The Instability of Bad Theology

6 “For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’
    likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
He seals up the hand of every man,
    that all men whom he made may know it.
Then the beasts go into their lairs,
    and remain in their dens.
From its chamber comes the whirlwind,
    and cold from the scattering winds.
10 By the breath of God ice is given,
    and the broad waters are frozen fast.
11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture;
    the clouds scatter his lightning.
12 They turn around and around by his guidance,
    to accomplish all that he commands them
    on the face of the habitable world.
13 Whether for correction or for his land
    or for love, he causes it to happen.

14 “Hear this, O Job;
    stop and consider the wondrous works of God.
15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them
    and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?
16 Do you know the balancings of the clouds,
    the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge,
17 you whose garments are hot
    when the earth is still because of the south wind?
18 Can you, like him, spread out the skies,
    hard as a cast metal mirror?
19 Teach us what we shall say to him;
    we cannot draw up our case because of darkness.
20 Shall it be told him that I would speak?
    Did a man ever wish that he would be swallowed up?

21 “And now no one looks on the light
    when it is bright in the skies,
    when the wind has passed and cleared them.
22 Out of the north comes golden splendor;
    God is clothed with awesome majesty.
23 The Almighty—we cannot find him;
    he is great in power;
    justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
24 Therefore men fear him;
    he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.” – Job 37:6-24 ESV

Elihu continues his impassioned defense of God by emphasizing His sovereignty over creation. This God of whom Job has taken issue is the same God who controls the weather and, by extension, all created life. God is behind every storm and every drop of rain. He produces thunder, lightning, ice, wind, heat, and cold from His throne room in heaven, controlling the fates of all living creatures. Their habitats are directly impacted by His sovereign will and their well-being is under His providential control.

“He directs the snow to fall on the earth
    and tells the rain to pour down.
Then everyone stops working
    so they can watch his power.
The wild animals take cover
    and stay inside their dens. – Job 37:6-8 NLT

It’s not difficult to discern the point behind Elihu’s lofty rhetoric. This young man has not gotten distracted or forgotten about Job. This entire speech is intended to drive home his disdain for Job’s continued demand for an audience with God. Elihu finds Job’s personalized approach to God to be offensive. In his estimation, Job has gotten too comfortable with his relationship with the Almighty and has lost sight of His glory and splendor. Job is too demanding and has become far too casual in his conversations with Yahweh. He treats God like a peer when he should be cowering in fear and begging for mercy.

But Job and Elihu have strikingly different understandings of God. For Job, God is all-powerful, but also intimate and personal. He cares about the plight of His children and hears them when they call to Him. This is what has Job so perplexed and confused. He has suffered greatly and call out repeatedly, but God has not responded. His caring and compassionate God is acting in a way that is contrary to his nature.

Job is not demanding anything from God. He is simply asking for clarity on his circumstances. He wants to know why he is suffering and when he might expect to find relief. Job’s cries to God are not meant to be disrespectful; they are simply the impassioned pleas of a desperate man who longs to find relief and restoration. A quick review of Job’s comments provides insight into his thinking and the motivation behind his heartfelt cries to God.

“What I always feared has happened to me.
    What I dreaded has come true.
I have no peace, no quietness.
    I have no rest; only trouble comes.” – Job 3:25-26 NLT

At least I can take comfort in this:
    Despite the pain,
    I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
But I don’t have the strength to endure.
    I have nothing to live for. – Job 6:10-11 NLT

“My days fly faster than a weaver’s shuttle.
    They end without hope.
O God, remember that my life is but a breath,
    and I will never again feel happiness. – Job 7:6-7 NLT

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
    O watcher of all humanity?
Why make me your target?
    Am I a burden to you?
Why not just forgive my sin
    and take away my guilt?
For soon I will lie down in the dust and die.
    When you look for me, I will be gone.” – Job 7:20-21 NLT

Job was not being disrespectful; he was being brutally honest. The unbearable nature of his pain and loss had left him in dire need of expiation or an explanation. He wanted to know the why behind his suffering. Why had he lost his entire fortune? Why had all ten of his adult children died in a freak accident? Why had his reputation been dragged through the mud and his integrity been destroyed by the unjust comments of former friends? Why had God not intervened or simply destroyed him? If Job had done something worthy of all this devastation, why had God not left him alive? If he was innocent, why would God not come to his defense and acquit him of all the false charges against him?

But Job wasn’t stupid. He knew God was holy, righteous, and transcendent. The Almighty was not a man whom Job could order to appear in court and answer for His actions.

“…how can a person be declared innocent in God’s sight?
If someone wanted to take God to court,
    would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times?
For God is so wise and so mighty.
    Who has ever challenged him successfully?” – Job 9:2-3 NLT

Since God is the righteous Judge of the universe, Job knew he stood no chance of successfully arguing his case or achieving an acquittal.

“God is not a mortal like me,
    so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.
If only there were a mediator between us,
    someone who could bring us together. – Job 9:32-33 NLT

These statements reveal that Job had a deep respect for God but they also display the depth of his despair. He knew God was his only hope but he felt as if he had no access to the only One who could justify or judge him. Among his friends, Job’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. It was an open-and-shut case that left no room for denial or debate. Yet, Job kept reaching out to God for a second and more vital opinion on the matter.

Then there was Elihu. His view of God was admirable and, for the most part, accurate. He saw God as a powerful and unparalleled in glory. He was the transcendent God who ruled over all creation and reigned in mighty and majesty. He was without equal and worthy of honor and obedience. Elihu’s God was completely righteous and always right. He was free to do as He pleased and whatever He did was just and fair. No one should dare to question His ways or doubt the efficacy of his actions. That’s why Elihu took exception with Job’s constant complaints aimed at the Almighty. As far as Elihu was concerned, Job was out of bounds and way over his head.

And Elihu kept trying to remind Job that his circumstances were the result of God’s divine judgment. He was in this predicament because he had failed to show God proper respect.

“The clouds churn about at his direction.
    They do whatever he commands throughout the earth.
He makes these things happen either to punish people
    or to show his unfailing love.” – Job 37:12-13 NLT

From everything else Elihu has said, it’s doubtful that he believed Job was the recipient of God’s unfailing love. All the evidence was stacked in the favor of God’s judgment. It was obvious to Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that Job was guilty and deserving of everything that had happened. These four men had no idea what Job had done to merit such a harsh punishment from God but they were convinced that he had done something.

As Elihu begins to wrap up his lengthy and meandering speech, he devolves into the use of sarcasm, attempting to humiliate and belittle Job.

“So teach the rest of us what to say to God.
    We are too ignorant to make our own arguments.
Should God be notified that I want to speak?
    Can people even speak when they are confused? – Job 37:19-20 NLT

He mocks Job for his incessant demands for an audience with God. In Elihu’s estimation, Job is a fool at best and a blasphemer at worst. He views Job as an ignorant sinner who has no respect for the God of the universe and is destined to suffer the consequences for his impiety and immorality.

In a false display of compassion, Elihu encourages Job to change his ways and show God the respect and honor he deserves.

“We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty;
    but even though he is just and righteous,
    he does not destroy us.
No wonder people everywhere fear him.
    All who are wise show him reverence.” – Job 37:23-24 NLT

But this will prove to be the last words that Elihu or his companions will speak. Their time to pontificate and postulate is over. Now they will hear from the One for whom they claimed to be speaking. The very God whom they thought they knew was about to expose the ignorance of their ways. And much to their shock, God would begin His speech by addressing Job directly. Their friend would get his wish. The transcendent, all-powerful God of the universe had heard Job’s cries and was ready to speak.

But what comes next will prove to be a surprise to all the parties involved. Everyone, including Job, is about to get a lecture from God that will leave them at a loss for words and in need of an overhaul of their theology.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Time & Eternity.

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.

14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 ESV

In just eight short verses, Solomon uses a single word 29 times, and that word is “time.” He uses the Hebrew word, ’eth. In 257 out of the nearly 300 instances that Hebrew word is found in the King James Bible, it is translated as “time.” And it seems that Solomon is using this particular word to drive home a contrast between life as we know it on this temporal plane, and the timeless dimension of eternity. Solomon’s dilemma, like every other human being who has ever lived, is that he is restricted in his ability to discern anything beyond what he can see. He makes the very astute observation that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” In other words, we have an innate awareness that there is something beyond this life, but we can’t perceive it. As Solomon puts it, man “cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” The New Living Translation puts it this way: “people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” We are temporal creatures, living our temporary lives on this earth, hamstrung by the limitations of our human senses and incapable of seeing what lies beyond the day of our last breath.

It is important that we keep in mind that Solomon, writing this book sometime near the end of his life, has veered from the course established for him by God. He has surrounded himself with wealth, women, possessions, and pleasures of all kinds. He has set up idols to false gods all over the kingdom, and allowed himself to be distracted from his faithfulness to the one true God. His ability to see things from a godly perspective has been harmed and hindered by his love affair with material things, worldly pleasures, and man-made replacements for God. His world view has become influenced by the secular rather than the sacred. So, 29 times in these verses, he speaks of life in terms of time. And he does so by providing 14 stark contrasts that portray life as seen from his limited human perspective. Life lived on this earthly plane and viewed from a human perspective is nothing more than a series of polar extremes. The hope and joy of birth is contrasted with the sadness and seeming finality of death. Planting culminates with harvesting, and you begin the cycle again. Killing is an inevitable reality in life, and starkly at odds with the need for healing. There are times when tearing down follows a season of building up. Why? Because nothing in this life truly lasts. Weeping and laughter, as disparate and dissimilar as they are, share a strange coexistence, equally impacting the lives of men for good or bad. These various actions are relegated to time. They are aspects of human existence that, without a God-focused perspective, create a dissonance in the heart of man that can’t be understand or explained. They present, in just another form, the cyclical, repetitive and meaningless nature of life lived devoid of an eternal perspective.

Solomon acknowledges that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.” There are those moments in life when we can enjoy the birth of a baby, the joy of laughter and dancing, the blessings of the harvest, the experience of loving and being loved, and the presence of peace in our lives and world. But that doesn’t keep him from asking the question: “What gain has the worker from his toil?” In other words, what benefit does a man enjoy from all the effort and energy he puts into his life? Whether he likes it or not, there will come a time when he has to replace the harvest he reaped by sowing again. He may one day be forced to watch the death of the child whose birth he witnessed. He will experience the pain that comes when love turns to hate and gain turns to loss. And Solomon describes it as “the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with” (Ecclesiastes 3:10 ESV). So, according to Solomon and based on his secular-based viewpoint, the best outcome human beings can hope for is “to be joyful and to do good as long as they live” (Ecclesiastes 3:12 ESV). As far as Solomon can tell, the most logical response, in light of the inevitability and futility of life, is that “everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil.” Why? Because “this is God’s gift to man.” What Solomon really seems to be saying is that if anyone can experience any semblance of joy and pleasure in the midst of all the meaninglessness of life, they should consider it a gift from God, and enjoy it while they can.

And Solomon reveals the pessimistic nature of his worldview by stating, “whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14 ESV). While this speaks of God’s sovereignty and providential control over all things, Solomon seems to be saying it with less than a positive point of view. He doesn’t exude a spirit of peace and solace with this statement, but a sort of hopeless resignation. He further qualifies his view by saying, That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away” (Ecclesiastes 3:15 ESV). Here is yet another reference to to the cyclical, repetitive, and futile essence of life lived under the sun. No sense of eternity. No expression of hope in what is to come. It is almost as if Solomon is painting God as some kind of cosmic puppet master in the sky who toys with man, determining his destiny, and relegating him to a hopeless existence featuring equal parts toil and trouble and joy and pleasure.

But Solomon had a warped perspective. He had lost his ability to see life through the lens of God’s love and faithfulness. His abandonment of the eternal God had left him with nothing but a temporal view of life. He had become blinded to the sovereign will of God that is always accompanied by the loving mercy of God. His sense of purposelessness was the direct byproduct of his lack of faithfulness. God was not the one who had changed. God was not the one who had moved. Solomon’s loss of hope was due to his loss of trust in God.


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Great Loss. Great Gain.

In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. And when the boy came to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the boy and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” And Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city. – 1 Samuel 20:35-42 ESV

David had experienced incredible life change over a very short period of time. He had gone from shepherding his family’s flocks to serving as the king’s armor bearer. He had been anointed by the prophet of God. He had slain Goliath. He had become a great military leader and champion against the Philistines. The people loved him. They even composed songs about him. But at the same time, David had gone through his incredibly confusing, totally inexplicable on-again, off-again relationship with Saul. One day the king loved him. The next, the king was trying to pin him against the wall with a spear. Saul had even tried to use David’s wife (Saul’s daughter) and best friend (Saul’s son) against him. He had sent troops to hunt David down and kill him. And in the process, David suffered great loss. He had lost his position on the king’s staff. He had lost his prominence as one of the king’s warriors. He had lost his wife, as he was forced to flee for his life. And now he was going to lose best friend, as he received the news from Jonathan that all was not well. He was not going to be able to return to the court, because Saul wanted him dead.

What is so important for us to remember in all of this is that David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. It is still unclear from the text whether David knew or fully understood what his anointing by Samuel had meant. At no point in the story so far, have we seen any sign that David recognized Saul’s evil intentions against him as the result of Saul’s jealousy over David’s anointing. In fact, David asked Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” (1 Samuel 20:1 ESV). He seemed genuinely at a loss as to why Saul wanted him dead. And David shows no sign of understanding why Jonathan, the son of the king and natural heir to the throne, might have a problem with his anointing to be the next king. It would seem, at least at this point in the story, that David is oblivious to God’s future plans for his life. All he could see was loss. Whatever Samuel’s anointing had meant, it had left David suffering great loss. He was now going to be a man on the run, a fugitive. He was losing his family, wife, job, best friend, dignity, and any hope of living a normal life.  When he and Jonathan parted ways, it says, “they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most” (1 Samuel 20:41 ESV). This was a sad day. And the chapter ends on a very sad note, with the words, “And he rose and departed.”

Whether he fully understood it or not, David was the next king of Israel. He had been hand-chosen by God. “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV). David was to the God-ordained replacement for King Saul. And with God’s help and the Holy Spirit’s anointing, David would become the greatest king is Israel’s history. But long before David gained access to the throne of Israel, he would know what it was like to suffer great loss. It was as if God was knocking all the props on which David leaned out from under him. He had been a good and faithful shepherd, but God had removed him from the pasture and placed him in the palace. He had been the king’s armor bearer, but God promoted him to giant-slayer. He had been a mighty warrior, defeating the enemies of Israel, but now he be fighting for his life. David had been a happily married man, but had been forced to leave his wife behind in order to stay alive. He had enjoyed a deep and lasting friendship with Jonathan, but the two of them had to part ways, never expecting to see one another again. Everything David had in his life that brought him any fulfillment, joy, support, love, dignity, recognition, accomplishment or sense of self-worth, was being removed. He would give up the comfort of the palace for the dark and dank confines of a cave. He would learn what it was like to go hungry and without sleep. He would struggle with self-doubt, fear, loneliness, despair, and a growing sense of his own weakness.

But God was in it all. I am reminded of the words of Jesus, spoken to His disciples.

“I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” – Matthew 19:28-30 NLT

Like David, the disciples had been called by God. And that calling would prove costly for all of them. Jesus had warned them:

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” – Matthew 10:16-20 NLT

Most of them would die as martyrs. All of them would suffer loss and know what it was like to be hated, despised, abused and rejected by men. But God had great plans for their lives. He would use each of them to accomplish His will and, as Jesus promised them, they would do greater works than He had done while on earth.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” – John 14:12-14 NLT

David was going to learn that the great gain God had in store for him was going to require great loss. God was in the process of making David God-dependent, not self-sufficient. He was teaching David the invaluable lesson of reliance upon Him. All of us have crutches in life, upon which we learn to lean and with which we grow comfortably incapacitated. But God would have us lean on Him. He would have us find our hope, help, strength, worth, fulfillment, and purpose for life in Him. David was a gifted young man, but God was out to make him a godly king. David had in Jonathan a true friend, but he would learn what it meant to have God as his companion. David had risked his life killing 200 Philistines in order to gain the right to marry Michal. But soon, David would discover what it was like to love and be loved by God – a relationship unlike any other in life.

In all of this, David was going to learn the truth behind the words of Jesus, spoken centuries later: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24 NLT). True allegiance to God requires complete dependence upon God. Experiencing the full power of God demands that we lose our reliance upon any source of support other than God. David was going to be forced to give up a lot, but what he would gain in return would be well worth it.

I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. – Psalm 18:1-2 NLT