Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Job's Friends Part 5

Job's Friends Part 5 

From the book of Job, Chapter 1 verse 5 we read:

Job 1:5
And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

If you read my last installment, you will be familiar with my understanding that the children were not partying every day, but rather were feasting on particular set celebratory occasions, such as a birthday or a set day for each son.  Here is further proof which supports my understanding. Apparently, each feast would last more than one day.  And when these days were done, that is, the feast was concluded, Job would step in.  Herein is order.  The feast had run its course, there was design about the festivities.  And herein is wisdom.  Job as the patriarch recognizes that when there is wine and food and celebration, occasionally there are things said or done that a more sober mind would have avoided.

Job enters the pictures as a spiritual janitor - a priest to his family.  He would "send and consecrate them."  I appreciate the blanket treatment here.  Job is not acting as inquisitor and judge.  Rather, as a loving father, he send and consecrates all his children.  There is no indication that the children resent this, or rebel against it or avoid it.  After order and wisdom follows obedience.  

The word used by the English Standard Version is "consecrate."  It is not a word we use daily in our lives, and therefore bears a closer scrutiny.  To consecrate something is to dedicate it.  The Wikipedia project defines consecration as "the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service" of a thing or person.  In this sense, Job is dedicating his children, each of them, to a special purpose or service.  I wonder what purpose Job intended for his children.  As we will see, that purpose will not be fulfilled, as God has another plan for Job and his family.  Nevertheless, Job does not know that and he is busy preparing his family for God.

Righteousness does not happen accidentally.  Consecration is not haphazard.  We often hear the words "prayer changes things" when in fact, it is most often not simply prayer, but effectual prayer, prayers of a righteous man, much prayer and fasting, that changes things.  I'll leave for another day the discussion of whether God responds to our prayers in such a way that makes us the ultimate arbiter of our fates and destiny, or whether our prayers when instructed by the Holy Spirit conform themselves to the will of God such that we begin to desire what will be God's will in any case.  For today, it is enough to remark that Job was not satisfied with the baby dedication.  Indeed, he consecrated his children often and regularly and routinely.  This was his habit and his method.  This is reinforced by the last phrase "[t]hus Job did continually."

And what was the result of Job's continual intercession for his children?  As I pointed out in the last installment, his family were still together, they expressed both filial and brotherly love.  There was order and hospitality.  There was responsibility and importantly, there was no outward cause for rebuke.  Remember, Job thought "it may be ... in their hearts."  Job is uncertain as to the spiritual state, at that moment, of his children.  For while he had nothing for which to accuse them, Job was still concerned about the circumstances - as a wise father is.  Even when his children are doing very well, Job is thinking ahead, out of the box, and in protective mode.

How is it that Job consecrated them?  Sin is a brutal matter.  It separates us from God, from the love of God and exposes us to his wrath.  Romans 1:18  This wrath is more intense than anything in all of creation.  God is not put off by sin.  God is not inconvenienced by sin.  God is not saddened by sin.  God is angry, wrathful and furious.  Hell fire was created because of sin.  And the only atonement that will appease the wrath and purchase peace is the blood of Christ - a perfect sacrifice capable of carrying the sins of the world.  Genesis 3:15, 3:21, and 4:3.  Job believes this.  He sacrifices burnt offerings to the Lord in faith that God will relent any anger and hold fast to his own covenant established with Adam, that one day his seed would crush Satan and sin and death.

It is possible to do a burnt offering without killing anything.  One could offer as a burnt offering a prized possession or food or money.  Indeed, the grain offering of Leviticus 2 was a burnt offering.  However, the grain offering usually accompanied an animal sacrifice and the atonement for sin offering was an animal sacrifice.  Job is concerned about sin here and I believe he was killing his livestock here.

This bears noting.  When Job made a sacrifice, it was not an investment in missions or a building or the salary of a pastor.  When Job made a sacrifice - it was simply gone.  The only reason to make such a sacrifice would have been if you earnestly believed in your heart that God was watching, directing and approving of your actions AND that there was an agreement between God and man that would hold God to the relenting of his anger.  This was true sacrifice.  I wonder what it would look like in my life were I to sacrifice something.  Perhaps not an animal.. the family cat is safe.  But what about something that means a lot to me?  What about a dream that means a lot to me?  

It should be noted that the sacrifice Job made was not of something that shouldn't have been in his life anyway.  Giving up television is not that much of a sacrifice.  For while it may be difficult, the denial of television will improve your overall quality of life in any regard.  Similarly, giving up fattening foods or shopping binges will not be much of a sacrifice either, as God will see that you're improving your life through the sacrifice and we will always wonder what our primary motivation for the sacrifice was.  A sacrifice of a healthy productive animal to a farmer is the equivalent of sacrificing a good modern laptop to a computer technician; sacrificing a your best power tools to one in construction; sacrificing your best suit to a minister.  You see, the animal was the rancher's livelihood - not only was it an animal, it was his income.  When Job sacrificed the animal, he realized an immediate poverty of sorts.  There was no remuneration for the animal.  He was not allowed to choose sickly animals.  He also lost the potential within that animal, for it was most likely able to produce offspring for Job as well.

Lastly, I note that the sacrifice was completely unto God.  It was not a sacrifice to God and given to others.  Now, before those of you who may ever read this complain to me about the Levitical rights of the priests, I understand how many sacrifices in Israel were meant to provide sustenance to the priests as well as honor God or appease his anger.  However, many of the sacrifices were whole burnt offerings, as is suggested here.  The text certainly allows that Job sacrificed part of the animal, but the question remains, which part?  He would still have been deprived of the benefit of offspring from that animal.  He would still have been deprived of whatever part was burnt, and a quick read of Leviticus suggests that the best parts were burnt.  God still took the best.  This was a true sacrifice set apart unto God and no other.

Now contrast that with what most of us call sacrifices today.  Giving money to the church is no sacrifice.  It may be a tithe, it may be a gift, but it is certainly no sacrifice, because it is not given to God alone.  Certainly, the widow's mite seems to approach that quality as in her heart the money was lost to who knows what cause and it would never benefit her, a widow.  But how many times have I said in my heart: I don't want to give to this ministry because I'm not happy with what they would do with the money?  Job isn't asking how God is going to use his burnt offering.  The sacrifice is complete when we lose control of the item we are sacrificing.

Finally, before leaving this verse, it is important to my heart to acknowledge the picture of Christ our Intercessory Priest here.  As Job's children were living, Job was interceding.  The allusion is to the intercessory role Christ plays on our behalf.  While Job's sacrifices were animals and continual, Christ's sacrifice was his own body and blood and was once for all.  We see the father's love for his children just as we see our Heavenly Father love us so much that His only son is given upon an instrument of torture and death.  This is what makes Job the kind of man of whom God boasts "[h]ave you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" Job 1:8

Oh to have my Lord boast over me!  What more can glory afford?  Today my challenge is to continually intercede for my son.  While I no longer make sacrifices to atone for his sin, I can still make intercession for him by calling upon our Great Interceder, our Lord who makes peace between God and man, appeasing and atoning the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.  Fathers, is there something else that more warrants our time and energy?  Note that Job did this early in the morning, before doing anything else.  Before shaving, before brushing our teeth, before working out, before breakfast: the most important thing we can do during our day is to be on our knees before God interceding for our children, turning away from evil, and worshiping God.

1 comment:

  1. You are really thinking deep on our old friend Job! Good thoughts but you might consider that for us the a broken and contrite heart may be better than any sacrifice. I was looking for a way to contact you but didn't see one, but would you contact me?