Chapter Seven: Out of the Whirlwind (Chapter Eight, too)
by Elizabeth de Barros
“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.”
— Job 16:19 (NIV)
A chocolate protein shake never looked so good! Speaking of good, I like how Horton opens Part Two, “God of the Empty Tomb,” by pulling on our heartstrings again. In Chapter 7, “Out of the Whirlwind,” he tells of the tragic loss of a dear mentor and family friend, unafraid to show the messy side of life. Then he introduces Job, where things get even messier. But we’re supposed to learn something from Job — namely, that God sits enthroned and how we are to bow before Him, come what may. From there, in Chapter 8, “A New Creation,” we’re treated to an informal Bible study on the truths of justification, sanctification and glorification. Out of the whirlwind is right. Like Job, we never look so good as when we allow God to have His way with us.
SUMMARY of CHAPTER 7
Of all the chapters so far, “Out of the Whirlwind” is Horton’s multifaceted jewel — it shines by touching on the best and worst of humanity. He shares the painful account of his friend’s life riddled with trial and disease that led to his eventual suicide. Remarkably, this man was a pastor. And just when we want an explanation for this senseless act, Horton raises the curtain on Job, where we find a man bereft of not only home, family, health and livelihood, but of sound, godly counsel. Dire straits always seem to put God on trial, too. This is the test — is God good? After having lost everything except his hope in God, Job says: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes — I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”¹
A picture of raw faith, Job is remembered not for his pietistic stoicism, but for having fastened his eyes on God. He appealed to the One deserving of all glory, placed confidence in Him for His own sake, and dignified the trial with prayer. But when God told him to be quiet and to brace himself like a man, he repented under the mighty hand of God — the only right response.
“No one can say, ‘I am innocent. I should not be going through this.’ This is why we need to turn from trusting in our own righteousness to the Mediator who announces to the court that he has found a ransom to deliver us from final destruction. Only this, and not the inspirational platitudes, can truly lift one’s countenance.” (p. 126)
Even when man shortchanges himself by giving up, as was the case with Horton’s friend, God never loses a battle. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Job looked away from himself and remembered that he had a Mediator. Grace is such that when God and man are put on trial, God’s shares His vindication and both come forth triumphant.
1. Job 19:25-27 NIV
SUMMARY of CHAPTER 8
Horton’s most theological chapter yet, “A New Creation” treats Romans 6, 7, and 8 with the proper care and thoroughness they deserve. By detailing the “already” position of the believer as described in Romans 6, he doesn’t fail to address our present “not yet” reality of Romans 7, ending with Paul’s glorious announcement of our Romans 8: 1-17 certain victory. From all this, the author affirms what is affirmed in Scripture: the believer’s blessed status in Christ.
But what Horton often likes to do is first remind us our origins. By pointing to our Adamic nature and subsequent bondage to sin, he reveals how it’s only through the atoning sacrifice of Christ that we’ve now “been made perfect.” He then exposes man’s ever-failing attempt to better himself. By borrowing a term, “the Protean style,”² from psychologist Robert Jay Lifton, he describes our postmodern culture and how people of all walks of life seek to reinvent themselves. He says, “Everyone wants to be someone or something else, a new creation — but on their own terms.” This is the height of what is called nihilism, as here Horton colorfully defines it:
“Nihilism is having two hundred TV channels from which to choose, life as a perpetual smorgasbord in which choice becomes an end in itself. We forget what we’re even choosing or why. We are “in charge,” but of a life that seems often to lack any definite purpose or sense of destination.” (p. 138)
Then Horton brings us back around to center stage, where nihilism serves as the perfect foil for the gospel:
“Something has happened outside us, in history — a divine disruption that really has inaugurated a new world. The Holy Spirit has been sent by the Father and by the Son, who sits victorious at the Father’s right hand, to make all things genuinely new from the inside out.” (p. 138)
As believers in Christ, God has brought an end to all our striving. The need for reinventing ourselves is over. Faith adorns us from within and without. We’ve been made new.
2. From the Greek myth in which Proteus constantly changed his shape to evade capture.
I’m grateful to have found Horton’s chapter on Job, “Out of the Whirlwind,” to be an easy read. There’s more good theology available in that book than I ever knew and it’s worth reading again in light of Horton’s commentary. I particularly appreciated Horton’s sober and compassionate view towards his friend’s suicide — proof that having a firm grasp on sound Biblical theology inevitably leads to having a realistic and merciful posture towards another’s frailty.
And since I never seem to tire of sound doctrine, “A New Creation” sat well with me, even if the chapter did go long. I applaud Horton for his unapologetic stance against our present postmodern culture. He takes no prisoners, shining a spotlight on all the messages we receive from our advertising world. Let’s face it, “reinventing yourself” is what you do if you are unregenerate. He does a wonderful job puzzling it out, showing how there is “nothing is new under the sun.” It’s true. Sin is not original. It’s all been done before.
But what I liked most about this chapter is how Horton faithfully stewards over the gospel, showing us how we can hold several truths in tension (Romans 6, 7, and 8 ) and still walk in the intended fullness of our redemption this side of heaven, keeping pace with the hope of glory in the age to come.
“Like Job, we make conclusions based on limited information, trying to figure out why things are happening to us.” (p. 119)
“Bildad means well, but he too suffers from bad theology.” (p.119)
“Bad things happen to bad people, good things happen to good people, but there is no such thing as bad things happening to good people. There is no one good, no not one.” (p. 120)
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him…”
“Just because we don’t have the answers does not mean there are no answers.”(p. 128)
“What happens here and now is not the whole story.” (p. 131)
“There is a Redeemer…who will right all wrongs and make all things new.” (p.134)
“The verdict of the last day is rendered here and now. For us, judgment day is a settled affair.” (p. 141)
“We live because he lives.”
“To suggest that we can add anything to our redemption is to insult God’s liberal expense in making us his children. We cannot be more chosen, accepted, forgiven, or justified than we are right now.” (p. 143)
“So we do not lose heart…”
“In moments of peak piety, I am still a struggling believer; and in moments of great transgression, I am still baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and thus a citizen of the new creation that has dawned with Christ’s victory over sin and death and his sending of the Spirit…the normal Christian life! (p. 151)
“In the end we will wear the conqueror’s crown.”
What wisdom we learn from Job! What teaching we receive from Horton! Please leave a comment, ask a question, share a quote or offer insight. Of course, if you’d rather simply listen, that’s fine, too.
If you’d like to answer a chapter question from the back of the book, please feel free. Just remember to reference which chapter/question it is so the rest of us aren’t left stranded. Thanks.
FOR NEXT WEEK
Read Chapters 9 & 10: “The True Nature of Spiritual Warfare” & “When God Goes to a Funeral”