The Lord said to Job, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” -Job 40:8
King Solomon would one day write, “Respect for the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and training.”(Prov. 1:7) Ever notice how the lack of knowledge rarely prevents people from expressing an opinion? In fact some of the most opinionated people I’ve met have been the least knowledgeable.
For example my “friend” Eliphaz now launched into a scathing attack against me, basing it on the so-called wisdom of man. He claimed it proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the wicked are always punished in this world, in effect trying to convince me that the good guys always win and the bad guys always lose. If I’m losing, his reasoning went, then I must be one of the bad guys. “God doesn’t even trust His angels,” he claimed, “And if even the heavens are not pure how much less so is man who is vile and corrupt?” (Job 15:15) It was another vain attempt to motivate me to do a better job of earning my position before God.
At least on one point he was right. Man is vile and corrupt. And since that’s true, then who doesn’t deserve punishment? We should all be sitting in the dust with nothing, like I was. We shouldn’t be shocked and surprised when bad things happen, we should be surprised when they don’t!
But in the way of man, Eliphaz was differentiating between himself and me. He wasn’t suffering, so by his reasoning he must be righteous. Applying the wisdom of man in the world imputes righteousness to the fortunate, and there’s the flaw. It’s not our righteousness that protects us, it’s God’s grace. True wisdom always justifies God and condemns self! Man’s wisdom justifies self and condemns God.
But I myself was contaminated with this false wisdom. I felt that the LORD had turned me over to the Evil One without justification. And while I sat in the dust wrapped in sackcloth, my eyes red from weeping, I still contended that my hands were clean and my motives pure.
The ancients had long taught of a Redeemer Who would come from the very throne of God, so I knew I had an intercessor in Heaven, an Advocate who was my Friend and who would plead with God on my behalf. Centuries later, the Apostle Paul would identify this intercessor as our Lord Jesus Who is always at the right hand of the Father pleading for us (Rom. 8:34-35). Problem was, he hadn’t died for me yet, and so there were limits on God’s Grace that only His death could remove. You who live after the cross simply have no idea how much different things are now that God is free to love you without restraint. Sure the world is still an evil place, and still under the control of the Evil One. But as sin has increased, Grace has increased even more, sparing you from the awful judgments due an unbelieving and disobedient people. Even the best of you is guilty of sins folks in my day never considered.
Your age is far more advanced in science and technology than mine, but don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that you’re spiritually more aware as well. The opposite is true. As man has become more self reliant, his understanding of and respect for his Creator has diminished accordingly, until there are many in your day who see no need for God at all, and some who even think they are God. This attitude has eased the restraints on evil until behavior that’s common in your day even for comparatively moral and upright people would have been unthinkable in mine. Man has not evolved from my time to yours. Man has devolved. It’s the predictable and dreadful outcome of his desire to be free from accountability to his Creator.
Well these friends of mine seemed determined to go on confessing my sins while I begged them to show even a little pity. I was wronged, unjustly accused and punished, and no one seemed to care. I was embarrassed, dishonored, and abandoned. Even my employees no longer obeyed me, and my wife detested me. As the Lord Jesus would one day say to His disciples, “There will come a time when those who attack you will think they’re doing God a favor.” I sure could understand that feeling.
But often in our darkest hours, the Lord brings clarity and insight. And so it was with me. As everything on earth was taken away, I began to understand I had a Friend in Heaven that I could neither leave nor lose. He would not forsake me.
“I know that my Redeemer lives,” I declared, “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.” (Job 19:25-27) Even if my punishment killed me, I would live again and stand face to face with God in peace and harmony!
Some say that this was the earliest declaration of the bodily resurrection of man. I honestly don’t know. But for me it was a truth emblazoned as if in fire in the sky. No matter what happened to me here in this evil place where calamity befalls the just and the unjust seemingly without rhyme or reason, there is a place where hope prevails and where we’ll be free from uncertainty. And one day soon now, our Father in Heaven will send His Son to collect His own and take us there. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. No wonder you call it our Blessed Assurance. How my heart yearns within me.
Even so, I was still angry and still insistent on my day in court. As they say, “Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.” The LORD would grant me an audience in due time. But I still had much to learn, and He wasn’t done using my friends to teach us all. More next time.