The Lord said to Job, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” -Job 40:8
So there I was, sitting on the ground scraping at the case of boils that had broken out all over my body, lamenting my great loss. All I owned stolen from me, and my children killed when the house they were partying in collapsed on them. With seven sons and three daughters there was a birthday almost every month and it was their habit to celebrate them together. They happened to be at one of these celebrations when Satan attacked and killed them all.
Even in this I maintained my philosophical frame of mind saying, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) At least in saying this I didn’t sin, but God knew the hidden thoughts of my heart. He knew that I believed I didn’t deserve to have these things happen to me. After all I wasn’t some blatant public sinner, openly violating His law. I hadn’t learned yet that one of the worst sins we can commit is to convince ourselves that we’re not sinners, and that even though we look for all the world to be good and kind and just, our inner selves are rife with sin. It’s our nature, inherited from our father Adam, and it’s as natural to us as breathing.
Well, when three of my best friends heard what had happened they hurried over to console me. They were shocked to see me, and for seven days and seven nights we all sat there in the dirt not saying a word as the awful reality of recent events in my life sank in.
Finally I spoke up, cursing the day I was born and pouring out all the anguish I felt. This released my friends to speak as well, and let me tell you a few things about that. It’s human nature to reason through difficult things and find justification for them in our own minds, so I shouldn’t be too harsh in my criticism. Suffice it to say that these friends of mine summarized the three major components of humanism in their reasoning; human experience, human tradition, and human merit. All are wrong in their conclusions and false in their logic, since they all contend that man must do things to earn God’s favor and therefore suffering is a sign of His displeasure. The over riding problem with the humanist view is that we see the world the way we are, not the way it is. All of our perceptions are distorted either by our experience, our traditions, or our presumed merit. I learned from this encounter not to ever again ask my friends for their opinions, but to join me in asking God for His. As He was soon to show me, only God’s opinion is free of human distortion and therefore void of any gap between perception and reality.
Elephaz the Temanite sprinkled his opinion with phrases like “I have observed” and “I myself have seen” in an effort to lend credibility to his view that the law of cause and effect could be applied to my situation. Correct my behavior, he reasoned, and change the outcome. Interestingly, he wasn’t far off the mark, but his error was in telling me to evaluate my actions when it was my motives that needed examination. His advice had the effect of wounding me with false accusation. I was doing good things to earn my position before God, and in his observation my tragedy proved it wasn’t enough. He had seen others punished for their foolishness and disobedience, and so I must be suffering a similar fate.
Well this made me feel even worse, and the question “With friends like this who needs enemies?” came to mind. I was actually on the brink of suicide, not knowing if I could go on another day, and he’s telling me I’m not measuring up.
Then Bildad the Shuhite put in his two cents worth, wasting neither time nor words. “Your children sinned, and God punished them with death,” he said, (Job 8:4) “and it’s been that way since the beginning of time.” He suggested I search our history. Every time man departed from God the end result was the same; judgment. But I was being given another chance. Learn from the past and make myself blameless and upright. Succeed where others had failed and God would be pleased with me.
I could accept the logic of his position. History was on his side, and my children were sinners. I had prayed for them on many occasions (Job 1:5). But how does a mortal man become righteous before God? This was a question Peter would ask the Lord many years later. “With man it is impossible,” the Lord replied, “But not with God. All things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27) Of course I hadn’t learned this yet. But I would.
For now I could only reason that if someone who had tried to please God as hard as I had could suffer like this, what hope is there for anyone? In my self pity I cried out to God to show me where I had failed. I simply could not understand what I had done to deserve such treatment, when it seemed that others around me got away with much worse crimes against Him. Surely He knew I wasn’t as bad as them. It just wasn’t fair! Again I cursed the day I was born.
Zophar the Naamathite weighed in. My third so-called friend said he wished God would speak to me, and then maybe I could understand the simplicity of it. If I deserved better I would receive better! “Devote your heart to Him and stop sinning. Then you’ll be able to hold your head up high, and put all this behind you.” (Job 11:13-16)
By now I had really had it with this group. Didn’t they think I knew all this? Did they really believe they were that much smarter than me? They seemed to have forgotten I had a relationship with God. I spoke with Him and He answered, and now I was the laughingstock of all who knew me. Criminals in our land were more secure than I was, and even the animals in the fields knew that God had done this to me.
I was done listening to these “friends.” God owed me an explanation and I was going to get it! He knew I trusted in him, and even if He killed me I would place my hope in Him. Surely we could discuss this face to face without these friends of mine presuming to speak for Him. Let Him speak for Himself. I wasn’t afraid to defend myself before Him. He could even bring witnesses against me if He wanted. I knew that if given half a chance I could vindicate myself.
I said, “Man is more like a flower than a tree in that his days are numbered and when he lies in death is no more. But even a tree that’s been cut down can grow again and with a little water will bud and put forth shoots. If God is so mad at me then let him kill me so I can lie in my grave till He gets over it. Then He’ll miss me and long to hear the sound of my footsteps. Then when He calls I’ll answer and he’ll forget all about my so-called sins. That’ll teach Him to think twice before punishing someone who doesn’t deserve it.”
The truest things are often said in the heat of passion, and I’ll be darned if my little tirade wasn’t a pretty good summary of God’s plan for man. He’s even gone so far as to arrange the death of His own Son as a means to getting over His anger. Someday soon now He will call and when He does, we’ll all answer. And when we rise from the grave to join Him in His Kingdom, we’ll find He’s forgotten all about our sins just like I predicted. More next time.