After sitting in a local pub and comparing the music in church with that sung by the minstrels, Martin Luther posed a great question: “Why does the devil have all the good music?” This is a paraphrase, but it’s the gist of what he said.
Five hundred years later, legendary Christian music pioneer Larry Norman put Luther’s words to music, which you can watch in the above video.
But Martin Luther understood the power of music and more importantly, the power behind the music.
Please join us as we discuss this in our daily Bible conversation.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Job 1:1-7:21. The book of Job is one of the Bible’s most mysterious books. We don’t know who wrote it or when it was written. Most scholars date it to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (1800-2000 B.C.). If the Pentateuch was penned by Moses, then Job predates the second oldest book(s) by approximately 500 years.
Except for the first two chapters and the epilogue at the end, everything in Job is written as poetry.
Job has also been heretically misinterpreted by certain teachers who believe that pain and godly living are mutually exclusive. They can’t explain how God can allow “bad” things to happen to good people. But he does—which is why Job is such a helpful book. “Job was the biggest fool in the Bible,” I heard one well-known television preacher say.
But the bigger fool is the one who believes Job was a fool. From the outset we read that Job was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Furthermore, no one on earth was like him (Job 1:8).
Most amazing about him is his response to deep tragedy, which included the loss of his children, servants, and possessions: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
These aren’t the words of a fool, but rather a man terribly out of touch with reality, or perhaps, incredibly in touch with reality. I believe the latter.
The bigger fools were Job’s three friends. We’re first introduced to Eliphaz. He can’t believe that bad things happen to good people. “You must need a little discipline to fix some problems in your life” he seems to be saying (Job 5:17). “Just be patient and everything will work out.”
Eliphaz represents the people who cannot enter our pain because they have never experienced it. They look at us and say, “Just hang in there and everything will be okay. Just learn what you need to learn and then the pain will stop.”
Sometimes—oftentimes—pain and loss happen without any good explanation. Rather than sit with Job in his pain, Eliphaz stood at a distance and offered shallow platitudes.
For good reason, Job refused to accept it. After responding to Eliphaz, Job then directs himself to God. The New Bible Commentary makes an excellent observation here:
For the moment, [Job] asks of God nothing except that he should leave him alone so that he can live out his remaining days free from pain. But of course there is more to this than meets the eye; for in the very act of begging God to desert him he is in fact approaching him.
1 Corinthians 14:1-40. Over the last hundred years, countless churches have gotten hung up on the subject of speaking in tongues. At the risk of continuing this practice, I will admit that I see no evidence that proves the gift of tongues has ceased. Yet the point Paul is making is this: tongues aren’t the point. Love is the point (see Eugene’s excellent post from yesterday) and after that, we need prophecy.
According to Paul’s definition in verse 3, prophecy is a word spoken from God for our “strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”
This doesn’t mean that tongues should be ignored over more “important” gifts. All the spiritual gifts are equally important, but they all play different roles. In a corporate worship setting, prophecy is most important.
Paul concludes this discussion with these helpful words: “Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Good advice!
Psalm 37:12-40. I won’t expound on this passage because this blog post is on the long side, but it offers some great insights into Job’s suffering.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Zoroastrianism purports that God and Satan are equal adversaries, engaged in a cosmic battle. Taking their cues from this ancient Persian religion, many well-intentioned believers believe that Christianity works the same way. God and Satan are engaged in a cosmic battle, with the deciding factor boiling down to the actions of Christians around the world. If the Christians could just get their act together and pray and legislate righteousness around the world, then God will win.
“Christianity is one generation from extinction,” I’ve heard many preachers say.
At the beginning of Job, we read that Satan enters the presence of God along with the angels.
The word “Satan” means “adversary” or “accuser.” In fact, the literal translation in the first two chapters of Job refers to Satan as “the accuser.” Revelation 12:10 tells us that the accuser stands before God day and night, charging us with any and every sin. His intent? To disarm us. To prevent us from understanding the authority and power that God has over him.
Yet today’s reading clearly shows us that God is greater than any power in heaven and on earth.
Like Job, we may experience pain and loss or unfair accusations. But God is still stronger, still greater, still wiser. This is the message of Job.
Martin Luther once wrote, “The devil is God’s devil.” Like we read today in the book of Job, Luther knew that Satan’s power was no equal to God’s. He found that music was an effective vehicle to not only teach about the power of God over the devil, but also to mobilize people in their resistance to him.
“Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful…The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.”
In addition to appreciating music, he also wrote perhaps the most well-known Protestant hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. The first verse of his hymn is familiar among many, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight the third and fourth verses, which accentuate our reading in Job:
And tho’ this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us;
The prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’
Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Our world is filled with evil and the influence of the Accuser. But even in the midst of pain and loss, God is still in control. Satan may buffet us, but God will win because he’s God.
So why did God allow Job to suffer? We’ll discuss that as we work our way through Job.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What does your reading in Job tell you about God and Satan?
- How might our reading in Psalm 37 inform your understanding of the righteous who suffer?
- What has been your experience with prophecy and tongues? Why do you think these two gifts have been particularly divisive in the church? Is that a valid reason to avoid them? Why or why not?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.