Heaven’s fairness confronts man’s preferment

The Living Word for Sunday, October 3

White-faced Herefords welcoming some human attention

Man’s rules, titles and entrance requirements must yield to the fairness of God in giving the kingdom of heaven to those who humbly receive

The Living Word for Sunday, October 3, 2021, is a non-denominational Bible study which relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s traditions or preferences, and following the Bible’s sequence of progressive revelation. Read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. The week’s readings are as set by the Revised Common Lectionary, an inter-denominational resource shared by many different churches and chapels. The Bible version, widely used in contemporary churches, is the NIV © Biblica. Ref TLW39B

Job 1:1, 2:1–10 — How Satan oppresses but God rules over the tests of life

Mark 10:2–16 — In the kingdom of God, justice demands that everyone is esteemed equally

Hebrews 1:1–4, 2:5–12 — Jesus, the radiance and the exact representation of God, entered our messy world to redeem it

And also read: Psalm 26

Theme: How the fairness of heaven confronts man’s pride and control

Job 1:1, 2:1–10 — God rules over the tests of life which come to all

Satan is allowed to oppress righteous Job to try to get him to blame God

1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

“Job… was blameless and upright” — his name, from Hebrew ‘iyyob meaning ‘Where is the heavenly Father?’, sets the scene for this story of testing. Job is depicted as having a consistent (if not sinless) spiritual life, spotless character, and being faithful before God — a tension with his friends who assume the opposite.

2:1–2 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before Him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

“On another day” — a second glimpse of the angels of the heavenly court with Satan elbowing in, an unwelcome presence. The scene of Job’s second test is like the first, Job 1:6–12. In the first test Satan was bound from harming Job’s person. In this second Job’s person is vulnerable but his actual life is protected, verse 6 below.

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited Me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“You incited me” — or rather, attempted to. God cannot be stirred up to act against His will. “Have you considered my servant Job” is an indication that God allowed what happened to Job as part of His purpose. God doesn’t send afflictions but shares our experience of difficulties which test our trust of Him, hence “Lead us not into temptation” linked to “the evil one” in Jesus’ model prayer for disciples, Matt. 6:13.

“Without any reason” — translates the same Hebrew word used for Satan, insinuating that Job did not serve God “for nothing”, Job 1:9. The Lord throws “for nothing” back at the Accuser.

4–5 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to your face.”

“Skin for skin” — as Job maintains his integrity in a test that cost him his skin, and the “skin” of his animals. Satan, always the accuser, alleges that Job is only concerned for himself.

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7–8 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

“Painful sores” — the terms used for the ‘plague of boils’ in Egypt, Exodus 9:9–11 and ‘painful boils’, Deuteronomy 28:35, which stood as a specific covenant curse for the disobedient. This was the justification Job’s friends found for telling him that he was being punished for sinning — a severe test of faith.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

“Are you still…” — Job’s wife sarcastically echoes God’s words, using a figure of speech to narrowly escape blasphemy. She mistakes Job’s dogged faith for religious obstinacy. His hardest test so far.

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

“Shall we accept good… and not trouble” — Job’s measured reply cancels his wife’s dangerous near-agreement with Satan. This makes the central point of the Book of Job: God is sovereign over our lives whether in good times or adversity. In spiritual maturity we are able to trust Him even when we don’t understand why bad things happen.

Reflection

SUMMARY Job is presented to us as man of integrity, who honoured God and took trouble to avoid evil. So why is he singled out for affliction?

APPLICATION The lesson is that we have an enemy, perhaps particularly targeting those who have a close walk with God. However, God’s purposes are higher, using affliction to test, prove and grow our faith, and demonstrate that ultimately He has sovereignty over our lives and circumstances.

QUESTION How would you use this passage to encourage someone struggling to believe and trust God rather than human logic and feelings?

Mark 10:2–16 — God’s justice and good is for everyone equally

In the kingdom of God, husbands, wives and children are esteemed together

2 Some Pharisees came and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“Tested Him by asking” — meaning ‘tried to catch Him out’. John the Baptist had been beheaded for teaching that Herod Antipas’ divorce and remarriage was unlawful. With Jesus in Herod’s territory, the Pharisees saw a way of getting Him into trouble for agreeing with John the Baptist.

“A man to divorce his wife” — the grounds for divorce were much debated, and many Pharisees were advocating that men could initiate a kind of ‘no fault’ divorce.

3 “What did Moses command you?” He replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

“Moses command… Moses permitted” — the Pharisees came back with Deut. 24:1–4 which was not a command but an acknowledgment that marriages fail, giving some protection for the woman’s rights. But over time, divorce permitted in Deut. 24:1 for ‘something indecent’ had become ‘anything indecent’.

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied.

6–9 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“What God has joined” — Jesus uses Scripture to move the argument from man’s interpretation of the rules, back to God’s intentions at creation, before sin had entered; marriage is between man and woman, and is divinely established, Gen. 1:27, 2:24, Exodus 20:14.

10–12 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

“This disciples asked Jesus about this” — taken aback by Jesus expecting a higher moral righteousness than merely keeping within Israel’s civil law, Matthew 5:20.

13–16 People were bringing little children to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.

“He was indignant” — a strong word. It was a longstanding tradition to bring children for a blessing. Jesus challenges the hierarchy mentality of Judaism, in which children were largely excluded, and makes the point that the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) must be received, like a child simply coming to receive a gift. It cannot be earned by merit. See Matt. 5:3.

Reflection

SUMMARY Jesus entered a male-dominated world and encountered a strong tradition of privilege and rank. The ‘small people’, typified by the ‘small people’ who were children, were being dismissed as of little account. His intervention, today as then, is to call us back to God’s intention at Creation.

APPLICATION The kingdom of heaven’s order is about equal-handed fairness without privilege or discrimination — like in heaven. Jesus challenges our fondness — like the Jews of His time — for making our own rules about marriage and divorce, to better accommodate cultural preferences.

QUESTION Where are we creating barriers of status and title and what would Jesus say about them?

Hebrews 1:1–4, 2:5–12 — Jesus entered our messy world to redeem it

The very radiance of God became human, and endured man’s sin and oppression

1–2 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe.

3–4 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.

“In the past God spoke” — through the various prophets, and then by the One who was a new category of revelation,His Son.

“By His Son who…” — seven praise definitions follow: (1) heir of creation; (2) creator or co-creator of the universe; (3) the radiance of God’s glory; (4) the exact expression of God’s nature; (5) the Word of God Himself, the only prophet who is also God; (6) the priest of God, who purifies from sin; and (7) the majestic king enthroned at the right hand of the Father.

“Exact representation” — the Son gives (TPT) “the exact expression of God’s true nature — His mirror image “, a defining picture of the very character of God, John 1:18; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15.

“Superior to the angels” — Jews in the synagogue tradition were inclined to view Jesus as an angel rather than divine. Jesus, whose name and therefore essence is Son, is not to be equated even with angels.

5 It is not to angels that He has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?

7–8a “You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.”

8b-9 In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.

“Someone has testified” — the author shows how Psalm 8:4–6 is fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus needed to become incarnate as man — and for that time, lower than the angels — so that the “son of man”, the Messiah, could be the truest representative of mankind, Daniel 7:13. The role intended for mankind at creation came to fulfilment in Jesus Christ sharing our humanity.

10–11 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what He suffered. Both the One who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

12 He says, “I will declare your name to My brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing Your praises.”

“Perfect through what He suffered” — not questioning Jesus’ sinlessness, but showing Jesus to have been qualified for His unique role “through what He suffered”, obeying perfectly, dying as the perfect sacrifice for sins on our behalf. The Amplified Bible expands “perfect” into “[God] should bring to maturity the human experience necessary to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest”.

“I will declare Your name… in the assembly…” — from Psalm 22:22, showing that Jesus Christ is present in the gathered church.

Reflection

SUMMARY Who is Jesus? This letter, angled towards Jewish Christians in particular, starts with a sentence setting out clearly Jesus’ identity as the prophet, priest and king who is also God. It goes on to explain that He was also incarnated as a regular human being, with a unique role as redeemer of mankind which was completed in His suffering and death.

APPLICATION Through His life on earth, His suffering and death he is identified with every abuse and injustice that is part of this world’s package — and experiences its pain with us. As we receive Him into our hearts as our sovereign Lord, He is able to exercise the rule of heaven’s better, higher, and more just way over every aspect of our lives.

QUESTION How does the realisation that Jesus calls us brother, or sister, enable us to live differently?

PRAYER Father God, we so want to have the reputation in heaven that Job had, of being people of integrity before You.
But like the example of the Pharisees, we too easily create our own standard of righteousness, and too readily let the obstacles of titles and structures and positions hinder people trying to find their way to Jesus and His kingdom.
Forgive us, Lord, for our smug ‘churchianity’ and so fill us with the Spirit of Jesus that we live up to being called His brothers and sisters and friends.
Through Him who was made perfect, so that He could save us who are so imperfect, we pray in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Ian Greig

Ian Greig

Husband+Father | Missional Christian | Author+ Speaker+Creator — offering ‘Faith without the Faff’ to encourage those not attracted to a formal club-like church