Posts Tagged ‘Resurrection’

Addiction, Josh Hamilton, Grace

February 28, 2015

The recent news of Josh Hamilton’s relapse broke my heart. I have gone back into my archives and dug up an old paper I wrote in my senior year of college. I will include the original paper as it was and have updated commentary at the end.

Caleb Bartholomew

BIBL335 Minor Prophets

Professor William Barnes

Major Project

“Sensational God of the Minor Prophets”

When we discussed Jonah in class, we talked about how the writings about Jonah were of the genre of sensational literature. I propose that there is a lot of sensationalism in the whole Bible, especially in the Minor Prophets. For this project, I will, in brilliant words, examine most of the Minor Prophets, in Canonical order, starting with Hosea and ending with Malachi. I believe that YHWH is a God of sensationalism and larger than life stories with the pinnacle being God coming down as man.

However, I will start with Jonah since he is the inspiration for this project. Jonah will set the frame work for what sensational literature is. Stewart accurately categorizes Jonah as sensational literature. It is “designed to arouse imagination and emotion of the audience.” Jonah seems like a parable but parables have one scene, typically and are generally fictional. Stewart suggests that in no sense would Jonah be considered fictional. He also says that it is not allegorical as it is not an extensive image of one thing and it is not a Midrash that is a commentary on other scripture. However, it contains strong elements similar to parables and an allegory. [1]

There is no specific date for Jonah except that it had to take place before the fall of Assyria since the prophecy is directed towards Nineveh.[2] Of the easiest recognized sensational stories in the Old Testament, the three main events that make it sensational literature is the great storm which Yahweh is in control, and the whale which has the same controller, and also the plant.[3] One guess is that the plant was a castor bean plant.  It would be just like God to use a castor bean plant for someone who seemingly has gastrointestinal problems towards somebody that had done him wrong in the past.[4]

The first book in the Minor Prophet canon is Hosea. All blessings and cursing in Hosea are based on parallels in the Mosaic Law. The fundamental prophetic word of Hosea is of destruction and restoration. He was a northern prophet in the time of Jeroboam II, the last leader of the Jehu Dynasty in the mid 8th century. The book contains a series of lawsuits from God against Israel, including committing blatant adultery against God.[5]

The sensational God to Hosea was the God of Hosea 11:8e where God says, “My heart is changed within me.”[6] This is the theology of the cross where God takes the wrath meant for man, and suffers that wrath himself. It is the same term used for the destruction (הפך) of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:25. The God, who was slow to anger and abounding in grace, who would have spared the original Twin Cities for only 10 righteous, destroyed these sinful cities as seen in Genesis 18:32.

Now, for Ephraim, who has committed adultery, and prostituted itself out to serving other gods, is being spared from judgment. However, it is not that God is merely relenting or forgiving them, He is taking the punishment upon himself as His compassion is being roused. This punishment is meant for his child whom He brought up from infancy. This wicked and rebellious nation is spared, but God’s heart is not spared.[7] This theology of the cross is God bringing the punishment of man upon Himself. The guilt that man has, God bore on the cross through Jesus Christ. This was for man’s guilt, by means of man’s guilt. The same pure and utter destruction that was rained onto Sodom and Gomorrah, God took in Ephraim’s place and Jesus took in all humanities place on the cross[8]  when His Father had forsaken him (Mark 15:34).

The theology of the cross is weakness, scandalous and foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:18-25). It is the hidden things. It is the invisible things. It is the suffering of Jesus Christ for the sake of humanity.[9] In Hosea 11:9, God says this is because He is God and not man; el not ish. Man would have continued to take his wrath out on the guilty, but God does not. Wrath is still needed, but God, the loving Father, or Mother sometimes argued, takes the wrath upon himself.

It is a comfort for those who are oppressed, whose anguish is a mirror image of the suffering of Christ. It is a model of discipleship and how Christians ought to live their lives as they are to live in obedience.[10] Ephraim and Christians ought to live this way as God, who is consistent and compassionate, took the punishment upon Himself to redeem His wayward bride back to Himself.[11] Hosea has a message of hope and even though impending punishment will happen, restoration will follow for Israel.  God’s anger must be satiated but his love cannot be quenched and so his judgment goes against himself.[12]

In Joel, we see God using sensational literature to get the attention of his people. Joel is a Southern prophet, probably post exilic but the date is most assuredly unknown. It is funny because it almost seems as though he is competing with Amos’s bad day (Amos 5:19) because he says in verse two “has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers?”

The invasion of the locusts is fantastic literature, especially since there seems to be a debate as to whether this is literal or not. Verse four seems to be a replication of the Exodus 10:5 and 15 depiction of a plague of locusts. It was a fantastic story for Exodus and it would certainly be fantastic for Joel. It is a story of the demolition of Judah and how it has become barren. What makes a compelling argument for the literalness of the locusts is that Near Eastern literature never symbolizes the locusts for human assailants. Even if it is not literal, it is a fantastic way of describing what has happened.[13]

Amos, the Rebel preacher to the Northern States, is among my favorite in fantastic literature. He is quite possibly a contemporary of Hosea, in the 8th Century.[14] The part, that makes Amos interesting, is in his call narrative in Amos 7:14-16. As a Rebel, he says to Amaziah that he is not a prophet for profit[15] who receives pay from the kings table “whereas the prophets of Baal were maintained at the king’s expense” as compared in 1King 18:19. He was happily a humble shepherd until he received his divine call and then he was happily and humbly a prophet. He kept his sheep until Yahweh came and told him to prophesy. He was not a prophet for hire, nor was he the son of a prophet. The idea of a son of a prophet is equivalent to a disciple of a prophet, which is learning the trade of a prophet from a prophet. [16] That would be like a person in America being a pastor of a church without any kind of pastoral training, with either a basic understanding of Scripture or Baptist but I digress. How sensational of a story to not have any kind of collegiate level Bible School training or even be a part of mentorship program such as Master’s Commission yet that is what happened to Amos when he was called to deliver a Word from God.

Obadiah is a book of judgment against Edom and because this oracle of judgment is a book in the Bible it receives more attention than any other pronouncement against Edom.[17] The nation of Edom was unified under one king and is understood to be the brother nation to Israel. David warred against Edom to secure the south eastern border and open up a trade route, appearing to rid itself of problems with Edom. It seemed during the height of the Israel monarchy, Edom was more inferior and subjected to Israel and Solomon took women from Edom to be his wives. Even in the divided kingdom, Israel is still the better brother than Edom initially.  The 7th and 6th centuries, Edom becomes the afflicter. This is because of its strategic location for the slave trade between the Mediterranean and Arabian nations that make them more powerful. The first son once again has power over the second and it did not look good for the second son.[18]

This book was written from the South around 588-586.[19] The thing that I find the most sensational about this story is that it is the age old story for Israel. The history begins with Israel and Esau in Geneses 25:23 when two nations were predicted, one would be stronger than the other. It seems initially that Esau might be stronger because he is born first, but there is Israel nipping at his heel the whole way out. Shortly into the narrative, we find out that Israel is the wittier and perhaps stronger fellow as he deceives his brother for the birthright, Genesis 27, and also for the choicest lands, Genesis 33. Jacob gets Canaan and Esau gets Edom.[20] Israel means “he struggles with God”.[21] That struggle starts with Adam. Adam is the prototype of the man of Israel and a metaphor for the nation of Israel.[22]

The literature is so sensational that it appears that the first born son is the protagonist and that the second born son is the antagonist. Abel is the protagonist and Cain is the antagonist. Israel becomes the protagonist to Edom the antagonist. . However, Israel, in the bigger picture, becomes the antagonist to God and God is the protagonist.[23] [24]  Israel as the type of Adam is antagonizing God and His creation and His perfect will. Adam is the antagonist to Christ, the protagonist of the entire Bible.[25]

Obadiah 15 is very similar to Ezekiel chapter 35. The destruction of Edom is part of the oracle of restoration to Israel. Edom is the prototype for the destruction of Israel’s enemies.[26] However, if Israel is a representation of the first Adam, they are then their own enemy. Adam, being the first created son of God, in the restoration and the prototype for Israel, will see the same fate as Edom because they had become their own worst enemy. It is the second son, the Only Unique One of God, the second Adam, who will be a stronger nation. To receive the fullness of the inheritance promised to Abraham, a person has to be adopted by the second son to receive that inheritance. The restoration is not satiated in the restoration of the physical haaretz but the restoration of Creation to its pre Genesis 3 condition. The Promised Land is not the physical haaretz of Canaan but the Spiritual renewal that restores us to the Father. The Promised Land is in the New Eden, the New Jerusalem.

Nahum is very sensational in its literature. A prophet of the 7th century, he prophesies the fall of Assyria. His message is pure nationalism and he is Jonah’s prayer answered and Obadiah’s counterpart as he similarly predicts the fall of an enemy of Yahweh. The woe oracle in chapter 3 starts out the sensationalism of Nahum. The fall is predicted in chapter 2 but in chapter 3 Nineveh is called the city of blood and the fall will be worse than predicted in chapter 2. It will be worse than any Quentin Tarantino movie.[27] The war will be so bad that there will be bodies without number, one body on the other and people will be tripping over them trying to escape. It says there will be piles of bodies in the NIV. This is all because of harlotry and prostitution and everything interrelated such as sorceries and witchcraft which Nahum lumps together. His name means comfort but the last thing he offers Assyria is comfort.[28]

Thebes was a powerful city in Egypt with many allies who worked together with Egypt. Even with allies, Thebes still fell. From class, we decided that Nineveh could not be better than Thebes because they had no friends on Facebook. Even still, Nineveh will be shamed. [29] The way that Assyria treated Egypt was crass because they had no respect for the most helpless, as they destroyed babies in the streets.[30] Nahum then taunts Nineveh, saying their military is a bunch of sissy women or as Schwartzenager would say: “girl-men”. The once crass Assyrian army would not wet their beds and be as defenseless and frightened as women,[31] and they would be unable to fight.[32] The difference between Nahum and Amos is that in Amos, they are locusts that destroy whereas in Nahum 3:17 the army is only like locusts which fly away.  The word used for locusts here are the larger species which can do much damage but are still merely grasshoppers and therefore are no good for defense.[33]

Habakkuk was a late 7th century prophet who dealt with the question of theodicy. Where others give oracles of certitude from Yahweh, Habakkuk questions Divine decision making.[34] Little is known about the Prophet Habakkuk his prophecies, but in the Greek account of Bel and the Dragon tells how Habakkuk was moved by a messenger, “to Babylon to feed Daniel in the lion’s den” with the food that Habakkuk made. The story is fictitious but that is what other literature says about this author. It is similar to fantastic literature in that it is a wild and crazy story but the Bel and the Dragon is fictitious.[35]

In class we discussed how 1:8-11 was a parody of the Divine Comfort. Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3 recalls the all of the fantastic literature throughout much of the Old Testament from the exodus in 7, Noah in 9, Joshua in 11 and Goliath in 14. It is the reminders from the past that help Habakkuk to be encouraged to know that Yahweh will do the same for him as He had done for those who came before him. The answer is there is no answer except “Rejoice in Yahweh” until vengeance and restoration is given.[36] Even with that, Yahweh warns to Habakkuk that the way to counter the injustice of Jehoiakim is worse than the injustice itself. If justice is what you ask for, justice is what you will receive. If you want justice for Jehoiakim’s whips then you will receive justice with Chaldean scorpians. [37]

Zephaniah was a prophet from the 7th century who came after a period of silence from Yahweh. The ironic part about this is that Yahweh reveals Himself again even though Zephaniah means Yahweh hides. The book opens up with pronouncements of judgment on the whole world. Yahweh threatens to sweep away the whole earth including the animals. After the years of silence and Yahweh’s people still need strong rebuking.[38] Zephaniah comes out strong with a message about the great day of Yahweh and even though it has been talked about before, he brings a stronger message that is vaster, and has more detail.[39]

Zephaniah proclaims the day of Yahweh is near fulfillment in a day that might men will scream like little girls. The day will be full of “trouble and distress” both physically and mentally. Sheer destruction of “wasteland and desolation” follows. “Darkness and thick darkness” will afflict Judah like it afflicted Egypt. Darkness is followed by blackness. The trumpet will sound and invasion will occur and nothing in Judah will be spared. It is a predication of the end of Judah as a nation that uses fantastic detail to describe.[40]

Haggai is interested in the fact that there is no Temple in which Yahweh can reside. The temple must be restored so that Yahweh’s blessing can be fulfilled.[41] The creation of the world is strongly related to temple building[42] so in order for creation to be restored to its original order, the restoration of the temple must be completed. The new temple will bring peace to this place but Israel never sees peace again even in the new physical structure. It could not happen. It is beyond the realm of what God had in place but the realm was the “One, Holy and catholic Church”. It is only through Christ, who is the temple that was destroyed and raised up in three days, that the latter temple could even be greater than the formal.[43] We are the body of Christ and we make the temple universal and we are greater than the former, being Israel,[44] because we live on this side of grace.

Zachariah means “Yahweh Remembers” and he was a 6th century prophet.[45] Zachariah is apocalyptic in nature and uses very similar imagery to Daniel, Ezekiel and the author of Revelation. He has 8 dreams and in those dreams there are a lot of similarities to Revelation such as phrases like “how long” in Zechariah 1:12 and Revelation 6:10. Also, the four horsemen in the first and eighth vision are repeated in Revelation 6:1 and a few other examples.[46] The visions seem to be like the movie “Bedtime Story”. Most of them happened at night as we discussed in class. In the movie, these fantastic stories are told and as they are told they come true shortly after that. Sometimes the stories come true in a way that he expects they will and sometimes it is the unexpected things that come true that make the real life event even more fantastic. Flying scrolls 30 feet long, lamp stands and olive trees that are anointed to serve the earth, four spirits in four chariots between mountains of bronze and a woman in a basket and many other things that Zechariah sees are completely fantastic stories that actually happen for Zechariah. They are representations of what actually happen in real life as bed time stories usually are. Gumballs that fall from heaven in a bed time story may just be a gumball carrying truck that has wrecked on an overpass but it is the real thing represented in a form of fantastic literature. [47]

The essence of Malachi is the covenant between Yahweh and His people and “keeping their faith alive”. The last chapter of Malachi is very fitting as it ushers out the Old Testament and prepares the way for the New Testament.[48] It is interesting to me that the writings of Malachi end with the dreadful Day of Yahweh and it does not give hope for  restoration. There is only a hope of Moses being remembered, which sums up the Pentateuch and also the idea that Elijah will come. The only hope is that another prophet will come and no true restoration is given. It would have been fantastic for the hearers at that time because there had always been promise before. There came a silence before the terrible day of Yahweh. Then, opportunity for restoration came, but not for Israel. It came for God and God’s whole creation on the cross. Restoration will not be realized in its fullest until the return of Christ and like Zachariah it comes in a way that is not expected.[49]

God is still in the business of writing fantastic literature. Josh Hamilton is a baseball player with the Texas Rangers who was supposed to be a top of the line star with the Tampa Bay Rays. He got cut after spring training one year and got heavily involved in drugs. His marriage was falling apart and his dreams were slowly slipping away. Over three years he was out of baseball because he could not get his drug use under control. That is when God started intervening. God led him to a program that helped drug dependent people and the sole focus was baseball. This attracted Hamilton and he got back on track, off of drugs, into baseball and into God. He started back with the Reds and then traded to the Rangers in the off season where he ended up playing the entire 2008 season as the hottest hitter in baseball. The story of restoration only kept getting better after that as he was nominated to play in the last All Star Game at Yankee Stadium and then selected to participate in the home run derby. His childhood coach fed him pitch after pitch as he stunned the baseball world, setting a single round record for most homeruns in a place where fantastic stories are made for the secular world. Through this, Josh Hamilton has been able to point his new found success to the Yahweh of the Minor Prophets. It is an amazing fantastic story that could have only been written and directed by Yahweh, himself.[50]

Updated Commentary 2015:

The story ended with abruptness for Jonah. The story written so far for Josh Hamilton has no ending either. We are left hanging. But like Jonah and Amos and any other above prophet mentioned, Josh Hamilton will share their fate. The fate they share is death.

I saw an ESPN report, and I wish I could find it again, but they said “Josh Hamilton fell from grace.” I don’t believe he fell from grace. Again, I was saddened by the news but as somebody who is personally charred by addiction, I know even if relapse never happens, the struggle always continues. It is always in the back of your mind. But for the grace of God go I, some may say. But for the grace of God, we go.

In this life, we cry the same cry as Habakkuk. How long oh Lord? In this life we will see violence. In this life we will see the world crumble around us. Whether it is drug addiction, whether it is sexual mischief, whether it is cancer, something is going to be our vice. Something is going to cause us to stumble. Something is going to cause death. We can pray for healing from addiction and cancer and heart disease and whatever ails us. hough we have the saving grace and eternal life through Jesus Christ, we will die. Even Jesus Christ died and through his resurrection he gives us this hope… we have this hope… we share this hope… in the ultimate healing through our own resurrection.

Josh Hamilton is still within that grace. Even if he never relapses again, he will struggle. He will get sick and he will die. But in the resurrection Josh Hamilton will be healed of his addiction and struggle no more for eternity.

We have a sensational God with larger who has written larger than life stories. But God is not done writing Josh Hamilton’s story and he’s not done writing your story either.

[1] Stewart, Douglas: Word Biblical Commentary 31: Hosea- Jonah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987. p. 435

[2] Ibid. p. 433

[3] Ibid p. 435

[4] Nadasdy, Dean Dr. Jonah. Woodbury, MN, Woodbury Lutheran Church, 2009.

[5] Stewart, Douglas: Word Biblical Commentary 31: Hosea- Jonah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987. P 7, 9, 74

[6] NIV

[7] Chan, Michael: The Pentateuch: Lectures. Minneapolis, MN: North Central University, 2009.

[8]Bruce, Alexander Balmain: The Training of the Twelve or, Passages Out of the Gospels, Exhibiting the Twelve Disciples of Jesus Under Discipline for the Apostleship. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995, c1877, S. 176

[9] LCMS: Theologies of Grace/Glory Q&A. St. Louis, MO: LCMS.ORG/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2646 2009

[10]Achtemeier, Paul J. ; Harper & Row, Publishers ; Society of Biblical Literature: Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1985, S. 195

[11] Stewart, Douglas: Word Biblical Commentary 31: Hosea- Jonah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987. p. 181

[12] Childs, Brevard: Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Fortress  Press  Philadelphia 1979. p. 380-382

[13] Stewart, Douglas: Word Biblical Commentary 31: Hosea- Jonah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987. p. 241-242

[14] Ibid. p. 283

[15] Ibid. 376

[16]Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Am 7:14

[17] Stewart, Douglas: Word Biblical Commentary 31: Hosea- Jonah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987. p. 402

[18]  Bartlett, J.R.: Anchor Bible Dictionary: Volume 2. NY, NY  Doubleday Dell Publication group 1992.

  1. 288-291

[19] Stewart, Douglas: Word Biblical Commentary 31: Hosea- Jonah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987. 404

[20] Chan, Michael: The Pentateuch: Lectures. Minneapolis, MN: North Central University, 2009.

[21] Ibid

[22] Klein, William; Blomberg, Craig; Hubbard, Robert. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Nashville, TN. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004,  p. 182

[23] Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction; A Guide to Narrative Craft. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007, p. 263

[24] Kress, Nancy. Dynamic Characters: How to create personalities that keep readers captivated. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writers Digest Books, 1998, p. 123-128

[25]  Romans 5:14   “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned ain the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a 1btype of Him who was to come.”

1 Corinthians 15:43 So also it is written, “The first aman, Adam, became a living soul.” The blast Adam became a clife-giving spirit.” NASB

[26]Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1295

[27] Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. p. 86

[28] Ibid. p. 63, 86 Nahum 3:7

[29]  Ibid. p. 88

[30]Smith, James E.: The Minor Prophets. Joplin, Mo. : College Press, 1992, S. Na 3:8-13

[31]Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1503

[32]Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Na 3:13

[33]Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Na 3:8

[34] Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. P9. 94, 103

[35] Mc.Comisky, Thomas: The Minor Prophets: Volume II. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Baker Book House Company, 1993 p. 831

[36] Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. pp. 115, 117

[37] Mc.Comisky, Thomas: The Minor Prophets: Volume II. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Baker Book House Company, 1993 pp. 834-835

[38] Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984.  pp. 120-121, 123

[39]Achtemeier, Paul J. ; Harper & Row, Publishers ; Society of Biblical Literature: Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1985, S. 1161

[40]Smith, James E.: The Minor Prophets. Joplin, Mo. : College Press, 1992, S. Zep 1:14-18

[41]  Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. p. 149

[42]  Chan, Michael: The Pentateuch: Lectures. Minneapolis, MN: North Central University, 2009.

[43]Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. p. 158

[44]Wood, D. R. W. ; Marshall, I. Howard: New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1996, S. 144

[45] Smith, Ralph: Word Biblical Commentary 32: Micah- Malachi. Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984. p.167, 169.

[46] Baldwin, Joyce G. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove/Bristol, Inter-varsity Press/ Tyndale 1972 pp. 70-72

[47] Lopez, Matt: Bedtime Stories. Los Angeles, Disney Motion Pictures 2008

[48] Baldwin, Joyce G. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove/Bristol, Inter-varsity Press/ Tyndale 1972 pp 216-217, 214

[49] Hailey, Homer: A Commentary on The Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1972 p. 403, 425

[50] Scott, Jeff. Josh Hamilton: Resurrecting the Dream. Secaucus, N.J. MLB Network 2009

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Mortality

February 18, 2013

Grace mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Like many of you today, I will never forget the moment I realized my own mortality. I can’t remember where we were exactly. I can’t remember who told us, but I remember I was fourteen. Sure, I had been to more than my fair share of funerals as a PK. I had seen more dead people at that age than I wanted to; people who died from natural causes to random massive heart attacks to head on collisions… I knew what death was. I didn’t like it. But it was always older people or people I didn’t know, someone on the news far away from me. 

            But this was different. I knew Andrea. Andrea’s dad and my dad had classes together at the seminary. Andrea and I had fought side by side in the largest water war in the history of Concordia Seminary.

            But I can still hear it, “Andrea was killed in a car accident,” and “it was somebody driving a stolen car”. The words “she was just 16” still echoes in my ears.

            I’ve heard the same echoes this week. “She was just 17”. Since Stacey’s death, I have been hearing questions of why would God take her from us?

            I know that Stacey’s parents prayed for her every day. For her safety. For her well being. 

                I prayed scriptures with Stacey’s family. “How long, LORD, must I call for help,
   but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!”  but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me;  there is strife, and conflict abounds.

            Today’s text is from Job. It was Stacey’s favorite verse. Stacey chose this verse for her confirmation banner and she sang a choir solo of Handle’s rendition of this verse.

            “I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last day, he will stand upon the earth.” This is the message for us today.

            Job says that God took all his things from him and then threw him into the mud. Job said he made a covenant with his eyes and God still showed wrath on him.

            Job said “Oh, that I had someone to listen to me. Let the almighty answer me.”

                              “Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice Job cried out to no reply.

            The entire book of Job, God gets a couple lines at the beginning, but then he’s silent for the next 37 long grueling chapters. Job is reliving over and over again the affliction that has come on him. His family dead.  His wealth, decimated.

            Why did God allow this to happen to Job?

            Out of the depths , Job cries out that he knows that his redeemer lives. But what Job is really calling for is an umpire. Job feels that God is throwing his weight around and Job knows he doesn’t stand a chance. Job is hoping for someone to throw a yellow card or a red card (soccer reference) so that the fight is at least fair. Without a Redeemer, defender, or umpire, Job has nothing. Perhaps, Job thinks that on the last day, on his dying day, he might have a chance and the umpire will stand with him.

            Why did God allow this to happen?

            The almighty God in all his power has told the oceans to go this far. He has given orders to the morning. Yet, the world is not how he made it. The world is so far from the perfection God created it. And when evil befalls us, God knows our hurts better than we do.

            God saw the earth when it was very good. God saw when people didn’t die needlessly. God has been hurting since the fall and he is more frustrated by the unfairness of sin sickness and death and dying than we could even imagine. God is grieving with us about Stacey.

            But since the fall, God promised an umpire. God promised somebody to level the playing field.  Jesus was marched to a trial and to his own crucifixion. Jesus hung and died on the cross to level the playing field so that we have an advocate with the Father.  Jesus leveled the playing field to be the vindicator that Job foresaw. “I know that my redeemer… I know that my vindicator lives and on the last day he will stand… But our Redeemer… our Vindicator… does not just stand on the last day… he stands today.

            You see, God was not aloof when Stacey’s family prayed for her. God in his mercy leveled the playing field when Stacey was brought to the waters of baptism. Through baptism, Stacey was buried with Christ in his death. Through baptism, Stacey was raised to new life. A life with Christ. A life forever.

            God leveled the playing field by the body and blood of Christ. Stacey was joined into the body of Christ and was strengthened and preserved to life everlasting. On the last day, Stacey will be raised from the dead and live in perfection forever because God gave us an umpire to level the playing field.

            We have hope that on the last day, because of our faith in our great umpire… our great vindicator… our great Redeemer… We have hope that on the last day Jesus will stand for us.

            Jesus stands to be our umpire to level the playing field. To bring us hope that we stand a chance in this crazy world, now and forever.

            Now the peace, that passes all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds.