Reflections From PROVERBS 18: “SPEECH, WORDS, AND WHAT THEY REVEAL”

Proverbs-Series

As I sit on my balcony watching the cars roll by, it occurred to that those driving all have stories to tell of whether or not they are for or against the God of creation.  It also occurred to me that the voices they hear on the radio by song or “rants” also are helping to shape or enforce their worldviews.  The philosophers of the day through their rap music and the media talking heads are with one voice advancing a relativistic, nihilistic view of life that is shamelessly opposed to the WORD!

Jesus said that, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Proverbs has much to say concerning this topic of which only humans in all of creation can boast—namely the ability to articulate thought through speech.  Consider what Solomon reveals:

 “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (v.4)

Perhaps this is referring to the skill that is acquired through wisdom of knowing what to appropriately say in a given situation because there’s an abundance of knowledge and wisdom the righteous can possess.  Often, I’m frustrated in a given situation not knowing how to express myself.  Again consider:

 “To show partiality to the wicked is not good,
Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.”
(v.5)

             Often with one’s speech justice can be averted from being executed as the truly guilty are acquitted and the truly just are condemned. This is not righteous judgement but the miscarriage of justice, an abomination before heavens’ court.  Consider:

“ 7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.

Those who mock Christians by saying, “Do you really take the Bible literally”, thinking their absurd notions prove how “stupid” believers are, can use texts like this one and completely miss authorial intent.  The point here is not that the physical mouth or lips are the instrument of ruin, rather the disposition of the soul revealed through speech is.  Snares are used by trappers to take the life of their prey, and like the unsuspecting doe, the fool’s life is a breath away.  Again:

“With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.”
(v.20)

This text not literally, but rather metaphorically reveals to us that when we have knowledge and wisdom, the delight we experience in the soul is like no other.  An apt answer given in season truly is a delight for it brings life, not death.

LORD, keep me from being a fool.  Instead, strengthen my resolve to order my life in righteousness.  And as you said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied”, so do that in my life as I trust in Your provision to grant my request.

(SDG)              

“Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion” Book Summaries Available Now

510E27T-g7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Now available in summary form is Os Guinness’ “Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion”   This book’s value is multifaceted but wins the day for instructing believers on how to winsomely engage the culture with the Gospel of Christ.

Especially helpful is Guinness’ insight into our age of acute self-promotion (E.g., media freaks) or hyper Narcissism.  To reach the indifferent, belligerent, enemies of the Gospel with the message, Guinness holds that we must consider four elements.  First, we must start by understanding the nature of unbelief.  Second, we must look at how God addresses unbelief.  Third, we must reach unbelievers where they’re at, not where we hoped they would be.  Fourth, we must go to the core problem—the heart!

Moreover, Scripture must inform our mode of communication to unbelievers and we must always consider the audience when aiming to persuade.  In order to guide the conversation and be persuasive we must keep in mind five “pillars” of the Faith in our message: creation, fall, incarnation, cross, the Spirit.  These properly focus a gospel centered apologetic.

If you haven’t read the book, the summaries are a helpful start but never a substitute.  Happy reading!

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 12: CHARTING THE JOURNEY (Pgs.229-252)

Guinness winds up his book here by focusing on what the apologist needs to focus on with the true seeker.  According to Os, it’s a journey people are on for the meaning of life.  Too often we don’t live the examined life but there are those who chose to and it’s these we must focus our energies on.  What happens often is that people are either diverted in the journey of life so that they don’t want to face their inevitable end (death), or they’re bargaining with life that they’ll eventually get to the serious issues of life.

 Nevertheless, for those wanting answers to life’s toughest questions the examined life they embrace.  Here is where a road with common questions or issues surface and the following stages follow.

First, it’s important for the apologist to be skilled at leading people in their journey for meaning in life.  This is where the word of God is central to guide what and when things are brought up and done.  That is, the apologist must use his God’s eye view (I.e., biblical understanding) to focus the path.  This means that the gospel must center the interaction and the thought of man reaching up toward God must be corrected with the fact that God is the one that descended toward man.  This is a massive and pivotal thought.  Get this wrong, and we’ve entirely missed the gospel message according to historic orthodox Christianity.

Second, people must ask questions that deal with life’s meaning.  Here, the apologist must direct the person to understand that the base for meaning in life is truth which informs our ethics, community, identity, and purpose as people.  Only serious people ask these questions and consider their depths, not shallow disinterested ones.  Thus, the apologist must be ready to emphasize thinking and uphold it as supreme in the journey for meaning in life, not just belief.

Third, questions require answers and at this stage they are conceptual, critical, and comparative which govern the remainder of the journey.  The comparative questions have been regarded as negative for several reasons that really lack substance so I’ll disregard them for now (See pg.241) but the questions the seeker asks are to concern the apologist, not ones they don’t ask.

Fourth, the evidence for the faith believed must obtain.  A faith that can’t be challenged for its truth claims is not the Christian faith.  So make sure as the apologist that the evidence for the questions raised are demonstrated from either biblical or extra-biblical sources.

Lastly, call for a commitment.  The meaning of life is not an endless journey of searching, but one that when life’s questions have been satisfactorily answered it’s warranted for one to decide either to commit or not.

Guinness concludes his book with reminding the apologist/advocate that there’s a place for negative and positive apologetics depending on the audience and that conversion is toward a lover, not a set of ideas.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (Pgs.255-256)

            When Guinness gives his acknowledgment for those who have deeply impacted him, I was moved.  It occurred to me that most advocates/apologists’, will never author a book or “contribute” to the dialogue which makes them stand out (myself included).   But each one of us has a particular sphere of influence that the Eternal one holds in His hands.

May we be faithful ambassadors to Him, and may we relentlessly placard Christ’s supremacy in all things as we pursue God and let Him be known through our lives.

(SDG)

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 11: KISSING JUDASES (Pgs.209-227)

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In this chapter Guinness begins by pointing out that Christendom has enemies from without and also from within.  Enemies from within the ranks are responsible for heretical doctrines and a syncretism that undermines the Faith once delivered to the saints and are unfaithful to the LORD of the Church.  These are responsible for weakening the church through their anti-intellectual bent and their abhorrence of the apologetic enterprise (pg.211).

These heretics Guinness calls revisionists who essentially imbibe the cultural climate of the day, and what’s in vogue is promoted (I.e., the culture determines truth, not Scripture).  Now, more than ever, the church needs Christian advocacy with the prophetic spirit of St. Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc. who are radically Bible-centered using the best arguments available to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

It’s time for prophetic courage to say what’s not popular and declare what the culture views as passé.  Unfortunately, many Christians in the past and presently scorn apologetics for good reasons, but in so doing have thrown out the baby with the proverbial bath water.  They have unwittingly weakened the bride of Christ by deriding some members of the Body of Christ (See 1 Cor.12).

Apologetics has fallen on hard times and negatively viewed such that instead of persuading with the Gospel we are only to proclaim it, instead of defending the faith we are called to dialogue about the faith (Pgs.212-215).  Unfortunately, these divisions of duty are contrary to Scripture (Mt.28:18-20; 1 Pet.3:15; Jude 3) and rather than strengthening believers have left them vulnerable and ineffective in their being salt and light (Mt.5:13-16).

Guinness says the two major objections to apologetics are that it has first, trumped the authority of the preached word and second, that it has been used to grieve the Holy Spirit.  Where that charge obtains, it should be corrected and not be tolerated.  But let us not kid ourselves that only apologetics is guilty here.  I contend that unlike apologetics; inept preaching, unbiblical leadership, finite power struggles among believers, petty rivalries and more, have often stripped the church from coming under the Scriptures authority and has grieved the Holy Spirit perhaps more than apologetics.[i]

The sad reality is that through abandoning the apologetic enterprise the church has been left weak a defenseless: it’s weak because it does not understand the power of the Gospel and it’s defenseless because it does not know how to fight darkness with arguments wedded to prayer.  Said defenselessness has permitted the revisionist’s (I.e., the heretics within the church) to denude Christianity from its historic roots and Scriptural authority.

This denuding has come in the guise of liberal theology that’s not challenged but assumed to be true.  Assumptions like; what’s new is good and true, but what’s old and traditional is false and bad, what is left of the traditional is adapted to bend to the spirit of the age and is assimilated in the syncretism of culture such that the Christendom which remains is a shadow of the reality (pgs.222-226).

Revisionists betray the LORD of the Church and weaken His Bride not with a kiss, but through a pen, as they twist the meaning of Scripture and suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness, not only to their own destruction but also to those who hear them.  This is serious business, not a joke.  Thus the apologist must speak to the maladies outside the church but also combat those within her ranks.

[i] I say perhaps more but actually more is closer to reality.  Too many professing Christians I’ve observed are lazy and don’t read the Scriptures much less in context, making them less inclined to seriously make disciples and to engage the spiritual warfare we are in with arguments (2 Cor:4:3-4; 2 Cor.10:1-5) and prayer (Eph.6) which was Jesus’ and Paul’s practice.

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 10: BEWARE THE BOOMERANG (Pgs.187-208)

  • 510E27T-g7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Guinness begins this chapter by affirming that Christianity’s Achilles heel is hypocrisy and when believers fight among themselves it is a sure signpost that this fracture obtains.  Hypocrisy among believers (I.e., charge of Christians not loving one another) is one of the main reasons for why people don’t come to faith and coupled with a worldly church, leaves the Christian advocate in a difficult place.

Guinness admits that everyone is a hypocrite because self-deception and truth suppression is committed by all which means that for the charge of hypocrisy to be real, objective truth must be presupposed.  This is problematic for Post-moderns because the very notion of objective truth is alien to their worldview.

Hypocrisy ends up violating; truth, justice and honesty, because in one way or another, the position of a proponent is merely spoken, rather than lived out.  That is, a person can “talk the talk, but fails to walk the walk”.  When this kind of disconnect, from word to deed occurs, a loss of credibility follows and results in many people not having an ear to hear the Gospel, and thus calling believers hypocrites.

[It’s important however to point out that most, if not all non-believers, don’t understand the Christian struggle Paul reveals in Romans 7 with sin.  To struggle with sin is one thing, to pretend not to, is another.  And that is perhaps where I think Guinness could have been clearer.  Nevertheless nonbelievers do understand that hypocrisy is bad which points to the reality of objective truth.]

This notion of objective truth is revealed through the social benefits of hypocrisy according to Guinness.   While admitting that hypocrisy is bad and immoral, he says that it can offer some benefits to society for it:

falsely (models) virtue—there’s actually a good to imitate, it may affect others to practice what they preach—there’s actually moral consistency at which to aim, it may stir everyone to self-examination—there’s actually a corporate understanding of this malady, it points to the inner value of life and not just outward image—there’s actually more to us than mere physical properties.

When it comes to the confession of hypocrisy, Guinness admits that it’s the road to freedom and truth rather than bondage and deception.  Moreover, our confessions’ motive should be God’s approval, not peoples, and lastly if truth does not exist, the charge of hypocrisy can’t coherently be leveled.

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 9: THE ART OF ALWAYS BEING RIGHT? (Pgs.169-185)

fools talk

This chapter confronts a real problem in many apologetic encounters and reminds me of difficult encounters with family and friends I’ve experienced where they always had to be right, at all costs.  I’m certain we all struggle with this to one degree or another but it’s contra the spirit of 1 Peter that commands believers to humility rather than pride in human interaction and Christian advocacy (1 Pet.3:15).

Guinness points out that in the early Christian century’s the great church orators understood the dangers of using words as power and thus balanced persuasion with grace and truth (E.g., Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom, etc.).  He highlights that truth and persuasion should not be pitted against each other as the Greek Sophists often did by twisting words for their own gain regardless if its truth or falsity.  The goal was to win the argument at all costs—even at the expense of the truth.

This lead to a dilemma in debate: to be a failure or a fraud.  The former’s focus on truth and not persuasion often lead to defeat, while the latter’s focus on persuasion often lead to lies twisting the truth.  One was a failure, the other a fraud.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Guinness then writes the principles (virtues) some Greeks and Romans kept in mind when engaging debate so that the truth would not be distorted.  First, it was kept in mind that truth and virtue are more powerful than falsehood and vice.  Second, that the speaker must be one of character and virtue.  And third, that the speaker should always address the public good and not just his own interests.[i]  This is a good starting point, but for Christian advocates there’s more.

Christian’s as Christ’s ambassadors in their debating or apologetics must be God-centered not man-centered so as to guard against the “Sophist” spirit. This is accomplished by keeping in mind the effects of “The Fall” (I.e., people both suppress the truth and seek it), the Master’s manner of communication (E.g., human strength subverted by God’s weakness), and God’s truth requires God’s art to serve God’s end (I.e., His ways are not ours too often).

Guinness continues by warning believers if their manner of speech is rightly criticized, humility, not pride must obtain.  That is, if one is wrong, they must admit it, not cover it up which is far more attractive than the opposite.

Guinness then turns to the issue of persuasion which incorporates not only logic and argumentation but also drama and humor, for the latter disarms and invites the hearer to discover the truth in a way the former can’t.

He finally deals with the charge that persuasion while an art, seems to be manipulation in disguise and thus spends several pages answering that indictment.  Guinness finally concludes that the art of always being right is a trap for Christian advocates, and the art of persuasion is a privilege that needs to be exercised with humility and God’s grace.

 

Fool’s Talk: CHAPTER 8: SPRING LOADED DYNAMICS (Pgs.149-167)

fools talk

In this chapter, Guinness asks the question of how one chooses the proper worldview in the midst of Atheism, Hinduism and Christianity.  Everyone has a worldview and when one is exposed to another worldview it often forever changes the way they perceive their own worldview.

Add to this the issue of pluralization where the choices offered seem to be unending, and we find ourselves in an era where the propensity to change our worldview or paradigm is real.

Guinness explains that apologetically it’s crucial to know this for it points to what kind of unbelief (unbelief is always a rejection of God) we are dealing with, and it points to what kind of arguments we should employ.  When people are closed minded this is especially helpful knowledge.

Reaching the Closed-Minded Person  

Consider the account of the prophet Nathan exposing King David’s adultery and murder.  Instead of confronting the king with the facts, the prophet used a fictitious story to appeal to David as judge and lawgiver of Israel.  The end of that account reveals an infuriated David unwittingly condemning himself when Nathan says, “You are the man”, followed by heart break repentance and cries for forgiveness.  That’s powerful!  Lesson—keep the audience in mind in order to connect with them.

Another way to reach a closed-minded person is to keep the goal of the encounter clear.  That is, depending on their disposition, we must proceed with the truth in such a way that it will meet their need.  Some people don’t need a bunch of arguments to believe (E.g., the Philippian jailor) but others may (E.g., Doubting Thomas).  Regardless, we eventually want to get to the truth of the gospel if possible.

Sometimes there will be the need to reframe the truth properly when God is misrepresented and thus rejected on false premises.  Our duty is to clarify who God is and explain what entails rejecting Him.  After this is done, if one still rejects God, then at least the real has been snubbed, not a phantom caricature (E.g., the disciples on the road to Emmaus [Pgs.166-7]).

Still another way to pry open the closed mind is to ask questions.  When we learn to ask questions properly, we are help people live the examined life, perhaps see the way of their errors and thus enable them to pursue the truth.  Guinness reminds us that questions have the power to engage people because they are indirect and involving.  The greatest questioner in history was not Socrates, but God seen in Genesis 3 and blossomed in the life of Christ.

Yet another way to open the closed minded is through the use of parables, drama and ploys.  For example the Rechabites were used by Jeremiah the prophet to explain Israel’s disobedience through Jeremiah asking the Rechabites to drink wine with him.  He knew they didn’t drink (modern day equivalent to fundamentalists) because they obeyed the word of a man, but Israel refused to obey the word of the LORD God.

Postscript: Guinness ends the chapter by pointing out that in this age words suffer from inattention and inflation. When we speak people are not listening, and when words are used they distort reality so as to sell one’s product to a consumer.  As people of the word, who worship the WORD, words ought to matter to us.  Thus instead of championing technological marvels, Christians should grow deeper in their theology.  This is one way to combat the misuse of words—the suppressing of truth in unrighteousness.

Fools Talk: CHAPTER 7: TRIGGERING THE SIGNALS (Pgs.131-147)

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Guinness sucked me in with riptide force by the people referenced, their historical milieu and their life experiences which created a “cognitive dissonance” forcing them to reconsider their view of reality—worldview.

Issues like death, suffering, evil, justice, truth, and joy are often the necessary “triggers” that awaken people to rethink their dearly held worldview presuppositions and as a result, it leads them to Christian conversion.  Two of the many examples Guinness considers are W.H. Auden and C.S. Lewis, both former atheists who converted to Christianity.

Consider W.H. Auden, one of the 20th century’s most influential English speaking poets, whose worldview was jolted by the gruesome reality of Nazi Germany and their death camps.  Previously, he thought people were generally good, God was a crutch, and there were no moral absolutes.  However, Auden now faced a two-fold conundrum: first, how could he make sense of the undeniable evil he encountered, and second, how could he justify rightly condemning Hitler for the evils perpetrated if there are no moral absolutes?  These “pebbles” in Auden’s soul caused him to raise this question to his friends and later to a reporter:

“The English intellectuals who now cry to Heaven against the evil incarnated in Hitler have no Heaven to cry to.” And, “Unless someone is ready to take a relativist view that all morals are a matter of personal taste, one could hardly avoid asking the question: If, as I am convinced, the Nazis are wrong and we are right, what is it that validates our values and invalidates theirs? ” (Pg.133)

Auden’s desire for justice in the face of egregious evil could not be realized if relativism was true.  He concluded that the only way to combat such evil was to renew “faith in the absolute”.  Here Guinness explains that although Auden had not yet converted to Christianity, these “signals of transcendence” propelled him to leave his atheism and to become a seeker.  His life experience and the horrors of the holocaust jarred him into reality like no argument could.

Guinness goes on to explain that such jarring experiences act as “signals of transcendence” that cause us to transcend our present awareness to think more deeply, broadly and honestly.  He notes:

The signals message is a double one: it acts as a contradiction and a desire. It acts as a contradiction in that it punctures the adequacy of what we once believed.  It arouses in us a desire or longing for a new answer that is surer, richer and more adequate than whatever it was we believed before—which has patently failed ” (Pg.134)

These signals are pointing to an end that is hopefully more satisfactory then the present state of affairs.  Auden, the former atheist turned into a seeker because existentially his worldview could not satisfy his desire for justice, truth and moral knowledge.

Death is the horn-blast that something’s wrong!  The signal (I.e. the horn-blast) however is not the end but the means through which an answer can be had; it does not conclusively determine the destination.  When the signal is confused for the goal, the search for meaning stops and some commit suicide— seeing no point to life.

Guinness goes on to consider the issue of desire and longing in light of the truth.  Depending on the religious persuasion, desire and longing can be viewed either negatively (Buddhist and Stoic position) or positively (Jewish and Christian tradition).  Negatively viewed, desire needs to be transcended and escaped, positively considered the object of desire determines whether it is negative or positive.

For example, the reason we have desire according to Plato is because we are incomplete essentially because we’ve been “cut-in half” and we long for our other half.   Again, in the Classical Greek and Roman paradigm there’s four major passions: desire, fear, joy and grief.  Desire is yearning for that which we don’t possess; fear is the aversion to the undesirable; joy is the possession of what we desire, and grief is undergoing what we fear.

However, in the Judeo-Christian perspective desire is positive or negative depending on the object desired.  There’s no need to deny, escape, or transcend desire itself (I.e., Buddhism & the Stoics).  However, when it’s directed ultimately toward the creature instead of the Creator, something called “The Fall” occurred (Genesis 3).  As a result of God not seen as our highest good, it’s not that we’ve been cut-in-half (I.e., Plato) but we’ve been cut-off from God, ourselves, each other, and nature itself.  Guinness says,

“So now we live east of Eden…We are all prodigals now, and we are all in a far country.  Yet however far away we go there is always a longing for home that will not go away” (Pg.136-7)

 We are aware that something is missing and there must be something more.  Apologetically, we must prick the soul in its desire factory for “something more/better” secondly, we must appeal to what we know is wrong “fear grief”.  That is, we must point to the desire for joy and the fear of grief, these immaterial drives that trigger a hunger for the transcendent, as evidence for an object that can satisfy such longings, even though some would suppress that truth of God in unrighteousness.

Guinness contends that a strategy to combat such suppression is to use an existential presuppositional approach which presses people to the logic of their own assumptions and shows them that their faith (whatever it may be other than in the Creator) is neither true nor adequate.  In other words, what they profess to be “true” can’t be lived and this realization leaves them thinking, maybe even perturbed.  This happened to Auden, it can happen to our loved ones.

Consider C.S. Lewis, a former atheist and 20th century Christian apologist who was captivated by joy as retold in his biography.  He recalls that this joy was aroused by a flowering currant bush which brought back childhood memories with his brother.  Lewis describes joy not as pleasure or happiness which is conditioned by circumstances or the senses, but as something other worldly.  That is, if this joy could be possessed it was not attainable in this life, but how he knew it was indeterminable.  Regardless, to possess such joy would be incomparable to any experienced pleasure (E.g., The Pearl of Great Price parable).

Here was a signal of transcendence not the attainment of faith, says Guinness, although for Lewis that was its end.  Although joy raised questions it supplied no answers (pg.144).  Among Guinness’ many points, the one made here is that sometimes nonbelievers come to faith as a result of the horrors or joys of life that contradict their present worldview.  This causes a person to search through transcendent signals that point to a reality of life’s true meaning.  Sometimes this pursuit ends in conversions, sometimes in suicide.

Fools Talk: CHAPTER 6: TURNING THE TABLES_DO YOU REALLY WANT TO KILL YOURSELF? (Pgs.107-129)

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In this chapter Guinness gives some very helpful insights into what people say as opposed to what they believe.  That is, some thoughts can be articulated, but some thoughts can’t be lived out because we live in God’s world and are created in His image.

Guinness recalls a G.K. Chesterton account in “Manalive” where a pessimist philosopher waxes eloquent from the comfort of his chair and glass of port to a student that’s trying to make sense of life—to live or commit suicide from this “horrible world” was the student’s dilemma.  The logical responses given by this professor’s philosophical pessimism however turned when he found himself staring down the barrel of this student’s gun on the ledge of a window.

The professor’s horrified eyes revealed that he’d rather live than die and thus resolved the student’s suicidal dilemma.  The point is that what we believe surfaces when reality is about to pull the trigger.  This is table turning which has several facets worthy of note.

First, in order to reach those whose minds and hearts are closed off to the gospel, we must appropriately use apologetics and evangelism.  While these two are distinct, they are nevertheless inseparable (E.g., like the head is inseparable from the neck).  Guinness laments modern day apologetics when he says:

The isolation of apologetics from evangelism is the curse of much modern apologetics, and why it can become sterile and deadening intellectualism.  Whenever apologetics is needed, it should precede evangelism, but while apologetics is distinct from evangelism, it must always lead directly to it.  The work of apologetics is only finished when the door to the gospel has been opened and the good news of the gospel can be proclaimed.” (Pg.110-111)

Thus, in our defense and proclamation we need to scratch where people itch. 

Second, in order to reach people that are contented and contending, we must find the inconsistencies of their worldviews and point them out.  That is relativize the relativist, be skeptical of the skeptics skepticism.  Too often, the relativist and skeptic think that everyone but they are immune to being questioned, but it “just ‘ain’t so”.

Third, in order to reach people that are sitting on the spiritual fence, we must with prophetic subversion apply their own criterion to their objection and mirror it onto them God in Romans 1 gives up those opposed to Him to their own desires.  We must challenge people to choose between God and any other treasure because the day of reckoning awaits us all.  Moreover, we must remember that the consequences of words need to be considered in light of reality—can one live what they say?

Fourth, in order to reach those closed to the gospel sometimes requires no argument at all. The centerpiece of approaching these kinds of people often requires our focus to be on their treasure (I.e., their children) in order to come to faith (Pg.122).  Sometimes life itself, not just logic, forces people to reconsider what they believe and how they are living because of who/what they treasure.

Fifth, questions that raise other questions by using another’s authorities rather than our own are powerful ways of peaking interest.  That is, we must know the prophets’ people listen to, understand and be familiar with their big ideas so that we may be able to turn the tables on their unbelief.

Sixth, we must remember that people live in God’s world.  That is, they are created in His image and are constantly bumping up to His reality, thus their claims will have a mixture of truth and falsehood.  When these are discovered ultimately it will lead them to the dangers of their position because the Day of Judgment is forthcoming and their decisions have an end result.

Reflections From JOB 20-24: “JOB CONTINUES HIS ARGUMENTATION”

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According to Zophar the Naamathite, the reason all these terrible things have fallen on Job is because he is wicked (20:4-29).  He, like Job, feels insulted by his friend’s speech (20:3) and as the flow of this account unfolds we see that both parties are insulted by each other’s words, both understand why the wicked seem to flourish, but the application to Job’s life just does not obtain.

Nevertheless, the back and forth discloses a rich theology on suffering, God’s incomparableness, and man’s limited understanding concerning the hidden counsels of God:

“Why do the wicked still live, Continue on, also become very powerful?
“Their descendants are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes, Their houses are safe from fear, And the rod of God is not on them. 10 “His ox mates without fail; His cow calves and does not abort. 11 “They send forth their little ones like the flock, And their children skip about.  12 “They sing to the timbrel and harp And rejoice at the sound of the flute. 13 “They spend their days in prosperity, And suddenly they go down to Sheol. 14 “They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways. 15 ‘Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, And what would we gain if we entreat Him?’ (21:7-15)

 These texts are a small sample describing the disposition of the wicked; that do not see gain, but rather loss by acknowledging God’s ways, God’s truth, and God’s character.  In short, the wicked are twisted thinkers and sojourners when it comes to Almighty God.  Sadly, their memory will perish with them, the day of calamity is reserved for them (21:30), men will oversee their tombs (21:32) and to associate Job to the wicked is utter falsehood:

“How then will you vainly comfort me,
For your answers remain full of falsehood?”
(21:34)

 Eliphaz again weighs in and doubts Job’s righteousness, “Yield now and be at peace with Him; Thereby good will come to you.” (22:21). What a weighty encounter of thought and pain, what a miserable way to exist being grossly misunderstood and thereby falsely accused as a result.

LORD, this exchange is difficult to bear.  Both Job’s anguish and his friends “help” are troublesome to consider.  May I never be so insensitive, may I never be so obtuse, but may I with your compassion and love come alongside the suffering with words that are true and appropriate for them.

(SDG)