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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.

Another Spurgeon Merry Christmas

December 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Times of Feasting: The Merry Bell, the Sermon Bell, and the Funeral Bell

From my recent reading through the Spurgeon volumes, comes this very interesting Christmas sermon: #352, December 23, 1860. This is the most unusual text I’ve ever seen for a “Merry Christmas” message, and yet one that surely does fit with how people actually spend Christmas:  Job 1:4-5, about the feasting of Job’s sons and daughters, and Job’s praying for them.  The point of the message is that it is proper and fitting to celebrate good times, to enjoy feasts with one another.  Spurgeon noted other texts of scripture as well: the wedding feast of Cana in John 2 (and I also just listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s sermon on that text); Jesus’ overall reputation as one who came eating and drinking; and the Old Testament feast days appointed by God Himself.

S. Lewis Johnson (Exposition of John 2):

Our Lord approved festival times.  He came and participated in the joy of the wedding feast.  Some have pictured him as a pale Galilean and done great harm to Christianity because Christianity is not of that negative ascetic character.  So he approved festive times and, I think as Christians, we should approve festive times and participate.

And from Adolph Saphir, “The Divine Unity of Scripture”:

It was the idea of God to make His people happy before Him, so that under the law of Moses there were very few fast days, but a great number of feast days, in which the people were to rejoice before the Lord God in the beautiful harvest, and in all the bounties, with which He had surrounded them.

Spurgeon highlighted the merry bell, the sermon bell, and the funeral bell.

  • The Merry Bell of the festive text.  Good men of old have feasted, as well as Jesus Himself
  • The Sermon Bell: the context of the text, which is instructive.  Let your prayer be, “Hold me up, and I shall be safe.” Let your daily cry be, especially you young Christians, yes and you old Christians. too, “Lord, keep me! Keep my heart, I pray You, for out of it are the issues of my life.”
  • The Funeral Bell: That which follows the text, which is afflictive–  Between the table and the coffin there is but a step; between the feast and the funeral there may be but a day; and the very bell that rings the marriage peal tolls the funeral knell!

The Merry Bell includes the caution – “it may be” that my sons have sinned.  The feasting itself was not sin, though, and Job did not know of any sins, or he would have made the statement definite.  Still, “it may be,” and the remedy:  Job sent for his sons, as a father; he sanctified them as a preacher; he sacrificed for them as a priest.

The Funeral Bell relates to a selection from my readings today (in my 9 list Horner Style Genre Reading): Ecclesiastes 7:2 — ​​​​​​​It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. 

Yet as Ecclesiastes also tells us, there is a time for everything, including the times for feasting and celebrating.  In closing, an excerpt from Spurgeon concerning the Christmas holiday:

In Cromwell’s days, the Puritans thought it an ungodly thing for men to keep Christmas. They, therefore, tried to put it down, and the common crier went through the street announcing that Christmas was henceforth no more to be kept, it being a Popish, if not a heathen ceremony! Now, you do not suppose that after the crier had made the proclamation, any living Englishman took any notice of it! At least I can scarcely imagine that any did, except to laugh at it; for it is idle thus to strain at gnats and stagger under a feather! Albeit that we do not keep the feast as Papists—nor even as a commemorative festival—yet there is a something in old associations that makes us like the day in which a man may shake off the cares of business, and disport himself with his little ones. God forbid I should be such a Puritan as to proclaim the annihilation of any day of rest which falls to the lot of the laboring man! … Though I would not have as many saint’s days as there are in Roman Catholic countries—yet if we had but one or two more days in which the poor man’s household, and the rich man’s family might meet together—it might perhaps be better for us. However, I am quite certain that all the preaching in the world will not put Christmas down—you will meet next Tuesday, and you will feast, and you will rejoice, and each of you, as God has given you substance, will endeavor to make your household glad!