Dec 07: Job 9 | Micah 5 | James 1
Reading 1 - Job 9:22
"It is all the same; that is why I say, 'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked' " (Job 9:22).
"God knows when the good things are safe and when the evil things are needed; and the scriptural attitude is to accept, with a reverential submission, whatever comes; if good, with thanksgiving; if evil, with resignation. It would be altogether a mistake to assume that goodness only will be our lot, or that God regards us not if He suffer evil to happen. Job is ever a helpful illustration on this point. A man of the thoroughly approved stamp, God overthrew him in all his affairs without letting him know that he was being subjected to a test. Job, while asserting his integrity, took it all in submission, on the ground that God was supreme and did as He willed, and that man, as a created being, had no room to murmur if evil as well as good were his lot. In this Job took the right ground; for his judgment of the case was divinely endorsed as against that of his three friends, who argued that because Job had fallen into evil, therefore he must have been unrighteous" (Robert Roberts, "Seasons of Comfort" 22).
Reading 2 - Mic 5:2
" But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Mic 5:2).
In contrast to the humiliation of Israel's judge (king) Zedekiah, a greater ruler would emerge later in Israel's history. He would be Yahweh's representative (cp John 17:4; Heb 10:7) and would arise from the comparatively insignificant town of Bethlehem (House of Bread) Ephrathah (Fruitful). (The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem has already been intimated in Mic 4:7-10.)
Ephrathah (or Ephrath) was an old name for the area later occupied by Bethlehem in Judah, in contrast to other Bethlehems in the Promised Land (cp Gen 35:16-19; 48:7; Josh 19:15; Rth 4:11). Bethlehem was, of course, the hometown of David (1Sa 16:1,18,19; 17:12), so the reference to it allows for the possibility of a familial connection with King David.
"Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times": The NIV has "origins", and the KJV has "goings forth". The Hebrew "mowtsaah" occurs only three times: it signifies family descent, or most literally a fountain or gate (Strong). This Hebrew word is derived from the more common "mowtsa", used 27 times, signifying literally a 'going out': it seems to have a variety of meanings, it is used with reference to the exodus from Egypt (Num 24:8; 33:2; Deu 8:14), words spoken from lips (Num 30:12; Deu 8:3; 23:23; Psa 89:34; Jer 17:16; Dan 9:25), a fountain or spring flowing out (Deu 8:15; 2Ki 2:21; Isa 41:18; 58:11), the sun rising or going forth (Psa 19:6; 75:6; Hos 6:3); an exit (Eze 42:11; 43:11; 44:5).
All of these ideas are suggestive: Jesus was the Word of God made flesh (Joh 1:14); he was the great light sent into the world (Joh 8:12); he was the Passover lamb to bring about the "exodus" from the Egypt of sin (Joh 1:29; etc). All this was decreed from the very beginning, even "from everlasting", and in a sense Jesus WAS these things from the beginning, although he had no personal existence until his conception in the womb of Mary, because God's word and promise was sure and certain.
But, most especially, the Hebrew for "origins" points to the paternal "fountain" of procreation: Jesus, a man born of a woman (Gal 4:4), was also the direct and immediate descendant of the Eternal Father. On his mother's side, he was but a man descended from many other men and women. But on his Father's side, he was one small step removed from the Creator of Heaven and Earth -- his paternal origin was "from of old, from days of eternity". His paternal lineage in that sense predated Adam, and all other created things. He was (approximately) the 42nd generation from Abraham, and (approximately) the 77th generation from Adam, BUT he was also the FIRST generation from Yahweh!
Is there a problem with saying Jesus was "from God" or "from heaven" or "from eternity", whilst still maintaining he was a mortal man whose individual existence began with his conception? Of course not. In the simplest terms, men may be said to be "from" their parents, without necessarily having any separate or personal existence at all the same times or places as their parents! Indeed, they cannot have so existed along with their parents. Both of Barbara's parents were born in Scotland and emigrated to Canada as small children; Barbara was born in Canada, and has never set foot in Scotland -- yet with all reasonableness she may be said to be "from Scotland".
Finally, there is a Biblical sense in which Levi may be said to have paid tithes even before he was born, being still "in the loins" of his father Abraham when Abraham did so (Heb 7:9,10). Likewise, Jesus may be said to have been "from everlasting".
The phrases "from of old" and "from ancient times" are also interesting. Elsewhere both phrases refer to the early periods in the history of the world or of the nation of Israel. For "miqqedem" (of old) see Neh 12:46; Psa 74:12; 77:11; Isa 45:21; 46:10. For "mime olam" (ancient times, or days of eternity) see Isa 63:9,11; Amos 9:11; Mic 7:14; Mal 3:4. In Neh 12:46 and Amos 9:11 the Davidic era is in view. This verse alludes to David, as the references to Bethlehem and to his ancient origins and activities indicate. The passage anticipates the second coming of the great king to usher in a new era of national glory for Israel. Other prophets are more direct and name this coming ideal ruler "David" (Jer 30:9; Eze 34:23,24; 37:24,25; Hos 3:5). Of course, this prophecy of "David's" second coming is actually fulfilled through his descendant, the Messiah, who will rule in the spirit and power of his famous ancestor and bring to realization the Davidic royal ideal in an even greater way than the historical David (see Isa 11:1,10; Jer 33:15).
Reading 3 - James 1:25
"But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom [or 'the law of liberty], and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25).
There are three sorts of dogs in the city:
the wild, masterless dog that roams the streets at will, steals his meals from garbage cans, and often comes to an inglorious end in the lethal chamber of the humane society;
the chained dog, which cannot be trusted for more than a few feet; and
the dog that knows and loves his master and responds obediently to his voice.
The first of these has liberty but no law; the second has law but no liberty; whereas the last enjoys the perfect law of liberty.
All men seem to be like one of these three dogs:
The masses are utterly lawless when it comes to the authority of God. They are dominated by sin, and "sin is lawlessness" (1Jo 3:4). Truly they are "free", but at what a price!
And then, there are many who are like the dog on the leash -- they have law, but no liberty. These are legalists in the religious realm. The sad, fearful Pharisee is the representative of thousands who, "being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom 10:3).
But the believer who knows the truth of New Testament salvation is like the third dog. He needs no chain but is guided by his Master's eye and his Master's voice. He does what he should, the best he can, not because he is afraid of punishment, but out of gratitude to a loving Master. He needs no chains except the "chains" of devoted love.