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God Is Good, Just, and Sovereign in Our Suffering (Part 2)

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When we suffer, we’re often tempted to echo Job’s accusation of God from Job 9:24, “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked” because God “covers the faces of its judges.” But does this accusation hold water? Did Job have to indict God for injustice in order to uphold his own divinely declared blamelessness (cf. 1:1, 8; 2:3; 42:7)? God’s first speech makes clear that Job should not have condemned God while rightly maintaining that he did not directly deserve his intense sufferings. Human suffering is not always (often?) the direct result of God’s judgment on sin. According to God’s first speech to Job (38:1–40:2), we can have our cake and eat it, too, when it comes to God’s righteousness and blameless suffering. To teach Job this lesson, God forcefully defends himself against Job’s accusations and humbles Job under the irrefutable evidence of his good justice in all the natural world.

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” God asks thunderously from the whirlwind (38:2). Job had hoped to try God; now God has appeared and will try Job. God invalidates Job’s accusations against him as “words without knowledge” (38:2) and proceeds in his first speech to Job to explain how Job’s words were so ignorant. God’s sovereignty over the world is both good and just, contrary to Job’s accusations from the depths of his despair.

God makes this argument by forcefully using rhetorical questions, the first series of which discuss the act of creation itself in order to impress upon Job God’s goodness in creating the world (38:4–11). When God “laid the foundation of the earth,” “determined its measurements,” and “laid its cornerstone,” the “sons of God shouted for joy” (vv. 4–7). In other words, when God created the natural world, the heavenly host of angels rejoiced. They rejoiced because God had made a good creation, which is the implicit point of vv. 8–11. These vv. describe God “shut[ting] in the sea with doors” and “prescrib[ing] limits for it.” These sovereign acts occurred literally at creation, but they signify that God creates order out of chaos. This act is good, even to the chaotic sea itself. God “made clouds its garment” and swaddled it in “thick darkness” (v. 9). These metaphors use language reminiscent of a mother lovingly swaddling a newborn baby. God’s creation of a good natural world resulted in supernatural joy and demonstrates God’s good, just love for this creation.

God then asks Job about the daily sunrise in 38:12–15 in order to impress upon Job God’s good justice. Based on his personal experiences and observation of the world, Job had asked, “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty” (24:1)? Job has seen the wicked gain wealth at the expense of the poor, who consequently lack food and clothing (24:2–11). Taking what he has seen at face value, Job had concluded, “God charges no one with wrong” (24:12). God now responds to this accusation by revealing to Job a purpose for the dawning of each new day: to “take hold of the skirts of the earth” so that “the wicked be shaken out of it” (38:13). God reminds Job that the world is much vaster than Job’s observation allows. Contrary to Job’s observed knowledge, God does, in fact, visit justice on the wicked every day so that the “light” of the morning dawn “is withheld” from them, “and their uplifted arm is broken” (38:15). God justly punishes the wicked, even though he does not do so according to Job’s timeline. Such is his prerogative as the sovereign Creator of the universe.

Most of the remainder of this first barrage of Job concerns God’s sovereign control over the natural world, both heavenly phenomena (38:22–38) and animals (38:39–39:30). Even where no people live to cultivate the land, God cultivates the land himself (38:26–27). In Job 38:26–27 God reminds Job about how he provides rain so that the ground sprouts grass in order to inspire Job to renewed faith in God’s goodness even though Job has not been experiencing God’s goodness as fully in the context of the story as he had throughout his life. God also demonstrates his goodness by giving freedom to wild donkeys (39:6). God even ensures the survival of foolish ostriches, which “leave their eggs to the earth … forgetting that a foot may crush them / and that the wild beast may trample them” (39:14–15). As Michael Fox has noted, “God is for abandoned animals what he is for human orphans” (“God’s Answer and Job’s Response,” Biblica 94, no. 1 [2013]: 8 n. 24).

Since Job had denied that God’s sovereignty over the natural world is just and good, God rightly concludes his first speech, in which he declares what Job had denied, with a challenge to Job. “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?” God asks. “He who argues with God, let him answer it” (40:2). God has presented his case, and he challenges Job to answer it. God’s aim has been both to humble Job into submission to God’s powerful authority and to produce faith in Job in God’s just goodness. He invites us to do the same in the midst of our sufferings. Will we trust his goodness and justice toward us based on his goodness and justice in all the natural world?

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Written by Jordan Atkinson

June 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

Posted in General Posts

“Joyful Confidence” in the face of the Supreme Court’s Ruling on Gay Marriage

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Dr. Russell Moore’s video response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of legislating gay marriage nationwide is the best I’ve seen:

Something that has struck me each time I’ve watched the video is Dr. Moore’s call to us Christians to be “people of joyful confidence,” in part because the non-Christian supporters of the Supreme Court’s decision can be heard in the background shouting for joy.

As Dr. Moore urges us in his response to the ruling, we Christians must hold fast to the true source of eternally lasting joy, the gospel of Jesus Christ, who “can’t be put back into the grave.”

Our responsibility as Christians moving forward in this drastically changed and changing culture is to share the gospel with all sinners in love and out of hope of bringing them to him who will truly satisfy them: Jesus Christ.

The Folly of Anger and the Wisdom of Jesus

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Yesterday I read Jonathan Parnell’s post, “That Angry Gentleman at the Restaurant,” at DesiringGod.org. Parnell’s anecdote about a man he saw blow his gasket recently at a restaurant serves to turn the tables onto us:

Then I realized it was me.

Okay, it wasn’t really me. I wasn’t the angry gentleman in the restaurant on this particular night. But I’ve been angry before, and I must look just as stupid.

That is the thing with anger, and the thing I needed to learn — perhaps we all could learn — from a scene like the one this angry gentleman put on. Unrighteous anger, no matter where it’s at, is silly.

Anger is always telling us something [link in original post, and I recommend reading that post, as well!], and most of the time, if we’re honest, it’s saying we’re ridiculous.

Those are words I needed to read. Those are words I need to lay to heart. When I get unrighteously angry, which is the case most of the times I’m angry, I’m being sinfully foolish. Solomon puts it this way in Prov. 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” God through Solomon is clear: anger is foolish. According to Solomon, wise people control their anger, whereas fools are controlled by their anger.

How often, to my shame, do I play the fool! How often, to my shame, do I let my anger control me, when I should be the one controlling it! The Holy Spirit convicts me: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20).

Unrighteous anger is silly and ridiculous. Worse still it is ugly. It is a perversion of the wisdom to be Christlike. When Christ was angry, his anger was perfectly righteous. He never sinned in his anger. And there’s the rub: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Easy words to say, some of the hardest words to put into action.

On my own, there’s no way for me to do this. On my own, it’s impossible for me to control my anger. Thankfully, the gospel brings me hope from despair.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph. 4:31–5:2)

How am I to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? How am I to put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander? By dwelling on the fact that God has forgiven me of much more than I will ever forgive anyone else. By imitating God as his beloved child. By walking in love because Christ loved me and gave himself up for me.

Enmity, strife, and fits of anger are fruits of the flesh (Gal. 5:20). It pains my heart that they remain in my heart and overflow from it all too often. But as a Christian I’m indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit. And patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are fruits that he can bear in me (Gal. 5:22, 23).

O God, bear the fruits of patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control in me! Prune the enmity, strife, and anger from my life. Help me to imitate you and to walk in love, as Christ loved me and gave himself up for me. For your glory, in his name.

Back from College!

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Blogging during the academic year has proven impossible for me, so I’m very excited to begin this summer break from my classes at The University of Alabama, which will give me enough time once again to blog regularly. For my classes at UA, I have to read books that don’t necessarily interest me and write papers on topics that often don’t stir my heart, so I look forward to being able to read books that I actually enjoy (like Thomas Schreiner’s The King in His Beauty, which I had to pause reading for the 2013-2014 academic year) and to write blog posts about subjects that do always stir my heart (like God and my family).

This summer, I’m excited to offer two new special features here at Things That Are Above: Wisdom Wednesdays and Review Thursdays. These alternating, biweekly features will respectively highlight devotional thoughts on the book of Proverbs, which I’m teaching my youth group on Wednesday nights, and reviews both of books I’ve read and of movies I’ve seen. I can’t wait to begin these regular series in addition to blogs on anything and everything else I find edifying enough to write about.

May God use this summer of blogging for his glory, by spreading the gospel to non-Christians who may happen upon this site and by edifying us Christians with blogs that help us to set our minds on things that are above.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Jordan

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