Job’s Daughters & The Inheritance of Sons

You know those period pictures where a daughter in a poor family with no brothers needs to go marry some wealthy lord because she has no inheritance? In most cases, the wealthy dude starts off like a real jerk and makes faces like this…

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But eventually, so the story goes, he falls madly in love with the poor man’s beautiful daughter, sweeps her off her feet, and they live happily ever after and she shares in his vast inheritance.

The Bible, from the very beginning, has a lot to say about sonship and inheritance. Isaac, Abraham’s son, inherits the blessing of his father. Jacob, Isaac’s son, through deceit, gains the birthright and blessing of the firstborn Esau. It is the sons who get the property of the family, and it is the firstborn who inherits a “double-portion” of the father’s house (Deut. 21:17).

However, one of the earliest books in the Old Testament canon, tells the story of another wealthy man named Job who follows a different pattern. At the end of the story Job shares the inheritance of his house with both his sons and daughters.

“And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land could women be found who were as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance alongside their brothers.” (Job 42:13-15)

Toby Sumpter elaborates on this,

Job’s sons remain nameless, but his daughters are named and we are told that they are the most beautiful daughters in all the land (42:14-15). Not only this, but Job gives his three daughters an inheritance among their brothers. In other words, Job gives them an inheritance of sons. In Job’s family, there is neither male nor female. (Job Through New Eyes: A Son for Glory, 196)

Beautiful.

Here, as far back as the book of Job, we see a father giving all of his estate to his sons and daughters. This is a startling picture of the eternal purpose of the heavenly Father in granting the abundance of his kingdom to his sons and daughters. Now God doesn’t switch-up the pattern entirely. After all, it his Son, Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, to whom belongs all of his Father’s estate. And it is this Son whom we–male and female–are united to by faith in him.

Therefore there is no difference between the wealth of the kingdom, salvation, and eternal life that men and women who have trusted the firstborn Son inherit. All who are in the son–both genders–inherit the entirety of the Son’s estate. Furthermore, the sons and daughters share in the very glory of the Son (Ro. 8:17).

Jesus is better than Mr. Darcy.

The book of Ephesians reveals this at another glorious angle. Not only do men and women share in the whole portion of Jesus’ inheritance and share in his glory, the chosen sons and daughters are the inheritance of God himself.

We inherit God and his cosmic victory in Christ, and God inherits us (Eph. 1:18). We possess the possessions of God and God possesses us. We are his personal possession. The beloved of the Triune God. His chosen. And this from all eternity.

Whether you are a poor single mom or the unsuccessful brother surrounded by successful brothers, if you are trusting Jesus, “all things are yours…and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

Don’t Believe for a Better 2014

We are eight days into 2014, which means that you should be successfully moving along with all your resolutions and have already met half your goals for the year. I’m sure you’re down as many pounds in as many days.

Just kidding.

Jesus is better than the hopes and dreams, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of a new year.

What every Christian needs to be reminded of eight days into the year, is that you have been united with Jesus and God sees you as in him. This means that you are completely accepted by God, you have been delivered from the penalty of sin, you are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit, and you are empowered to overcome the assaults of the enemy (see Christmas: The Celebration of the Destruction of the Devil and his Works for more on that last one) in 2014 . These four realities are a riff of of a section in Richard Lovelace’s book Dynamics of Spiritual Life. He calls Christian ministers to encourage their congregations in the following daily practice,

The aim of the minister should be to encourage in every parishioner an intelligent response of faith laying claim to the provisions of Christ’s redemptive work, a daily standing on the four platforms discussed in chapter four: You are accepted, you are delivered,  you are not alone, you have authority. [p. 210, Emphasis in original]

This last sentence could easily become a mantra or just another self-improvement motto. However, Lovelace is not saying we should have faith in our claims, as if our proclamations were magical. They are not.

The promises of a better year is one of the great false gospels we are tempted to believe every year at this time.

We are not laying claim to our claims, but laying claim to Christ.

Remembering who God in Christ is and who you are in light of what he has done is critical to your spiritual health. As I’ve written before, it should be a regular spiritual discipline because all of us have spiritual Alzheimer’s. Families and friends get together and go from story to story saying “remember when…”, and each day you should do the same thing rehearsing all that Jesus is and what he has won for you.

Believing for a better 2014 is empty apart from Jesus. Don’t do that. Because if 2014 turns out to not be what you think it should have been and you do things you wish you hadn’t (which you will) discouragement and even depression can set in. On the other hand, if it turns out to the best year of your life with less body weight, a happier marriage, goals met, and a finished Bible-reading plan, you may be tempted to self-righteousness. But if 2014 is built on Jesus instead of the hopes and dreams and possibilities of 2014, it can be the best year ever no matter how the year ends.

Jesus is better than the hopes and dreams, fulfilled or unfulfilled, of a new year.

Enter this year believing that God is for you (Ro. 8:31), God has rescued you (Ro. 8:1), God is with you (Heb. 13:5), and God is in you (Ro. 8:9-11)

The promises of a better year is one of the great false gospels we are tempted to believe every year at this time. Of course it is good to plan and to dream and to hope for the future, but it is best to enjoy all that God is for you in Jesus. The promises of Jesus, who he is and what he has done and who you are in him, is the only thing–the only person–worth banking the year on.

You are completely accepted, you are delivered, you are in-dwelt, and you are empowered in 2014. To put it another way, enter this year believing that God is for you (Ro. 8:31), God has rescued you (Ro. 8:1), God is with you (Heb. 13:5), and God is in you (Ro. 8:9-11). Why? All because of the person and work of Jesus.

Now with him in mind, forget the success or failures of the last eight days, and go get 2014.

Christmas: The Celebration of the Destruction of the Devil and his Works

Christmas time for many is a time for Santa Claus, passing out presents, figgy puddy, and overall holiday cheer. There are also those for whom Christmas is a painful reminder of what has been lost: broken relationships and marriages and the death of family or friends. For others, it’s a time to get sentimental about adorable baby Jesus all swaddled up in his manger with a halo on his head. Apparently, this baby Jesus doesn’t cry when he wakes up either (“no crying he makes”).  The apostle John, one of Jesus of Nazareth’s best friends, gave us a different reason behind and needed reminder of the meaning of Christmas. He wrote,

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

When John considered the entrance of the Son of God on planet earth, the first thing that came to his mind was not how cute baby Jesus must have been, but the obliteration of the devil’s works. This is not surprising when one takes into account the whole story the Scripture’s tell. God’s gospel design did not begin on day one of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem, but was planned in eternity past by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and was promised later to the devil himself in the third chapter of Genesis:

 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

The appearance of Jesus on Christmas morning was the beginning of the crushing of the serpent’s head.

The context of John’s statement suggests that he wants his hearers to see how their sins connect to Satan: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil sinned from the beginning” (1 Jn. 3:8). According to John, sin is not just about something you do, but who you belong to. This is far from a Hallmark Christmas Card’s view of human nature. Anyone who sins is of the devil. Period. The idea behind the Greek word here is one of ongoing continuous action (Colin Kruse, The Letters of John, 122). Therefore anyone who continues to sin demonstrates that they are following Satan not followers of the sinless Son of God.

Sin, according to John, is not harmless. It is homicidal. The first temptation of Satan that led to first sin of Eve plunged all of humankind into an endless stream of death. And death came quickly, as one of Adam and Eve’s sons was a murderer guilty of fratricide. Cain was not the only murderer around though. Jesus called Satan “a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). The gospel writers even attribute the arrangement of the murder of Jesus, the only perfect human, to Satan entering the heart of Judas Iscariot (Jn. 13:27).

And this devil is a deceiver. He makes us believe that sin is either non-existent or not that a big deal. But that’s the lie, and humanity has been buying that lie since the beginning. We like the lie of the murderer even as it kills us.

Satan came to steal, kill, and destroy. Therefore every dead family member missing from the Christmas table and every broken home through divorce is the result of sin and Satan. Yes, God is sovereign over all, but God the Son put on flesh to undo Satan and his works and make him fall from heaven like a lighting bolt (Luke 10:18). This “undoing” is exactly what John is getting at when he says the appearance of Jesus “destroys” the works of Satan. NT scholar I. Howard Marshall writes, “The actual word used here, however, “to destroy’ is somewhat unusual: the task of Jesus was to undo whatever the devil had achieved, to thwart whatever he tries to do” (The Epistles of John, 185).

While the devil is a murderer, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. While the devil is a liar and a deceiver, Jesus is the truth. While the one who sins is of the devil and is a willing participant in the devil’s works, Jesus never sinned, and, as the sinless son of God, died in the place of any sinner that trusts him. His shed blood secures the forgiveness of those who confess their sins (1:9) and believe in him (5:1), so that those who were previously “of the devil” are now “born of God”  (5:1).

But there is even more. The good news of the gospel is that the reason Jesus appeared was to reverse sin’s effects and to conquer the devil and his strategies. Jesus destroys all of the devil’s works not just some of them. Christmas time should be a time of reflecting on all of the works of the devil that Jesus was born to undo. Here are a bit more:

  • The devil is an accuser who reminds believers of their sins in order to have them live in a state of condemnation. Demonic accusations and charges that prick a Christian’s conscience cannot stand because the accuser of the brethren has been thrown down by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:10). No one—not the Devil or a demon—can successfully bring a charge against God’s elect, because God alone is the Judge and in the business of justifying sinners (Ro. 8:33).
  • The devil is an oppressor who torments body, mind, soul, and spirit. There is no mental or physical torment whatsoever if the Liar’s lie was not embraced at the beginning. Not every affliction in a particular person’s body is directly correlated to satanic activity, but some is. And, of course, there are many biological and neurological factors in mental illness, but some mental illness is the result of demonic torment.We must be nuanced here so that one doesn’t risk a kind of unscientific fundamentalism, but we must also be Christian here and realize that we Western believers have a tendency to nuance the devil out of everything. I’m convinced that one of Satan’s favorite things in the church is constant nuance. Over-nuancing everything de-supernaturalizes the spiritual realm and softens the prophetic edge and neuters the missional impulse of the church. The healing of the sick and the delivery of the oppressed in Jesus’s ministry was all connected to the fall of Satan through presence of the kingdom of God. In view of this, we should do all we can to pray for healing in the name of Jesus and work for healing through the medical and psychiatric fields all in the name of Jesus, knowing that he has ultimately secured this at the cross and will finally annihilate it when the devil is cast in to the lack of fire and curse is removed from the new heavens and new earth.
  • The devil is a hinderer who seeks to thwart the purposes of God on the earth. Jesus said Satan steals the seed of God’s word from people’s hearts so that they will not be saved (Luke 8:12), and Paul said after the victory of Christ in the resurrection that Satan had still hindered him from going to Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:18). The devil’s hidering power, however, is not ultimate and is broken because the kingdom is advancing and cannot be stopped. Jesus builds his church. Hell itself will not prevent his Bride from being gathered from every nation and people of the earth. The dragon is a leashed dragon.
  • The devil is an inciter who motivates people to sin. Sorry, no, you don’t get to blame the devil for your sin, but we know that there are times that the devil does a bit more than tempt (1 Chr. 21:1; Acts 5:3). But we also know that “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 Jn. 5:18).
  • The devil is a blinder who blinds people to see the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan loves to keep people from seeing Jesus and hold them in the greatest of all sins, namely, unbelief. But God is sovereign and speaks his universe-creating and eye-opening word to shine “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in the hearts of his people.

Clearly the devil still destroys. He prowls like a roaring lion seeking to devour. The fragments of his works are scattered all over our Christmas celebrations. Nevertheless, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the events that secure the triumphing and conquering defeat of the devil and his works. Satan and his strategies can have no ultimate power over those who trust Jesus. The devil has been disarmed by the Lamb who is making everything new.

There is something that brings greater joy than eggnog with a splash of holiday cheer and there is good news that can mend all the bad news you’ve received this past year(s): the baby lying in a manger is the conquering King Jesus. The kingdom has come because the King is here. Therefore the devil and his works has been, is being, and will be finally and forever destroyed and undone.

Is Your Faith like a Paper Sack or an Iron Chest?

Martin Luther, the German Protestant Reformer, gives the following analogy to show how the most important thing is not whether your faith is weak or strong, but how strong the object of your faith is. He writes,

We might compare this to two persons who possess a hundred guldens [gold coins]. The one may carry them in a paper sack, the other may keep them in an iron chest. But for all that, both possess the entire treasure. Thus the Christ whom you and I own is one and the same, regardless of the strength or weakness of your faith or mine. In Him we possess all, whether we hold Him with a strong faith or a weak faith. The entire service of God is contained in this: Believe in Christ, whom the Father has sent you. Accept His pronouncements. You can offer God nothing more pleasing to HIm in heaven or on earth. [Quoted by Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, 391]

The point is not how tightly we hold the treasure, but is the treasure that we hold. Getting caught up in the value of the treasure will make us grip all the tighter, while focusing on how tightly you grip will, in fact, loosen your grip.

Dr. Reza Aslan’s Jesus: Safe & Subjective

Dr. Reza Aslan’s version of Jesus of Nazareth has been getting a bit of press lately, and the viral Fox News interview with him discussing his recent book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth sure didn’t hurt the sales any. I haven’t read the book, but from the sounds of it (see paragraph 3 in the following interview) Dr. Aslan, like other scholars before him, are attempting to extract the Jesus of history from the Jesus of the four gospels. In another interview with The Atlantic author Joe Fassler, Dr. Aslan presents Jesus as a revolutionary who confronted the powerful religious establishment for the sake of the powerless and offered a salvation to people that comes from within:

In Dr. Aslan’s portrayal of Jesus you get to be your own Yahweh or at least make God whatever you want him to be, while in the gospels Jesus reserves the sacred divine name for himself.

I think that, obviously, is an enormous threat to the power-holders whose authority came from—precisely as Dostoevsky says—from their ability to appease a man’s conscience. Pay us your dues, your tithes, bring us your sacrifices, submit to our authority, and in return, we will give you salvation. And Jesus’ challenge to that idea was based on the notion that the power for salvation does not rest in any outsider’s hand: that it rests within the individual. I think that’s an idea that a lot of Christians need to remember. Those who state that salvation comes solely through the Church or belief in a set of doctrines that a bunch of men wrote many years ago are forgetting what Jesus himself said: that salvation is purely an internal matter. That you are the only one qualified to define what God is for you. No one else is qualified to make that decision for you.

This version of Jesus isn’t unique or new. In fact, he’s quite popular. He’s got a message of empowerment and self-salvation, which is eaten up by spiritual but not religious Americans. His Nazarene upsets the safety of the establishment through confrontation, while offering the safest of religious sensibilities. This Jesus grants justice for the weak and marginalized in the here-and-now and then basically gives us what we naturally want out of religion anyway–God and salvation on our own terms. He’s out to revolutionize the injustice of the world, but not to revolutionize the human hearts propensity to subjective idolatry.

The kind of radical revolution of religion that Jesus is promoting is not an internal, relativistic theism, but he’s calling the ones in power and the powerless to worship him and find salvation in him alone.

This is quite the opposite of Jesus, the Jewish man of the New Testament (I recognize that Aslan isn’t after that Jesus anyway), who was steeped in Israel’s identity and embodied Israel’s story in himself. According to this story, Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, had quite a different understanding of God than Dr. Aslan. In the book of Exodus Yahweh called himself rather simply and almost curtly, “I AM WHO I AM” (3:14). In other words, “I am and there is nothing you can do about it. I’m the definer. You are not. I exist independently of you, and you exist dependently upon me.” And the crazy-if-it-isn’t-true thing about the man Jesus of Nazareth is that he called Yahweh his Father, and not only that, he identified himself with Yahweh himself.

Dr. Aslan, as Fassler’s interview showed, doesn’t like this kind of Jesus. He’s distrustful of “anyone who presents themselves as a gatekeeper to truth, or a gatekeeper to salvation”. But this is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus, according to his own words, was the exclusive gatekeeper of the truth because he was the gate (Jn. 10:9) and the truth (Jn. 14:6).

In Dr. Aslan’s portrayal of Jesus you get to be your own Yahweh or at least make God whatever you want him to be, while in the gospels Jesus reserves the sacred divine name for himself. According to the gospel writer’s Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t put to death because he simply upset the religious establishment by breaking tradition and coming alongside the lowly, he upset the religious establishment most of all because he blasphemed by making himself out to be God.

These claims are found in many places in the gospels, yet there is one particular place in chapter five of John’s gospel that seems particularly revealing over against Dr. Aslan’s differing representation of Jesus. Here in a moment where Jesus is operating as a kind of revolutionary, doing good and overturning the religious establishment by healing on the Sabbath, at the same time, he is claiming to be God. Not only is he doing justice by restoring a paraplegic man to wholeness, in spite of the rules of the religious system, he is claiming to being doing the very “work” (a big no-no on the Sabbath) of his Father: “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17). In the next verse, the narrator of this gospel, fills out the results of Jesus’ words and actions,

“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (5:18)

Jesus goes on to say this very same thing by identifying himself with his Father, Yahweh, and comes up with different claims than Dr. Aslan’s Jesus. John’s Jesus says,

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (5:22-24)

Key word here: honor. Key phrase: just as. Jesus is claiming to deserve the same honor–the same worship–as Yahweh. Furthermore, he is saying that eternal life, salvation, is found in him. The kind of radical revolution of religion that Jesus is promoting is not an internal, relativistic theism, but he’s calling the ones in power and the powerless to worship him and find salvation in him alone.

I’ll leave it to New Testament scholars like NT Wright (in places like this) and Richard Bauckham (see Michael Kruger’s recent post on the historicity of John’s gospel) to demonstrate the historicity of the Jesus of the gospels, but Dr. Aslan’s Jesus is not the Jesus of history or the gospels. The Jesus of the gospels is more like CS Lewis’s Jesus-figure, Aslan, the King of the mythic world Narnia who is a simultaneously unsafe, untamed and entirely good lion, while Dr. Aslan’s Jesus is more like a chameleon who changes the colors of the divine to whatever you want him/her/it to be.