Spectacle to the Universe and to Each Other

I remember the first time I was struck with the question formulated by this lesson’s title: “Does Job Fear God for Nought?” In other words, does being a Christian make any difference in my life?

I had planned a really important trip for my parents and husband and myself. My dad was born on Kodiak Island in Alaska, but left there before he was two years old. All my life, he had talked about going back to Alaska, to Kodiak. And then he was diagnosed with cancer. Untreatable cancer. So I decided we should make that trip sooner rather than later. I planned it out with all sorts of detail, packing as much into each day as his restricted health would allow. We were all excited about this.

My parents drove through several states to get to my house and we drove to Atlanta together to fly out. We got to the ticket counter, and…. my dad had forgotten his driver’s license at my uncle’s house, two states away. This meant our trip was going to be dramatically delayed while we obtained the license.

I was furious.

It wasn’t really my dad’s fault. I could explain all the reasons why, but it’s enough to know that while sometimes he does forget things and is known for that in our family, this time it really wasn’t his fault. And yet, there was I was storming out of the airport and into the parking garage to pace up and down and fume while we waited to find out what alternate plans could be made.

And as I was dealing with my rage at thwarted ideals for my trip, outrage at yet another

revelation of a certain kind of weakness in my dad, tears for the wasted time—through all that I knew that I “shouldn’t” be angry. That the amazing thing was that I was getting to be with my dad during these precious weeks—whether in Alaska or in an Atlanta hotel room. That we’d still have fun even if our time was cut short by a day or two. That all time was precious.

And above all, the nagging question: “Isn’t this the point of being a Christian? That when bad things happen, I can call on the love of Jesus for me and for others and choose to trust Him and lean into His love and perspective?” (Well, that’s NOT “the point” of being a Christian, but you get what I mean!) How could I call myself a Christian when I fell apart at the slightest provocation of things not going as planned, any time my loved ones revealed fallibility? Hadn’t the years of sanctification, of practicing walking by faith, accomplished anything?

This little vacation snafu is laughable when compared to what many of God’s beloved children go through every day as they live by faith and call down God’s mercy, justice and peace for their lives. And the story of Job shows a much greater tragedy than hopefully most of us face at any point in our lives. But the author of the book sets it up as a “temptation.” As a way to show how Satan is allowed to put bad things in our way to get us to say bad things about God. I don’t know about the deep theology here regarding theodicy and how this view of God and Satan’s interaction fits in with the larger story of God’s sovereignty and action in the world, but I do want to think a bit about the social aspect of temptation and how Job and the other featured biblical features in the lesson made it through.

There are temptations in the Bible where people stood firm (Ruth, Joseph, Jesus,) and others where people fell (David, Eve, Peter) and there isn’t a clear line on whether resisting/succumbing are related to the public nature of the temptation or not. But I think it is interesting and instructive to see the role of the supportive characters around the tempted one and how that potentially shapes responses. This is especially true when the sins aren’t clearly a violation of a stated commandment (Joseph, Jesus), but seem to be connected to ways of trusting God and being faithful to what we feel He is calling us to.

What’s striking about Job is how it appears that none of the people around him were helpful in the face of his dramatic trials. And yet he (perversely?) held firm to his belief that he had done nothing to deserve this—that God was good and trustworthy. Ruth’s temptation to go back home would have been excused by Naomi, who loved her. But it was also Naomi who helped Ruth obey God. Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness take place alone, but He seems to be very clear that it is the devil who is tempting Him and therefore expects that what he says will be outside God’s will. We see later in His life that he wished very much to have His disciples with Him to support him through presence and prayer in His last temptations in the Garden of Gethsemane.

On the other side of the obedience coin, Eve’s temptation seems linked to her husband’s—they helped each other disobey. David’s lust is personal/private and yet there are other people involved (Bathsheba, their child, the husband) and the cover-up ends up being more impactful than the original sin. Peter’s denial of Jesus seems completely linked with his worries about the people around him.

So: How do we help each other stand firm during temptation? How can we fellow humans, fellow travelers, help each other bear the difficulties of life without adding to them, without tempting people away from their convictions?

It strikes me that so much of what is challenging about difficult times is our embedded human sociology. We live with others and we need their comfort and encouragement. We crave their good will. As Christians, as members of the body of Christ, we can help each other persist through really difficult times. We can encourage cultures of virtue, where Sabbath-keeping is cultivated, and the allure of materialism is eschewed; where we share with each other and acknowledge how much we love and appreciate each other even though we are imperfect and totally maddening.

I think this comes through confession, and acknowledging what his happening, rather than hiding our temptations. Job is living his life out loud, and while his tempters include his spouse and friends, he is clearly processing what is happening in community and dialog. Ruth and Naomi sort themselves out together. Daniel had his friends to help brainstorm a way that they could remain obedient to God and yet cooperative with their benefactors. Peter clearly needed some friends to speak up alongside him.

Our temptations may seem private, but the ability to persist in well-doing, to have the perspective of the Kingdom of God—that’s communal. Our witness is collective, and I think we can help each other persist in faith by being the people who cultivate “contentment in everything” (Phil 4:11-13) rather than the constant round of need for things, judgment at people whose lives aren’t just so, and outrage that we aren’t getting everything we want, all the time, right now. What would happen if we would acknowledge that we are being tempted to earn more money so we can have more things for ourselves and our children and that we aren’t sure if that new job will be in the will of the Kingdom or not? What if we confessed that we needed help decided whether to quit our job because of a temptation to be unfaithful to our spouse? We could support each other, rather than judging each other.

In my own outrage at my father’s failing and my personal disappointment, I had several people I could call on the phone to listen to me. One of those would have stoked my rage. Two others would have listened and then talked me off the ledge and given me perspective. I called the right one, eventually. My ability to confess my sin and lean forward in faith that God and life is good was partially related to who I included in my community. We are indeed spectacles to the universe and each other (1 Cor. 4:9)—but we can turn that to our benefit as we call on the saints, past and present, to help us submit to what the Spirit is trying to tell us.

How has the Body of Christ helped you withstand the temptation to despair of God’s presence and goodness? Are any of you part of communities that cultivate the virtues that allow us to resist the culture of greed and hurry and self-centeredness?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7698
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Thanks, Lisa, for a great story about your “time of trial.” I think lots of us can relate to feeling upset while knowing we “shouldn’t.” I joked to a family member the other day that my emotional range has expanded to the point where I can be irritated with my husband and hate myself at the same time! I’m glad you called the right person to help you process your emotions. And yes, I aspire to be that person, too.

About Satan’s question “Does Job Fear God for Nought?”: I took it differently. I hear Satan saying, “Does Job serve you because he admires you, or because you pay him? You don’t have any friends, God, just employees.”

To switch authors, C.S. Lewis might have had Job in mind (or at least one reading of Job) when he had Puddleglum say, “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

Thanks again for leading the lesson this week; I am excited that we are studying Job–such a rich book.

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So, how was the Alaska trip with your dad?

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Oh? How did Adam help Eve to disobey?

Cliff devotes an entire SS lesson page (Wednesday) to this portion.
I find it interesting where he writes…“Though we certainly can’t judge her”…

yet in the previous sentence he writes, “she’s pushing Job to do precisely what God says he won’t do.”

Is there any correlation to what Eve did to Adam to what Job’s wife did to Job?

Is there any relevance to WO and/or gender conflicts pertaining to this issue?

Do a study of the word “desire” in Gen 3:16 & Gen 4:7

eunice,
It seems that your knowledge demonstrated by posting Matt 15 does not match your question about hope or remarks/conclusions about the church or bible. Also, in my opinion those who posted likes to your post are victims of inept teaching.

So, Gideon. Is there any hope for women, or are we all doomed because of Eve? The Bible says that women are to be subject to husbands, and that they are saved by childbearing. I have neither husband nor children. I look in the church and the Bible for hope and comfort, and find that I’m somehow more flawed than the males in my church - or some version of flawed. Men whom I care about say “Eve sinned first” in an effort to show me why men must lead. I’ve never felt more afraid and alone, in the face of this belief. The promise I claim is Matthew 15:25 - 28.

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The Body of Christ. Hmmm.

I talked myself off the ledge by giving up on those who are pleased to call themselves The Body of Christ, which is why I’m still here on planet earth.

Thus am I labeled an apostate, as recently as Annual Council 2016, by a jolly fellow named Ng.

But I’m glad that you were able to find encouragement in a difficult and disappointing situation. Bless you for planning such a wonderful trip to honor your father.

That’s what it’s all about–the family of God!

I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Psalm 27

Happy Sukkot!

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I’m not ‘Gideon’, so you don’t have to listen to my reply.

Matthew, the male Bible writer whose account of the Phoenician woman and Jesus you love, was ‘somehow more flawed’ than even women were considered to be in the Jewish society of Jesus’ days on Earth. Yet, Jesus ‘called’ and ‘ordained’ Matthew, the hated tax collector, though, as Ellen wrote:

“A Jew who accepted this office at the hands of the Romans was looked upon as betraying the honor of his nation. He was despised as an apostate, and was classed with the vilest of society.
To this class belonged Levi-Matthew, who, after the four disciples at Gennesaret, was the next to be called to Christ’s service.” DA 272

It was Matthew, the male outcast, who then included the ‘outcasts’, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (as Uriah, the Hittite’s, wife) and Mary – the FEMALE, only human contributor to the DNA of Jesus – in his genealogy of Jesus.
And, not only did Matthew remember to mention the outcast women involved in the birth of Jesus from the ‘womb’, but he also remembered the Marys who were both last and first at the tomb on either side of the ‘Sabbath of the Lord of the Sabbath’.
(Matt 27:61, &28:1) ‘Mary’ or ‘Miriam’ means ‘rebellion’, but these women and the Matthew who remembered them for all time were anything BUT rebellious toward Jesus, toward God. And, neither was the author of these words taken from the chapter of The Desire of Ages dealing with Levi-Matthew and the feast he threw for Jesus:

"Nor could the principles of Christ’s teaching be united with the forms of Pharisaism. Christ was not to close up the breach that had been made by the teachings of John. He would make more distinct the separation between the old and the new. Jesus further illustrated this fact, saying, “No man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.” The skin bottles which were used as vessels to contain the new wine, after a time became dry and brittle, and were then worthless to serve the same purpose again. In this familiar illustration Jesus presented the condition of the Jewish leaders. Priests and scribes and rulers were
279
fixed in a rut of ceremonies and traditions. Their hearts had become contracted, like the dried-up wine skins to which He had compared them. While they remained satisfied with a legal religion, it was impossible for them to become the depositaries of the living truth of heaven. They thought their own righteousness all-sufficient, and did not desire that a new element should be brought into their religion. The good will of God to men they did not accept as something apart from themselves. They connected it with their own merit because of their good works. The faith that works by love and purifies the soul could find no place for union with the religion of the Pharisees, made up of ceremonies and the injunctions of men. The effort to unite the teachings of Jesus with the established religion would be vain. The vital truth of God, like fermenting wine, would burst the old, decaying bottles of the Pharisaical tradition. {DA 278.4}
The Pharisees thought themselves too wise to need instruction, too righteous to need salvation, too highly honored to need the honor that comes from Christ. The Saviour turned away from them to find others who would receive the message of heaven. In the untutored fishermen, in the publican at the market place, in the woman of Samaria, in the common people who heard Him gladly, He found His new bottles for the new wine. The instrumentalities to be used in the gospel work are those souls who gladly receive the light which God sends them. These are His agencies for imparting the knowledge of truth to the world. If through the grace of Christ His people will become new bottles, He will fill them with new wine. {DA 279.1}

It seems that the only ‘flaw’ that Jesus now recognizes among His ‘people’ is that ‘flaw’ of being too traditionally ‘old’ ‘dried out’ and ‘cracked’ to be of use to Him for containing His ‘Present Truth’. The ‘woman of Samaria’, you will notice, is listed as one of Christ’s ‘agencies for imparting the knowledge of truth to the world.’ Was this ‘knowledge’ the truth about her own flawed ‘sin’ of adultery ? . . . or the knowledge of the grace of God, which consumes the errors of how we see Him to be, in our lonely, terrified hearts?

Again, a woman speaks:

“The teaching of Christ, though it was represented by the new wine, was not a new doctrine, but the revelation of that which had been taught from the beginning. But to the Pharisees the truth of God had lost its original significance and beauty. To them Christ’s teaching was new in almost every respect, and it was unrecognized and unacknowledged.” {DA 279.2}

“But in vain they do worship me,
teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matt 15:9

The ‘bound back’ SDA ‘religion’ (from ‘re-ligare’ to ‘bind back’) was, long ago, a ‘movement’ breaking the bonds of the stagnant Christian ‘religion’ emerging from ages of ‘darkness’ regarding Christ, the ‘Light of the World’. There is no reason why it may not be once again . . . is there ?

So, all of you SDA ‘Marys’ out there, just stick to what your hearts love and know.
Cling to the feet of that Jesus who still says, ‘. . . Neither do I condemn you. . . .’ While those dry, brittle, self-righteous, stone-wielding men – whose sins Jesus mercifully wrote out so they could see them – use their proud feet to scurry away from the unbearable impact of mere dust. . . continuing in their sin ‘yes more’.

And to those ‘men’ who in the SDA church insist on being the ‘chosen sex’ for performing Baptism – into Jesus – remember that Jesus rose, too ! Let those women you baptize – into Jesus – come up for air, or you are guilty of the death of Christ, without the grace of God to be found ‘in Him’, in His resurrection. And, that resurrection did not stop at the Jerusalem on Earth. No, it stopped at the right hand of God in Heaven, from where Jesus, the ‘Son of Man’, now looks down, waiting for you to allow women to be ‘found in Christ’:

“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; _
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead._
” Philippians 3:9-11

. . . this ‘resurrection’ is for women, too, men.

. . . and, forgive me for making a too-long reply longer, BUT:

‘Ordination’ is clearly a dry, ‘old wine skin’ tradition, and has been clearly male-oriented.
What is now needed in SDA circles is clearly ‘new wine’, a new ‘tradition’, that is is not ‘new’, but merely that original Godly ‘tradition’ of creating and re-creating men and women ‘equal’ ‘in Christ’.

So, women, rather than trying to ‘catch up’ to ‘backward’ men and to be ‘ordained’ into their dry, useless, ‘old wine skin’ tradition, you might do far better to walk on ahead of (too many) SDA men (and women), with Christ, ‘in Christ’. Think ‘outside the box’ , so to speak, but in the best of company ! Study into what ‘in Christ’ means, exactly, and teach the SDA church, clearly, what it may be missing, itself, and therefore may not be taking to the ‘world’. This man would love to cooperate in that study !

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Thank you for your comprehensive response to my question. Your reminder of the all-encompassing kindness of Jesus gives me hope, which I will need so as not to be discouraged by the ‘headship’ beliefs I see in my church.

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Yes, there is hope. Note that the idea of being subject to anyone was as a result of sin. It did not exist in Eden. Pain in childbirth, sorrow, ruling husbands - all mentioned in Genesis 3:16 as result of sin, as a result of satanic forces being unleashed on a perfect world, and are not meant to be in any way God’s original plan for womankind. These are things that God NEVER intended, and which did not exist for the time our first parents lived in Eden. God made woman special. We alone bring forth life. Read Story of Redemption. God loves women. We were made more beautiful than Lucifer (which is probably why he is so jealous of us and has horrific acts committed against us). The first people to see the risen Savior - women, who were not afraid of the Roman guards or the Pharisees. I am so glad to be a woman who the Lord loves. So are you! :relieved:

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I am intrigued by the title of this article and the note in Thursday’s Sabbath School lesson for October 28 that says “The working out of Satan’s rule in contrast with the government of God has been presented to the whole universe.” This is part of a theodicy that says a reason for the continued existence of evil is that indeed the universe is watching and God needs to be justified before that universe.

The fascinating part of this narrative is what we know about how light travels through the universe and the enormity of that universe. A conservative estimate is that the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years across and that at the mid-point it would take approximately 50,000 years for light to reach the outer edges of this galaxy. Then, from our understanding of physics, observers from the middle of the Milky Way would be observing events on this Earth that happened 50,000 years ago! We seem to know from the Hubble telescope that there are billions of other galaxies, each sending light throughout the universe.

Given this, how is it possible that the inhabitants of the “unfallen worlds” are able to witness the events of this planet as if they were watching in real time? How do we reconcile what we know about how long it takes light to reach various parts of this galaxy; thus, how long it would take to observe events on this planet, with a narrative that says that we are a spectacle to the universe?

Daniel 10 speaks of an angel who flies swiftly from the throne of God to meet with Daniel but was withstood for 21 days, Are we to surmise from this text that all inhabitants throughout the known universe are able to witness what happens on this Earth in real time? While it is possible that travel, time and space differ for angels than for everyone else, how are we to reconcile this narrative with what we know about light?

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Thanks, Lisa, for an engaging and heartening commentary.

I’m reminded that in the Body of Christ there are rear ends. Those parts serve us well so long as we do not trust them to do our thinking for us.

Job is the quintessential person of how one would behave when one takes ownership of his actions and behaviors. No one to blame. No enablers needed. Besides, it is way easier to change behaviors when you know who owns it. And in Job’s case, instead of blaming God and regretting it later, he kept his mouth shut.

Take for instance the issue of WO. It is way easier to resolve the conflict knowing the burden lies on TW and his executive committee for exacerbating the issue by making it center stage of his administration. Otherwise, how on earth could he convince 60% of his church members to believe that they are inferior compared to the other 40%?

A story is told of a mother who complained constantly of how she would routinely get in an argument with her 6 year-old son and the fight would escalate ruining the evening. The child psychiatrist told her to take a glass of water but hold the water in her mouth the next time the fight would begin. And keep it in. After a month, she returned and told the child psychiatrist the advise worked and wondered how a glass of water could resolved such a great problem.

Perhaps some of our leaders should learn how to take a glass of water and keep it in their mouth during executive committee meetings, annual council meetings, etc. and watch with awe how easy problems can be resolved and save the church extraneous expenses along the way.

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