Meditations in Job : 61. God does no wrong
Job 34:10-12 Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.
In chapter 34 we pick up the second phase of Elihu’s talking, started by, “Then Elihu said…” Again he challenges his listeners to listen and check out what he has to say: “Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning. For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.” (v.2-4). In this there is a confidence that is willing to be checked out. We also have a reasonable faith one that can be checked against the evidence and we should not be afraid to say to others, “Check it out!”
Elihu then picks up again on what he has heard Job say, “Job says, `I am innocent, but God denies me justice. Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.” (v.5,6) Job has asked for justice but justice is not what it is all about. Elihu concludes that this puts Job in the same category as evildoers who also say wrong things about God (implied): “What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with wicked men.” (v.7,8) i.e. he takes in scorn as one drinks and takes in water and by his words he “keeps company with” and “associates with” wrong people. That doesn’t make him an evildoer or wicked but just means he is speaking in the same foolish way they do.
Why? What has he said? He has said, “It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God.” (v.9) i.e. what is the point of trying to please God? Back in chapter 21 Job maintained that the wrong doer so often appears to get away with it and, indeed, both good and bad die young or live to old age. Perhaps this is what Elihu is referring to. He has a strong answer which we have in our verses today which may be summed up as, “God does no wrong!” Often in these meditations I have found myself saying that we may not understand what is happening to us but when we get to heaven, if God allows us to look back on His dealings with us, we will never be able to criticise Him for anything He has said or done or not done!
In verse 11 we find a doctrine that comes up often in Scripture: “He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves.” In the New Testament Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10) which is about our future destiny, and then more generally in respect of life here on earth, “A man reaps what he sows.” (Gal 6:7)
Yes, this is a general truth. One day we will have to appear before the Lord to account for what we have done and, yes, here and now our wrong behaviour can have serious repercussions. For example the promiscuous person can find themselves with a sexually transmitted disease, which may be life threatening. Their behaviour has genuinely serious repercussions. The person who steals something lives in fear of being caught and one day may be arrested and judged. The person who has an uncontrollable temper may say things which harm and destroy a relationship and life is changed. A person who eats too much becomes obese and may have a whole range of health problems, as does a person who drinks too much or takes illegal drugs. In all of these ways wrong behaviour DOES bring ‘negative fruits’ to our lives, fruits that are liable to be harmful and destructive. It is no wonder that Elihu had previously said that God speaks to us “to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” (Job 32:17,18)
But there is a bigger truth and it is that God does things sometimes that are not related to this general principle and so Job is not being punished for his wrong doing. As we’ve seen, he’s been declared by the Lord to be righteous. This is all about testing of faith, testing for faithfulness, and that is nothing to do with discipline to deal with sin. No, the principle is right, Elihu, but it just doesn’t apply here to Job. It’s a good and right principle but it is not what is happening here.
Yet again we are faced with this warning not to judge people without revelation from God. It is too easy to get it wrong!