the captives, who (as we shall see in tomorrow’s meditation) are rousingly told to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem. Empirically they live in one city, Babylon; theologically, they belong to another city, Jerusalem. At the level of brute history, of course, the captives could not return to Jerusalem at this stage. They could do so only after Cyrus came to power and granted permission to return. But theologically, the exiles must see themselves as belonging to Jerusalem and not to Babylon. Thus just as “Jerusalem” sometimes refers to the ancient city by that name, and sometimes, as we have seen, anticipates the new, eschatological Jerusalem, so also “Babylon” not only may refer to the ancient city that reached the pinnacle of its splendor about the sixth century B.C., but becomes a symbol—a symbol that anticipates every proud city or culture that imagines it will live forever and arrogantly measures all things by the standards of its own sins and presuppositions. Historic Babylon becomes the symbol of many Babylons.

John understands these things. That is why in Revelation 17 he describes Rome as “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth” (Rev. 17:5), a woman drunk with the blood of the saints. What Babylons have arisen since then?

Reclame

D A Carson on the Atonement – 2015 EFCA Theology Conference

I should begin by offering 5 prefatory remarks:

1. In the context of the broad sweep  of current western reflection on the atonement, it is important to observe the Evangelical Confessionalism  espoused  by all 3 of the plenary speakers at this conference. Is it one on the fundamentals? Many contemporary theologians distance themselves from substitutionary atonement and certainly from penal substitutionary atonement. Another small, but vociferous cadre of theologians distances itself from any hint of violence in the atonement. Such trends demand that we engage them. But, all three of us would argue that we must not be seduced by them. In some ways, there are more important topics than the ones in which we have been asked to engage.

For this reason, I want to begin with a broad brush, that picks up some of these broader, more fundamental questions, and then, focus in more narrowly.

2. I’ve been asked to represent the calvinist/reformed heritage. Many would argue that I’m a poor exemplar  of that heritage, and I would not disagree with them. One might have chosen someone like Michael Horton  in the reformed presbyterian tradition or B. Gatus in the reformed wing of anglicanism, see his important book ‘For Us and For Our Salvation. Limited Atonement in the Bible. Doctrine, History & Ministry’. Some would be suspicious of me because as a baptist by heritage, I do not understand the covenants to fit together in exactly the same way as most of my presbyterian friends. Others would be suspicious of me because defend definite atonement in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

3. The category soteriological essentials is a tad slippery. Soteriology is sometimes used to refer to Christ’s immediate cross work. Yet, in the New Testament, it tends to be a rather broad category. If the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, unto the soteriological, it is the power of God unto the wholeness of transformed resurrected life in Christ, finally consummated in the new heaven and the new earth, That’s a pretty big mandate to tackle in an hour. At one level, in other words, soteriology refers to all of the Gospel and its effects. I cannot ignore this broader exegetically based frame of reference entirely in offering my reflections on the reformed view.

4. One is hard pressed to decide whether to address the subject primarily in the categories of systematic theology, the categories of biblical theology, and long lists of proof texts and work focused exegesis, selected disputed texts, or in the debates that are the stuff of historical theology. And so, what I shall do is opt for a glorious miss mash.

5. Finally, much of what I am about to say, at least initially, will be common ground between the other speakers and me and then gradually I will introduce some separation.

1. The sheer Godhood of God

One of the working theological commitments in the reformed tradition, taken up in different ways in other traditions, is the emphasis on the sheer Godhood of God, Godness of God. To overstate the issue, this isn’t quite right, but you’ll see the point. The Bible is first of all about God, not us. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. And the Book of Revelation, the first chapter asserts this, not only of God, but of His Son Jesus. He is the fist and the last. This is not merely a temporal category. The first is a temporal category, before anything else was, He was, self existent, the Creator of all other things. But, He’s not the last, in the sense that He exists after everything else is gone. After all, the Bible doesn’t suggest that we shall inherit a new heaven and a new earth for 50 billion years and then God will say, „You’re done. I’m still here.” He’s not the last in that sense. It’s more like, the ultimate- that towards which everything presses.

from the first 5 minutes.

2015 EFCA Theology Conference: Calvinism/Reformed from EFCA on Vimeo.

D. A. Carson – „Why Does Jesus Tell Stories?”

Watch – D. A. Carson, „The Parable of the Good Samaritan”

March 20, 2015
Clarus 2015 – Assembled under the Word
Summary: Clear preaching of God’s Word will either bring repentance unto life or a hardening unto death.
Topics: Kingdom of God, Preaching and Teaching, Redemptive History/Biblical Theology
http://www.clarusabq.com

D. A. Carson, „Why Does Jesus Tell Stories?” (Session 2)

VIDEO by DESERT SPRINGS CHURCH

D. A. Carson, „The Parable of the Good Samaritan”

Watch – D. A. Carson – „Why Does Jesus Tell Stories?”

March 21, 2015
Clarus 2015 – Assembled under the Word
Summary: Jesus confronts self-justification by showing what true and saving love looks like.
Topics: Justification, Preaching and Teaching, Redemptive History/Biblical Theology
http://www.clarusabq.com

D. A. Carson, „The Parable of the Good Samaritan”

(Session 7)

VIDEO by  DESERT SPRINGS CHURCH

The Spirit’s Work in Gospel Transformation by D. A. Carson

The Spirit’s Work in Gospel Transformation by D. A. Carson from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

When a sleepy Christian wakes up – Tim Keller

Photo credit www.dailymail.co.uk

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

Excerpted from Tim Keller and D A Carson’s video – ‘When They Experienced Revival’. You can watch the video and/or read the transcript here – Tim Keller and D A Carson – When they experienced revival.

So when a new Christian, a person really gets converted, it has an enormous impact on people who know them. Secondly, when a sleepy Christian who has been inconsistent, sort of wakes up, that is also part of revival.

They grasp the Gospel in a new way, they get in a sense on the heart, Edwards would say, of what they’ve always believed  about who they are in Christ.

When a sleepy Christian wakes up, they become more humble, because they’re more convicted of sin, and also more confident, because they’re less concerned about what people think about them. And that makes you a potent evangelist.

Because if you’re humbler, you’re not arrogant and off putting. If you’re more courageous, then you’re more willing to open your mouth.

And I remember that because I had a very small number of sleepy Christians that kind of woke up upon the preaching of the word,  in 1990, and a certain number of new believers that Redeemer grew to almost 1,000 people in about 2 years in the middle of Manhattan, at a time when people were leaving the people because there was a recession and there was a high crime.

And I look back on that and I say, „How did that happen? There were revival dynamics. It’s just automatic  that when a sleepy Christian wakes up, he becomes a better evangelist. And a new Christian is a great evangelist. And it was remarkable for about a year, when I just saw lots of people become Christians. It was a revival.

Tim Keller and D A Carson on When They Experienced Revival

Photo credit mudpreacher.org

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

Tim Keller and Don Carson have experienced revival firsthand. Watch them share their experiences in a brand-new roundtable video.

Carson: The reformed folk have some heritage of revival. It’s not quite the same as  charismatic sort and it’s not the same sort as the Finney sort, but there’s a heritage of it. What kind of experiences of revival have you known  personally, or glimpsed close up or from afar?

Keller: In my case, when I became a Christian, 1970, in a campus fellowship at a college in Central Pennsylvania, the campus fellowship went from about  5-10 people at the weekly meeting, to over 100 – 150 people in about a period of a year. When we went off to the central Pennsylvania Inter Varsity Conference which is basically the chapters of Central Pennsylvania, university campuses would send send a few people. Generally, most of them had 5-10 people. And 3-4 would come to the conference. I remember that the same year, Bucknell, which is where I went, the same year that chapter grew enormously; it happened all around Central Pennsylvania. This was before social media. There was no way to coordinate it. And we’re trying to figure out what happened. We also found out  in 1970, there was an awakening of sorts on college campuses of Christian colleges, like Asbury College. There was a renaissance of campus ministry in many many places. When I went to Gordon Cromwell, I took a course with Richard Lovelace ‘The History of Awakenings’ and I realized -and Richard is a reformed theologian, he favored Jonathan Edwards revival, that it’s a gift of God, it’s centered on the preaching of the Gospel, it’s something that we can be receptive of, but we just can’t create. It’s not just something that you can meet the conditions, push the right buttons… And I realized when I read that, that that’s what I had experienced. And so, I’ve actually been a proponent of that  chastened reformed understanding of revival, not one that puts all the emphasis on emotion, not one that puts all the emphasis on human nature, ever since.

Carson: 1970, I was unaware that that was the date for you, because 1970 means something to me. At that time I was pastor of a church in Western Canada. And in Saskatchewan, which is one of our prairie provinces  there were some Bible evangelistic meetings by a pair of preachers called the Sotero twins. And they started preaching and in this church, people started getting converted confessing their sins, returning things they had stolen to the stores. The crowds packed in, more people getting converted, the crime rate went down after a few weeks. It was one of these things that you read about in older stories. Gradually, it spread out across the country. By the time it reached Vancouver, which is where I was, it had more elements of phoniness and people were beginning to domesticate it. But there was no doubt, I was crossing the country a couple of times those days and there was no doubt, you touched down and saw some of those things going on . It was a singular movement of the Lord.

And at the same time that was going on, there were other things going on in English speaking circles in French Canada. In other words, it’s almost a scattered around North America thing in 1970.

Keller:  I’ve heard that, but actually I hadn’t heard as much until this minute. And it’s intriguing that similar things were happening in the States that same year. Some years ago, I talked to a leader in Jews for Jesus, who told me that almost all of the founding members of the Jews for Jesus converted in 1970. There was just a group of people who became Christians  out of Jewish background, who then decided ‘we need to reach out to our own folk’. And that goes along with the history of awakenings, they’re not humanly coordinated. But there are human connections sometime. Some people hear and they start to pray because they’ve heard of something happening in some other place and they come under conviction that we need to be asking God for His power. And so, there is a human connection. There’s no media campaign, there was no marketing campaign, there was no group of people that got together and said, „Now, you’re gonna do promotion, and you’re gonna do this, and we’re gonna have a conference.” It didn’t happen that way.

Carson: It didn’t happen, and when it did begin to happen, it killed it; that is to say, at least in Canada. A couple of the big expansions in the new area, some minister or other who had been powerfully affected by this and then he goes to  another area and just gives his testimony of what the Lord had done and it breaks out again. The danger came, then, when somebody else said, „Okay, we’d like you to fly to another place again and do it,” and it’s beginning to be domesticated. It’s being packaged. And then, you get some of the tears and all that, but it just begins to feel phony.

Keller: Interesting, because under Dr. Lovelace, we had to read Edwards. Edwards had some 4 major books on revival- one called ‘Thoughts on revival’, which is not as well known. But, one of the things he deals with is that there always seems to be, especially as time goes on, a layer of phoniness, a layer of false experience. You do have people that are attracted to … some people just want the attention. And there’s a fair number- I remember, one of the things that Edwards says often happens is certain people would be attracted and perhaps at first they would have a genuine experience, but because their experience was so spectacular, they were often promoted into positions of leadership too quickly and it actually did go to their head. They very often couldn’t give good theological leadership. It’s remarkably insightful  how revivals go bad. But his whole idea was that that doesn’t destroy the credibility of the actual revival. It’s almost inevitable that strange fire gets mixed in  with the good stuff.

Carson: It’s one of the things that the devil is certainly going to try to do. And the little bit that I have seen on what I have read on the Welsh revival makes me resolve that if the Lord in mercy ever puts me anywhere near one of those hints, my first priorities will be to have as little to do with media as possible. And second, to funnel as much of this energy as possible in good preaching and systematic teaching of the Word of God, rather than endless recounting of experience. Becauase then there’s the danger of chasing the experience, rather than the Lord and the Gospel. You start by preaching the Gospel, then you get the experience and then you start chasing the experience. And that becomes an idol. And then, pretty soon it gets detached from Scripture and God help us then.

Keller: I think Dr. Lovelace gave me this definition. He said, „There is a review of revival that defines it as the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit. And I remember I was taught  that the reformed understanding of revival  is an intensification of the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit. And the ordinary operations are: conviction of sin, conversion, the giving of assurance, sanctifying us and turning us into more holy men and women. And actually, this is the dynamic, because I actually did see it about 6 or 7 months when Redeemer started. Not the moment Redeemer started, but there was a period between ’90 and ’91 that savored of what I experienced  when I was in college. New Christians have a lot of non-Christian friends. All of their greatest friendships are the people that really open their hearts to non-Christians. So when a new Christian, a person really gets converted, it has an enormous impact on people who know them. Secondly, when a sleepy Christian who has been inconsistent, sort of wakes up, that is also part of revival. They grasp the Gospel in a new way, they get in a sense on the heart, Edwards would say, of what they’ve always believed  about who they are in Christ. When a sleepy Christian wakes up, they become more humble, because they’re more convicted of sin, and also more confident, because they’re less concerned about what people think about them. And that makes you a potent evangelist. Because if you’re humbler, you’re not arrogant and off putting. If you’re more courageous, then you’re more willing to open your mouth. And I remember that because I had a very small number of sleepy Christians that kind of woke up upon the preaching of the word,  in 1990, and a certain number of new believers that Redeemer grew to almost 1,000 people in about 2 years in the middle of Manhattan, at a time when people were leaving the people because there was a recession and there was a high crime. And I look back on that and I say, „How did that happen? There were revival dynamics. It’s just automatic  that when a sleepy Christian wakes up, he becomes a better evangelist. And a new Christian is a great evangelist. And it was remarkable for about a year, when I just saw lots of people become Christians. It was a revival.

Carson: And you can’t organize that  with a set of criteria, you meet the criteria and you turn it on.

Keller: It wasn’t a campaign .

Carson: It comes from God, it’s  a gracious gift. But the point is: God can do it again.

Keller: Yes, and I think the Gospel Coalition, that could be one of the main ways in which we help our churches see that this understanding of revival is definitely something that we should be seeking God for. Essentially, it starts with prayer, but it’s also sought by – I think, Dr. Lloyd-Jones used to say, „In the Bible, you  build an altar and you ask God to send down the fire. He’s not gonna send down the fire if you don’t build the altar. But if you build the altar, you have to wait for Him.” He would say, „You seek revival by building the altar. It’s up to God to what degree He’s going to empower it. But, i would say it’s the faithful preaching of the Gospel, it’s extraordinary prayer, it’s leaders who model a renewed life. They’re walking little models of renewal. Very often, it’s a few converts who are willing to open their mouths to other people. And sometimes the fire comes down in big ways, small ways. But, you create the altar. That’s how Lloyd-Jones would put it. But you have to ask God to send down the power.

Carson: And even when we’re building the altar, we confess that our very desire to do so stems from God who works in us both to will and to do good works for His good pleasure.

Keller: Usually, revivals start well and after a while it’s not for that, it’s for the power and the glitz. So, it’s difficult; it’s one of the reasons why revivals don’t seem to last. It’s because of our sin. But, we still should be asking for them and seeking them.

Carson: Amen!

Keller and Carson on When They Experienced Revival from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus (D. A. Carson)

D.A. Carson – Adams Lecture Series: Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables? Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 Part 1

Part 1 February 11, 2014 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. D A Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

D A CarsonD A Carson: Why does Jesus tell stories? Why the narrative parables? Well, it’s easy enough to list some wrong answers, or at least, reductionistic answers.

  1. Jesus used them as illustrations. He was a good homilitician; so He’d make a point, then He would illustrate it,  tell a story. But then, you have a hard job understanding [Matthew] chapter 13:11-12. „Why do you speak to the people in parables?” the disciples ask in verse 10. And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (verse 11) 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables. In this passage it doesn’t seem like parables are used for illustrative purposes, to make things clearer.
  2. Others say He told parables because He favors the enigmatic, the thought provoking, the open ended, rather than truths and propositions. And so, some who take this stance look at verse 34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
    “I will open my mouth in parables;
    I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” [so some will say,]”And so, if we are going to preach effectively today, then we should tell stories, in order so be enigmatic. Away with this tough propositional down the line thunder from heaven stuff. Tell stories!”

The ways in which Jesus speaks:

  • But, although Jesus can certainly be enigmatic, and He can tell stories in order to illustrate something, yet He also preaches in other genres.
  • He preaches with wisdom type utterances, where „it’s either this or that”. There are two ways, one that is broad and  large and leads to distruction. Another that is narrow and leads to life. There are 2 kinds of trees, one that produces good fruit, one that produces bad fruit. And so on. These are wisdom type structured.
  • Moreover, He can preach in apocalyptic type categories.
  • He can use provers.
  • He can use extended discourse
  • Lament
  • Exposition of Old Testament texts
  • Non-narritival extended  metaphors, as in John 10 and the shepherd, John 15m the vine.
  • Dialogue
  • Provocative questions

So whatever [Matthew] 13:34 means, it does not mean that the only way He preached was using parables. All you have to do is read the New testament to discover that’s  not true. When He says He did not say anything to them when using a parable, what it means is, in the course of His regular preaching, He regularly had parables.

Others say He told parables in order to hide things from the non-elect. After all, we did read verses 11-12, which certainly  sound as if part of the purposes of parables is to hide things. Yes, but then there is verse 34-35. All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.

At this juncture, it seems that parables are disclosing things, not hiding them. So the question is: Why did jesus tell parables? I think there is some element of truth in these  and other answers that could be given, but let me give you two overwhelming reasons why Jesus told parables. Before I do, I am going to read [Matthew] 13:10-17, and then some verses at the end of the chapter:

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Verses 34-35  34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:“I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

52 And he said to them,“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

So then, let me give 2 reasons why Jesus spoke in parables. This is not an exhaustive list:

1. Jesus tells parables because, in line with Scripture, His message blinds, deafens and hardens.

Now, reread verses 10 & 12, and you will see right away that there is a contrast  that is set up. And once the contrast  is set up, then the rest of the passage  is divided into 2 parts. So, verse 10- the question: Why do you speak to people in parables? Then, Jesus divides His answer in 2 parts, setting up a contrast: „Cause the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven has been given unto you,” that’s positive. „But, not to them.” That’s negative. „Whoever has will be given more, they will have in abundance,” that’s positive. „Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them,” that’s negative. And then, the negative is further expounded in verses 13, 14, and 15. And then the positive is expounded in verses 16, 17, and 18. That’s the structure of these verses.

But the negative side, which we’re going to focus on first, verses 13, 14, and 15  is largely cast, in terms of quotations from Isaiah 6. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The very foundations shake and Isaiah testifies that he is a lost man. In the previous chapters he’s pronouncing the woes of God, the condemnations of God against corruption and greed, and idolatry, against evil and all of its forms. Against drunkenness and debauchery, and lack of faith. „Woe to you, woe to you,” and now, he sees God and he says, „Woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King.” „THE KING”, not the king who just died, King Uzziah, „My eyes have seen the KING, the Lord Almighty.” One of the seraphim takes a live coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips, after all, he’s said he’s a man of unclean lips. Now, coal from the altar touches his lips to clean him up, as if to say: It takes the sacrifice that God has ordained to clean you up. And the angel said, „ “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And the, for the first time in this chapter, God speaks. Its almost as if He’s asking a rhetorical question to the counsels of heaven, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah says, „Here am I, send me.” Don’t misunderstand this. He’s nor saying, „I’m your man, God. Bring it on!” In the context it’s just the opposite. He’s saying, „Excuse me, would I do? Pleaaaaaase? Could you use me?” Away with this arrogance  with which people approach ministry. God says, „Go. This is what you have to do.”

Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

How would you like that preached at your ordination service? And [then], Isaiah says the obvious thing, „I understand there are cycles in preaching, but for how long? When will revival finally come? I mean, I preach faithfully all this time and all of these bad things are happening, when will revival start? How long, Lord? And the answer, in verse 11:

11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant,
and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,
12 and the Lord removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

„That’s how long. You’ve got a whole life ministry where there is nothing to show  at the end of it except waste and condemnation. That’s your job Isaiah. Go.” And the only spark of hope in the entire chapter is the last two lines.
13like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump. 
When that stump left, the structure of the book of Isaiah is set up again in chapter 11, one of the great passages of hope. „A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse. And now you have a Christological promise that ends in apocalyptical transformation until  the whole world is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and the waters cover the sea.But of course, you would have to remember, that would take place 700 years after his ministry.
And these are the words that Jesus quotes, when He explains what He is doing with His parables, these words from Isaiah. Probably the closest connection in the New Testament is found in John 8:45, Jesus says to some of His opponents, „Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.”  Note, that’s not a concessive. „Although I tell you the truth, though you do not believe Me.” That would be bad enough.  But He says, with a causal, „Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.” In other words, it is the truth itself, for some people, that blinds. It is the truth itself that hardens. It is the truth itself  that guarantees unbelief.
If you talk to a culture which is absolutely steadfastly committed to the view that there are many ways to God, and you say the truth, that „There’s only one way to God”, you guarantee their unbelief. You guarantee that they think you’re a bigot. You guarantee that they are convinced that you are narrow minded, right wing and ignorant. It’s the very truth that causes offense, on occasion. Do you see? „Because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me.” Thus, it is the faithful preaching of truth itself, which for some people , at some points in history guarantees unbelief.
So what are your options? Tell untruth? Trim the message? In effect, therefore Isaiah is commanded to harden them, not because He is saying, „I want to make you hard,” but because he’s commanded to preach the truth. And if he’s commanded to preach the truth to this particular group, at this particular point in history, then the effect is guaranteed. Namely that they will be hardened and blinded, coarsened and deafened. All he’s gotta do is preach the truth. And Jesus, we’re told, fulfills this text. He fulfills this pattern.
„In them,” verse 14 of Matthew 13 is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, of „hearing, but never understanding, seeing, but never perceiving. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes.

Of course, Jesus had earlier in Matthew indicated [that] there is a trajectory of unbelief. At the end of the Beatitudes, in Matthew chapter 5:11-12- 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. There is a trajectory of unbelief. And Jesus brings that trajectory to fulfillment. Where Jesus is aware of how some are being blinded by light, He uses more parabolic teaching. That’s what he says in verses 11 & 12. In line with chap 7:6 He knows not to cast His pearls before swine. He is prepared to preach in such a way that they will not get it. That is part of judgment. And after all, that notion is found on occasion in the New Testament as well.

Do you recall what Paul writes to the Thessalonians in the second letter? 2 Thessalonians 2: 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. In other words, God hardens them. They love the lie? They don’t want to be saved? Can’t stand the truth? Then God, therefore, as it were, imposes the final judgment back into time. He sends them a strong delusion so they’re hardened in their delusion.

In other words, one of the reasons why Jesus tells parables is because, in line with Scripture, His message blinds, deafens and hardens. 
2. Jesus tells parables because in line with Scripture, His message reveals things hidden in Scripture. 
Now, focus on verses 34-35. We’ll come back to verses 15-18 in a moment. Once again, we discover Jesus appeals to an Old Testament text.34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.
This is a quotation from Psalm 78:2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old Psalm 78 is one of the psalms called historical psalms. God unpacks, in a psalm, something of Israel’s history. But he does so in such a way, as to make certain points. You see, history is never exhaustive. You can’t possibly explain everything that happened, about anything. It’s inevitably selective. So that you can tell the same story from different perspectives by simply including or excluding certain details. So, it’s possible to tell the story of the civil war from the Northern perspective, and from a Southern perspective. It’s possible to tell the story of the Revolutionary war from the perspective of the Americans; it looks a little different in Britain. And in between there are… I speak now as someone born in Canada, there are the UEL’s, we call themThe United Empire Loyalists, thousands of them who went north of the 49 parallel, because they wanted to remain loyal to the crown. They look at things a little bit differently, too. In fact, some people have done their phd’s on the sermons of the UEL Christians vs. the sermons of the American Christians. And both are claiming Scripture. So, it’s possible to tell the story of America in grandiose and wonderful terms and how the pilgrim fathers came here and wanted freedom and so forth, and they wanted to build a new place where it was safe for the Gospel and to build a light, a city set on a hill. Then you can talk about their sacrifices and the way the 13 colonies grew on the east coast, and eventually moved west and settled. There was commerce and glory, they struggled with England in 1812, but nevertheless settled and yes, there was the shame of slavery, but we did get through that, and now we’ve come out the other side and we should be grateful for the grace of God in this respect, and at least we did eventually do the right thing and besides that, we came to the rescue of Europe, not once, but twice in the 20th century. And so on, and so on, and so on. We prevailed against communism simply by holding the line and being a robust economy until finally they collapsed. It’s all true. It’s wonderfully true.
But then, of course, somebody else could come along and tell a story: They came in here and took over the lands of the Indians and  they said there was freedom for all, but they still had slaves… and tell the whole story and slant it a whole different way. I could tell you similar store from Canada, of which I spring (come from). I can paint a pretty shameful story of what we’ve done to the inuit, the eskimo. I could do the same thing for the British Empire. I could do the same thing for parts of Chinese history. Because every country has some things for which to be proud and some things for which to be deeply ashamed.
So, how will Jews think of Israelite history? On the one hand, you could say, „You know, God chose us. Of all the nations of the earth, He chose us. That’s what Deuteronomy 10:7 says, He chose us because He loved us. He did choose us. And He made Jerusalem to be a city on a hill, too. He promised a great messianic King. He reveals Himself in glory at the tabernacle  that He has established Himself. He gave us a great body of law, the word of God, the books of the law. He gave us a man like Moses, raised up prophets again and again, and again. When we sinned, He rescued us. Yes, He sometime punished us, by sending us into exile, but He restored us back to Himself again and again. We are the people of God. All true.
And then you read Psalm 78. Now the psalmist presents the city of Israel in rather painful terms. They remind you a bit of Stephen’s speech  in Acts 7. That’s another sermon that begins with the history of Israel, but Stephen slants the history to show how often people rejected the revelation that God sent. God sent prophets and God sent the law, God sent various people He raised up to teach the people the way of God and they rejected them again and again, and again. So it’s not too surprising that when He sends the Messiah, they reject the Messiah too. He builds a whole theology that warrants a whole rejection of Messiah by reading Old Testament history.
And there’s something of that going on in Psalm 78. „Don’t you remember your own history?” He says. You look back at your own history, you see how many times people complained and whined and were disgruntled with God in the desert. And as a preface to this psalm, the writer says, „My people hear my teaching, listen to the words of my mouth..” Verse 2 in the NIV has, „I will open my mouth with a parable. I will utter hidden things, things of old.” You start asking: If they’re hidden, why does he go on to say, „Things we have heard and things our ancestors have told us.” If they’re things we have known and our ancestors have told us, why are they hidden things? Things that we have not known. But you see, that’s the way expounding is. Even when you know the data, as it were, the materials are there, there are new lessons that are being brought out. So that, when Steven for example, teaches from the Old Testament, the actual data that he refers to are all known. It’s common ground. It’s the raw data of history, but they’re so configured, that lessons are brought out  that we haven’t thought about at all. You see? ANd that’s what Psalm 78 is doing. It’s an historical Psalm that looks at Israel’s history to bring forth moral lessons, which most Jews at the time of the Psalmist, they’re not ready to hear about themselves. It’s a bit too hot, too privileged. They didn’t see their own history as a massive call for repentance.
And that’s what Jesus does Himself. He takes the Old Testament, and He now says things that have been hidden. Go back to verse 11. Why do you speak in parables? „Because the knowledge of the secret of the kingdom,” the NIV has, some translations have „the mysteries of the kingdom”. What does that mean „the mysteries of the kingdom”? Not the mysterious things of the kingdom. That’s not what mysteries means in the New Testament. The word mystery is used 27 or 28 times, with one variant. And in just about every case, the word mystery refers to that which has been hidden in the past, but is now disclosed. „So, I am going to tell you,” he says, „I’m going to make you understand, the mysteries of the kingdom.” Things that were hidden in the past, that are now disclosed.They’re hidden, but they’re hidden in plain sight. They’re in the text, but they’re hidden and nowI disclose them to you. The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, not to them.
That is, Jesus tells parables now because in line with Scripture, His message reveals things hidden in Scripture. What does this mean? What does this look like? Take a look at the parable of the sower, which is the context in which Jesus says these things. What’s the parable of the sower about? You have to remember that most jews expected that when the Messiah came, He would come with a bang. There would be clear differentiation between the just and the unjust. The kingdom would be established. All you have to do is read the preaching of John the Baptist to see what that would look like. When He comes, He will gather the wheat into barns, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and pass the chaff into unquenchable fire. Matthew 3:11-12. That’s what Jews expected would happen when the kingdom came. And what Jesus says is: The kingdom is a bit like a farmer, who goes out to sow . He scatters seed here, there. Some of it falls on good soil, some of it falls on bad soil, the birds take it away… some places are rocky, shallow, that soil warms up the fastest in the spring, the seed germinates, looks as if it’s gonna be the most promising crop, and then the middle east sun pelts down and the plant keels over and dies. Other seed falls over amongst thorns and  the thorns choke the life out of it. But some seed falls on good ground with various degrees of productivity. That’s what the kingdom is like.
What? I thought it came with a bang. I thought God was gonna clean up the whole mess. You’re just making things confusing. And so, the parable is not understood by the people who are hearing it. And even the christians to be – believers, they don’t understand it as well, though Jesus does carefully unpack it for them in the following verses. How does that come from the Old Testament? But it does. It does. Take a look, for ex., at Daniel 2 -The great vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel interprets the dream. The various body parts, then verse 2:34 „While you were watching,” Daniel says to Nebuchadnezzar, describing a dream, „a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron , the clay, the bronze, the silver, and gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the sumer. The wind swept away without leaving a trace.” Here’s a vision of the kingdom of God, coming with a bang. And then, in the vision we read, „The rock that struck the statue  grew to become a whole mountain and filled the whole earth.” Now you got growth, not a bang.  But where is the evidence that jews got those bits put together as coming explanations of Christ?
Or, to take an example that’s better known, yet. In Caesarea Philippi (later in Matthew chapter 16), Jesus says, „Who do people say that I am?” Some say this, some say that. So he asks his own apostles, „What do you say?” Peter says, „You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus responds, „You are blessed Simon, son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Great. But, does Peter mean by his confession what you and I mean? Do we confess that Jesus is the Christ? Nope. Because when you and  I confess that Jesus is the Christ, we cannot help but think of Christ crucified. Christ on the cross, dead, buried, risen again, ascended to the Father’s right hand. You see, we cannot help but think of the Father in these holistic categories. But those are not category that Peter understands, because when Jesus then goes on n the context of Matthew 16, to talk about His own impending death, Peter, having scored once theologically thinks to try again. „Never Lord, this shall never happen to you, Messiah’s don’t die, they win. Especially one like you, you can do all these nice miracles. This will never happen to you. You’re wrong on this one, Jesus.” Jesus wheels on him and says, „Get behind me Satan, you do not understand the things of God.” So then, why is Peter told he is blessed because he understands, because he confesses that Jesus is the Messiah? Because, while others are doubting that Jesus is the Davidic Messiah, the promised King, Peter, anointed by God Himself, really does grasp that Jesus is the Messiah, but he doesn’t have all the categories for Messiahship. He doesn’t see that this King must also be the suffering servant. He doesn’t see that this king will reign from a cross. He doesn’t see that. And the proof that he doesn’t see it carries on in the entire Gospel. He and the disciples are in the upper room. He still doesn’t know that the Messiah must die, even though 5 times, in Matthew’s Gospel alone, Jesus has unpacked that He’s the sort of Messiah  who must die and give His life. Well, tell me, is that announced in Scripture? Well, there’s the Passover, there’s Yom Kippur, there are passages like Isaiah 53. There are psalms, like Psalm 69 where the Davidic King is broken and crushed, betrayed by his own familiar friend. But you really cannot find any jews  of Jesus’ generation, before the cross, who simply got it together and believed that Jesus was simultaneously  the Davidic promised triumphant king and the suffering slaughtered  damned servant. But it was there in Scripture. They just hadn’t gotten it together.
One of the reasons Jesus tells parables, He says, is to unpack  this change slowly. In a way analogous  to what the historical psalms do: „I will open my mouth in parables, where you tell stories, compare things with things. I will utter things secret since the creation of the world.” But nevertheless, things  in the context of Psalm 78, your father knew about Isaiah 53,  and could get it together. Which is why when you read on in verse 16 „Blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because you hear, for truly, I tell you, many prophets and righteous people long to see what you see, but did not see it. And to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Even the Old Testament saints could not put all the pieces together, which is why at the end of the chapter, verse 52 „Therefore every teacher of the law, who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house that brings down in the store room new treasures as well. You open the Old Testament Scriptures, and now you’re putting them together in  things you haven’t seen before, they are truly there, but they have not been put together. They’ve been hidden a little bit.
Now, what can we learn from these passages? We could easily spend a half hour unpacking this. Let me summarize.
  1. We should gain wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp about how God has put the Bible together. I have my professors here and they’re all trying to get me to read the Old Testament is a Christological way, and I see it, I’m beginning to understand what typology  is and I’m beginning to understand what the trajectories are that run from the New Testament to the Old Testament and all , but I don’t wanna be blasphemous or anything, but couldn’t God have done it a little more simply? Why not be just a bit more straightforward? God in His great wisdom reveals so very much, but he shadows and types and structures, and you don’t really get them all together until after the events and those with eyes to see look back and say, „Spectacular. Here is the mind of our God. First thing is wonder in worship where there is a fresh grasp about how God has put the Bible together.
  2. We should gain gratitude in humility, for the gift of seeing the truth about Jesus and His Gospel, because so many people do not see it. That’s a gift.
  3. We should gain discretion in witness where there is a hostile environment. For we, too, understand as I understood, as Jesus understood, as Paul understood that sometimes the environment is so hostile, that you must approach these things with a certain kind of discretion, understanding that the truth itself can blind and harden, and deafen, as well as reveal.

At Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

D.A. Carson – Adams Lecture Series: Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables? – Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 from Southeastern Seminary on Vimeo.

John Piper, D A Carson, David Platt, Matt Chandler, messages from the CROSS Conference Dec 26-30, 2013

John Piper Cross ConferenceQuotes are from DesiringGod.org and VIDEOS and descriptions are from the Cross Conference website – http://crosscon.com Photos are from the videos.

John Piper

The Chief End of Missions: The Supremacy of God
in the Joy of All Peoples (Main Session I)

“The chief end of missions is the supremacy of God in the joy of all peoples.” These two ends are of an identical essence, totally and completely inseparable, for the only gladness that lasts is a gladness in the glory of God. This reality frees us from choosing either the glory of God or compassion for the lost as the primary desire for missions.

Some quotes from John Piper at the Cross Conference:

  • “There are a thousand needs in the world, and none of them compares to the global need for the gospel.”
  • “I am not a missionary, but I have wanted my life to count for the unreached peoples of the world.”
  • “God aims to look valuable in the world, and that happens when we treasure him above all else.”
  • “If you remove enjoyment of God from faith in God, it ceases to be faith.”
  • “We will not let you choose between being a lover of God and his sovereignty and being a lover of lost people.”
  • “One day America and all its presidents will be a footnote in history, but the kingdom of Jesus will never end.”
  • “God is on the move to rescue people from misery to everlasting happiness, which can only be found in him.”
  • “If you don’t know God as beautiful and satisfying, you don’t know him.”
  • “Jesus came at Christmas to bring glory to God and satisfaction to sinners everywhere.”

Other John Piper quotes from the breakout sessions:

  • “You ought to marry someone who’s willing to go anywhere for God. If they’re not, they’re out.”
  • “You don’t need to see the fruit of your life for there to be real, lasting, exponential fruit.’
  • “Don’t let your personality keep you from missions. God gave it to you and has a place for you to use it for his glory.”
  • “The Great Commission will not get done if we’re not ready to risk our lives and the lives of our family.”
  • “God doesn’t waste anything for those who are yielded to him.”
  • “Bitterness about your parents’ brokenness will kill you. Be the grace-filled end of generational sin in your family.”
  • “Do not be more devoted to your own brain than you are to the Bible.”
  • “God is not worn out running the galaxy. He’s not taxed at all guiding every dust particle all the time.”
  • “All your money is God’s, not just 10%.”
  • “I challenge everyone who hasn’t yet to memorize Romans 8 in 2014. It is useful for everything everywhere all the time.”

D A Carson

“The Church as the Means and the Goal of Missions”

D A CarsonD.A. Carson preaches on the social dimensions of both sin and the gospel. Sin doesn’t just send you to Hell, and the gospel doesn’t just save your soul. Each has necessary social, personal, and horizontal ramifications, culminating in the existence of and a commitment to the church, the bride of Christ, for it is in the church where the love of God is made known and reflected to the nations.

  • “Sin corrupts even our good deeds. We injure our shoulder trying to pat ourselves on the back.”
  • “The gospel overturns everything sin does.”
  • “The greatest aphrodisiac in marriage is kindness.”
  • “Tragically, we buy the lie that the gospel is only for the unconverted.”
  • “The very love of God is fleshed out in our local churches.”

David Platt

Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission

David PlattTo close CROSS 2013, David Platt delivers a clarion call to all Christians, imploring them to consider what their obedience to the Great Commission looks like. For many, it will be as stateside senders; for some, it will be as lifelong goers; for others, it will be as offerings poured out en route to give the gospel to yet-to-be-reached peoples. In every scenario — in going and sending and even in dying — God is achieving His incontrovertible purpose: the supremacy of the glory of God in the Christ-exalting joy of all peoples.

Some quotes from David Platt at the Cross Conference:

  • “I’m asking every single person listening to this message to lay a blank check before God, open to go wherever he leads.”
  • “Ask, could my gifts, education, career, or experience be used to spread the gospel where it’s needed most?”
  • “What if the word of God was enough to inspire passionate worship among his people?”
  • “Saved people this side of heaven owe the gospel to lost people this side of hell.”
  • “There are no innocent unreached people in the world. Their knowledge of God is only enough to damn them to hell.”
  • “Our God is worthy of the worship of 6,000 more people groups.”
  • “If you can trust God to save you for eternity, you can trust him to lead you for a lifetime.”
  • “Do not underestimate what God can do when the church is sending and workers are going to people who need the gospel.”

Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler

The Life Worth Living for Christ
Is a Life Worth Losing

Matt Chandler unpacks the life of the apostle Paul as proof positive that there’s no such thing as a person beyond God’s saving mercy. In fact, his post-conversion commitment to evangelism and, even more, his Christ-exalting fearlessness in the midst suffering depicts the truth of his words in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” May the same be said of all God’s people, that a better day is coming where we will receive our reward and see — finally — our treasured King face to face.

Some quotes from Matt Chandler at the Cross Conference

  • “When we join God in his plan for his global glory, we get to be a part of the cosmic take-your-kid-to-work day.”
  • “There isn’t a violent soul on the planet that God might not save and transform for himself.”
  • “Every missionary I know is extraordinarily ordinary. Everything they do, they do by the grace of God.”
  • “When God saves you, he doesn’t do it because you gave him permission. He did it because he’s God.”
  • “Comfort is the god of our generation, so suffering is seen as a problem to be solved, and not a providence from God.”
  • “Why do we try so hard to make Jesus cool?! He doesn’t need a makeover.”
  • “When we see the bankruptcy, slavery, and vanity of everything else, we can finally say, ‘To die is gain.’”
  • “Nobody dies early.”
  • “In 10,000 years you will not regret anything you didn’t have or do in this life.”
  • “Until Christ is our treasure, any other motivation we have to suffer for him is a fool’s errand.”

You can watch the other messages here – http://crosscon.com/

The Cross Conference is a new Missions Conference for Students. You can find out more about them here – http://crosscon.com/about/

Photo credit theGospelCoalition.org

D A Carson – Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil

d a carsonSee an in depth article below video, with link to the full article on the Gospel Coalition website:

Lecture – Dr D.A. Carson – given Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, TX. Topic:Going Beyond Cliches: Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil.

Dr. D. A. Carson is a Research Professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. He came to Trinity from the faculty of Northwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he served for two years as academic dean. He also taught at Northwest Baptist Theological College, Richmond College, and Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto.

Dr. Carson’s areas of expertise include biblical theology, the historical Jesus, postmodernism, pluralism, Greek grammar, Johannine theology, Pauline theology, and questions of suffering and evil.

He is a member of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Evangelical Theological Society, the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, and the Institute for Biblical Research. Dr. Carson was founding chair of the GRAMCORD Institute, a research and educational institution designed to develop and promote computer-related tools for research into the Bible, focusing especially on the original languages. He is also a founding council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Carson was born in Montreal, Quebec, but grew up in Drummondville, Quebec. He earned his B.S. (1967) in chemistry and mathematics from McGill University, his M.Div. from Central Baptist Seminary (Toronto), and his Ph.D. (1975) in the New Testament from the University of Cambridge. Carson married his wife Joy in 1975. They reside in Libertyville, Illinois, and have two children.

Carson is the author or coauthor of over 50 books, including the award-winning book The Gagging of God (2010) and An Introduction to the New Testament (2005). He is general editor of Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmodern’s (2002) and Worship by the Book (2002). His other books include, Exegetical Fallacies (1996), Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (2005), and also The Intolerance of Tolerance (2012). He has served as a pastor and is an active guest lecturer in church and academic settings around the world.

Six Pillars to Support a Christian Worldview for Stability Through Suffering

  1. Insights from the beginning of the Bible’s storyline
  2. Insights from the end of the Bible’s storyline
  3. Insights from the place of innocent suffering
  4. Insights from the mystery of providence
  5. Insights from the centrality of the incarnation and the cross
  6. Insights from taking up our cross (insights from the persecuted global church)

VIDEO by fleetwd1 for more information http://www.laniertheologicallibrary.org/

Going Beyond Cliches:

Christian Reflections on Suffering and Evil

Here is a very helpful article that outlines Carson’s 6 pillars of a Christian view of suffering – http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs In the blog post, Matt Smethurst, of the Gospel Coalition lists the 6 pillars:

After differentiating „natural” evil (e.g., tornados), „malicious” evil (e.g., sexual assault), and „accidental” evil (e.g., a bridge collapse)—and observing that this isn’t a uniquely Christian challenge („No matter your worldview, you must face the reality of suffering and evil”)—Carson proceeds to reveal the six pillars.

  1. Insights from the beginning of the Bible’s storyline. Carson observes: „What Jesus seems to presuppose is that all the sufferings of the world—whether caused by malice [as in Luke 13:1-3] or by accident [as in Luke 13:4-5]—are not peculiar examples of judgment falling on the distinctively evil, but rather examples of the bare, stark fact that we are all under sentence of death.”
  2.  Insights from the end of the Bible’s storyline. The believer’s ultimate hope is that the created order—now so disordered by the effects of sin—will one day be set right (Rom. 8:18-25)
  3. Insights from the place of innocent suffering. „Job 42 is to the rest of Job what Revelation 21-22 is to the rest of Revelation,” Carson observes. „Not only is justice done, it’s also seen to be done.”
  4. Insights from the mystery of providence. Here Carson sketches a brief defense of compatibilism in which he demonstrates two scriptural tensions: (1) God is absolutely sovereign, but his sovereignty never functions to mitigate human responsibility, and (2) men and women are morally responsible creatures, but their moral responsibility never makes God absolutely contingent.
  5. Insights from the centrality of the incarnation and the cross. God was not blindsided by Calvary (Acts 2:234:27-28).
  6. Insights from taking up our cross (learning from the persecuted global church). Though we often think of suffering primarily in terms of „cancer or old age or poverty or war,” Carson notes, the New Testament texts that most commonly speak of suffering have to do with Christian suffering—”and they are remarkable” (see, for example, Acts 5:40-42;Rom. 8:17Phil. 1:293:101 Pet. 2:20-23). As he observes, „There have been more Christian conversions since 1800 than in the previous 1,800 years combined, and there have been more Christain martyrs since 1800 than in the previous 1,800 years combined. And to this you have been called [1 Pet. 2:21].”A robust theology of suffering is necessary but not sufficient, Carson insists, for at least two additional attitudes characterize mature Christians: (1) they admit their guilt before God and cry to him for renewal and revival (see, for example, Neh. 8-9), and (2) they are quick to talk about the sheer goodness of God.

How Could A Good God Allow Suffering?

This video is from the Gospel Coalition LA Regional Conference on November 6, 2010. D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has written or edited more than forty-five books, including An Introduction to the New Testament, The Gagging of God, and The Gospel according to John. VIDEO by WA BibleDepartment

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (5) Job’s Happy Ending

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. READ Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 
  3. READ Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu
  4. READ Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God 
  5. READ Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (article below)

Here are some excerpts from the last section:

photo www.bibleartists.wordpress.com Job’s Despair by Blake

Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending

These verses may be divided into two parts. The first, which we have already glanced at, reports God’s wrath with Eliphaz and his two friends for not speak- ing of God what was right, as Job did (42:7-8). They are required to offer sacrifice to God, and Job, whom they have despised and abused, must pray for them, for God will accept his prayers for them (and, by implication, not their own!).

In the second part (vv. 10-17), after Job prays for his friends, the Lord makes him prosperous again. His siblings and acquaintances gather around him and provide gifts, presumably to help him start up again. He sires another family, seven more sons and three more daughters, and gains herds twice the size of what he had before. No women were more beautiful than his daughters, and Job left them an inheritance along with their brothers—further evidence of Job’s com- passionate and enlightened treatment of those traditionally squeezed to the periph- ery of life (cf. chap. 31). He lived to a ripe old age, seeing his children and their chil- dren to the fourth generation. Eventually he died, “old and full of years”—an epi- taph reserved for the choicest or most favored of God’s servants (Abraham [Gen 25:8], Isaac [Gen 35:29], David [1 Chron 29:28], and Jehoiada the priest [2 Chron 24:15]).

If some critics are displeased with God’s answer to Job out of the storm, even more are incensed by this “happy ending.” The story, they argue should have ended with Job’s repentance. Whether he was restored is irrelevant; in any case it is untrue to the experience of many, who suffer at length without reprieve. To end the story this way makes the doctrine of retribution basically right after all. The conclusion is therefore anticlimactic at best, contradictory at worst.

This is, I think, a shallow reading of the text. Perhaps the following reflections will help unpack the purpose of this conclusion a little:

(1) We must beware of our own biases. One of the reasons why many people are dissatisfied with this ending is because in the contemporary literary world ambiguity in moral questions is universally revered, while moral certainty is almost as universally despised. The modern mood enjoys novels and plays where the rights and wrongs get confused, where every decision is a mixture of right and wrong, truth and error, where heroes and antiheroes reverse their roles.

Why this infatuation with ambiguity? It is regarded as more mature. Clear-cut answers are written off as immature. The pluralism of our age delights in moral ambiguity—but only as long as it costs nothing. Devotion to contemporary moral ambiguity is extraordinarily self-centered. It demands freedom from God so that it can do whatever it wants. But when the suffering starts the same self-centered focus on my world and my interests, rather ironically, wants God to provide answers of sparkling clarity.

(2) Throughout his excruciating suffering, Job has demonstrated that he serves the Lord out of a pure heart. True, he has said some stupid things and has been rebuked; but at no point does he simply curse God and turn his back on Him. Even his demand that God present himself before Job and give an answer is the cry of the believer seeking to find out what on earth God is doing. Even while sitting in the ashpit, Job trusts God enough to express extraordinary confidence in him, and for no ulterior motive.

In that sense, God has won his wager with the devil. Job may utter words that darken God’s counsel, but he does not lose his integrity or abandon his God. Is it there- fore surprising that there should be full rec- onciliation between God and Job? And if the wager has been won, is there any rea- son for Job’s afflictions to continue?

(3) No matter how happy the ending, nothing can remove the suffering itself. The losses Job faced would always be with him. A happy ending is better than a mis- erable one, but it does not transform the suffering he endured into something less than suffering. A survivor of the Holo- caust has not suffered less because he ultimately settles into a comfortable life in Los Angeles.

(4) The Book of Job has no interest in praising mystery without restraint. All biblical writers insist that to fear the Lord ultimately leads to abundant life. If this were not so, to fear the Lord would be stupid and masochistic. The book does not disown all forms of retribution; rather, it disowns simplistic, mathematically precise, and instant application of the doc- trine of retribution. It categorically rejects any formula that affirms that the righteous always prosper and the wicked are always destroyed. There may be other reasons for suffering; rewards (of blessing or of destruction) may be long delayed; knowledge of God is its own reward.

Job still does not have all the answers; he still knows nothing about the wager between God and Satan. He must simply trust God that something far greater was at stake than his own personal happiness. But he has stopped hinting that God is unjust; he has come to know God better; and he enjoys the Lord’s favor in rich abundance once again.

photo wikipedia Job restored to prosperity by Laurent de La Hyre (1606–1656)

(5) The blessings that Job experiences at the end are not cast as rewards that he has earned by his faithfulness under suf- fering. The epilogue simply describes the blessings as the Lord’s free gift. The Lord is not nasty or capricious. He may for vari- ous reasons withdraw his favor, but his love endures forever.

In that sense, the epilogue is the Old Testament equivalent to the New Testament anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. God is just, and will be seen to be just. This does not smuggle mathemati- cal retribution in through the back door. Rather, it is to return, in another form, to the conclusion of chapter 8 of this book.

(6) Although I have repeatedly spoken of God entering into a wager with Satan, or winning his wager with Satan, I have done so to try to capture the scene in the first chapter. But there is a danger in such language: it may sound as if God is capri- cious. He plays with the lives of his crea- tures so that he can win a bet.

Clearly that is not true. The challenge to Satan is not a game; nor is the outcome, in God’s mind, obscure. Nothing in the book tells us why God did this. The solemnity and majesty of God’s response to Job not only mask God’s purposes in mystery, but presuppose they are serious and deep, not flighty or frivolous.

Nevertheless, the wager with Satan is in certain ways congruent with other biblical themes. God’s concern for the salvation of men and women is part of a larger, cosmic struggle between God and Satan, in which the outcome is certain while the struggle is horrible. This is one way of placing the human dimensions of redemption and judgment in a much larger framework than what we usually perceive.

(7) We are perhaps better situated now to understand precisely why God says that his servant Job spoke of him “what was right,” while the three miserable com- forters did not. True, Job is rebuked for darkening the Lord’s counsel: he became guilty of an arrogance that dared to demand that God give an account of his actions. But Job has been genuinely grop- ing for the truth, and has not allowed glib answers to deter him. He denies neither God’s sovereignty nor (at least in most of his statements!) God’s justice. Above all, so far as the wager between God and Satan is concerned, Job passes with flying colors; he never turns his back on God.

Contrast the three friends. Although they are trying to defend God, their reductionistic theology ends up offering Job a temptation: to confess sins that weren’t there, in order to try to retrieve his prosperity. If Job had succumbed, it would have meant that Job cared more for prosperity than for his integrity or for the Lord himself; and the Lord would have lost his wager. Their counsel, if followed, would have actually led Job away from the Lord; Job would have been reduced to being yet one more person interested in seeking God for merely personal gain.

This is, at the end of the day, the ulti- mate test of our knowledge of God. Is it robust enough that, when faced with excruciating adversity, it may prompt us to lash out with hard questions, but will never permit us to turn away from God? But perhaps it is better to put the matter the other way round: the God who put Job through this wringer is also the God of whom it is said that, with respect to his own people, “he will not let [them] be tempted beyond what [they] can bear. But when [they] are tempted, he will also pro- vide a way out so that [they] can stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13). God could not trust me with as much suffering as Job endured; I could not take it. But we must not think that there was any doubt in God’s mind as to whether he would win his wager with Satan over Job!

When we suffer, there will sometimes be mystery. Will there also be faith? 

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (4) Job and God

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. READ Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 
  3. READ Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu
  4. READ Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God (article below)
  5. covers Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (coming)

Here are some excerpts from the 4th section:

Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God

Finally God himself speaks, answering Job out of the storm (chaps. 38-41). “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace your- self like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:2-3). There fol- lows question after question, each designed to remind Job of the kinds of thing he cannot do, and that only God can. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (38:4). “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place … ?” (38:12). “Have you entered the store- houses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?” (38:22-23). “Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?” (38:31-32). “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?” (38:39-41). God then goes on to describe some of the more spectacular features of the mountain goat, the wild donkey, the ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk, the eagle. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (40:2).

photo genesistomalachi.weebly.com

Job had wanted an interview with the Almighty. He had, as it were, sworn an affidavit demanding that the Almighty appear and put his indictment in writing (31:35). But God’s defense wasn’t quite what Job had in mind. At the first pause, Job answers, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (40:4-5).

But God hasn’t finished yet. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). Then come the most blistering questions: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his? Then adorn your- self with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you” (40:8-14).

It is important to recognize that God does not here charge Job with sins that have brought on his suffering. He does not respond to the “whys” of Job’s suffering, nor does he challenge Job’s defense of his own integrity. The reason he calls Job on the carpet is not because of Job’s justifica- tion of himself, but because of Job’s will- ingness to condemn God in order to justify himself. In other words, God does not here “answer” Job’s questions about the prob- lem of evil and suffering, but he makes it unambiguously clear what answers are not acceptable in God’s universe.

The rest of chapter 40 and all of chap- ter 41 find God asking more rhetorical questions. Can Job capture and subdue the behemoth (40:15ff.) and leviathan (41:1ff.)? These two beasts may be the hip- popotamus and the crocodile, respec- tively, but they probably also represent primordial cosmic powers that sometimes break out against God. The argument, then, is that if Job is to charge God with injustice, he must do so from the secure stance of his own superior justice; and if he cannot subdue these beasts, let alone the cosmic forces they represent, he does not enjoy such a stance, and is therefore displaying extraordinary arrogance to call God’s justice into question.

Job’s response must be quoted in full (42:2-6), along with two or three explana- tory asides: “I know that you can do all things,” Job tells God, “no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowl- edge?’ [38:2]. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me’ [38:3; 40:7]. My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you [i.e., Job has come to have a far clearer understanding of God than he had before]. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

What shall we make of this exchange between God and Job? Many doubtful interpretations have been put forward by various writers. Because God refers to so many natural phenomena, one writer argues that a major purpose of God’s speech is to tell Job that the beauty of the world must become for him an anodyne to human suffering, a kind of aesthetic aspirin. When one basks in the world’s beauty, one’s problems become petty, “because they dissolve within the larger plan” of the harmony of the universe.4 But to someone suffering intensely, the beauty of the world can just as easily become a brutal contrast that actually intensifies the suffering. Worse, it does not dissolve pain; rather, it is in danger of “dissolving” the sufferer in some kind of pantheistic sense of the fitness of things. This is surely a massive misunderstanding of God’s response. Not once does God minimize the reality of Job’s suffering.

Others, such as George Bernard Shaw, simply mock God’s answer. Job wants an answer as to why he is suffering, and the best that God can do is brag about mak- ing snowflakes and crocodiles. A contem- porary author like Elie Wiesel, writing in the aftermath of the Holocaust, holds that Job should have pressed God further. Doubtless Job needed to repent of his at- titude, but he still should have pressed God for an answer: Why do the righteous suffer?

Both of these approaches misunder- stand the book rather badly. They have this in common: they assume that every- thing that takes place in God’s universe ought to be explained to us. They assume that God owes us an explanation, that there cannot possibly be any good reason for God not to tell us everything we want to know immediately. They assume that God Almighty should be more interested in giving us explanations than in being worshiped and trusted.

The burden of God’s response to Job is twofold. The first emphasis we have already noted: Job has “darkened God’s counsel” by trying to justify himself at the expense of condemning God; and Job is in no position to do that. “God’s speeches show Job that his lowly station point was not the appropriate place from which to judge whether cosmic orders were suffi- ciently askew to justify the declaration ‘let there be darkness.’”5 The second empha- sis is implicit: if there are so many things that Job does not understand, why should he so petulantly and persistently demand that he understand his own suffering? There are some things you will not under- stand, for you are not God.

That is why Job’s answer is so appro- priate. He does not say, “Ah, at last I understand!” but rather, “I repent.” He does not repent of sins that have allegedly brought on the suffering; he repents of his arrogance in impugning God’s justice, he repents of his attitude whereby he simply demands an answer, as if such were owed him. He repents of not having known God better: “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore … I repent” (42:5-6).

To those who do not know God, to those who insist on being God, this out- come will never suffice. Those who do not know God come in time to recognize that it is better to know God and to trust God than to claim the rights of God.

Job teaches us that, at least in this world, there will always remain some mysteries to suffering. He also teaches us to exercise faith—not blind, thoughtless submission to an impersonal status quo, but faith in the God who has graciously revealed himself to us.

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (3) Job and Elihu

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. READ Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 
  3. covers Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu (article below)
  4. covers Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God  (coming)
  5. covers Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (coming)

Here are some excerpts from the 3rd section:

Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu

Chapters 32-37 are among the most interesting, and the most difficult, in the book. They start off by raising our expec- tations. Elihu, not mentioned until this point, has kept his peace throughout the debate, because the other participants are older than he: custom demanded that age take precedence. But now they fall silent, and Elihu, whose wrath has been stoked by the debate, declares himself angry with both Job and his three friends. He is angry with the three friends, “because they had found no way to refute Job “for  justifying himself rather than God” (32:2). And so his lengthy contribution begins.

photo www.myspace.com

We may summarize his argument this way:

(1) Elihu begins with a rather lengthy apology for speaking to his seniors (32:6- 22). Among the factors that compel him to speak is his conviction (as he says to Job’s three friends), that “not one of you has proved Job wrong; none of you has answered his arguments” (32:12). This does not mean he thinks Job is entirely right, as we shall see; but Elihu has care- fully distanced himself from the theology of the “miserable comforters.”

(2) When Elihu turns to Job, he first rebukes him for impugning God’s justice (33:8ff.). Job may be innocent (Elihu will come to that in due course), but that does not give him the right to charge God with injustice. There is a sense in which Job himself has been snookered by a simplis- tic doctrine of mathematically precise ret- ribution. The major difference between Job and his three friends is not their underlying views of retribution, but their views of Job’s guilt or innocence. Because Job is convinced he is innocent, he is pre- pared to skirt the view that God himself is guilty. Elihu will not have it: “But I tell you, in this you are not right” (33:12).

The first reason why Job is not right is that “God is greater than man” (33:12). By this Elihu does not mean to say that great- ness provides an excuse for wrongdoing, but that God may well have some pur- poses and perspectives in mind of which Job knows nothing. However much Job insists he is innocent, he must therefore put a guard on his tongue and refrain from making God guilty.

(3) The second thing Elihu says to Job is that God speaks more often and in more ways than Job acknowledges. “Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?” (33:13). The truth of the matter, Elihu insists, is that “God does speak—now one way, now another— though man may not perceive it” (33:14). He speaks in revelation: in dreams and visions (33:15-18). But God may also speak in the language of pain (33:19ff.). This is an advance on the argument between Job and his friends. Here is a chastening use of suffering that may be independent of some particular sin. Its purpose may be preventative: it can stop a person from slithering down the slope to destruction.

(4) In chapter 34, Elihu is so concerned to defend the justice of God that his rheto- ric becomes a little overheated. On the positive side, Elihu is determined to stop Job from charging God with injustice. The proper response to suffering is to accept it: God cannot possibly do wrong. By speaking the way he has, Job has added rebellion to his sin (34:37); “scornfully he claps his hands among us and multiplies his words against God.”

If Elihu is at times dangerously close to siding with the three miserable comfort- ers, it is here. Certainly he has not empathetically entered into Job’s suffering, or tried to fathom the anguish that leads Job to defend his integrity in such extrava- gant terms. But Elihu is right to defend the justice of God, and he has advanced the discussion by suggesting that Job’s great- est sin may not be something he said or did before the suffering started, but the rebellion he is displaying in the suffering. Even so, that does not explain the genesis of the suffering. It may, however, prepare Job to be a little more attentive to listen to God when God finally does speak.

In chapter 35, Elihu expressly disavows that Job is innocent. But unlike Eliphaz (22:5-9), he does not compose a list of sins Job must have committed, but challenges Job’s fundamental presumption. To take but one example: Job assumes that when people are oppressed they cry to God for help, and charges that God does not answer. Not so, insists Elihu: one is far more likely to find people crying out “under a load of oppression” and vaguely pleading “for relief from the arm of the powerful” (35:9), but still not praying. They want relief, but do not turn to God and pray. They cry for freedom, “[but] no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker … ?’” (35:10). God does not listen to such empty pleas (35:13). What makes Job think, then, that God will answer him when the assumption underlying his entire approach to God is that God owes him an answer, and may well be guilty of injustice (35:14-16)?

(5) In the last two chapters devoted to Elihu (chaps. 36-37), several themes come together, and Elihu begins to appear in more compassionate guise. The burden of the passage is this: whatever else may be said about the problem of evil and suffer- ing, the justice of God must be the “given”: “I will ascribe justice to my Maker,” Elihu pledges (36:3). But God is not malicious. He does care for his people. Therefore the proper response to suffering we cannot fathom is faith and perseverance; the response to avoid bitterness (for it is the godless who harbor resentment, 36:13). Job is in danger here: “Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to afflic- tion” (36:21)—that is, Job must not turn to evil as a way of alleviating his suffer- ing. Be patient, Elihu is saying, “those who suffer [God] delivers in [lit. through] their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food” (36:15-16). Be patient; it is better to be a chastened saint than a carefree sinner.

D. A. Carson – Job: Mystery and Faith (2) Job’s Miserable Comforters

I am indebted to Adrian for pointing me to this treaty on Job. Any dedicated believer, who has suffered deeply, or has seen a loved one suffer is fascinated with the mechanics of Job’s dialogue with God in the midst of his own deep suffering and the wisdom, peace, and understanding that can be derived from it. You can read this article in it’s entirety, in pdf form here (18 pages) –

http://s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-documents/carson/2000_Job_mystery_and_faith.pdf

d a carsonD. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentar- ies and monographs, and is one of this country’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his books are Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (John Knox Press, 1981; reprint, Baker, 1994) and How Long, O Lord?: Per- spectives on Suffering and Evil (Baker, 1990).

The topic is divided into
  1. READ Job chapters 1 – 3 Job’s Sufferings and Initial Reaction here
  2. covers Job chapters 4 – 31  Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters (article below)
  3. covers Job chapter 32 – 37 Job and Elihu (coming)
  4. covers Job chapter 38 – 42:6 Job and God (coming)
  5. covers Job chapter 42:7-16 Job’s Happy Ending (coming)

Here are some excerpts from the 2nd section:

II. Job chapters 4 – 31  

Job’s Plaintive Outrage and His Miserable Comforters 

Job’s lament is all the encouragement his three friends need to break their silence. The way the drama is set out, each of them—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar— have a go at Job, trying to correct his theology and lead him to repentance. After each speaks, Job himself replies. Then the entire cycle is repeated, and starts to be repeated yet again. The third cycle sputters out with a short contribution from Bildad (25:1-6); Zophar never does contribute to the third round. By this time, Job is really indignant, and makes a lengthy speech (chaps. 26-31) that silences his interlocutors without convincing them.

Job and his friends represent deeply entrenched and opposed positions on the questions surrounding Job’s sufferings. To simplify a bit, we may summarize their positions.

(1) Job’s friends offer glib answers and a condemning spirit. The heart of their theological position is summed up by Eliphaz’s question: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it” (4:7-8).

(2) Job responds with self-justification and hard questions. He is guilty of nothing that can justify such suffering. The readers know this to be true: Job is suffering because God is demonstrating his servant’s spiritual integrity to Satan, not because Job is being punished.

But Job will not be put off so easily. For a start, he resents his friends’ lack of com- passion, their winking condescension. “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow” (6:14-15). Job can see through his friends’ unexpressed fears: if the universe is not as ordered as they would like to think it is, then they themselves cannot count on security: “Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid” (6:21).

His plea is emotional, and pitiable: “But nowbesokindastolookatme.WouldI lie to your face [i.e., by hiding sins]? Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake” (6:28-29).

Job reviews his sufferings again. All he wants is to die before he is tempted to deny the words of the Holy One (6:10). Eventually, he turns to God and begs for pity: “Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again” (7:7). But he is not willing to concede that what he is suffering is only fair: “I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will com- plain in the bitterness of my soul” (7:11). He begs God to back off, to let him die; his days have no meaning. Why pick on me? he asks, in effect. Why pick on any man in this way (7:17-19)?

Job does not claim sinless perfection. He simply argues that any conceivable sin he may have committed does not justify being made a target of the Almighty. “If I have sinned, what have I done to you, O watcher of men? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (7:20).

……..

Job’s problem is not that God is simply too distant, but that Job could not win— even though he is quite certain he is suffering innocently. (And again, his readers know he is right on the latter score!)

photo via GospelCoalition.org

…..The summary of chapters 4 – 31:

(1) Job’s friends have a tight theology with no loose ends. Suffering is understood exclusively in terms of punishment or chastening. There is no category for innocent suffering: in their understanding, such a suggestion besmirches the integrity of the Almighty.

(2) Although they are quick to defend God and say many wonderful things about him, their arguments are cast in tones so condescending to Job that one begins to lose patience with them. There is very little hint of compassion, empathy, honest grief. The defense of God can be unbearably hard.

(3) Job’s arguments must not be confused with the atheism of Bertrand Russell, the challenge of David Hume, the theological doubletalk of Don Cupitt, or the poetic defiance: “I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my soul!” Job’s speeches are the anguish of a man who knows God, who wants to know him bet- ter, who never once doubts the existence of God, who remains convinced, at bottom, of the justice of God—but who cannot make sense of these entrenched beliefs in the light of his own experience.

That is why, in the midst of his confusion and self-justification, Job utters some remarkably assured statements of faith. He is so sure of his case that he wishes he could find someone to arbitrate between himself and God (9:33-35). Of course, this is God’s universe, so he can’t; but the Christian cannot read these words without thinking of the mediatorial role of Jesus. Nor does Job become apostate: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (13:15-16). He is so sure of ultimate vindication that he can say, “But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10). However difficult the verses in 19:25-27 be translated,3 the least they affirm is that Job is absolutely confident in his final vindication—by God himself.

(4) The final lengthy speech of Job (26:1- 31:40) reiterates many of the themes already developed, but it reaches a new intensity of bitterness. Now Job is not satisfied with hints: he openly charges God with injustice, and he almost savagely defends his integrity: “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty who has made me taste bitter- ness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live” (27:2-6). Chapters 29-31 are a moving recital of all the godly things that made up Job’s life in the days before he was afflicted. They bear the most careful reading: would to God I could claim half so much. Job has been honest, generous, disciplined; he rescued the poor, helped the blind, comforted those who mourned; he made a covenant with his eyes “not to look lustfully at a girl” (31:1); he was host to countless strangers; he made sure he never rejoiced over the misfortune of another; he never trusted in his own wealth. He frankly feared God (31:23). And he is utterly determined to maintain that his own integrity totally precludes the possibility that his sufferings constitute punishment for sin. As far as he is concerned, confession of sin that he has not committed, just to satisfy his friends and perhaps win some sort of reprieve, would itself be sinful. His integrity is too important to him for that.

(5) Job is therefore not looking for a merely intellectual answer, a merely theological argument. He wants personal vindication by God himself. He wants God to appear and give an account of what He is doing. The drama does not concern an agnostic professor of philosophy; it con- cerns a man who knows God, who loves and fears God, and whose utter assurance of his own integrity drives him to long for a personal encounter with God that will not merely provide “answers” but will also vindicate the sufferer.

(6) It is important to glance ahead a little. The “three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). They were at an impasse: they could make sense of his suffering only by insisting on his guilt, and he kept insisting on his innocence. But God, after disclosing himself to Job, says to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). Indeed, Job must offer sacrifice and pray for them.

This is remarkable. The three miserable comforters thought they were defending God, and he charges them with saying the wrong things about him. Job defends his own integrity so virulently that he steps over the line now and then and actually charges God with injustice, yet God insists that his servant Job has spoken what is right. Of course, this does not mean that Job’s speeches have been entirely without fault. As we shall see, God charges Job with darkening His counsel “with words without knowledge” (38:2). In the last section of this chapter I shall explore more fully in which ways Job is right and his three friends are wrong. But under any reading of God’s vindication of Job’s discourses, room is made for innocent suffering; a simple theory of retributive justice—punishment proportionate to sin—is inadequate to explain some of the hard cases.

D A Carson – What Scripture plainly says about hell

d a carsonJesus praises the faith of the centurion. A Roman, without all of the background of what we now call the Old Testament and Scripture. „Truly, I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But, the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and the gnashing of teeth.” Now, He says this, after having said, just a few verses earlier at the end of the sermon on the mount that He has the authority to determine who enters the consummated kingdom and who does not. He is the one that will say, „Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, I never knew you.” And He is the one who grants entrance. And now He says, „On the last day, there will be many people there who will exhibit the same faith this centurion exhibited,” even though this centurion is not an Israelite, he’s a gentile, part of the overlord party. But, he has this faith is Jesus that is so transparently submissive to the authority of God in this God man, that he understands that when God speaks, Jesus speaks. It’s the same faith of an Abraham, who heard the voice of God and went out, not knowing where he was going. And thus, in the consummated kingdom, such people will gather around Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They will be part of this consummated glory, where elsewhere it is described as resurrection existence in the new heaven and the new earth- the home of righteousness.

And, meanwhile, many who have had the privilege of being part of that old covenant heritage, with all of its revelation and its sacrificial system, and its Godly prophets, and its wisdom literature, many who are absorbed into the kind of religiosity that really does not bow to the authority of Jesus, they will be cast out, we are told- where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not popular today to talk about hell. Indeed, many Christians are trying to find ways of interpreting the Scripture in such a way that ‘hell becomes a little less embarrassing’: …maybe it doesn’t go on forever… maybe God’s love is so sweeping that somehow, eventually, everybody in hell will repent and hell will be emptied out.And God’s love will win.

Many, many voices like this are heard. It sounds so gentle, and so loving, but, it is very hard to square such notions with what Jesus Himself says. Most of the most startling metaphors for hell are first voiced in the Scripture by the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the one here, who speaks of outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Revelation 14 and Revelation 20 speak of hell as a place of ongoing terror. I think that one of the reasons why people will not face what Scripture plainly says is because we have talked ourselves into thinking that perhaps, that perhaps we should recognize that our sins can’t be eternal sins, or infinite sins. Our sins are finite, we’re finite people, who commit only finite sins, so, why should we be punished infinitely? And, if that’s the case, we must have some other explanation for infinite punishment. But, that presupposes that once we get to hell we all want to repent and we don’t want to sin anymore. But, I have ransacked Scripture and I cannot, for the life of me, find a single place anywhere in Scripture that suggests there’s a word of repentance in hell.

Even in the account of the rich man and Lazarus- he doesn’t want to be there. But, he lifts his eyes up, being in torment, the Scripture says, and somehow sees Abraham and Lazarus a far distance off. What do you think he will say? „Oh, Lazarus, did I get that one wrong? I am so sorry, would you forgive me please? I really did abuse you. I didn’t show any generosity, compassion. I left you ill and broken, and poor outside my gate, even though I was filthy rich. I really am very sorry. I do want to repent, I am so sorry.” Is that what he says?  No, what he says is, „Father Abraham,” playing the race card, „Father Abraham, why don’t you send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water, so that he can bring it to me?” Lazarus is still the ‘Joe’ boy, he’s still the menial. He doesn’t even address him. He’s gonna pull strings and get father Abraham… There’s not a hint of repentance anywhere. Hell is not filled with people who are deeply repentant and wanting to get out. It’s filled with broken rebels who still want to justify themselves and think of them selves as at the center of the universe for all of eternity- sinning and being punished, sinning and being punished, world without end. At the end of that conversation with Abraham, the rich man is actually contradicting Abraham, „No, father Abraham, your interpretation of things is wrong. Let me correct your theology.” This man, even in hell thinks he’s got a superior theology to Abraham in heaven. It’s unbelievable.

And, the person who is exclusively, finally responsible for making the decisions about who goes to heaven and who does not, and on what ground is Jesus Himself. The authority of Jesus is great comfort to the eyes of faith and a great terror to the merely religious.

Listen to other recent messages by Don Carson at the  Gospel Coalition:

  1. When The Bible Is Silent
  2. When the Bible Is Silent Q&A
  3. Lessons from French Canadian Revivals
  4. Lessons from the French Canadian Revival Q&A
  5. The Implications of Complementarianism
  6. The Implications of Complementarianism Q&A
  7. Our Exalted Identity in a Holy Church
  8. Teach Us to Pray
  9. Our Exalted Relationship with Each Other

Don Carson preaching at the Chinese Conference in Los Angeles (2 sessions)

The Good Samaritan

The Rich Man and Lazarus

These 2 sermons are from October 26-28, 2012: held in Los Angeles, CA- Chinese Conference sponsored by Kernel of Wheat Ministries. The text is in

Luke 16:19 The Rich Man and Lazarus. Carson: How shall we understand this story? Is Jesus saying that there is always a simple reversal?-

  • live life well, end in hell
  • suffer pain, enjoy great gain
  • if you’re happy here, you’ll be miserable there
  • if you’re miserable here, you’ll be happy there

d a carsona simple reversal? Now, clearly, there is some kind of reversal here. But, so much of Scripture stands against any notion that there’s always reversal. For example, in Scripture, there are at least some Godly rich people. Think of Abraham, Job, Esther, at least in his early days, Solomon, Philemon, probably Theophilus. Moreover, there are at least some poor who are wicked. The Bible is very compassionate against those who are poor through no fault of their own. And, especially compassionate towards those who are poor because they are oppressed. But, the Book of Proverbs can also consider some poor, who are poor because they’re lazy. The sarcasm drips off the page.

Moreover, one has to integrate this passage with the rest of the Gospel of Luke. All four Gospels, including Luke are rushing towards the cross. If our eternal destiny is founded on the simple reversal theme, we don’t need the cross, all we need is poverty. (That is why) it is important to read our passage within the context. (5:02)…

What is the very essence of idolatry?

Obviously, it’s possible to serve two masters, if neither one is asking for absolute control. But, where there are competing interests, only one can win. And, the particular application Jesus makes here is you cannot serve both God and money. Of course He could have made other applications: You cannot serve both God and power, you cannot serve both God and sex. Now, in all three cases- money, power and sex- there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. Money can be very useful and do a lot of good. Power, rightly exercised can be reforming. And sex, within its God ordained constraints is everywhere pictured as a good gift. But, even a good thing becomes a bad thing, that (eventually) becomes the supreme thing. That is the very essence of idolatry. For idolatry, you don’t necessarily have to follow a bad thing. All you have to do is make a good thing the supreme thing.

That’s why elsewhere Paul says covetousness is idolatry. Because when you covet something, that’s what you want the most, so that becomes God for you. But Jesus tells us that you cannot have 2 masters. If God is God you cannot most want money. What we most want is what we most fantasize about, what we daydream about, what we thing about. So the task becomes very clear: You cannot serve both God and anything else.

Pharisaism

In verses 14-15, we find Jesus addressing the Pharisees directly. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. When it says that they sneered Him, almost certainly, they were sneering at him because they had money and He didn’t. So, among themselves, they were saying something like this: „Well, Jesus, you’re just some poor, itinerant preacher from Galilee. You don’t have money, so you don’t understand. We could be very Godly with our money,” they would say. „We tithe. We give alms for the poor. We can follow God and be rich. Don’t you see, that’s what we are?” They’re sneering at him. But, Jesus doesn’t back down. He says, in verse 15, „You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.

In biblical justification, God justifies the ungodly on the basis of what Christ has done. But, in self justification, we justify ourselves on the basis of what we do. To be quite frank, sometime, when we are formally thanking God for graces that we’ve received, our motivations are so complex that at the same time we are patting ourselves on the back for having them. And, instead of seeing that we should be people that are constantly asking God for His grace, we become people who are quietly self congratulating ourselves. That’s what’s going on in this text.

These Pharisees are justifying themselves in front of others, in the context of talking about money, then they’re saying things like this, „God must like me quite a lot, because he’s blessed me with quite a lot of money.” And so, when they came up to a spotlight in their brand new chariot, and came up to someone who was driving just a broken down donkey, they would not actually say, „I’m better than they are.” But, deep down, when the light changed and they took off in their chariot, they knew that they were better. It’s so easy when you have money to begin to rank yourself, as compared with others, on the basis of how much you’ve got. Now, let me insist again. There are Godly men in scripture with money like Job, for example. So, if you’re a job, you don’t need this comment I’m about to make.

But, if you are not a Job, I warn you that having a lot of money is so easily away of justifying yourself in front of others who have less. You develop a ranking system in the church- not on the basis of Godliness or evangelistic fervor, but, on the basis of money. What does Jesus say about that? Verse 15- „what people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.” Now you see, it’s not the money God detests. He detests the money when people value the money so much as to make the money God. When they start to justify themselves on the basis of their money, then God detests it. Once again, we discover that the context is talking quite a lot about money.

The idolatry of possessions

At the end of chapter 15- The Parable of the Prodigal Son- (in which) a prodigal wastes His father’s possessions. Then at the beginning of chapter 16 – a dishonest servant wastes his master’s possession. Now, in the story of ‘the rich man and Lazarus‘, a rich man wastes his own possessions. In fact, we’re in a part of Luke’s Gospel where there’s a lot of emphasis on the idolatry of possessions. But, in principle, once again I must remind you that you could tell a very similar story  if you made sex your god, or if you made power your god, or if you made beauty your god, or if you made being a hunk your god. But here, the focus is on money. (18:30) There are still 40 minutes left of this message, which you can watch below. Uploaded by
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The God Who Helps by D.A. Carson

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If you live long enough, you’re gonna get kicked in the teeth. If you live long enough, you will be bereaved. If you live long enough you will face major disappointment, you may lose a job. You may lose a friend, you may lose a marriage, you may find yourself impoverished or you may find yourself so enslaved by vicious sins that you loathe yourself. You are so addicted to the porn on the internet and you don’t know what to do. Or you have nurtured bitterness for members of your family and you don’t know how to escape. You know it’s not right, it is poisoning you and you don’t have a clue what to do about it.

Psalm 40

‘God is our helper’. Sometimes we tend to think of the songs as 150 individual pearls on a string. But many of the psalms are grouped together in important ways. Psalm 37 underscores the importance of waiting on God. Psalms 38 and 39 give us the application of waiting on God, worked out in painful self examination. And now in Psalm 40, at least initially, gloom is lifted. There is a triumphant outcome. David has waited on the Lord and the Lord has helped him.

That brings us to the two major divisions of the Psalms. In verses 1-10, the Psalm is full of joy, praise to the God who helps. This can usefully be broken down into 4 stanzas, four parts:

1. Personal testimony verses 1-3

I waited on the Lord – Verse 1 bursts with delight: ‘I waited patiently for the Lord, who turned to me and heard my cry’.  This is a purposefully resolved waiting. Now what was it that David was saved from? Verse 2 describes it metaphorically: ‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on the rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Some miry bog; the image suggests both disgust and floundering helplessness. But what was it? Sickness, en-chaining sin, discouragement, peril from enemies? We don’t have a clue and this is one of those verses that is a blessing that we don’t have a clue. For if we knew exactly what it was, we would be inclined to make appropriate application only if we were exactly in the same peril. But, by preserving the metaphor and not identifying it precisely, God has given us a kind of generic insightWe can fall into very many different kind of bogs and God is our only rescuer.

One is reminded of Paul’s thorn in the flesh in 2 Corinthians 12: There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan… to teach him humility. What the thorn in the flesh was? Well, there have been scores of answers. In my mind, I can probably narrow them down to a probable 3 or 4. Beyond that point I can’t quite be certain and once again, the metaphorical ambiguity is a great help. God knows ‘you’ intimately and He knows what kinds of bogs you are either in or have come through, or will fall into if you live long enough. And here this psalm provides David’s testimony, precisely to that kind of experience.

‘New song’ language in the Scriptures always marks some new blessing from God

David, extending the metaphor, has been rescued from this slimy pit, from this miry bog. Not mere escape like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 38, but now with a new place on which to stand. Even so, quite remarkably, David does not focus extensively on his release, as if he were the center of the universe. Rather, his words flow out to God and out to others (v 3). ‘New song’ language in the Scriptures always marks some new blessing from God and evokes a new song. It’s as if all the songs that we’ve sung are inadequate to praise God for the new blessings that we receive.

The most remarkable ‘new song’ of Revelation 4 & 5

The most remarkable ‘new song’ passage in all of Holy Scripture is the one found in the great apocalyptic vision in Revelation 4 and 5. In Revelation 4, God is presented in colorful metaphors, spectacular apocalyptic language- as the sovereign God, the transcendent God, a Creator God. Before Him, the highest orders of angelic beings bow before Him and cast their thrones before Him. They acknowledge their utter dependance upon Him and they come together and sing, „You are worthy because you have created all things, and by Your will they were created. And once this setting is established, God transcendent, God powerful, God the Creatorm then drama unfolds. Revelaton 4 is to Revelation 5 what a setting is to a drama. Once God’s great transcendent glory is established in chapter 4, the drama unfolds in chapter 5.

In the right hand of Him who sits on the throne, we are told, is a scroll, sealed with seven seals. That scroll has all of God’s purposes for redemption and judgement. That’s what the scroll contains- all of God’s purposes for the entire universe for judgment and redemption, and is sealed with 7 seals. In the symbolism of the day, whatever is in that scroll can be enacted only if you slit the seal. And so, in the drama, this scroll with all of God’s purposes is sealed with 7 seals and now a mighty angel challenges the entire universe: Who is worthy to approach this God and take the scroll from His right hand?  and slit the seals, and thus bring about all of God’s purposes- redemption and judgement. And no one is found who is worthy. Not the cherubim and seraphim, not the elders, no one on the earth, no one under the earth in the abodes of the dead, no angel. And John weeps, not because he is nosy and his curiosity is stifled. But, because in the symbolism of the vision, this means that God’s purposes for judgement, justice and blessing will not be brought to pass. And as he’s weeping, an interpreting elder taps him on the shoulder and says, „John, stop your weeping. Look, the lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to open the scroll”. „So, I looked”, John says, „and I saw a Lamb”. We’re not to think of 2 animals, parked side by side- a lion and a lamb. The lion is the lamb. He’s the lion of the tribe of Judah, but He’s also the Lamb of God who is slaughtered. Yet, a Lamb with 7 horns. In the symbolism of the day that means a slaughtered sacrificial lamb, that nevertheless had the perfection of all kingly power that the horn symbolizes. In consequence of this, because He comes from the throne itself and takes the scroll out of the hand of Him who sits on the throne, He prevails to bring about all of God’s purposes for judgement and blessing. And they ‘sing a new song’!

And what is this song? It’s no longer the song praising God for Creation, as great as that song is, as legitimate and perennial as it is. It is a song addressed to Christ, „You are worthy to open the scroll”. For He shed his blood to rescue men and women drawn from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. They shall reign in the new heaven and the new earth. Here is a new song, brought about by the new event it redempted in the ministry of the Lion-Lamb, bringing about all of God’s purposes.

Now this vision here in Psalm 40 is not quite so – Salvation, historically transcendent and yet, in our experience, is there not time when we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. We do know that God is faithfulWe have known of God’s provision in the past. And then we go through some new, agonizing thing. God pours out His grace upon us in spectacular ways and we sing a new song! Sometimes it’s after bereavement. Sometimes, in the life of the church it’s after decades of really difficult, challenging situation and then suddenly there is massive movement.

D A Carson’s father’s experience in ‘liberal’ Canada

In the province of Quebec, where I grew up, my father was one of the first pastors back in French Canada after liberalism had decimated the relatively few churches in a population of about 6 1/2 million french speakers. He started in the late 30’s when another man from Switzerland, William F. (?) and gradually dozens of pastors from the United States and from english Canada returned, started planting churches… There was a lot of persecution. Baptist ministers alone spent 8 years in jail between 1950 and 1952. We kids were regularly beaten up because we were ‘damned protestants’. As recently as 1972, there were only 35 or 36 evangelical churches of any description, most with not more than 40 people in all of this population of 6 1/2 million. And then in 8 years we grew from 35 churches to 500, and God put a new song in our mouths, even praise to our God.

Here’s personal testimony (David in Psalm 40, verses 1-3). One of the wonderful things is that David immediately turns that to public principle.

 

2. Public principle (v. 4-5) 

Instead of talking in the first person, he now talks about the third person. He connects the 2 sessions by a little hook word. Have you noticed- verse 3: ‘many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’. And now he talks generically in verse 4: Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, oh Lord, my God are the wonders You have done. The things You plan for us, no one can recount to you.

This is wonderful. There is reflection now in David and all of the good things that God has done. Come through one of these wretched experiences, come out of the other side of a miry bog and it gives time for you to take a deep breath and think about all God’s plans for you. And you look back and think again and marvel at all of God’s goodness. There is a marvelous parallel passage  to this in Psalm 139, sometimes I think, slightly misunderstood. Psalm 139:13: For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My  frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. Do you see? This is not simply a passage that is marveling at God’s omniscience. How can you ever begin to grasp the innumerable thoughts of God?

In the flow od the sequence, it is very personal. God has created us in the womb and His sovereignty is so sweeping . Even before we are born our days are ordained for us. God knows the terrible things we will be going through, the bogs in this broken world that we will ourselves fall into. He knows them all. Hid sovereignty is extended even unto all these details He thinks about and He knows about them all. All of His thoughts concerning us are innumerable and still He can be trusted as the sovereign, good God that comes to rescue His people.

3. Personal self dedication (v 6-8)

What is the only proper response for such deliverance? Slaughter a lamb? Perhaps. Bring a bull? Well, maybe you’re poor, so 2 turtle doves will do instead. Is that an adequate response to this sort of God? Ultimately we must bring our entire being to God, our heart and will. We read, „Sacrifice and offering You did not desire”,  (now the next line is extremely difficult, I’ll come back to it), burnt offerings You did not require. Then I said, „Here I am, I have come. It is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, o my God. Your law is within my heart”. Now, the general thought in these 3 verses is clear: Mere formal offering of sacrifice is not adequate response to a God who saves us from all of these miry bogs, whose sovereignty extends to every dimension of our life, we trust HIm to help us with every kind of situation. The only adequate response is to say, „Here I am, I have come to do your will. It’s the only ultimate response that is even the beginnings of being adequate.

The ear piercing = an open ear to hear the Lord

And before we press farther we need to think about the second line in verse 6. It is difficult to understand. Many English versions have ‘sacrifice and offerings you did not desire but, my ears you have pierced. And the Hebrew verb can be understood that way. And then, people wonder if this is a reflection of something that takes place in the Book of Exodus, chapter 21. In the ancient world, sometimes people fell into slavery because of raiding parties or military activity. But, sometime they fell into slavery because there was no chapter 11 and chapter 13 laws, no bankruptcy laws. So, you borrowed some money, then your business went belly up and the only way out was to sell yourself and perhaps your family into slavery. But, perhaps you fell into the hands of a really good master who provided you with food and shelter for you and your family, at a time when the unemployment rate is a nays 20-25%. Under Jewish law, when the Israelites were actually observing it, after a set number of years, then you were supposed to be released. In other words, slavery in Israel was not supposed to be open ended, it was a form of indentured service rather than being open ended. Supposing, someone came to the end of this 7 years of indentured service  and looked around and saw that the economy wasn’t very good and his master was really good, maybe he should just stay on a slave. It might be just a bit better. Then he went on with an ear piercing ceremony. It was a way of saying- henceforth, this man will belong to this household.

So perhaps that is what it’s saying- that from now on, David will belong to the house of God. Now the problem with that interpretation is- everything we know about this ear piercing ceremony describes only one ear being pierced. But here, the text says: My ears you have pierced. Now, there’s another way of understanding that verb in Hebrew and literally, it means ‘my ears you have dug out’. Now, what does that mean? It is merely saying: Listen up, what’s blocking your ears? Pay attention! In other words, what is required here is not merely offering of sacrifice, but an open ear before the Lord so that we hear what He says and listen to Him.

There is a wonderful passage in one of the servant songs of Isaiah, in Isaiah chap. 50, with exactly the same thought, not the same verb, but the same thought. Isaiah 50:54 where the suffering servant of Yahweh says, „The sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning. Wakens my ears to listen, like one being taught. The sovereign Lord has opened my ears and I have not been rebellious. I have not drawn back. I offer my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pull at my beard.” Do you see? This is an anticipation of the suffering servant’s suffering. An anticipation of Jesus crying in Ghetsemane, „Not My will, but Yours be done”, because His heavenly Father gave Him an open ear. He listened to the voice of His heavenly Father and was perfectly obedient. If David was obedient, how much more so David’s greater Son?

‘You are God, You are sovereign. Dig out my ears so that I may listen. Let me be Yours in thought and word and deed, my whole body serving you.’ Isn’t that same thought found in the apostle Paul- ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind‘. And before that, ‘I beseech you brothers by the mercies of God to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship‘. There is Paul, saying something very similar to David. But, the ultimate one who hears God’s word in this way is Christ Himself, and it takes Him to the cross. That is what is required of us, by way of response, to the fact that God takes us out of miry bogs.

4. Public proclamation (v 9-10)

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. 10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. That is ‘I don’t hide it in my heart as if it’s entirely private, I announce it! I speak of your faithfulness and salvation’

I know full well that there are different styles of display of thanksgiving that are in part culture driven. This is true even in greetings. This sort of thing comes out in how we give thanks to God. David is realistic. I think some of us from more reserved traditions are afraid to let it hang out. Less people will look down on us. But David is not in that group. Listen to what David says, this is the word of God: „I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly, I do not seal my lips, as you know, o Lord. I do not hide your righteousness! I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your truth and love from the great assembly. „

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those of us who have been in those deep waters owe it to the entire assembly to speak of God’s goodness and mercy in the public arena so that others, a new generation coming along behind and those who have not had many miry bogs yet learn how to give thanks to God. It’s not just that you show the way of how to go through the bog, you also show the way of how to give thanks afterwards. And, as Christians give thanks to God almighty for all of the blessings they’ve received, not in the least in the hardest times. They teach a whole new generation to trust the living God.

Brothers and sisters, when you come out of your miry bog don’t slink into an endless pity party. Give thanks to God in the assembly and teach a new generation the goodness of God.

Now the second division of the psalm (Psalm 40) I can cover in 3 or 4 minutes, but it is important to note how it works. Here is verses 11-17 there is renewed anticipation of the God who helps. Verse 11 can be understood either as a petition or as a statement. What strikes you about this , granted, he’s just come through a miry bog, why is David going on to talk about ongoing protection? Because, of course, just because you have lost a child does not necessarily mean that you can escape cancer. Just because you’ve been through a really difficult ecclesiastical situation does not necessarily mean that you won’t face bereavement. This is still a damned world. There are wonderful things here, signs of God’s grace in so many ways, but this is still a death dealing world and David is astute enough to understand that just because God has taken him out of one miry bog, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more miry bogs down the road.

And so, David reminds himself that God must still be his helper. He runs through six domains, he still needs help. He will always need help.:

  1. God helps in the arena of personal sin (v. 12)
  2. God helps in the arena of bitter enemies (v. 13-15)
  3. God helps all who seek him, that is, all who seek God’s glory (v.16)
  4. God helps even me (v.17)

God is not our helper like some kind of a genie who comes along and gives some assistance, the help He gives is always within the framework where God is God. And we respond by saying, ” Thy will be done, may the Lord be exalted!”  Religion demands we do certain things to get help from God. Ancient paganism was like that. But supposing you’re dealing with a God to whom you really can give nothing, who already owns it all, a God with whom you cannot possibly barter. Then what does religion look like? That’s why religion of the Bible is no standard of religion at all. It is a disclosure of a living God of grace who comes along to help us. And we, his creatures, first of all acknowledge our creatureliness, then our guilt and bow before and accept His sovereignty and forgiveness. There is no other proper relationship with this living God. Finally, we bow before Him on bended knee in contrition and brokenness because we know that we don’t have something to trade with Him.
Nothing in my hands I bring,
only to Thy cross I cling,
naked come to thee for dress,
hopeless look to thee for rest.
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
wash me Savior or I die.
And so we come to the cross and to the Father who sent His son and we find Him always a help in time of need.

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