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Jun 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 20, 2021



You clothed me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit Job 10:11-12

Intro: When I first started reading all the way through the Bible,

I would dread coming to the Book of Job
– it seemed like I always got more depressed reading it, or bad things would happen
• but as I came to a better understanding of Job, I began to enjoy reading it
• I see Job as the hero of all who suffer–innocently
– Job stood up for himself – against his friends – against his culture
• he even stood up to God – of course, he didn’t win that one
◦ but he didn’t lose either
• his complaint here: “What’s the point of making and caring for me, just to tear me apart?”
◦ note the poetic description of his fetal gestation in verse 11

Job’s ordeal began with circumstances relating to possessions and family,
– but in the second round, the ordeal entered his body
• the Adversary’s challenge to God regarding Job had been:
Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life, But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face (Job 2:4-5)
– we have been itemizing body parts and their spirit dimension
• eyes, ears, mouth, head, neck and shoulders, hands and feet
• today I will talk the biggest body part of all: the skin and flesh

There are a surprising number of references to flesh in Bible

The first mention of it, connects the man and the woman
– remember, everything so far was affirmed to be “good”
while [the man] slept [God] took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh – from it God fashioned the woman – the man’s response, This at last is bone of my bones / and flesh of my flesh – then the storyteller adds a brief commentary, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Ge. 2:21-24) — the original intimacy
• the next mention of flesh, however set a limit on human longevity
My Spirit shall not [contend with man] forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years (Ge. 6:3)
◦ that was because all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (6:12)
◦ God determined to make an end of all flesh [and] to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven (Ge. 6:13 and 17)
◦ after the flood God made a promise, an everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth (9:16)
– the Hebrew word for flesh is basar
• and already we can see it has a variety of meanings
In its broadest sense, flesh can refer to all animal life (Ps. 136:25)
– the shared existence of creatures with skin and hides, feathers and fins
• but it can refer more specifically to all human life (Ps. 65:2)
Yahweh is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Nu. 16:22; 27:16)
◦ or a specific group of people (Ps. 56:4)
basar is the bond of family relations (Laban and Jacob or Joseph and his brothers, Ge. 29:14; 37:27)

Flesh is the external part of the human body (Ex. 4:7; 28:42)
– and also what lies just below the skin
• so basar also means “meat” (Ex. 29:32)
– the law of Moses is very body-conscious – especially regarding what enters and exits the body
• this extends to the body’s coverings
◦ Leviticus 13-14, diagnosing a breach in body’s covering
◦ it moves outward through three layers progressively: skin, garments, and houses
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, “No illness is mentioned more frequently in the First Testament or treated at greater length than leprosy in the flesh (Leviticus 13-14). Those who suffer from that illness are counted among the dead, because they have to live cut off from the living.”
• being the external part of a person, the flesh can be superficial and disconnected from heart
◦ a ritual in the flesh should also affect a change in the heart (Jer. 4:4; 9:25)

People in Scriptures were acutely aware of psychosomatic distress
– they felt their emotions in their flesh
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart (Ps. 38:7-8)
When I remember, I am dismayed, / and shuddering seizes my flesh (Job 21:6)
My flesh trembles for fear of you (Ps. 119:120)
• regarding a positive psychosomatic response:
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure
(Ps. 16:9)
– the flesh defines the limits and boundaries of human existence
Staubli and Schroer, “[the] word basar is the only one among the many Hebrew words for the body and its parts that is never applied to God, and is frequently contrasted to YHWH as the very symbol of all that is mortal . . . .”
• so we read:
The Egyptians are man, and not God,
and their horses are flesh and not spirit (Isa. 31:3)
– the flesh represents human frailty, weakness, and vulnerability
• we are not to put our trust in the arm of the flesh (2 Chr. 32:8; Jer. 17:5)
• we were not built to be impervious to wounds and injury
Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? (Job 6:12)
[God] remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again (Ps. 78:39)
◦ an unavoidable fact is that flesh is impermanent – it dies
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it:
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever (Isa. 40:6-8)
◦ this is why our flesh longs for God
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Ps. 63:1)
– in the Proverbs, wisdom can bring healing to the flesh (3:8; 4:22)
and a tranquil heart gives life to the flesh (Pr. 14:30)

Jumping to the New Testament

Flesh and blood refers to what is purely human (Mt. 16:17)
– so flesh can give birth only to more flesh (Jn. 1;3; 3:6)
• in other words, there’s no human way to obtain the life of the Spirit
• being limited to the flesh, we judge according to the flesh (Jn. 8:15)
◦ that is, according to our limited human standards, criteria, perception
– flesh can also refer to descent from an ancestor (Ro. 1:3)
• Paul noted that not all flesh is the same (1 Cor. 15:39)
• So, like the Old Testament, flesh can mean:
◦ the body (2 Cor. 4:11; Gal. 2:20)
◦ all animal life (1 Cor. 15:39)
◦ all of humankind (Acts 2:17)
– the most radical statement about human flesh in scripture
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14)
• as such, Jesus could use his flesh as a metaphor–e.g., that it is like bread
And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh (Jn. 6:51)
• what prevents us from taking this literally?
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63)

There is something I have come to see is of critical importance

It has to do with Paul’s teaching on life in the Spirit of God
– it is tricky, because he draws on spiritual wisdom,
• and that is not the same as rational knowledge
◦ it is not even the same as biblical or theological knowledge
• it turns out that flesh is one of the key themes in this teaching
◦ if we get stuck in the flesh, we cannot make spiritual progress
– think about this:
• our rational thoughts can bring us to knowledge of the Spirit
◦ but we cannot receive the Spirit through reason or the knowledge it yields

The way Paul uses flesh in this teaching; it is not a body part!!!
– however, it can influence what we do with body parts
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members [body parts] to bear fruit for death (Ro. 7:5)
• this can be very confusing, because when we hear “flesh,” we automatically think of the body
• but Paul is using flesh as an analogy (as Jesus used bread as an analogy)
◦ the body can be demanding, adopt bad habits, and can be tricked
◦ these are characteristics of the flesh as well, only they are internal and mostly hidden
– in Paul’s dark use of the word, flesh is sort of like a psychological energy
• it is not a specific sin, but the source and potential of all sins
• the flesh it cannot be corrected, redeemed, or transformed
◦ it has to go – and that we can’t do by ourselves
But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh (Gal 5:16-17) Read more on this in Romans 8:1-11

Yesterday morning I was meditating on 1 Corinthians 12
– I had in mind all I had read up to that chapter
• I am going to share with you the last paragraph of my meditation

Ultimately, Paul’s intention was that through his teaching he could bring the Corinthians to a new consciousness of God, Christ, and the Spirit. This would result in their maturation from their infantile concrete thinking to their adult experience of God. In their mature spirit-consciousness, they would arrive at a love that would fuse them to God in Jesus and erase the ego needs that drive individuals to think they are superior to others, separated from them by their greater knowledge, charismatic powers, or affluence. Mystics realize that when they have nothing, at last, they have everything.

Conclusion: There’s so much more to this!

For now, here is what I suggest:
Let the confusion we have relating to our (sinful) flesh and body become a reminder
That when we think the problem we have
resisting temptation,
fully trusting God,
remaining consistent in prayer,
being always mindful of God,
when we think the problem is with our body,
let’s bring our awareness to a larger reality
and open a door to the Spirit

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