Meditations in Job : 26 : A Need for Focus
Job 9:22,24 It is all the same; that is why I say, `He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ ……… If it is not he, then who is it?
We struggle to understand our world. Science, in its simplest form, is simply the observation of what is and how it works. We make great endeavour to find out and sometimes it is not easy. A scientist comes up with a hypothesis but then finds they have to readjust it in the light of new evidence. We have ‘world views’, personal outlooks on how the world works. Some people have a world view that the world is purely material and there is nothing else. Others, such as Christians, realise the world is both material and spiritual and we understand that God exists, angels exist and demons exist. We believe in Satan and sin, and these help us understand some of the things that happen in life, but it is all about observing what is, and drawing conclusions from it. The only trouble is that we don’t have all the evidence and so we jump to wrong conclusions, and those are seen in the forms of other so-called world religions. Most world religions are mankind reaching out for the unseen God. When we come to Judaism and Christianity we find God reveals Himself. The fuller picture only comes with revelation.
One of the difficulties about revelation is that you have to go looking for it, so here is the whole Bible available to us, but few of us take the time and effort to read it and find out what is being revealed through it. If the commentators are right, and the book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible, then Job had a problem – he didn’t have all this revelation that we now have through The Book. Job is looking at the world through the fuzzy eyes of pre-revelation, and he needs to have his eyes focused by The Book so that he can see more clearly. It is because he didn’t have this revelation, I suggest, that God didn’t hold it against him what he says in these passages. As the apostle Paul said, “where there is no law there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:15) and “sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” (Rom 5:13)
Let’s see what Job was saying, picking up from where we finished in the previous meditation: “Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life.” (v.21). He comes to the point where essentially he says, “I’m sure I’m blameless (I’ve searched myself) but to be quite honest, I’ve just given up and I’m past caring about myself and I despise my life and wish I were dead.” It’s then that he makes this rather strange comment: “It is all the same.” (v.22a). Do you see why I spoke about ‘focus’ earlier on, because if a person is short sighted and they lose their glasses, everything becomes a blur and it is all the same, nothing is distinct, nothing is in focus.
Now he continues, “that is why I say, `He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.” (v.22b) Without revelation, this is his eventual conclusion, having observed the events in his life, that God seems to destroy both the blameless and the wicked, everyone seems to come under the same hammer. He observes what he sees in life: “When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent.” (v.23). When the Black Death, as it was called, came to London in the Middle Ages, it swept away all before it, innocent and guilty. Albert Camus wrote The Plague, a book that struggled with this problem, that God seemed to be a killer God who did not discriminate. Indeed Job goes further as he thinks about it: “When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges.” (v.24). In other words, when unrighteousness takes over a land, there is no justice and the innocent suffer alongside the guilty. Around the world in a variety of countries there is persecution against the church, and the innocent are imprisoned, beaten and killed. When there is no focus, it is all blurred and it seems like this is all the work of God, for as Job concludes, “If it is not he, then who is it?” Now THAT is a good question!
It is here that we come face to face, yet again, with the great dilemma that faces us as we observe the world. Is this the work of God to sweep away the innocent, or is He powerless to stop it happening? It is at this point that we might be helped to think of God’s inactivity as ‘voluntary self-control’ or even some of his activity as ‘loving anguish’. Let’s take the former first. Of course God could step in and stop all evil. He is God and He has unlimited power, but that doesn’t mean He always uses it. If He did we would cease to be human beings. We would cease to be beings that can make choices, make decisions and take sovereign action – and this independence we value very highly. Where would we want God to draw the dividing line? With murders and rapists, with thieves, with people who beat and abuse their children, with those who cheat on their taxes, with those who tell lies, with those who speak slander, or with those who think wrong thoughts? Where do you draw the line? It is an impossibly for this line to be drawn. You either permit free will or you create a race of robots. It IS as simple as that.
But you say, this isn’t all about God sitting back and doing nothing! Job’s situation is provoked by God. It may have been Satan who did it, but it was God who authorized it! Well yes, God authorizes everything that happens and sometimes He authorizes distress and even death but whenever He does, the Bible hints that it deeply distresses Him. The parent who goes to smack his child for a serious and dangerous rule infringement is heard to say, “This will hurt me more than you.” The child doesn’t believe that but then he doesn’t understand the anguish of the loving father who hates to see anything painful happening to his child, but who yet knows that for the child’s further safety this is the only way that the child will remember and stay away from the harm. We venture out onto a whole new area of thinking here, if we dare to stretch out our minds and realise that in a fallen world, sometimes the difficulties and pain work for a greater good – and the Cross is the classic example of that.
Make sure you get the focus of the Scripture. God does not create evil or do evil. God does not tempt us into doing wrong. Those things come from Satan and from sin in human beings. If sin never existed, none of the rest would follow, but ultimately everything goes back to the subject of a fallen world. This side of heaven we live with it, but we have the comfort that comes through the revelation that, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5). The Lord is always there with us in it, and He feels (see Jn 11:35) with us in it and, moreover, His grace (His resources) is there for us (see 2 Cor 12:9, 2 Cor 9:8, Phil 4:19) in it. The day may be difficult, but the Lord is in it with us, feeling it with us, and there to help us in it. That is the clear perspective of life in this fallen world.