God is too free and wisdom is too profound for the retributive principle to be immutably true in every situation; rather, it is mutably true in many situations. And so we should not judge on the basis of the appearance of things but be slow to judge. We will protect ourselves from thinking that God is unjust; and we will more wisely endure the vagaries of life.
In my view, the Book of Job centres on Job’s three friends and Job trying to understand why Job was suffering, while assuming the retributive principle (an eye for an eye).
The big reveal after 34 chapters is that everyone was asking the wrong question. The retributive principle, although wise as it is given in Proverbs, does not represent an immutable principle of justice.
Rather, as the narrative couching of Job tells us (chs 1-2 and 38-42), behind the appearance of things (Job’s suffering in this case) lies deeper truths and wider realities.
That’s why Job 28 likens wisdom to mining below the surface level to the deeps of the earth to find what’s valuable. Even so, wisdom is yet hidden. We cannot comprehend wisdom in full.
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By Paul Tautges — 4 months ago
Life is filled with bitter tasting experiences, but pain and loss don’t have to define us or turn our hearts bitter. We don’t have to respond like Naomi, who resisted God because his plan differed from hers—because her life turned out differently than she expected. Instead, like Ruth, we can respond in humble, childlike faith and rely on him to provide and show us the way. Our response to life’s turnarounds will make us bitter or it will make us better. The choice is ours.
Life in this fallen, broken world can be very hard, even dangerous at times. Therefore, we all face various kinds of bitter tasting experiences. That’s what we began thinking about in the last post. Today, I draw your attention to two more levels of biblical awareness that will help you to uproot bitterness in your heart.
Be Aware of the Reality of Bitter Tasting Affliction
In the Old Testament, we meet a woman who experiences a great deal of pain and loss. Her birth name is Naomi, but later in life she asks people to call her Mara, which means bitter. Why is that? What bitter tasting affliction brought such pain into her life? How did she get to this point? Before we rush to harsh judgment, let’s try to put ourselves in her shoes.
The affliction begins when famine prompts a man to move his wife and two sons fifty miles east, from Bethlehem to Moab—from the land of promise to the land of pagans. While in Moab, all three men die (Ruth 1:3-4). But before his sons die, they marry Moabite women. The Moabites were descendants of one of the incestuous unions of Abraham’s nephew Lot (Genesis 19:37) who then became the enemies of Israel and corrupted them with their abominations (2 Kings 23:13). Therefore, God’s law forbade their entrance to God’s assembly (Deuteronomy 23:3). The marrying of Moabite women was unwise due to the tendency of unbelieving wives to lead men of Israel into idolatry, the most obvious example being King Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3). Knowing this, we may conclude that the family’s move to Moab was not a good one. But, as always, the Lord has a bigger purpose and plan in mind. Something beautiful is happening behind the scenes which no one in this family can see. —a plan that will bring redemption out of brokenness, and beauty out of ashes.
With all three men dead, Naomi reverses the direction that she and her husband had taken ten years earlier. She turns her back on the graves of her loved ones and heads home, making a clean break from the tragedy that had befallen them in Moab. On the way, she tells her daughters-in-law to return to their people, for the “hand of the Lord has gone out against me,” and pronounces a blessing of God’s kindness upon them (Ruth 1:8). Though Naomi’s faith struggled, she still knew that God was kind. And even though he had dealt bitterly with her, she ensures her daughters-in-law that he will be kind to them.
Though Naomi’s faith in the goodness and kindness of God toward herself waned, she understood the bedrock truth of God’s sovereignty in her times of trial. She was then able to tell others. However, knowing this is true and resting in it don’t always coincide equally. During bitter experiences, we may still doubt the Lord.
Be Aware of How Bitterness Operates in Your Heart
Naomi’s response to her afflictions reveal three ways bitterness operates inside us.
Bitterness skews your view of yourself. “Is this Naomi?” the women in town ask the one who now wears a bitter countenance (Ruth 1:20a).
By Kyle Borg — 4 months ago
Given the current state of the Church of Scotland and uncertainty of King Charles III’s sincere commitment to Protestantism, today’s pageantry may prove to be mere formality and tradition. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ, the only King and Head of the Church, has taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come,” which, in part, is a petition that the church would be “countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate” (Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 191).With the death of Queen Elizabeth II the United Kingdom and a watching world are preparing for a lot of royal pageantry. It’s a pageantry that comes with a lot of history and even a little bit of theology. This morning in London, according to an old tradition dating back centuries, King Charles III was officially proclaimed King in the presence of the Ascension Council. For the first time in history people were able to view the event and the simple but profound process by which this is done. With impressive activities and ceremonies the proclamation of the new monarchy will be made throughout the country.
One of the first things King Charles III did — and it was his stated intention to do so at the first opportunity — was to make a formal oath to the security of the Church of Scotland. He did so in the following words:
I, Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of My other Realms and Territories, King, Defender of the Faith, do faithfully promise and swear that I shall inviolably maintain and preserve the Settlement of the true Protestant Religion as established by the Laws made in Scotland in prosecution of the Claim of Right and particularly by an Act intituled “An Act for securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government” and by the Acts passed in the Parliament of both Kingdom for Union of the two Kingdoms, together with the Government, Worship, Discipline, Rights and Privileges of the Church of Scotland. So help me God.
What does all of this mean? As King of the United Kingdom, Charles III bears the title “Defender of the Faith.” As such, he is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. By and large this position is mostly ceremonial and symbolic. However, even as the titular head of the Church of England, King Charles III will appoint high-ranking members of the church.
Historically, this position for the British Monarchy dates back to the Act of Supremacy in 1534. That act confirmed the king’s supremacy over the church. By 1536 King Henry VIII — who wanted out of his first marriage — broke with the Catholic Church and declared the Church of England as the established church and named himself the supreme head.
An “established” church is a church that is officially endorsed by the state – government sanctioned religion. This isn’t to be confused with theocracy, but simply means that a state is not secular and has an official religion. This may seem strange to Americans who value the First Amendment and the freedom of religion. The First Amendment says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” What has been true of the federal government since 1791 became true of every state by 1833. This has not, however, been true in the United Kingdom. Still today the Church of England is the established church in England, and the Church of Scotland in Scotland.
By David Robertson — 10 months ago
Mrs Räsänen was not asking for her defence to be based on the Bible; she was asking for the freedom to quote the Bible and to defend biblical principles. It was the State who was seeking to prevent her from doing so. Bear in mind that Mrs Räsänen was a senior politician, having been Finland’s interior minister from 2011 to 2015. This case was not a random one, but one designed to intimidate and send out a signal that the new secular morality must not be challenged.
There is good news this week from Finland. The Finnish Christian MP, Päivi Räsänen, together with a Lutheran bishop, Juhana Pohjola, have been found not guilty of hate speech charges, while the prosecution has been ordered to pay 60,000 EUR in charges. That is the good news and to be warmly welcomed.
The bad news is that the case was brought in the first place. This was despite the police saying there was no criminal case to answer. This trial was a political trial brought for ideological reasons and there are important lessons for the Church throughout the West to learn from this case.
Mrs Räsänen was accused of making derogatory comments on three occasions including in a 2019 tweet, opposing the Lutheran Church’s participation in the Finnish Pride week, and using Bible verses to argue her position.
The state prosecutor had argued that using the word “sin” could be “derogatory” and “harmful”. This is an astonishing argument. Using the word ‘sin’ could be derogatory for any group. Is the prosecutor really saying that the State should ban sin – or rather speaking about sin?
Being accused of sin can be upsetting. I recall one man who was furious at me for suggesting that his racism against Pakistani people was a sin; and another at a public meeting who was so furious that I was speaking of sin in general that he got up and started shouting and threatening me!
Yet sin is essential to the teaching of the Scriptures. It is the message of Jesus that he came to save sinners from their sin and plenty of people found that message offensive enough – they crucified him for it!
The notion of ‘harm’ is an interesting one. It is a word that is often used, and rarely defined. Harm comes on a spectrum. All of us would agree that killing someone is a ‘harmful’ act – but is challenging someone’s beliefs, philosophies or lifestyles really harmful? Who gets to determine what is harm at that end of the spectrum? In reality, it means that those in power can use the idea of ‘harm’ to blame, shame and control those with whom they disagree.