Saturday, February 21, 2009

Job the Prophet

Jim Jordan has pointed out that the offices of prophet, priest, and king seem to follow a progression of maturity and glory. The role of priest is to guard and requires strict adherence to the law. After this is added the role of king, where the law must be applied with wisdom. Kings must wrestle with difficult issues and questions and contemplate applications not directly addressed in the law. The king not only guards the law, but begins to speak wisdom from the law into the world. Finally, the last stage in biblical maturity is the prophet, who in his most basic role is allowed access into the deliberations of God. The first prophet in Scripture is Abraham who prays for the afflicted and is heard (Gen. 20:7). He speaks into the counsels of God regarding Sodom and Gomorrah. The prophet is given the floor to debate and argue his case before the divine assembly. And this is because he has grown to maturity. He has guarded the law and the Word of God is hidden in his heart (priest), but he has also learned wisdom and applied the word, dividing between joints and marrow, piercing to the thoughts and intents of the heart (king). And because he has grown into this maturity, he is welcomed to the divine assembly and his prayers are heard. Of course because the prophet has been involved in the divine deliberations, he is supremely qualified to announce those verdicts. This is why prophets frequently bring the Word of the Lord and foretell what He is about to do, but this is because they were there when it was all decided and they have been granted the authority to ask God what he is about to do.

The latter part of this progression is part of the point of the book of Job. Job is a priest and a king, but the story of Job is his transition from the second to the third stage of glory-maturity. He goes from an upright and righteous priest-king who understands the law and justice to the glory of a prophet. In simple terms this is seen in comparing the prologue and epilogue. At the beginning, Job offers sacrifices for his children who may have sinned (priest), and in the end, Job offers sacrifices for his three foolish accusers who have spoken wrongly concerning God. But the key difference is that God authorizes Job to pray for them and promises that he will hear Job (prophet). Job has graduated from the glory of a priest-king to the glory of a prophet, and this is further symbolized by the glory-beauty of his three daughters in the end of the book. Job has gone from a priestly "blamelessness" to the prophetic glory-beauty.

This perspective makes a great deal more sense of the middle part of the book. Why is the book a series of dialogues, arguments, accusations, and deliberations? Because Job must learn to speak in the assembly of the sons of God which is glimpsed in the prologue. He must patiently endure the testing of God, the accusations of his companions, and emerge clinging to his integrity in faith. While Job is usually regarded as mostly good, he is usually thought to have slipped and failed a bit since he is said to have "repented in dust and ashes." The Hebrew here is a little more ambiguous than that, but at the very least it runs parallel once again to Abraham who interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah recognizing that he was but "dust and ashes." When Job speaks to Yahweh like a prophet, he is granted a prophet's mantle. Only having answered his accusers is he ready to do battle with The Accuser, Satan.

3 comments: said...

Toby, I like what you wrote on Job. Could I translate it and use it in my church? Bubu

Toby said...

Yes. Feel free to use it however you like.


Remy said...

Off to a good start. I look forward to more.