Last week I posted a couple of thoughts from a sermon I’d heard preached on Job 9 – you can view that post here. However, as I’ve continued reading through Job I keep stumbling upon a couple of interwoven themes that I’ve desperately needed to heed. I’ve never formally studied or taught through Job, but a couple brief readings have brought to light some encouraging and challenging truths!
For me, the challenge of Job is how to reconcile Job 1:1, “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” with Job’s cry of repentance in 42:6, “therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Why does this man who was ‘blameless and upright’, who responded well under adverse conditions, who endured much BECAUSE he was righteous, who was being persecuted and tempted by Satan, why does this man reach the end of the story and need to repent? What did he do wrong? What necessitated this contriteness?
Clearly, it was not because he failed to recognize the sovereignty and power of God. Job’s view of God’s control over all aspects of his life is an inspiration to all of us. Job clearly believed that God was the one orchestrating the events of his life and he eagerly submitted to that rule. Repeatedly he emphasizes that God is the one who has brought this calamity and disaster into his life, while he also recognizes God’s just and fair dealings with His creation. Consider Job’s understanding of the sovereignty of God in the following verses:Job 12:9, “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” Job 6:4, “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.” Job 16:11-14, “God gives me up to the ungodly and casts me into the hands of the wicked. I was at ease, and he broke me apart; he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces; he set me up as his target; his archers surround me. He slashes open my kidneys and does not spare; he pours out my gall on the ground. He breaks me with breach upon breach; he runs upon me like a warrior.“ Job 19:8-13, “He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths. He has stripped from me my glory and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, and my hope has he pulled up like a tree. He has kindled his wrath against me and counts me as his adversary. His troops come on together; they have cast up their siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent. He has put my brothers far from me, and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me.” Job 23:16, “God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me;” Job 27:2, “As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,“ Job 30:19-22, “God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and you toss me about in the roar of the storm.”
Over and over and over again Job recognizes and is aware that God is sovereign. There is no doubt in Job’s mind about who has caused this affliction to come upon him and allowed him to suffer. God is clearly the Almighty who has done these things to Job. He recognized that God has continually been in control of everything that’s taken place in his life. Job’s argument throughout the book indicates a clear understanding of the goodness and justness of God. God does act righteously and according to His will and pleasure – this is true even in the midst of great tragedy.
So, while God’s sovereignty is greatly emphasized in this book and one of the greatest attributes of God, it was not the lesson I desperately needed to hear from Job. The lesson I learned was seen in Job’s attitude in relation to this all-power, all-knowing, and all-wise God.
Job’s attitude was ripe with an overwhelming sense of entitlement…what upset him was not that God had brought hardship upon him, but that God had not informed him of why he would have to endure it. He believed in his own righteousness. He believed that he was entitled to the right to defend himself and explain his righteousness to God. Surely, God would relent if He could only observe Job’s side of the issue. It was unfair that he didn’t have an opportunity to defend his life and actions – if only God would stop to explain Himself and to listen to Job’s defense. Job was confident that God would find him to be righteous if He would pause for just a minute to listen to his life’s defense. Notice the following passages:Job 23:3-7, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.” Job 10:2, “I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me.” Job 9:14,15, “How then can I answer him, choosing my words with him? Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him; I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.” Job 13:3, “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.” Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.“ Job 13:18, “Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right.“ Job 19:7, “Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice.“
It is his self-righteous attitude and sense of entitlement that we see condemned by Elihu. Job is rebuked by him in Job 32:1,2, “So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God.” and again in 35:2, “Do you think this to be just? Do you say, ‘It is my right before God,'” Job had challenged the righteousness of God! Surely, Job was righteous so what was wrong with God that He would put Job through something like this! He cried out for God to explain Himself and His actions!
Then, following Elihu, God follows up in 38:3 and 40:7 and thunders His response to Job, “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me,”. Oh, what a terrifying command!! The insolence of Job to believe that he had any kind of right to demand an audience or an answer from his maker!
Job 1:1 tells us that Job was righteous in God’s eyes, but when he became righteous in his own eyes he was humbled and brought to repentance. How many times do I believe that I’m entitled to understand the ‘whys’ of what God is doing? How many times will I gladly endure suffering and hardship as long as I’m able to see the big picture and have God explain Himself to me? This was the sin of Job…he was righteous, he endured righteously, he demonstrated the greatness of God, but he failed to comprehend the ‘whys’ of what God was doing and God rebuked him for his failure to trust in that situation as well.
So today, in the midst of whatever trial or tribulation you’re facing, remember more than just that God is sovereign (what a promise that is to begin with!) and that He has not forgotten you. For our God who created the universe and has continued to care for it generation after generation, has you continually in His sights. Jude 1:2 says that we have been called by God, that we are beloved by God, and will be kept for Jesus Christ – God has not lost track of you and the suffering you are facing. While He may in His timing reveal His eternal purpose to you, he also, may not. You may never know and understand why God has put you through incredible heartache and loss, but the correct response is trust. Trust that God is sovereign, that God is good, and that God’s plan will result in the praise of His glory and He’s chosen you to share in it.
God’s response to Job’s confession and repentance is recorded in Job 42:7, “After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.'” My we fight to continually justify God in our lives and not ourselves regardless of the circumstances. May God view us as He viewed Job when He proudly boasted of His servant, “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8)