Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WTF Moment in Bible Study: Inferior

The world has standards of good and evil. But as Christians we are called upon to walk in grace...which means we must go through life forgetting that we know the knowledge of evil. The book of Job is the oldest book of the Bible, written before the Law was given to the Israelites, but.... after the world knew the knowledge of good and evil.  That's important to remember.

Here is Job, enduring all his know-it-all friends. They're telling him that certain people (hint, hint: like you, Job) get punished for their sins...and that certain other people who know the truth (hint, hint: like us wise ones) must enlighten these sinful people who're being punished for their sins.

Job's reply:
Job 12:2-4 (King James Version)
 2No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
 3But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
 4I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him: the just upright man is laughed to scorn.

Job's friends go to "enlightening" Job again. And again he says,

Job 13
 1Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
 2What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.
 3Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.

When this word "inferior" pops up, it jumps up at me. Why? Because this English word "inferior" means certain things to the modern human ear. The King James translators used it four times in the Bible. The other two times is when Daniel talks about an inferior kingdom and when Paul tells the Corinthian churches they are not inferior to other churches.

I couldn't find my Vine's Dictionary to figure out what Hebrew or  Greek word was being used but from what we see in the above passage, (via the English translation) Job is dealing with people whom he thinks are behaving as if they know more about God and Job's own life than Job does. (Sorry about the length of that sentence; it's early morning.)

Job's comment reminded me of what the prophet Isaiah said about those people

 4Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
 5Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.

Isaiah 65:4-6 (King James Version)

In the case of Isaiah, the people who think they're holy are hypocrites. They're eating ham etc and shellfish et al ...yet they're still insisting on their holiness and on their being holier than other people. In Job's case, Job's friends are without the law. They're also Edomites. So they can only go on their own idea of what God is and how perfect they are by their own philosophies. They all have subtly different theologies and if you don't read carefully, you might be tempted to think they all have the same philosophy/religion. All the same, they pretty much all agree that Job needs enlightening. As Job calls them, "Miserable Comforters." But we can't really call Job's friends sinful. They didn't have the law and as St Paul said, "where there is no law, there is no imputation of sin." But they are definitely a might on the rude side.

Another instance of spiritual people behaving badly towards those suffering and who think they know what is going on in someone else's mind is in this parable that Jesus.

Luke 18:10-12 (King James Version)

 10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
It shows that it doesn't really matter what religion or non-religion a person professes, there is this weird thing in the human soul that likes feeling superior to someone else. And this weird thing in the human soul tends to come out -- weirdly-- when another person is suffering. How strange we humans are!

The weird thing is that Job was spiritually okay until his friends showed up. If his friends hadn't attempted to "comfort him" with their platitudes, he probably wouldn't have gotten so bitter. From the time we humans learned the knowledge of good and evil, we have learned to see the evil in other people. Once that happens, both the offended and the offender have fallen into trouble. The spirit of legalism -- the law-- leads to the leaven of the Pharisees which is this is right, this is wrong. It leads to criticism. But in the offended person, it leads to bitterness and offense.  The bait of Satan is offense. Offense occurs when we tell someone they are not doing something according to our knowledge of good and evil. Cain was offended. Job was offended. I have been offended. The ability to see the wrongs in other people is just as bad as lust...and so many people who spout platitudes think they're comforting when what they're doing is adding offense.  As people under grace, we have to avoid giving offense. And we have to avoid anger and bitterness when others offend us.

Romans 14: Who are you to judge God's servant? God will enlighten his servants.

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