Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Job's Friends Part 2

Job's Friends Part 2 

From Job, chapter 1 verse 2:

"There were born to him seven sons and three daughters."

Scriptures remind us that a blessed man has a full quiver.  Children are a blessing from the Lord, as any new parent can attest.  I wouldn't recommend asking too many parents of teenagers though.  In any case, the first pronouncement of Job's wealth, status and blessing from God begins with a list of his children.  He had seven son and three daughters.

In this age and time it is likely that Job would have had to pay to marry off his daughters, what would later be called a dowry.  However, it is also possible that someone would have to pay him for his daughters, cf. Jacob and Leah/Rachel.  In any case, there is an immediate pecuniary benefit to having seven sons.  We know that Job was an agrarian; a farmer.  In this trade a son would work all day and not require labor wages.  That is to say, there was no out-of-pocket expenditure for his day of labor.  Additionally, the son would be trusted more than a day laborer or hired hand.  I'm of the opinion that private capital leads to better management of resources.  This is certainly not a universally held position, but the Bible supports private ownership and here we see private ownership as a blessing from God.

Having seven sons to help on the family farm, Job had seven captains, if you will, to manage the servants and hired hands.  Instead of having to personally care for everyone, he could delegate and spend his time investing in the education, training and care of seven who would then train and manage others.  In this manner Job was able to have a sizeable farm by any age.  There are farmers today who make a living on fewer livestock than Job had with better technology.

There is an interesting ratio here as well.  In most societies women outnumber men.  They out-live men but are more prone to disease.  However, in most cultures there are more female babies born than male babies and for all of humanity, cultures have embraced males while slighting the female children.  The males were educated, given an inheritance, put in positions of honor.  And other men would judge a man by the number of boys he sired.  Science would later affirm that indeed, it is the father who determines the sex of the child.  It's just human nature.  And this passage is a recognition of Job's masculinity of sorts.

But Job's home wasn't without the grace and beauty of femininity.  He had three daughters to compliment his wife.  Job's wife is not portrayed completely in Scripture.  We know little to nothing of their love, of their commitment to one another, of their fidelity and spirituality.  We know that in extreme hardship - the kind none of us will ever experience - Job's wife doesn't give the best advice.  But neither do his friends, nor does Job hold fast to the best positions and ideals.

It may be that Job's wife was ungodly.  It may be that like all other aspects of Job's life, his wife was a blessing too.  We simply don't know.  In any case, she has borne Job ten children and that much alone is more than any other Godly man I can recollect from Scripture.  Job was blessed.

A family is a precious gift.  We receive it from God and hope that He lets us enjoy them for the entirety of our lives.  I had a sister when I was a child.  God's grace was such that he allowed me to enjoy her for 15 years.  And in God's Providence she is now home with the Lord Jesus Christ and I am left here to carry on.  I had a wife when I was younger.  God's grace was such that he gave me a wife for 8 years.  God has allowed a divorce and broken our family.  So that when I read about Job's family, I know the blessing of family.  I know the heartache of loss.  I don't know these things on the same scale as Job, but the flavor is in my mouth and I can recollect the memories of having a sister and having a wife.  I have a son and he is still a blessing in my life.  I know the love of a son and I know the love of a father.  

Job is not an abstract.  Job does not exist in a vacuum.  His righteousness and humanity is not given to us in parable form, rather it is demonstrated through relationships - real relationships with people who have names and loves and hurts.  His children aren't named for us, as his friends are, but we see something of them and their relationship to their father in the next few verses.  What I find here though is enough for some deep thought.

Job had ten children, seven sons and three daughters.  Job knew the fear that a father knows regarding the safety of his children. Job knew the hopes and dreams of any parent.  Job knew the delight in a daughter or son bouncing on his knee.  Job had a family.  And he was blessed.

This is an appropriate place to start.  I need to remember that Job had a family.  For everything else that I will read about his arguments has to be placed in perspective.  He had a loving family who played together, who worshiped together, who were his very own.  When that family is taken away there is going to be some serious pain.  I think those of us who have lost greatly can empathize with Job; indeed we may be able to sympathize with Job.  I know I can.  After seeing this part of Job's family scrap-book, I am hesitant to condemn anything Job says after he loses his family.  After all, who wouldn't give Job grace upon grace at that time.  Who knows his pain?

We all know the end of the story.  Job loses these children but gets more in the end.  That tells me more about Job's wife - they're in a healthy sexual relationship which produces a lot of offspring.  But he memories will last with him for a life-time.  I have new brothers and sisters today - in the form of my former brothers and sisters-in-law.  But the pain of loss of my little sister, now gone home almost 28 years ago, will never go away completely.

And the two shall become one...  It is interesting to note that Job does not lose his wife.  It may also be instructive that Satan doesn't ask for this either.  Perhaps it is because Satan felt he could use Job's wife against him?  Perhaps it is because the two had become one and God had already said that Satan would not be able to take his life.  If it is the latter, consider the reality of the two flesh becoming one.

When Job married his young bride, they became one flesh.  When one would die, a very real part of the other would die as well.  God sees them as one.  He joins them together, not a preacher, not the State.  God joins them together, he ordains the relationship and it is unique among all others.  They become one in a way that is different.  When God tells Satan that he may not harm Job's body, that includes his wife's body.  When he tells Satan not to kill Job; that includes Job's wife (or at least that is a possible understanding of the prohibition if not an absolute necessary understanding).

Job doesn't get a new wife.  And I believe Job doesn't need a new wife.  Trials come and trials go.  One thing we learn from Job and the trials God allows in his life is this:  Children are not the end-all of families; rather, marriage is.  He lost his children and God gave him new children.  But God never allowed Satan to take away his wife.  Let no man divide or separate what God has joined together - not even Satan.  

Today we are tempted to worship our children, and even to put them in front of our marriages.  I cannot help but see a spiritual truth here in Job though - Job's children were expendable.  Job's marriage was not.  Job's children were a blessing - Job's marriage is a covenant between God and man not to be broken by any man.

Please don't misunderstand me to say that divorce is always wrong; for it is.  But while wrong, it is sometimes allowed - particularly in the case of marital infidelity or sexual immorality.  But marriage is so sacrosanct that God would not allow Satan to severe the marriage so that it could be used against Job in the most severe test of man ever recorded.  For God instituted marriage. He does not break it - even to make a point.  He keeps his promises.

Men, we should treat marriage no less seriously.  Nothing is more important than our marriages.  No career, no child, no personal need is more important than our marriage.  No ministry is more important than our marriage.  When it comes down to it - all else other than the worship of God takes second stage to our marriages.  If we, as men, would do this and honor it, how would it change marriage today?  I'm not suggesting that there would be no divorce.  For women are sinners before God too.  But we have the power men, to at least change 50 percent of the problems in marriage today.

I have lost a spouse.  It hurts more than the loss of a sibling.  It hurts more than the loss of practically anything I can imagine.  And it doesn't stop hurting with time alone.  God's grace is sufficient and He heals all hearts of all hurts in His Providential timing.  I believe God is a God of reconciliation and restoration; but I also believe He is a God of repentance and holiness.  Sometimes he allows reconciliation and restoration - sometimes He does not.  In any case, we are to work for, to aspire for, to yearn for, to long for God's best.  My job is to repent.  My job is to be the best servant of God that I can be - in all my relationships.

Job didn't have ten children in an unhappy home.  There's no indication of an unhappy home here.  My admiration of Job continues to grow.  And we're only two verses into the book.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Job's Friends

Job's Friends 

In course of my current path of repentance, I'm studying the book of Job.  It is not that I see my life as a trial, or that I have experienced any particular hardship.  Rather, what I find is that Job suffered for two chapters and for the next forty chapters we learn nothing more about the trials and suffering of Job.  It is difficult for me to believe that the book of Job is about suffering when I see that forty chapters of the book recount nothing about his suffering, but rather are a collection of arguments about suffering, the nature of God, the nature of man and assorted other topics.  At first blush, there seems to be a lot one could garner from the book of Job about counseling; particularly Christian counseling.  For, if I remember correctly, Job's three friends are that helpful in their well intended efforts to assist their wounded friend.

Accordingly, what I endeavor to do now is to examine the arguments of the book of Job, in turn and with an eye to applying them in my own life.  I am not a counselor, but I am a friend, and a son, and a father.  Perhaps there is something to be learned from these in-artful counselors of one of the most famous biblical characters.

The color of submission suggests that Scripture presents itself in a form which was designed by God.  Thus, I submit myself to Scripture and begin at the beginning, rather than what I wish to do - which is to jump to chapter four and begin with Eliphaz's arguments.

Chapter 1:1

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. NASB

Introductions in the Bible are various and curious.  We're introduced to Paul - Saul at the time, as a footnote during the stoning of Stephen, the main character.  We're introduced to David in 1 Samuel 16 as the least of his brothers out taking care of sheep whom the Lord had not yet filled with his spirit.  We're introduced to Abraham as one called from Ur.  And here we're introduced to one of the most famous men of all time, for Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews and Atheists all know the name of Job.  In introducing Job, the writer tells us that Job was in he land of Uz.  No one knows for sure, but many suggest that the land of Uz was located to the East of Israel and south of Edom.  Today this is a desolate place, but history also suggests that this was not always so.  If this is the patriarchal time, then the date would be between 1400 BC and earlier.  

And so we meet a man not living in Canaan, who was blameless.  And we was turning away from evil.  The juxtaposition of these two statements about Job encourages me.  For Job was not perfect in being, but perfect in direction.  His life isn't blameless in every account, but rather the author is accounting for Job's life with a static forward/present looking perspective.  It is not that Job has lived perfectly, but rather, that Job is turning away from evil.  The NET and ESV versions translate the Hebrew as "turned away from evil."  The NIV reports that Job "shunned evil" and the NLT says that Job "stayed away from evil."  I am illiterate in Hebrew and rely upon the translators to provide an accurate meaning.  The idea that Job repented, and turned away from evil is realistic in experience; consistent with Scripture - all men must repent.  Job is not blameless because he has lived a perfect life.  Rather, just as Abram had to obey God through faith and leave behind the worship of the moon; just as Moses had to repent of murder; just as David had to repent of adultery and murder; just as Paul had to repent of murder and hate - so we now find Job repenting.

He shuns evil, he hides from evil, he is turning away from evil.  Proverbs 22:3 teaches us that the wise man, the prudent man sees danger and hides himself from it.  A wise man anticipates trouble.  The heart of trouble begins with temptation.

Addicts are taught to recognize their own frailty by examining themselves and learning their own nature.  The acronym H.A.L.T. is helpful.  Hungry - Angry - Lonely - Tired.  A man who senses that he is hungry knows that his body is weak, his constitution compromised, his mind distracted, his defenses down.  A wise man sees that hunger and anticipates trouble, he anticipates temptation.  Further, a wise man treats the hunger, in an appropriate way, so as to defeat the enemy before even experiencing the temptation.  If he is angry, he knows that his heart is troubled, his emotions stirred and turbulent, his rationality diminished.  He humbly recognizes the weakened state and shores up his defenses by addressing the anger in an appropriate way.  If a man is lonely or tired, he will again have his defenses compromised.  And a wise man anticipates this and responds accordingly.  Job hid himself from evil.  Job turns away from evil.

Job was both a wise man, and a repentant man.  This makes for an "upright" man.  Almost all translations use the term "upright" here.  The NLT says Job was a man of "complete integrity" and the MSG interprets the Scripture to say that Job was "totally devoted to God."  When I hear the term "upright" I cannot but help think of the evolution charts I saw constantly as a child in school.  You see the monkey to man chart and all but the last one are bent over.  They are not upright.  I also think about tent poles.  Having camped a lot in my life, more than almost anyone I've ever met, I know a few things about tent poles.  I know, for example, that if the tent pole isn't upright - you're going to have problems.  A tent pole at any angle creates imbalance and instability.  They are difficult to stabilize with lines.  They are practically useless.

So, when I think of a man who is not upright, the image in my imagination is that of a monkey - or a creature who is less than man - an instable, imbalanced creature.  I don't believe in the theory of evolution and find the idea remarkable on any level.  So, these are images that are fantastic.  But even in art we see the devious portrayed by the one hunched over.  We imagine the criminal mind hunched over his papers scheming and hiding.  

Recently I had occasion to meet two young boys of 15 and 16 years old.  They each wanted to date one of my friend's daughters and each left a distinct impression upon me by their stature.  The older was taller than the other, but his height was diminished by his stature, for his was shifty, sneaky and devious in presentation.  He did not look you in the eye and if you were successful in soliciting a handshake, it was one of those limp feminine handshakes without eye contact.  In contrast, the younger boy approached me, made an introduction which while presumptive was bold and strong.  He shook my hand heartedly with good eye contact.  The impression was made and will not be easily undone.  The one is upright - the other less than upright.  And less than upright is not good.

Job is an upright man.  We get the sense that he's direct, forthright, honest, able to look anyone in the eye because he has dealt fairly with all men.  He walks straight and tall because he has nothing to be ashamed of, he is hiding nothing.  What he has done wrong, he has already repented of, and he's familiar with his fellow man - he knows what is in the heart of man and knows that no one is perfect.  Having repented he can walk straight.

But walking upright and repenting doesn't occur in a vacuum.  There is within this one verse a raison d'étre.  For Job is not an upright man if he does not fear God.  Job does not repent if he does not fear God.  Job is not blameless if he does not fear God.  In fact, all that Job is, is due to his fear of God.

The Hebrew word here (yare') means to fear, revere, be afraid, stand in awe of, be awed, honour, respect, be dreadful, to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe, to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe.  I've heard teachers suggest that God is not someone we should fear, but rather revere with honor and respect.  Certainly, the word allows such a limited interpretation.  I believe, however, that when we see how people respond to being in the presence of God - or hearing God call them to account - we will see that the word is more accurately held to mean awe and fear.  One cannot be in the presence of the divine and not be unchanged.  And Scripture teaches us that the most common response of people from Adam to the Apostle John - from Genesis to Revelation - is that a man is overcome with his own sin and want to hide his face.  No one in this world rushes into the presence of the Father like a 2 year old and hops in his lap.  That's just not Scriptural reality.  We are encouraged to call upon the Father with a Daddy like name - Abba Father.  We are encouraged to see his love and his tenderheartedness.  We are pointed to his mercy and his grace.  But these all exist within the power and the being of the most High, the most powerful, the only pure, the only righteous God.  Those teachers can rush into his lap - I'm probably cognizant of my sin enough to hide.

I'm not suggesting that those teachers are wrong - I just believe it to be a super-human ability to know all of our sin - to see his righteousness, justice and power - to see Jesus' propitiation and still stand on our feet, much less hop into his lap.  John the Apostle fell before an Angel!  I agree that we have the right - because of Jesus' propitiation to enter the throne room of God and call upon him as Abba Father, but I also recognize that until such time as my sin is done away with completely in whole in perfect sanctification here on Earth - I'll hide, I'll fear, I'll stand in awe of God.  Rather, hopefully I'll do these things.  If God grants me repentance; if God grants me fear; then I will be blameless too.  Then I will walk upright.

Job is not Superman.  Job is not a movie super hero.  He's a man, chosen by God, to walk in righteousness.  He is what any Christian can be, and what all Christians are called to be.  When I read Job 1:1 I am reminded that I should be able to write in my journal for my son:

There was a man in the land of Pennsylvania whose name was Kevin; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. JoK (Journal of Kevin)

Later we will examine Job 1:2.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I welcome any and all persecution and criticism.  Your criticisms communicate that at the very least I’m thinking about something important.  Accordingly, if you wish to point out how ignorant, simplistic, banal or stupid any of my thoughts, opinions or ideas are, I welcome them.  Please send them to my email address which is ljsdaddy with the obligatory gmail portion added on at the end.  But I think we’d all enjoy it more if you’d leave a comment below.

Submitting to God

I am recently moved in heart and mind to the topic of submission.  Submission necessarily involves the act of submitting; usually surrendering ones power to another.  To submit is to yield to the control of another.  In the case of submitting to God it is then to yield our will, our direction, our belief, our passion, our intellect, and our freedom to the control of God.  To accomplish such we require three things requisite.  First and foremost we must be cognizant to some extent of our own will, our own predetermined direction, our own chosen beliefs, our own passions, our own intellect, and our own favored freedom.  With regard to each, but with particular attention to our will, I do not mean to suggest that a complete and accurate information of our own will is necessary, but rather that we must be familiar with and aware of our own will before it can be submitted to another.  Secondly, in order to submit, we must be cognizant of the will of the one to whom we are to yield our will.

To illustrate, let us examine the case of an enlisted soldier of inferior rank receiving a lawful order from a higher ranking soldier.  In order for the soldier to obey the order and yield his own will to that will expressed within the order the soldier must be aware of the will expressed within the order and his own will.  Further, in order to yield control there must be a dissonance between the soldier's will and the will expressed in the order.  For if there is no disagreement, no dissonance, no lack of harmony, then the soldier will be able to accompany the terms of the order without yielding control.  In this case the inferior soldier will be cooperating with the superior officer.  There is harmony, there is agreement and there is obedience; but there is no submission in that there is no necessary yielding of control.

In review we see that before submission can be effected there is required: a knowledge of our will; an awareness of the will of another; and, a dissonance between the two.  At this point submission requires an act.  The act required is that of yielding and yielding requires change.  Our will and intention has predetermined a course of conduct or non-conduct and to yield is to adopt a different course.  If we are predisposed to sit and we rise in yielding to another, we are said to submit.  If we are running and we stop in deference to the will of another, we are said to submit.  But if we are running and we find ourselves in agreement with the will of another, we are not submitting; rather, instead we are cooperating.  It is no sin to cooperate and agree with the will of God.  But reality and creation teaches us that our wills rarely coincide with the will of God, and our nature is opposed to the will of God without direct intervention by God himself.  While cooperation is possible, submission is rather the norm in the experience of most.

It might be argued in opposition that to yield control does not require dissonance.  It might be suggested that to yield control does not even require information and awareness, but can be the sort of yielding that a soldier exhibits when that soldier enlists in the service in the first place.  I will admit that this is an expression of the intent to yield.  I will admit that when the armed forces had the power and will to enforce orders under penalty of being shot, that the choice to enlist required a much deeper sense of yielding control.  However, the counter argument is that an intention to yield is not yielding until a dissonance arises.  The soldier may be said to have submitted upon enlistment, but the character of that submission will not be seen until such time as the soldier receives instruction and direction which is contrary to that soldier's own will and persuasion.  If the soldier at that time regrets the decision to enlist and chooses not to yield control and follow the order, the initial enlistment can no longer be characterized as submission.  If the soldier serves the entire term of service without having received an order which creates disharmony but rather serves out the term with complete harmony of purpose and direction, can that soldier be said to have submitted?  Rather, I believe the soldier has cooperated in purpose and direction and provided service.  However, there is no reason to believe the soldier has yielded any control.

With regard to the three requisites, the first - an information and awareness of our own will - comes about by intelligent meditation and consideration.  A haphazard life distracted by the diversions of entertainment and society will not allow for such an intelligent meditation and consideration.  For this reason alone it would be wise to spend some time each day soberly with a mind to know our own intention, bias, predisposition and will.  However, as I hope to demonstrate, this is not necessary to the extent one might suppose if one will spend time daily in a sober reflection upon the will of the one to whom we are to yield control.  For the second requisite is that we have an accurate information and awareness of the will of God.  It is a peculiar aspect of humanity that when we learn the will of another, our own spirit will reveal quickly the extent and breadth of our own will's agreement with that being revealed to us.

In order to understand the will of another we must first be aware of that will.  Subsequent to becoming aware of the will, we must understand accurately the content, import, intention and force of that will.  The content of the will is simply that instruction and character of the will.  The import of the will involves that applicability of the will to our own circumstances and direction.  The intention of the will reflects the purpose behind the will or the expression behind will.  The force of will comprehends those elements of direction such as timeliness and energy.  An awareness of the will of another is rarely complete without some appreciation for the character of the one to whose will we are to submit.  When a hospitable man requires an empty room, his will is reasonably seen as quite markedly different than when a covetous man requires an empty room.  For the intention of those two wills is so diverse that while the appearance of the will of each is similar on the surface, knowing the character of the different men makes the intention, import and force of the wills quite different.  For the covetous man we might appease his will by supplying a simple room for another and opulent room for himself.  For the hospitable man we might appease his will by supplying an opulent room for another and a simple room for himself.  It is in the knowledge of the character of the man that we learn the character of the will.

There are generally recognized two reliable sources of the character of God, and one reliable witness to the will of God.  With regard to the will of God, that will is expressed reliably in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  With regard to the character of God, that character is revealed accurately in both the Scriptures and his creation unspoilt by sin.  If we agree with these three sources and admit no others as authoritative, then we will confine ourselves to the study of God's Word (Scriptures) with reflection on his creation as well.  If we admit other sources, such as feelings, emotions, experiences and other writings, then we will find ourselves in doldrums; in irons; or even in a circuitous eddy which throws us round about without direction and assurance.

This last point is critical.  We can hardly be said to accurately understand the will of God if our sources do not admit an objective understanding.  Accuracy is lost as well if the sources of understanding are contradictory in nature.  Accuracy is impossible if the source of understanding is enmeshed in subjective and transient emotion.  Accuracy is meaningless if the source of understanding hides within the contradictory, subjective, transient, and oft-misinterpreted experiences of others or ourselves.  Accordingly, when one sets out to understand and comprehend the will of God, one must reject all sources as authoritative except Scripture and creation.  To the extent that other sources do not disagree with Scripture or creation, that source might be accurate - but it is impossible to know with authority the accuracy of that revelation.

Having defined the source of information of God's will we can look at the nature of divining God's will from Scripture.  This is not as mysterious as some might make it out.  First and foremost we must subject ourselves to the authority of Scripture.  We have not the right to take Scripture piecemeal in order to support our own will.  Scripture is a reflection of the mind of God... indeed it is the very mind of God communicated to men.  To hear only parts of the mind of God, disjointed and taken out of context is to do more than misunderstand God, it is to do violence to the authority of Scripture.  And, it is to disregard the will of God.

I doubt that the will of God can be understood without reading it first in context and in whole.  For God begins a thought, God begins an expression of his will; and we read it in part and stop where we believe appropriate and move on to conclusions that may or may not be accurate.  In doing so we risk misunderstanding God.  In doing so we reject the authority of Scripture.  We reject the authority by determining in and of ourselves when and where we will start reading and when and where we will stop reading.  We determine where God begins to express his will and where God has stopped expressing his will. The authority for this determination is no longer Scripture itself but our mean methods and intents.

When we come to Scripture with the intention of finding an analogy or story to illustrate a sermon, we show the utmost disrespect to Scripture for we presume to take it piecemeal in support of our own ideas and conclusions.  This is quite different from divining different analogies and stories from our independent study of Scripture as scripture - verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, as it was revealed to humanity.

And herein, is the beginning of submission.  God has revealed his will to humanity.  His method of revelation was through the written words of his prophets and apostles.  These words were not given piecemeal and hodgepodge but rather, each was given in the form of a history book, a compilation of songs, a chronological record of genealogies and histories, an oral recitation of civil and religious law, an exhorting epistle, or a revelatory prophecy of future judgments.  While the whole may seem disjointed to the casual observer, one who endeavors to read the whole sees a unity of purpose, a unity of story, a unity of character - indeed a unified message.  This is the will of God.  When we yield control to that will, we study the Word of God as given to us - book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, thought by thought.  We take it as we find it - wholly and completely.  The control we yield is how we read Scripture.

When we study scripture intently on a daily basis without regard to our circumstances, resisting the temptation to use book studies and topical studies, we begin to know the mind of God.  But when we limit ourselves to searching through a concordance finding verses which contain disjointed thoughts about the topic we feel is appropriate in our lives at that moment, we do violence to the will of God.  We presume to know his will by taking parcels of his thoughts and building them into a house of our own making.  We presume to know what the Spirit will say to us when we limit our reading to that which interests us alone.  And in the end, we may very well conclude whatever we like about the will of God.

And in the end, this is what we observe in reality.  Those who reject the teaching of Scripture regarding authority, divination, sexuality, morality, worship or some other teaching do so by limiting their exposure to Scripture.  They begin with the concordance and call it serious bible study.  They incorporate historical writings of other men to interpret the natural reading of Scripture against itself.  They appeal to modern sensibilities to interpret scripture against tradition.  In this sense, those who would do violence to scripture use the same tools as those who submit to the authority of scripture.

For when one submits - yields control - they too will use concordance, historical writings, natural observation and the study of the original languages.  However, these are tools that help them understand what they are already reading and are subject to the natural understanding of the text itself.  They appeal to these extraneous tools when the meaning is unclear, not when they dislike the natural meaning.  To be sure, a study of the original languages assists in understanding any word, sentence, phrase and meaning.  The study of ancient cultures provides context.  The reading of philosophers reveals information that is helpful in applying scripture.  Reading the writings of other theologians challenges us to re-read scripture in a new light, with new understanding.  But in the end, the one who submits and yields control reads scripture and yields to scripture.

A basic illustration is that of the issue of homosexuality.  There are today those who would reject that scripture reveals God's will opposed to that act and lifestyle of homosexuality.  To do so they have to reject many explicit directives in the old and new testaments.  Additionally, they have to reject declarative statements about the judgment of God and the character of saints.  In order to accomplish this they resort to two methods.  First, they take scripture piecemeal.  They appeal to particular verses about the love of God, about the freedom in Christ, about the new covenant.  Secondly, they appeal to ancient writings about culture to limit the import and force of the otherwise declared will of God.  They make the will of God subject to cultural expressions determining beforehand that God's will changes depending upon the culture of the time.  At some times homosexuality is wrong, at other times it is no longer wrong.  With this relativistic view of God's will they interpret scripture in the way that best suits their predetermined conclusions.

While most of those who call themselves Christians will see the obvious violence to scripture and the understanding of God's will with the above illustration, I mean to point out my own failing; a failing I fear is pandemic in today's church culture.  For the meanness of approaching scripture piecemeal, topically with the assistance of a concordance is the norm, not the exception.  I rarely begin with an intent study of scripture as revealed to humanity other than my daily reading of Proverbs.  My own experience affirms the value of studying scripture in a more submissive posture - verse by verse, chapter by chapter.  I have undertaken this endeavor with the books of Romans, 1 John, Hebrews, James, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Revelation, John, Genesis, Proverbs, and a few others.  My understanding of God's will from these books alone have changed from the intent verse by verse study.  As an example, I spent years attempting to understand 1 John 3:9 and found my understanding materially different after a few years of reading the whole book through on an almost nightly basis from that understanding I had upon an initial reading of that one isolated verse.

So today I observe that the beginning of submission to God begins with submission to scripture; in how we read it, and how we study it.  I note that submitting to scripture means comprehending scripture and revelation generally - how it is given and how it is meant to be received.  I note that submitting requires yielding my will to that of another - yielding control.  Indeed, we forfeit all control when we yield to our own temptation to use scripture for our own means rather than approaching scripture humbly with intent to be taught whatever scripture would teach us, whenever scripture would teach us, however scripture would teach us.

In short, to submit to God is to stop using scripture trivially for our own ends, our own messages, our own philosophies, and our own endeavors.  To submit to God is to bend the knee and read scripture, study scripture, meditate upon scripture as it was revealed to us - book by book, chapter by chapter.  We cannot expect to understand the will of God before we are willing to begin here.  And we can hardly submit to the will of God if we are unintentionally, willfully, negligently or recklessly ignorant of that will.