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The Old Testament God as Father: in the Book of Job (Old Testament Continuity)

March 18, 2020 6 comments

The topic of Old Testament/New Testament continuity and discontinuity I find interesting, as I notice more of the continuity that is there.  From my recent readings and audio sermon series, a few observations regarding the concept of God, Our Father, as revealed in the Old Testament.

That God, the first person of the Trinity is our Father (in a personal, individual sense), in the New Testament is clear and undisputed, starting with the gospel accounts and the Lord’s prayer.  Yet today some teach that this is strictly a New Testament understanding, completely unknown before Jesus expounded the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord’s Prayer.  The reasoning here is that the Old Testament’s only explicit references are to God as Father in a general, national sense; therefore Old Testament believers had incomplete notions about God and related to Him in some true ways but not as we would in this New “enlightened” age.  Here also is the logical fallacy of looking for a truth to be taught explicitly and directly, and in particular words—and if not found, that voids the very idea itself.

Online articles have responded to this, pointing out the many references to God as Father in the Old Testament (and the clear meaning behind it all).  Al Mohler, in his book The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits, writing about the phrase ‘God, the Father Almighty’ observes:

The revelation of God as “Father” has roots in the Old Testament, where God is described as the Father of Israel (Deut. 32:6).  The fatherly love of God is also present throughout the Old Testament.  The prophet Hosea spoke of God as a Father carrying Israel as a child (Hos. 11:1-4), and David described God as a “Father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5).

From Danny Hyde’s sermon series on the book of Job, Whom Do I Trust? (see this previous post), comes another interesting example.  After the many chapters in the book of Job, the three cycles of speeches from Job and his friends, God finally answers Job, in a ‘wrestling match’ of wits.  ‘Job, you think you can be God?  Okay – where were you when ….?  And several more chapters of questions for Job to respond to.  The analogy here is like that of parents with their children.  God is here dealing with Job as a father with his son, and like parents do with their children.  When the kids get uppity and start thinking they can do everything, the parent responds with this same type of attitude:  okay, you think you can do all this, then you (the child) go ahead – you go to the grocery store, you carry in all the groceries; you pack the towels and everything needed for the trip to the beach.

Yes, the New Testament clearly reveals more directly the truth about God as our personal Father, but God is the same and His way of relating to His people has always been the same.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly teach the doctrine of God as our Father, or the doctrine of our adoption, yet the concepts are clearly there, if shown indirectly through the historical narratives of the lives of the saints and in the wisdom literature such as the Psalms, and even the book of Job.

Lessons From the Book of Job

March 13, 2020 8 comments

Over the last few years I’ve looked for good sermon series in the wisdom literature, and especially on the book of Job, but had not found any until recently.  Now two such series, both from Reformed/Covenantal speakers/authors, are available:  a 9 part series from Danny Hyde (with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals), “Whom Do I Trust?” as well as a still in-progress series on SermonAudio from Dr. Michael Barrett (covenantal premillennialist, at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary), series, “Dealing with Hard Providences.”  (Note:  SermonAudio for Michael Barrett also shows a much older (1991) sermon series in the book of Job; I have not listened to that earlier series.)

Both of these series provide some interesting points, with different approaches to the book and emphasizing particular sections of the 42 chapters.  Barrett points out more of the historical context, during the time after Noah’s flood and before Abraham, and suggested authorship of Solomon.   A main idea brought out in both is that Job’s three friends had right and correct theology, as far as it went—but very wrong application to Job’s particular case.  Along the way, both note the repetition, the three full cycle pattern of speeches from Job, then Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  Hyde here makes good application from the friends’ first speeches:  the friends are actually saying the things noted by Satan in the prologue: man-centered theology, what can I get from God?, and even a version of the prosperity gospel in Bildad’s first speech:  just do the right thing, confess your sins and return to God, and you’ll be blessed.  Ironically enough, that is what happens to Job at the end, doubly blessed by God, and yet not for any reason on Job’s part.  It is not as though God can be manipulated like a slot machine by a ‘formula’ of doing particular outward acts in order to get the material blessings you want.

Another good observation (from both) is Job’s increasing faith throughout the dialogues.  As noted in the ‘Whom Do I Trust?’ series, Job’s speeches get longer and the others’ speeches shorter, showing Job dealing with his problems and increasing in faith.  The faith is often temporary, and then Job lapses back into despair, as also noted in Barrett’s series.

As sometimes happens, here I note a few areas of disagreement or questionable matters, on secondary issues:

  • Danny Hyde describes the behemoth and leviathan as modern-day animals such as water buffaloes and crocodiles.  Online resources have considered the details of these texts, to show that these animals fit with the very early time of the book of Job and do not really work as descriptions of modern-day animals; good evidence exists that these were what we know of as dinosaurs and historically were called dragons; reference this article from Creation Ministries International.
  • In the Barrett series, the dream and spirit references made by Eliphaz (Job 4:12-21; see this article) were legitimate revelations from God, in that age before the closed canon when God communicated by dreams — to unsaved biblical characters such as Joseph’s pharaoh; other examples here would include Nebuchadnezzar, Abimelech (Genesis 20), and Laban (Genesis 31) – and in visions and theophanies to His people.  (Though I would add that dream visions also came to God’s people, such as Joseph himself.)  Elsewhere I have read, regarding Job 4:12-21, that this spirit was actually not God but demonic (see, for example, this Days of Praise devotional).

I would have liked to see more treatment of the fourth, younger, friend Elihu.  Danny Hyde seems to just put him in the same category as the three friends, and completely skips over the Elihu chapters as well as the epilogue that mentions Job sacrificing for his three friends (specifically named), because the three friends had not spoken rightly about God.  Barrett briefly mentioned Elihu, noting that he didn’t quite know what to make of Elihu and had different feelings (depending on his mood) regarding Elihu.  Future messages in his series may add more teaching about Elihu.

Still, though, full treatment of everything in Job would require a commentary, rather than a survey series.  The 9 part series from Danny Hyde, as well as Michael Barrett’s series (in progress) accomplish their purposes, teaching on the major theme of the book of Job along with great application to the Christian life and how we deal with suffering when it happens.