The Voice of Job

O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

— Job 14: 13-15

Job dares not think God unjust, but not therefore can he allow that he has done anything to merit the treatment he is receiving at his hands. How can the two things be reconciled? The thought has not yet come to him that that which it would be unfair to lay upon him as punishment, may yet be laid upon him as favor—blessing he would not dare to ask if he saw the means necessary to its giving, but blessing for which, once known and understood, he would be willing to endure all yet again. While he must not think of God as having mistaken him, the discrepancy that looks like mistake forces itself upon him through every channel of thought and feeling. The worst of all with which fear could have dismayed him is come upon him; and worse now than all, death is denied him! He is left to linger in self-loathing, to encounter at every turn of agonized thought the awful suggestion that God has cast him off! He does not deny that there is evil in him, but he does deny that he has been a wicked man. The contradiction between Job’s idea of the justice of God and things which had befallen him is constantly haunting him; it has a sting in it far worse than all the other misery with which he is tormented; but it is not fixed in the hopelessness of hell by an accepted explanation more frightful than itself. Job refused the explanation of his friends because he knew it false; to have accepted such as would by many in the present day be given him, would have been to be devoured at once by the monster. He simply holds on to the skirt of God’s garment, keeps putting his question again and again. No answer will do for him but the answer that God only can give.

Commentary

by Earle Canty

Job was not a wicked man, but like all mankind, he had sin in his life.  It is clear that Job had a fairly high opinion of himself with regard to his righteousness.  This blinded him to what God was doing; Job was convinced that he did not deserve what appeared to be punishment, and he was convinced that God was not punishing him, but he couldn’t explain the circumstances of his life.  Understanding historical context--specifically, Hebrew theology-- is important for recognizing the fallacies in the responses of those who felt compelled to provide Job with advice.  In Hebrew theology and culture, God was judge.  Sins required atonement, and there were consequences for not atoning.  Those providing advice believed that, if only Job would atone for his sins, the painful circumstances in his life would come to an end.  Job was rightfully convinced that the advice was wrong, but he did not recognize the true purpose for what was happening in his life.

In this sermon, MacDonald is explaining a truth that perplexes non-believers and believers.  If God is love, mercy, and compassion, why does He afflict us--or allow us to be afflicted--with such sore trials? Why is life not a stroll through a beautiful garden with only good things happening to us?  In the June 9th devotional, MacDonald explained that man’s will and God’s will can be frequently in conflict because God’s will is the best and man’s will is often not the best.

Job’s opinion regarding his righteousness was wrong.  No man should have such an opinion, because as the scriptures tell us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  However, God was not punishing Job; He was doing or allowing things to happen to Job to help Job realize the best.  Like so many of us, Job was a stubborn man.  As a consequence, the lesson God was trying to teach him was long and very painful.  Thankfully, God persevered because He knew that the answers Job sought were the path to Job understanding that God’s will for Job’s life was best.

May we recognize that God wants only the best for us and is committed to going to great lengths to help us realize that.