(Kol Nidre; Yom Kippur begins at sundown today. Sukkot begins at sundown Saturday, October 14.)

Job 1: 1, 2: 1-10

On your way from 1: 1 to 2: 1, pause a moment to reflect on 1: 16: "God's fire fell from heaven". I think we can understand this statement as a product of its time; indicative of the then current religious attitude: anything inexplicable was ascribed to (not "blamed on") YHWH. We find this in the Prophets. I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isa. 45: 7(1)) Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? (Amos 3: 6(2))

One day the divine beings presented themselves before the LORD. The Adversary came along with them to present himself before the LORD. (2: 1; 1: 6) Although I dislike their decision to capitalize, I applaud the TNK's translators' choice of Adversary for ha-satan(3), which is a noun, not a name. I think that we proffer undue dignity to this being by allowing it a proper name.

Returning to the thought of the first paragraph, the Hebrew Scriptures deem the adversary to be one of the divine beings, the bnai ha-elohim, "sons" of "the divine ones". As the creation of evil is ascribed to YHWH, so too is the adversary reckoned as one of God's creatures, a child of God. Question: are any of YHWH's creatures, is any son(4) of God totally and forever beyond the redemptive power of the LORD to save? Are there limitations to the embrace of the wide-spread arms of Christ on the cross?

The LORD said to the Adversary, "Have you noticed My servant Job?" (2: 3; 1: 8) God's question is open to interpretation. Is it boastful, or "just telling it like it is", or intended to provoke the adversary to think and do something sinful? Or is it merely a rhetorical device to set the stage for the epic poem that follows? The first leaves us uneasy; we do not want to attribute pride and vanity to God. The second is wholly unlikely; as such the statement has no cause and serves no purpose. The third is ruled out; No one when tempted should say, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil and does not himself tempt anyone. (Jas. 1: 13)

Does this leave us with only the fourth option? Or is there another? God... does not... tempt anyone. But God does put us to the test; sometimes severely, as with Abraham and Isaac. As David advised Solomon: "the LORD searches all minds and discerns the design of every thought; if you seek [YHWH, the LORD] will be available to you, but if you forsake [the LORD, YHWH] will abandon you forever." (1Chr. 28: 9) God's question to the adversary may reveal some pride and confidence, but its purpose is to search the designs of the adversary's heart.

The Adversary departed from the presence of the LORD (2: 7; 1: 12). Does this tell us anything? Is a similar statement made about any other person in all of Holy Writ? As you ponder this, keep Psa. 139 in mind:

The wide-spread arms of Christ on the cross embrace everyone; everyone, that is, except those who forsake God and choose to depart from the presence of the LORD.(5) Although it is impossible by any means to effect an escape, one is not wrongly judged for the lack of success, but rightly on the basis of the design of the heart.

Psalm 26
A superficial reading of this Psalm yields the impression of great pride and conceit in the writer. It brings to mind the Pharisee's prayer (Lk. 18: 11-12). Is this Psalm also an example of how not to think and pray?

First of all, note that, although the Psalmist gives himself high grades for behavior, he realizes and accepts the fact that this is insufficient in itself; even the best behaved person must still rely solely on God's grace for redemption, vindication, salvation.

How can anyone, especially a believer in YHWH God, ever say: I have walked without blame? Another Psalmist wrote:

Well then, which Psalm (although both are ascribed to David) is telling the truth? Christians, following the Apostle Paul (Rom. 3: 10-12), must choose Psa. 14. Does that mean that Psa. 26 is untrue, a false statement in the Word of God? Not necessarily. For a God-believer, it is possible to say with integrity: I have walked without blame IF that person can also honestly profess: I have trusted in the LORD.

Geza Vermes puts this matter of trust in another light. "It is worth stressing that recognition of God's sovereignty is not only the first and foremost act of religion, but that it has logical and chronological priority over the fulfilment of the individual precepts of the Torah." He then quotes "an anonymous Tannaitic commentary on the first of the Ten Commandments".

Recognition and acceptance of God's sovereignty-- especially over oneself and one's own life-- is the foundational act of faith and worship. For how can one trust in the LORD if one does not believe in the absolute and eternal sovereignty of the One True God?

Such are the words of a person of faith and confidence. But on what do that faith and confidence depend?

What on the surface appears to be self-confidence and self-righteousness is, when researched, actually a profession of profound faith and reliance on the justice and mercy of God.

(7)Heb. 1: 1-4, 2: 5-12

[1: 1-4, 2: 6-15, suggested]

When in times past God spoke to our fore[bears], [God] spoke in many and varied ways through the prophets. (1: 1) To the author and his audience, the prophets included "the former prophets"-- Torah (Moses was Israel's "greatest prophet") and Nevi'im (Josh. - 2Kings as well as Isa. - Mal.); that is, the majority of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is likely that, in their minds, the Kethuvim, Writings, were also included by association, so that the prophets means the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Word of God to them at that time.

But in this the final age [God] has spoken to us in [Christ], whom [God] has appointed heir of all things; and through [whom God] created the universe. (1: 2) The main concept here, carried forward from v.1, is God's "oral activity" (cf. Gen. 1). Although the author uses the past tense, he does not imply that God no longer "speaks" to humanity but, by referencing the multiplicity of events recorded in the Scriptures, he indicates that God continues to speak to us, both through the prophets and Christ's Spirit of Truth.

[Jesus] is the radiance of God's glory, the stamp of God's very being, and he sustains the universe by his word of power. (1: 3) Let us constantly keep in mind the fact that Jesus was "fully human": Bearing the human likeness, sharing the human lot (Php. 2: 7-8); from which we learn that, as Jesus was, so are we the radiance of God's glory. And God created ha-adam in [YHWH's] image, in the image of God [YHWH] created [them], male and female [God] created them. (Gen. 1: 27) Note that, before the mention of our separate sexual attributes, our shared creation in the image of God is stated twice.(8) This is why Jesus, and you and I, bear the stamp of God's very being.

There is good reason why human beings are precious in God's sight, and why the LORD deigns to speak-- over and over again-- to us. It serves us well to join the Psalmist in contemplation:

What, indeed! Much more, in God's eyes, than we are wont to acknowledge.

[God] has spoken to us in [Christ], ...and he sustains the universe by his word of power. And what word of power has Jesus spoken to us? 'You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.' (Jn. 15: 3)

When [Jesus] had brought about purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of God's Majesty on high (1: 3). Here the author introduces his principal theme, which he also states in the past tense. Again, although this act was wholly, entirely, fully and completely accomplished once for all (9: 26, 10: 2) on the cross, its effect and effectiveness continue throughout time: for you, me, our neighbor and our enemy. And the proof of this is that the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God (Mk. 16: 19) Christ, having offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, took his seat at God's right hand (10: 12).

As the author contemplates the Psalmist's questions, he finds the connection between Christ and humanity. That is why [Jesus] does not shrink from calling [us] his [blood relatives], when he says, ...'Here am I, and the children whom God has given me.' (2: 11..13)

Mark 10: 2-16

This word of the LORD came to me: '...prophesy.... The LORD God says: I am about to kindle a fire.... Everyone will see that it is I, the LORD, who have set it ablaze; it will not be put out.' 'Ah, LORD God,' I cried, 'they are always saying of me, "He deals only in figures of speech."' (Ezek. 20: 43..49, REB) Mark's plaint might be just the reverse: "They always take me literally!"

Did Mark write a parable(9) on divorce to teach about our relationship with God? Jesus said to them, 'It was because of your stubbornness that [Moses] made this rule for you." (5) One person-- and one person alone-- is responsible for the break-up of one's union with God. 'Therefore what God has joined together, [one] must not separate.' (9)

1. 1 KJV; see also ARV, LXX tr. Brenton and Young's Literal Translation.

2. 2 KJV; see also ARV and LXX tr. Brenton.

3. 3 H7854. satan; from H7853; an opponent: espec. (with the art. pref.) Satan, the arch-enemy

of good: --adversary, Satan, withstand. H7853. satan; a prim. root; to attack, (fig.) accuse:

--(be an) adversary, resist. (Strong's Concordance Dictionary)

4. 4 Has any feminist ever complained that the adversary is always referred to as "he"?

5. 5 To be embraced by someone, you must get "up close and personal".

6. 6 The Religion of Jesus the Jew, Fortress Press, 1993; p.133.

7. 7 This too-neglected book has some of the profoundest, most liberating Christian teaching in

all Scripture. Read it through at least once a week.

8. 8 So to which attribute do we tend to pay the more attention?

9. 9 Remember, in parable and allegory, gender and gender-roles are not to be taken literally.

(comments to Phil at ENAPXH@aol.com )