Friday, January 16, 2009

Reflections on Job #4

As a Calvinist I am often asked questions like, 'why pray? if God has made up his mind regarding how he will act (what he will ordain), why pray?'. Or, "why bother doing missions or evangelize? if God has already predestined people, why do we need to put forth the effort?' The best answer to these questions is that God, our Creator King, has commanded us to do so. He commands, we obey. A more full answer includes a discussion of God using means to accomplish his ordained purposes. He ordains the ends to be accomplished as a result of means (which he has also ordained). So God heals an ill saint or brings one of his children into the kingdom in response to the prayers of his people (and the witness of his people), which he has commanded and ordained.

You see a great example of this in Job 42:

"Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has"
(Job 42:8).

God has promised that he will accept Job's prayer for his friends and relent from sending judgment for their folly. He has commanded Job to pray from them, and has determined already how he will respond. Does this free Job from the responsibility of actually praying for them? Is he off the hook? Can he say, "God's said he's gonna forgive them, why does he need me to ask?" No. Job, we can assume, obeys God and his friends are forgiven. Ordained end in response to a commanded and ordained mean.

5 comments:

Doug said...

- sniff, sniff -

I think I smell some eisegesis...

Dan Waugh said...

typical. anytime a calvinist sees calvinism its eisegesis. seriously, you may be right. not saying it's the main point of the passage, but you can't deny the fact that God declared what he would do and commanded Job to pray!

Doug said...

Can I have the phrase 'Typical. Anytime a Calvinist sees Calvinism it's eisegesis' on a t-shirt please?

How about I buy you one?

Doug said...

What do I see in this passage?

Things we know for sure:
Job's friends have sinned by speaking things of God that are not right. God takes the initiative in dealing with that. He instructs them to go and make a sacrifice and tells them that Job will pray for them, and that He'll accept the prayer. They do and and He does.

Things we don't know for 100%:
Was Job there with them when the LORD spoke these things? Did the friends have to go and find him, sacrifices in tow, and explain what God wanted them to do? Or did God speak directly to Job again about praying for them, even if he wasn't present with the friends? Was Job actually commanded to pray for them? Or did God simply know how already that Job would want his friends to be prayed for and forgiven, especially given his prior record of making burnt offerings for his family when he thought they might have sinned? What did Job actually pray?

When it comes to prayer and 'Why pray?' It is 100% clear from this verse that God would have Job's prayer be part of His redemptive purposes. The rest of Scripture attests that He would have the prayers of all believers be part of His redemptive purposes. It's not 100% clear if the friends were in fellowship with God at some point in the past, in which case we see Job helping restore them to fellowship. Or whether this incident has led to their actual salvation? (Which, by the by, if the latter is true, had to have been a bigger sting to Satan).

So I think the take home message on prayer from this part of Job, which was yours too: is that God desires that our prayers be part of His missio dei. We should pray because He asks us to. We should pray because He wants us to.

But I don't think it really addresses at all why He desires that or the relative significance of our prayers in the whole scheme of things. Or how prayer and predestination (in the Calvinistic understanding of it) play out together. Which the difficulty (impossibility?) in grasping drives the 'why bother' of your oft asked questions.

Doug said...

You know I love you Daniel.