JOB’S CONDEMNATION Job 22–27“Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?” (Job 22:5)Job’s defense of himself and his disturbing questions about God’s justice upset his friends. In their eyes such impious thoughts proved that Job must be numbered with the wicked.
Eliphaz was shocked at Job’s apparent attack on God’s justice (22:1–18), and urged Job to repent (vv. 19–30). Job complained bitterly that he was unable to meet with God or understand His purposes (23:1–17). Yet despite evidence to the contrary, Job remained convinced that God is a just Judge (24:1–25). Bildad affirmed the friends’ belief that God is inaccessible to sinful man and so vindication is impossible (25:1–6). Job rejected this (26:1–4), and celebrated God’s omnipotence (vv. 5–14). Taking his stand as a person falsely accused (27:1–12), Job affirmed his belief that God is just (vv. 13–23).
Understanding the Text
“Can a man be of benefit to God?” Job 22:1–18 Eliphaz was now convinced of Job’s utter wickedness. How could Job even suggest that God might not immediately punish the wicked? Job could not possibly be vindicated by God, for the very fact that Job now suffered proved he had been a great sinner (cf. vv. 6–11). Job may have hidden his wickedness from men, but God saw what was happening even though He is veiled from our sight. It is true that in his anguish Job had challenged his understanding of God’s ways. But Eliphaz was wrong to take this as a rejection of God Himself. We too need to be careful not to take questioning for rejection, even when the questions seem as heretical to us as Job’s questioning of God’s justice did to Eliphaz. “Submit to God and be at peace with Him” Job 22:19–30. Eliphaz was not without compassion. He still showed concern for his old friend, even though he was now convinced Job had always been a secret sinner. Eliphaz’s solution was simple: Get right with God. If Job repented, “Then the Almighty will be your God.” If Job repented, “You will pray to Him, and He will hear you.” How frustrating this advice must have been to Job, who knew that he was right with God! And how wrong Eliphaz was. Later Eliphaz himself would be forgiven only because God accepted the prayers of righteous Job on his behalf! Eliphaz, who believed so firmly that God is a just Judge, missed one important point. If God truly is Judge, then human beings must leave judgment to the Lord. Eliphaz’s complete misinterpretation of Job’s suffering reminds us that we must withhold judgment when those around us go through trying times. “If only I knew where to find Him” Job 23:1–17. Despite his anguish and doubts, Job wanted to find God, not run from Him! Job was convinced that God had been unfair to him, for, “My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside.” The blows that had struck Job had terrified him, and “made my heart faint.” Yet despite his fear, Job actively searched for God. Perhaps this is the greatest evidence of Job’s godliness. Despite everything, Job wanted to draw close to God. Despite his fears, despite his conviction that God had not been fair, Job trusted God enough to want to know Him better, and was convinced that “when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” How wise Job was in this. Our one best response to trials is to draw closer to the Lord. “God charges no one with wrongdoing” Job 24:1–25. In contrast to Eliphaz, who saw God bound by necessity to impose balanced punishment on sinners now, Job realized that God is free to act as He chooses. What Job did not understand was “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?” What principles does God follow in exacting punishment? Job agreed with his friends that God does judge. But experience proved that He does not always judge now. It’s important when questioning our beliefs to be clear about what we challenge. “God is Judge” is unmistakably affirmed in Scripture. How and when God judges may well be in doubt. To question the how and when of things isn’t to challenge the basic truth. And, even if we find no answer to questions of how and when, there is no reason to discard the basic biblical truth. “How then can a man be righteous before God?” Job 25:1–6 Bildad did not respond to Job, but made a significant statement. God was so pure that He can really have nothing to do with man, “who is but a maggot.” His statement was true, but distorted. Man is fallen, and in his sinful state “only a worm.” Yet man was made in God’s image, and God’s grace reaches down to transform worms into the very image of God’s own Son. Job’s view of himself as a righteous man, who has carefully obeyed God’s laws and been committed to doing God’s will, is in closer harmony with Scripture than the view of Job’s friends that man is a maggot. God does not view us as worthless. And He does care when we honor Him by doing what is right. “My tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit that you are in the right” Job 26:1–27:23. Job’s friends had spoken as if they took Job for a fool (26:1–4). Yet he knew fully the greatness of God (vv. 5–14). At the same time Job insisted that God had “denied me justice.” Job’s friends believed he deserved all that had happened to him, and argued that Job’s denials were an affront to the Lord. Job totally rejected this interpretation. To confess sin never committed would “deny my integrity.” As long as he lived Job would “maintain my righteousness.” Job then eloquently affirmed God as a God of justice, the very theme that his friends had emphasized again and again. There is, however, a fascinating turn here. In Old Testament times, a person who falsely accused another of a crime was subject to the penalty for that crime. Job, the innocent, had been accused of wickedness by his friends. As God is a God of justice, wouldn’t He impose on the friends the penalty for wickedness that they assumed was Job’s due? God does not hold guiltless the person who falsely accuses another, even when his or her motives may be the best.
Man, the Maggot (Job 25–27)
There’s something dreadfully wrong when the pregnant teen says, “I’m no good. I’m worthless. I’m no good at all.” There’s something wrong when the drug addict shakes and quivers and mutters, “I’m nothin’, man. Nothin’.” There’s even something wrong when we open our hymnals and sing the familiar words, “Oh sacred head, now wounded . . . did He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I.” Oh, I know. We are sinners, every one. As Paul wrote in Romans, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom. 7:18). But this doctrine is very different from popular “maggot theology.” Maggot theology says that because man is sinful, God doesn’t really care what happens to us. Maggot theology insists that nothing a person can do can please God, or make any contribution to His glory. Maggot theology, exemplified by Eliphaz and Bildad, seeks to exalt God by demeaning man. What’s wrong with maggot theology? Just this. God made man in His own image, so every human being has worth and value in His sight. Because we are important to God, we human beings are intrinsically important! To view man as a maggot is to deny Scripture’s revelation that man is the crown of creation. Even more, to dismiss man as maggot is to trivialize the death of Christ. Jesus died to save individual human beings and to transform our race. If we were not vitally important in God’s sight He would not have given up His Son for us. Job did not accept maggot theology. Without understanding why, Job knew that it was important for him to maintain his integrity. Job could not have known about the contest in heaven, or that his stand made a contribution to the glory of God. Yet Job knew that he was important—so important that unfair treatment was wrong, and that denying himself would be as wrong as denying God Himself. Today you and I need to realize that we truly are important to the Lord. He made us. Christ died for us. The way we live will either bring glory to God, or cause others to ridicule Him. Yes, we are sinners. But sinners or not, we are human beings, and every member of our race has value in the sight of our God.
Don’t let a sense of sin destroy your awareness that you truly are important to God.