Saturday, February 17, 2018

Tremper Longman III Regarding Job

“This message from the book of Job remains important today. since it is so tempting to believe that there is a natural and immediate connection between our action and rewards and punishments. In the NT, the disciples, who likely knew the story of Job, are quick to revert to retribution theology when they encounter a blind man: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?’ (John 9:2 NRSV). Jesus immediately corrects them (‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him,’ 9:3 NRSV), but even today people encountering a tragedy find themselves asking, What did I do to deserve this? Proponents of the prosperity gospel take advantage of this attitude in their argument that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. To depart from this way of thinking is frightening to many, because to do so means abandoning a sense of control.”[1]

[1] Job (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms), Baker Academic, 2012
Commentary by Tremper Longman III; Essay, “The Theological Message of the Book of Job.”; p. 66, 67.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

More Wisdom from The Book of Job

“Yahweh’s speeches are intended not to give Job an answer to the question of why he suffers but to re-establish the proper relationship between God and his human creature. Job has sought God to accuse him of injustice (40:8), but God, through a display of his power and wisdom, brings Job to the point where he “repents” (42:1-6). He no longer seeks an answer to the question of his suffering: he simply bends the knee to God in submission.”[1]

[1] Job (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms), Baker Academic, 2012
Commentary by Tremper Longman III; Essay, “The Theological Message of the Book of Job.”, p. 65.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Job and Retribution Theology

One of the strongest impulses within most of us is the belief that good people are rewarded, and bad people are punished. There is an immediacy to it. When bad things begin to happen to us, we quickly ask, “What did I ever do to deserve this?” When someone else is suffering in life, there is a natural tendency to see them as getting what they deserve. We love stories of “good people” who win the lottery. We like to believe it is because they deserve it. As a pastor and leader in the church, people often come to me for counsel and many times they speak of a feeling that they are being punished for wrong they have done. Even Jesus’ own disciples assume this “retribution theology” when they ask Jesus about their encounter with a blind man. “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he has been born blind,” they ask (John 9:2).[1] Jesus immediately corrects them and says neither, and yet you and I still tend to think that this is the way the world works. Proponents of the Prosperity Gospel use our natural tendency and try to convince us that this is indeed the way the world works.[2]

The Book of Job in the Old Testament is designed to help us understand the true way God functions. The preface of the book of Job is where we must begin and be certain to understand that Job is considered by God himself to be “innocent and virtuous” (1:8; and 2:3) long before and even after the calamities come upon him. The Accuser believes that if Job lost all that he had, and if his health was taken away, he would no longer be innocent, virtuous, and faithful to God. But God allows the Accuser to take away all of the good in Job’s life and still Job remains faithful, virtuous, and innocent.

The rest of the book is an explanation of the common understanding of retribution theology which Job’s friends and even Job seem to endorse. There is this sense in which humans are forever believing that if someone is suffering, they must have sinned; and even when the evidence suggests otherwise, we will continue to believe in this retribution theology.

Now some reading this article will argue that, indeed, retribution theology is the way in which God functions. They would show proof-texts from the book of Proverbs, or Deuteronomy 27, 28 (which connects obedience to God’s law with rewards and disobedience with curses) and tell us that is precisely how God functions. However, Tremper Longman III explains it this way.

“…one of the important contributions of the book of Job…is to undermine the idea that retribution theology works absolutely and mechanically. Sometimes sin does lead to negative consequences, but not always. Similarly, sometimes proper behavior leads to positive outcomes, but not always. Job serves as an example to warn against judging others on the basis of their situation in life.” (p. 67).

God never fully answers why Job suffers. God simply appears before Job and it is clear to Job that God is the only wise one. Job “repents” at the sight of an all-powerful God. But his repentance is not from

“sin that led to his suffering in the first place. In the dialogues, Job has grown increasingly impatient… He concludes that God is unjust. At the end of the story, he changes his attitude and behavior (he repents, in other words) toward God, now that he has not only heard about him but also seen him (42:5).”[3]

Thus, the other key learning from the Book of Job is that, regarding suffering, “…the ultimate resolution is patient suffering before a wise and powerful God.”[4] We may not understand it ourselves, but we can trust the wisdom of our God as we go through the sufferings of this life. Job is an important book that teaches about wisdom and suffering. May we read it carefully and mine all of the truths it has to offer.

[1] Here and throughout this article, I rely heavily upon Tremper Longman III’s excellent commentary on the book of Job and particularly the essay contained within it entitled “The Theological Message of the Book of Job.” Job (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms), Baker Academic, 2012 Commentary by Tremper Longman III.
[2] Longman p. 66, 67.
[3] Longman p. 65, 66.
[4] Longman p. 68.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Miserable and Corrupt

“Christ did not die for the good and beautiful. It is easy enough to die for the good and beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt.”
-Shusaku Endo; Silence, Picador, 2016.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Coals and Water

Coals and Water
(Performed by Angel Snow)
(Music and Lyrics by Angel Snow)

Fortune tellers dancin' 'round inside my head
I'm tryin' not to lose everything she said

Even so in standing at the foot of my bed last night
This mountains gettin' higher with every step
I'm trying not to lose everything I've kept

Captured by the fortune tellers in my mind

Ooohh, they always come back again
Every time freedom tries to pull me out
They suck me back in
Oooohh, we gonna' let that fire burn you
Tell me how you’re gonna' walk on coals and water too

Can you taste these words fallin' from my mouth
"Ain't old fashioned love what it's all about?"
I heard an old black man shout Christmas eve

Should've known better than to run to you
My heart started talking to me way to soon

Damn those fortune tellers in my mind

Oooohh, they always come back again
Every time freedom tries to pull me out
They suck me back in
Oooohh, we gonna' let that fire burn you
Tell me how your gonna' walk on coals and water too

Tell me how you gonna’ walk on coals and water too

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


Yesterday’s post featured a song, a poem, and a scripture speaking of roads. Each item is about making choices. The song by Krauss and Snow is about the mistakes in life and the roads taken that were wrong choices that affect the rest of our lives - and about the resolve to not make the same or even worse mistakes again. Taking the “road less traveled on” is seen as the way to avoid such mistakes.

The road less travelled is a common theme. Frost seems to choose (although there is some discussion about exactly which road the person chooses) the path that is less worn, the path that fewer people take. Jesus calls us to take the narrow road that is taken by fewer people. The question for us is, “what is the path less travelled?” How do we know whether or not we are on that path? Certainly, the path of following Jesus is a path less travelled. But, even then, there is a tendency to follow the crowd who seem to be following Jesus rather than to truly keep our eyes on the Master.

Meanwhile, Frost speaks of “telling this with a sigh.” Interpreting that sigh is truly the key to understanding the thoughts of this poet and the meaning of the poem (not necessarily one and the same). Certainly, to understand each of these poetic stories, one must take into account longing and regret, right and wrong, good choices and poor choices. Jesus calls us to the narrow way that few travel; but I must guard my own heart and mind so that I might not think too highly of the path I have chosen for myself. What of further branching of the road? I may have made one right or wrong choice but, in the immortal words of Robert Plant,

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.” (lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven")