3. Divine Council
Theme: 3. Divine Council
Summerstrand 11 August 18:30
We are not alone!
1. In the beginning God created two realms, the heavens and the earth. This is the setting for the story of the Bible.
We are more familiar with the human and earthly side of it. But there is another set of characters, the spiritual beings of the heavenly realm who also take part in this earthly story.
God is not alone!
2. One category of spiritual beings is the Elohim. They attest to the fact that we live in a god-congested universe. We focussed on two types of Elohim, the gods of the nations, and the gods of religion. And we heard that God is above those Elohim, He is the Elohim of the Elohim. As Paul says:
“For although there are many that that are called gods in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many gods and many lords) – yet for us there is One God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Cor 8:5-6)
3. There is a fascinating group of Spiritual Beings that is called the Divine Council. Let’s look at the third of our videos on the Spiritual Beings.
Video on the Divine Council
“Spiritual Beings are copyright 2019 by The Bible Project and are available for viewing at www.thebibleproject.com“.
SERMON THREE: DIVINE COUNCIL
What is some of the worst counsel you got in your life?
Take a look at these pieces of advice to brighten up your day:
- Is your sink full of dirty utensils? Put some clean dishes in the draining rack! Now it looks like you’re working on it.
- If you leave your wipers up, an officer won’t be able to leave a fine. Your money will be saved.
- It’s very expensive to eat 3 times a day. Wake up later, miss breakfast, and save money.
- Having a bad day? No worries! Wear sunglasses. Now you’re having a bad evening.
These are just silly and funny pieces of advice, but people will sometimes fall for similar stuff.
We need counsel
More seriously, we use counsel all the time. For all types of stuff. Sometimes it is easy stuff. From how to change your tyre – there is a manual in the glovebox! – to how to change a lightbulb – do not electrocute yourself!
Sometimes counsel has a much bigger impact on our lives. When we think about our calling, our vocation, our spouse, our children, our lifestyle.
Then we need to discern whether the counsel we get will stand up under fire, when the going gets tough. And we know we then should listen to people with more experience and expertise than ourselves. And not follow the free counsel we get from around a fire or from locals in a bar.
That is why we go to counsellors and coaches for counsel on the bigger decisions of life. And that is why we pray and read the Bible, to get counsel from the Lord on our spiritual life.
That is true also of spiritual beings. Some of them are even part of God’s Divine Council. They are drawn into the decisions that God makes concerning his creation and its creatures.
And I want us to focus on them – so that we can better educate ourselves about the way we should live in this double-decker world of ours. Because we too are drawn into God’s decisions in our prayer-life.
What on earth is the Divine Council?
Well, they are not on earth to begin with! This biblical description applies to certain spiritual powers that God created in the heavens through whom He rules.
This biblical phrase describes the concept of spiritual powers that God created to have authority alongside humans. They are a group of Elohim that can be called: the host of heaven, the sons of God or the Divine Council.
Why do the Lord give us these portrayals?
To furnish us with language to talk about realities that goes beyond our understanding but impact our lives in many ways.
So, the stars are portrayed not only as flaming gas balls (Gen 1:14), but also as symbols that rule over night and day. They are called the host of heaven (Gen 2:1) or the sons of God (Gen 6:2).
What do they do?
1. The Divine Council are called to praise God, as David reminds them in Psalm 29:
“Ascribe (give) to the Lord, sons of gods (bĕnê ʾēlîm), ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.” (Ps 29:1)
Ethan, another Psalmist, encourages the heavens to praise the Lord’s wonders, to praise:
5 … your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones (biqhal qĕdōšîm)! 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of God (bibnê ʾēlîm) is like the Lord, 7 a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones (bĕsôd-qĕdōšîm), and awesome above all who are around him? 8 O Lord God of hosts (ʾĕlōhê ṣĕbāʾôt), who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? (Ps 89:5-8; see Job 38:7)
Thus, we read that the “hosts of heaven” rejoiced at the birth of Jesus Christ (Luke 2:13). Giving God the glory as He ordained them to do from the beginning.
2. The Divine Council also assembles as God’s “staff-team” because God shares his authority with them, as he does with people on earth as well (Gen 1:26-28; 2:15).
The Divine Council take part in and make known decisions (Dan 4:17) although it is always with God’s authority (Dan 4:24 – see Dan 4:26 where the translation should rather be “the heavenly ones rule” than “heaven rules” – the decree comes from the Watchers, but it is God who rules).
We read in a Psalm of Asaph how this divine council of gods, the sons of God, are directed and drawn into God’s judgments:
“God has taken his place in the divine council (ʾĕlōhîm niṣṣāb baʿădat-ʾēl); in the midst of the gods he holds judgment (bĕqereb ʾĕlōhîm yišpōṭ).” (Ps 82:1)
3. The Divine Council adjudicate with God, the Ancient of Days, sitting on thrones (Dan 7:9-12,26; Rev 20:4), a function that in the end will also be shared with us, the holy ones of God (Dan 7:27; 1 Cor 6:3).
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; … the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Dan 7:9-12)
They are thus the Old Testament counterpart to Paul’s principalities and powers (Eph 6:12). They are above and beyond. They are beings in God’s realm. Indeed, they are spiritual beings sitting as God’s council in heaven.
An insight into their Council Meetings
We read of their council meetings in various places in the Bible. In 1 Kings 22 the subject of discussion is king Ahab and the decision to end his reign. In Daniel 4 the subject of discussion is king Nebuchadnezzar and the decision to teach him that God is really God. Some of these spiritual beings even brought their council decision to Nebuchadnezzar themselves (Dan 4:17).
I wish we could take time to look at all those meetings, but it will have to suffice to focus on just one of these meetings, just so that you can have a feeling for what the Bible is talking about, the council meetings we read about in Job 1-2. In Job 1 we read:
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord.
It is clear that these sons of God were carrying God’s instructions and had to present themselves before him to report back on their domains.
We also hear:
And Satan also came among them.
We will discuss Satan a bit later in the series, but here it is enough just to take notice of his acceptance in this circle, indeed the way his suggestions are taken up and acted upon.
Being the lord of all the “kingdoms of the world” (Matt 4:8), “the ruler of this world”(John 14:30), the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2) Satan obviously took an interest in what was going on in his domain. And was interested in what was going on in heaven.
8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
Satan obviously had, and countered that Job feared God only because of all his blessings. He challenged the Lord:
But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face. 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”
We know what happens with Job. His property and livestock as well as all his children were taken from him. But God was proven right:
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
But that is not the end of the saga. We read of a second meeting of the Divine Council in Job 2:
1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.
And again, the Lord commends Job to Satan as one who serve the Lord with integrity, even though Satan incited God against him to destroy him without reason.
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
So, Satan struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.
But Job did not falter in his piety. He accepted the sickness, although he wrestled with God over the unfairness of it all, with the beautiful resolution at the end of his suffering, where God appeared to him in a whirlwind and gave him back his health, and made him prosperous again with a set of new children – seven sons, and three beautiful daughters.
Some Council Members Rebelled
What we clearly see from Job’s story is that the Divine Council exists, and their decisions have an impact on the affairs of this world.
However, we also read that some of them rebelled against God. They wanted to be gods on their own terms and became hostile to God.
Paul talks about them as:
“the world rulers of this darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
And although God has shown his power previously over the gods of Egypt with the plagues and delivered his people from slavery to them, more was needed, because his people in the end did not walk in the way of the law that was meant to be the counsel that would give them life abundant.
That is why Jesus had to die on the cross, to rescue us all from the spiritual darkness of the spiritual rebels, as well as from the evil of the human rebels, represented by the Jewish council, king Herod and the rulers of this world in Pontius Pilate.
Paul said that by the cross Jesus disarmed the rebels:
“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col 2:15).
And this is where we come in.
The thing is, God draws us into his plans. In two ways.
1. He makes us part of his decision-making process through our prayers
Of course, God is the chief agent in prayer, but He invites us to become part of His prayer. He transforms our prayers with the unspeakable sighs of the Spirit so His will can be done:
“And likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us with unspeakable sighs.” (Rom. 8:26)
That is why prayer is so important! That is why Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father,” because we talk to Him as our Father. We talk to Him about the affairs of His Name, of His Kingdom, of His will. We speak to Him about the matters of provision, forgiveness, temptations, and evil (Matt 6).
That is pretty much like God’s human council, isn’t it?
Our prayers function on a very ordinary level – food, health, forgiveness – but also on a much larger and grander scale – his Name, his Kingdom, his will.
We share with God what we observe, what we notice, what we think, and talk to Him until He convinces us of what will be best for His Name and His Kingdom, how His will can be done here on earth as it is in heaven. The bigger things.
And how He will provide for our daily bread, how He will help us to make peace in our relationships and walk the path with Him in temptations by overcoming evil. The smaller things.
2. We are drawn into the spiritual battle that rages in the heavenlies
God also engages us in the spiritual warfare raging in the heavenlies:
“against the authorities, against the powers, against the world rulers of the darkness of this age, against the evil spirits in the air.” (Eph 6:12)
That is why our faith, our witness and our prayers are so important. As a sign to the spiritual beings that we serve God like Job did, even if it means that we have so suffer for his Name’s sake.
By this we not only:
“bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things.” (Eph 3:9)
However wonderful that is for the people of God. But we do so:
“So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph 3:10)
We have an impact for God in the heavenly places, as a message to the Divine Council that Jesus is Lord and that his people will serve Him to the end.
So we not only fight for the Name of God, his kingdom, and his will, as we pray the Our Father. We also fight against the darkness of this age, against the evil spirits in the air, as we live in faith and faithfulness.
And we can overcome the rulers and authorities by God’s armour of the truth of Jesus, the righteousness He gives us, our readiness for the gospel of peace, our faith and faithfulness, our assurance of salvation.
We can overcome by the only weapon we have, the Word of God, the story of the gospel, brought to this world prayerfully and with a bold perseverance.
We take courage in the fact that all authority in heaven and earth now belongs to Jesus (Matt 28:19-20). He replaced Satan as the ruler of this world, although it is a reality that will still be fully revealed.
Jesus is now our ultimate human and divine partner. We invite everyone to give their allegiance to Jesus to discover freedom and a new way to be human.
We have the promise in the Psalms:
“The Lord frustrates the decisions of the nations; he nullifies the plans of the peoples. The Lord’s decisions stand forever; his plans abide throughout the ages.” (Ps 33:10-11)
We can actively pray on the grounds of that promise.
But we need to understand God’s plans, to pray with insight. And as David teaches us, we find those plans in God’s Word:
“Yes, I find delight in your rules; they give me guidance.” (Ps 119:24).
The Hebrew literally means: your rules are the: “men of my counsel.” That is, God’s rules are like advisers to the psalmist; they teach him how to live in a godly manner that refutes the accusations of his enemies.
BIBLE STUDY: DIVINE COUNCIL
- Watch the video Divine Council – 83,3 MB. What strikes you? What questions do you have?
- Read Job 1:1-2:10. What does these two meetings teach you about the Divine Council? About Satan? About God? About Job and his circumstances?
- Read Ephesians 2:1-10. Why did God make us alive in Jesus Christ? What is his purpose? How do we fulfil that purpose?
- Read Ephesians 3:7-13. What does Paul teach us here about God’s purpose with our redemption? How does verse 10 relate to the story of the Divine Council in Job?
- Read Ephesians 6:10-20. How many pieces of God’s armour are there? What does every piece do? In what way do these spiritual practices impact the dark members of the Divine Council?
- What does God want you to do with what you have learnt? Think specifically about the spiritual practices in Ephesians 6.
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