Meditations in Job : 51. You ARE a Sinner!
Job 22:4,5 Is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you? Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?
I have noticed that there are those who only look for the negatives in mankind and constantly go on about our sin. Eliphaz seems to be one of those people. As he comes back on Job again he starts by asking what benefit God gets from us being good: “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him? What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would he gain if your ways were blameless?” (v.2,3) The implication is that God doesn’t bother with us when we are good, because he goes on with our verses at the top today, saying that it is not for our goodness that He rebukes us but for our sin – so Job, you must be a sinner! Well actually God does bother with us when we are righteous – He loves us and blesses us, even if we don’t realise what is going on!
When he asks “Are your sins not endless?” he is assuming that Job must have sinned and so he reels off a list of possible things that Job has done – demanded of the weak and poor (v.6), failed to help the needy (v.7,8), disregarded widows and orphans (v.9). This he concludes, “is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you, why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you.” (v.10,11). This is his logic; he doesn’t know that Job has sinned but the fact of everything is going wrong brings him to that conclusion.
He then turns Job’s words back on himself, “Yet you say, `What does God know? Does he judge through such darkness? Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.” (v.13,14). Look, he replies, God’s above the darkness and sees everything: “Is not God in the heights of heaven? And see how lofty are the highest stars!” (v.12) You’re just doing what sinners of old have always done, “Will you keep to the old path that evil men have trod?” (v.15) “They said to God, `Leave us alone! What can the Almighty do to us?” (v.17) and suffered because of their foolishness: “They were carried off before their time, their foundations washed away by a flood,” (v.16) not realising that it was God who had blessed them in the first place: “Yet it was he who filled their houses with good things, so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked.” (v.17) (and here he is quoting Job back to himself – see 21:16) “The righteous,” he concludes, “see their ruin and rejoice; the innocent mock them, saying, `Surely our foes are destroyed, and fire devours their wealth.” (v.19,20) i.e. the righteous see how things go wrong for the wicked and mock them for their stupidity.
In the remaining verses of this chapter, Eliphaz makes what, in any other circumstances, would be a good call to repentance, but that is based on the assumption that Job has sinned – and of course we know that he hasn’t. His sin is not the cause of his present difficulties! But what he now says does so often apply: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.” (v.21,22) Good advice!
“If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: If you remove wickedness far from your tent and assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you,” (v.23-25) which might be summed up as don’t put your trust in riches but in God – also good advice! “Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows. What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.” (v.26-28). Yes, in those circumstances that would be a good and right outcome.
“When men are brought low and you say, `Lift them up!’ then he will save the downcast. He will deliver even one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” (v.29,30) Yes, when the righteous are in a good place before God they can be used by Him to be a blessing to others. Yes, all of this is really good advice – if it was being given to a different person! This is the problem here. Job’s afflictions are not coming from sin. We need to reiterate this again and again. At the outset the Lord declared him blameless. At the end the Lord chastises the three ‘friends’ and says that they have not spoken rightly as Job has. He says it twice! (42:7,8) Job has not sinned. He has misunderstood what is going on and has flapped around trying to find an answer but that is not sin!
The warning that comes here again and again, as we consider these attempts of the ‘friends’ to get to grips with what is happening to Job, is beware of applying answers when you don’t know the truth of what is going on! That surely must be a truth that applies when we encounter so many people. Do we know everything that is going on in them? No! Do we know why they are in difficulties – really what has caused it? No! No, in every case we need the revelation and the wisdom and the compassion and the grace of God. Without those we need to shut up!