Job 3:11-19

Please open your Bibles to Job 3:11-19

Vs. 11-12 – In these verses, Job questions why he didn’t die at or near birth. He indicates this in several manners. First he wonders why he did not die in the womb from complications of pregnancy. Second he wonders why he didn’t die after childbirth perhaps due to complications in the delivery. Third, why was his mother (or nurse) such a good caretaker to prevent him from dying prematurely. This is the significance of the question, “Why did the knees prevent me?” Fourth, why didn’t he die from malnutrition, that is, from lack of milk as a babe. Job, in his suffering, reasons that it would have been better for him to have died in one of these ways than to have lived until the day when he would have to suffer so. Suffering can cause us to want to be dead rather than alive.

We must note, however, that Job never acted upon these desires for death nor did his friends. If such sentiments had been expressed in our day and age it wouldn’t be too long before someone obtained a court order and had Job’s food and water taken away from him so that he would starve to death. Or perhaps they would have called for the suicide doctor to come administer a deadly dose of poison so that Job’s life would expire. Even in the midst of this suffering, there was a line that Job and his friends knew not to cross. Regardless of how fragile a life may be there is no excuse for causing the death of an innocent person (Proverbs 6:16-17). Nor is there any excuse for committing suicide, which is really just self murder (Romans 1:29).

Vs. 13-16 – In these verses, Job wants to know why he couldn’t have had rest like the kings and princes of old or like a still born child. Job seemingly would prefer the rest of death rather than the anguish through which he was going at this time. Of course, Job, had he died as an infant, would have had spiritual rest, but this is not the kind of rest to which Job refers. He is referring here to the physical appearance of rest in that of a corpse.

Job reasons that the kings, counselors, and princes of the earth who have built for themselves tombs in the desolate places where their bodies could rest would indeed be the place that he desired at this time. Whether they were ornately furnished or not matter not to Job. It was simply that they had places of rest that tempted him so. Having one’s body ravaged by disease and receiving no rest during either night or day due to the intense pain in which one is suffering (Job 30:17), the grave must have looked like an appealing sight to Job.

Job even considers that he would have been better of if he was miscarried or still born. Even that would have been better than the suffering what he is now undergoing.

Vs. 17-19 – In these verses, Job posits that in death one is free from such wretched suffering as he is undergoing and can have rest. It is in death, Job reasons, that one no longer has to worry about persecution by the wicked. It is in death that those who work and toil and labor and from which their weary bodies are worn out, no longer have concern over such travail. It is in death that prisoners and slaves no longer must bend to the rod of their master’s oppression. Death offers no exceptions; both the small and great succumb to it eventually. There is no respect of persons in death.

We must note that in Job’s day and age not as much revelation had been given regarding the state of the soul at death. Perhaps Job thought of death as a place of rest for all, both righteous and wicked. From the physical appearance of death, it certainly appears that way. We know, however, that the Bible teaches that death isn’t a place of rest for the wicked (Revelation 14:11), but only for the righteous (Revelation 14:13).

The wise man declares in the book of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Certainly more would do well if they would consider death seriously more often in their life than the callous and frivolous attitudes that many display toward the subject. How ought we to consider death today? It is certainly appointed for all men (Hebrews 9:27) and it is not something that we ought to desire if we haven’t lived the kind of life that God wants us to live (1 Corinthians 15:56). For such, only misery awaits after this life (Matthew 25:46). The Christian, on the other hand, has nothing to fear from death (1 Corinthians 15:57) and so does not sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). The Christian has great hope for eternal life and so death is welcome to him and is a blessing (Psalm 116:15).

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The Parable of the Two “Waters”

Suppose that you were dying in the desert and you came upon a tent. Inside the tent were two people. One of those people appeared friendly, warm, and inviting. The other person appeared ugly, cold and repulsive. In front of both people were large baskets and inside one of those baskets was life giving water, but inside the other basket was deadly poison. The one who appeared friendly said, “Come and drink the water that is in my basket.” Then the ugly person said, “No, he is a liar. Do not drink of that bowl for it contains poison.” The friendly person replies, “I can’t believe that you are so unloving and impatient. Can’t you see this man is thirsty. Can’t you see that he needs a drink? Where is your love and compassion for this man.” So you ask this person, “Do you know if there is water in your basket” and this one replies, “I don’t claim to know everything, I’m just on a journey like everyone else.” So you ask the other one, “Do you know if there is water in your basket?” And he replies, “Yes, I know there is water in my basket.” Then the friendly person says, “I can’t believe that you would be so arrogant as to claim that you have the only water in your basket.” So this person turns to you and says, “Surely you are an educated man who understands that we are all in this journey together and that there is not really anything that we can truly know.” So the unattractive person says, “If you drink of the bowl that he offers, you will die.” Then the attractive person says, “I can’t believe that you would be so self righteous as to think that someone would die from drinking out of my bowl. Do you think that I am some kind of idiot or fool? Where is your love, your compassion, your concern for this poor soul.” So he replies, “I love this man enough to tell him the truth. I want him to live. If he will but drink of the bowl that is in my basket he will.” Then this man says, “Why don’t you test both substances with this litmus paper and see which is which.” The attractive person says, “I can’t believe you would ask him to do that. I’m offended that you would even suggest such.” Then he turns to you and says, “If you do that, then I will be offended.” So being persuaded by the words of the attractive person who obviously loves you (you know because of the words that he spoke, don’t you?), you drink of his bowl, but before the liquid reaches the back of your throat, you realize that it is poison and it is too late. As you lay dying, the unattractive person comes over and says, “you could have tested both of the substances that we had and known which was water and which was poison.” The attractive person lies dying next to you and says, “I’m so sorry. I was deceived. I just did not know,” but it is too late. Who was truly the most loving out of the two?

We each have something in our possession. Some have truth and some are deceived by lies. But there is a way to test who has truth and who has lies, by comparing the words that we speak with God’s words. The outcome of our decision is no less critical than the situation above; in fact, it is even more grave, because we are not merely speaking about our physical life, but our spiritual one and eternity hangs in the balance. When it comes to questions that affect our salvation, why would we seek to gamble with that by trusting someone who says, “Well, I don’t know all the answers, but this is what I believe, but I don’t really think that we have all the answers” yet appears warm, caring, and sensitive. On the other hand, there are others who say, “This is truth and you ought to believe it. And here is the way that you can test that what I am telling you is truth or not.” They give it to you straight, because they understand that if you do not accept it, then your soul will be in jeopardy. They warn you of the terrible consequences that await those who fail to believe the truth, and they point out the fact that others are out there, deceived and speaking lies about God’s plan for man’s salvation. Yet some criticize them and say that they are unloving, unkind, and lack communication skills. So it is in your power to test which one is speaking the truth and which one is not. Will you, fearful of offending someone, follow your emotions and make your decision based upon the appearance of love, sensitivity, and concern? Or will you, regardless of who you may offend, test the things that are said against the standard of truth that God has given to ensure that your beliefs are in harmony with reality? I hope that you would choose to test the things that have been told you by others, by comparing them to God’s word and concluding based upon truth that you can believe one and not believe the other.

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Matthew 3:7-12

Please open your Bibles to Matthew 3:7-12

Vs. 7 – The Pharisees were the dominant religious party among the Jewish people. Their views of scripture were often distorted by the fact that they allowed religious tradition to dominate their thinking as opposed to the actual scriptures themselves (see Mark 7:3-13). They were hypocrites because they would teach one thing and then behave in the opposite way (Matthew 23:13-33). For these reasons, Jesus condemned them severely on multiple occasions.

The Sadducees were the second most dominant religious party among the Jewish people. Together, the Pharisees and the Sadducees composed the council of the Sanhedrim. The Sadducees, unlike the Pharisees, didn’t believe that man had a spiritual nature and also didn’t believe that there would be a resurrection. Jesus comes in conflict with them in Mark 12:18-27 and shows that they had grave misunderstandings regarding the resurrection and man’s future state.

In coming to John’s baptism, the Pharisees were concerned about this “preacher” that many had been discussing. They were jealous of any who they saw as a threat to their authority and sway over the Jewish people. This jealousy is reflected in John 11:48 when they said regarding Jesus, “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” Pilate well observed in Mark 15:10 that it was “for envy” that Jesus was delivered to him.

No doubt the same motives and attitudes were fostering under the surface in regard to John’s baptism. We know that they did not believe in John as a prophet for the words that they spoke to Jesus in Mark 11:31-33. We also know that they refused to be baptized of John according to Luke 7:30. In that regard, they rejected the counsel of God. So we can reasonably assume that they were up to no good in coming to see and hear John.

John also rightly deduces that they were up to no good. The initial words out of his mouth to them are not words of blessing, but rather, condemnation. He calls them a “brood of vipers.” They were a nursery for deadly serpents; they weren’t content to merely be deadly, they had to breed more.

John then asks them, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” The question was both a positive and condemnatory in the same sentence. If they continued in their present course, they would certainly experience God’s wrath and vengeance for so mutilating and damaging His word for His people. Such is the condemnation for all who would so act. At the same time, they were given “warning” regarding their ultimate end and they were to be commended for heeding that warning and coming to the appropriate place. They would be correct in trying to “flee” from that great wrath that God has in store for all of those who refuse to know him or obey him (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). This leads us into John’s instruction for them in verse 8.

Vs. 8 – John now focuses upon what these errant leaders needed to do in order to demonstrate their sincerity in coming to John’s baptism. They needed to “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” The word “repentance” literally means to change one’s mind toward something or another. However, when looking at repentance as a Christian concept the thought goes much deeper than a mere “change of mind.” The word involves not only a change in thought and attitude, but a reformation of life as well. This is what John demanded of these religious leaders. Not that they merely say they have repented, but that they demonstrate their repentance by a reformed life. Luke gives us additional detail into what John said on this point in Luke 3:10-14. There, not only were the religious leaders addressed, but also soldiers, publicans, and everyday people. John tells each group how they were expected to behave as a result of their repentance. Paul also expected this out of converts to Christianity. He said in Acts 26:20 that when he began preaching the gospel that he “?shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” This is a good lesson for us today to note. Gospel preachers not only have the obligation to preach the word, but also to make appropriate application even to the point of instructing individuals on how and how not to behave according to God’s word.

Vs. 9 – John did not want these religious leaders to fall back upon their heritage for self justification. Just because one was of Abraham’s seed didn’t guarantee one’s salvation. Here was a dangerous presumption on the part of these religious leaders. Jesus refutes this presumptiousness in John 8:33-37 with the fact that it is the one who sins who becomes the slave to sin. Religious heritage doesn’t guarantee personal salvation.

Sadly, there are many today who hold to a form of this same doctrine. They believe that once they have “accepted Jesus into their heart” that they are saved and that nothing they do will in any way affect a change in their salvation. Those who hold this doctrine of “once saved always saved” in essence make the same argument as the Pharisees and Saducees. They claim that because they have a religious heritage they are personally secure. Jesus’ words rebuke them as much as he does these religious leaders. It is personal sin which will cause us to be condemned on the day of judgment. There is forgiveness in Christ, but that forgiveness is contingent upon repentance and obedience to Christ’s will. Those who willfully sin have no sacrifice on their behalf (Hebrews 10:26).

John calls these religious leaders to sobriety when he states that God is able to change stones into Abraham’s seed. It was no reason to boast that they were of the lineage of Abraham. That carries no weight in the eyes of God; He can make descendents of Abraham from rocks, stones, or even dust. God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). God sees all such boasting as foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19, 2 Corinthians 11:22,23). What matters today is not whether we are of the physical lineage of Abraham, but whether we are of his spiritual lineage. Those who belong to Christ are Abraham’s seed today and heirs of the promise (Galatians 3:29).

Vs. 10 – John prophesies regarding the termination of the old economy. Judaism was not to last much longer as an authorized religious entity. Hence, the axe was at the root of the tree, indicating that it was about to be used to cut down that tree. Judaism was limited in its scope (it was originally intended only for the nation of Israel, see Deuteronomy 5:1-3) and hence, religiously, it could not serve God’s purposes in extending salvation to the entire world. Thus, it had to be brought to an end in order for God’s purposes for all men to go forward. Jesus brought this economy to an end when he died and nailed the law to the cross along with our sins (Colossians 2:14). Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:15 that Jesus abolished the law. Jesus himself said that the law wouldn’t be destroyed until all things were fulfilled (Matthew 5:17,18), and they were fulfilled. Jesus also told numerous parables regarding the cessation of the Jewish economy and the inauguration of the kingdom (see Matthew 21:28-46 and 22:1-14). No longer did the Jewish nation bear “good fruit” and hence it was only fitting for it to be “cast into the fire.” Jesus said in Matthew 15:13 “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” This is exactly what happened to the Jewish nation as it had been corrupted by Rabbinical Judaism.

Vs. 11 – John makes reference to the element which he used to baptize, namely, water. The purpose of John’s baptism was “for repentance.” Hence, John sought to bring the wayward Jew back to a state of favor with God. John’s baptism was thus limited in that it could only cleanse the Jew who repented and obeyed God’s counsel in being baptized. This is one reason why Paul did not accept those who were baptized with John’s baptism after the cross (see Acts 19:1-7). John’s baptism was thus limited to the time prior to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Hence, belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus was subsequently required. John’s baptism didn’t require such and could no longer be valid for the Christian era.

John prophesies that One is coming who will administer a different baptism. John says this One would be mightier than he. In what sense? Mightier in scope of message; mightier in authority; mightier in power over the elements; mightier in personal purity, mightier in lasting results of His work; the list could go on and on. Because of these facts, John was not worthy to be such a One’s sandal valet. In this culture, it was customary for the servant of the house to handle the footwear of the house guests. John’s statement shows reverence and humility. He did not even consider himself worthy to be His servant. And such ought to be the attitude of all who have been redeemed by the love, grace, and mercy of God through Christ (Luke 17:10).

The nature of this Mighty One’s baptism was to be with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Many have been confused regarding this pronouncement. Some have considered that the fire and the Holy Spirit are the same baptism. But the immediate context (vs.12) forbids such a thought because being baptized with fire is obviously not desirable.

Some have also misapplied the scope of the baptism of the Holy Spirit saying that all Christian baptism is Holy Spirit baptism. Such ignores John’s statement that it would be Jesus himself who would administer such baptism. It is clear from the New Testament that many of Jesus disciples were involved in administering baptism, but these baptisms were not Holy Spirit baptisms! Hence, we must come to the conclusion that Holy Spirit baptism was an affair limited only to those whom Jesus personally chose to be baptized in such a way. John no where says that everyone would be baptized in the Holy Spirit; he simply states that Jesus would administer such and Jesus did as recorded for us in Acts 2:1-4 and Acts 10:44-46 as explained in Acts 11:16. No other time in the New Testament do we read of Jesus’ administering Holy Spirit baptism than these two times. Men have tried to suggest such, but there is no reason to conclude that simply because a passage mentions baptism that it is of necessity Holy Spirit baptism. And those who believe such do so without any contextual evidence. The most common administration of baptism in the New Testament was water baptism and such ought to be the assumed regarding any passage that mentions baptism unless there are contextual reasons to believe otherwise.

Vs. 12 – A winnowing fork is an instrument designed to toss grain mixed with hulls into the air so that the wind may catch the hull and drop the grain. In this manner the hull was separated from the grain. The hulls (chaff) then drifted off in the direction of the wind and were eventually burned. The grain was then collected and gathered into the barn where it could serve its good purpose.

John explains Jesus’ work to be similar in nature. Jesus teaching separated those who would believe and obey the Lord from those who would not. The wheat (believers) would be gathered into the barn (presumably heaven). The chaff (unbelievers), on the other hand, would be burned with unquenchable fire (hell). There are only two eternal destinies for man. Man may either choose to live a holy life in harmony with God’s will and be forever in fellowship with God in heaven, or he may so choose to live in rebellion to God and spend eternity in hell. Moses spoke of the way of life and the way of death (Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Jesus spoke of these two ways as well in Matthew 7:13,14. Jesus also spoke of the sheep being separated from the goats for all eternity in Matthew 25:31-46. Where will we spent our eternal destiny? The choice is up to each of us.

Kevin Cauley

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