God is in charge of all things, as the church has so often confessed in our creeds when we say, “We believe in God the Father Almighty.” Add to this fact the honest observation that the world that we live in is broken and that we who live in it are supposed to feel the disorder and mourn things that are wrong. For many, admitting these two propositions creates a tension that is so deep that they may be tempted to give up on something here. Some deny the power of God. Others would pretend that everything is good. Critics of the faith may just simply contend that the God that we imagine must not himself be a good God. Job chooses none of these faulty alternatives. Job never says that everything is fine. He never contends that God is not in charge of all things. Despite remarks that are critical of what God has done, Job never says that God lacks goodness. Instead, Job honestly says this bold statement, “The Almighty has made my soul bitter.”
Job is not the only person in the Bible to express these honest feelings. See Naomi in Ruth 1 and Jesus on the cross. There is one more important claim that Job makes: God has done what He has done, not because of evil in His beloved servant, but despite the fact that Job has actually been in the right. This contention is what sets Job apart from his comforters. They are convinced that Job must be in the wrong, but here Job emphatically insists on his own integrity.
Job will not lie about what he knows. If he pretends to agree with his friends in their understanding of the meaning of his suffering, then he would be engaging in deceit. They simply are wrong in their foremost assumption, that the intense suffering faced by Job is evidence enough of the Lord’s displeasure with this great man. As Job has examined his own conscience concerning sin, he is able to say, “My heart does not reproach me for any of my days.” How few of us could say words like this without tremendous self-deception. We would be tempted to accuse Job of this as well if it were not for the fact that God so fully commended Job in His heavenly court at the beginning of this book.
Job believes in God’s justice against the faithless and the wicked. He knows that God would be right to be angry with Job’s enemies, and with those who are counted as the wicked and the unrighteous. In fact, our only hope with God is that we will somehow be counted as one of the righteous, which is precisely what has happened to us through Christ’s representation of us and through faith in Him. Job does have faith in God, in God’s promises, even in the resurrection of the dead. And this faith has been lived out in front of his neighbors, as Job has truly pursued daily repentance and a life of obedience to the precepts of the Almighty.
But is Job any different from the ungodly? The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Everyone is not the same. Though we all can be judged as guilty before God, everyone will not acknowledge this and seek to obey the Lord by His grace. It is simply not the case that everyone takes delight in the Almighty, especially in times of adversity. Not everyone will call upon God. It is noticeable in all of these interchanges between Job and his friends, that without being showy or sanctimonious, Job is the only one who actually cries out to God.
Job does not simply sing about the marvelous grace of the Lord, as great a theme as that is. He has an honest and substantial disagreement with his friends concerning who is the righteous party in this rhetorical conflict that we have been able to witness since the third chapter of this book. If Job were to pretend that his friends were more righteous than he was, he would be a liar. He will not do this. They are right that God will judge the wicked, but what they are doing to Job is wicked, and God will judge them.
Many worshipers of God do not have enough of an appreciation of some very basic facts about the Lord. God is good, all the time, and His wisdom is perfect. He is the only One who can definitively speak concerning the nature of ultimate righteousness. He is and always will be against wickedness. The wicked cannot dwell in His presence.
Christ’s cross is not only a display of the mercy of God, it is also a public vindication of His justice. The One who died for us was far above all of His companions in the perfection of His righteousness. God was not simply making necessary allowances for Christ in His evaluation of His Son. He glorified the Name of Jesus because this one Servant was fully worthy of that glory. In the death of our righteous Substitute our sin was atoned for, and the wrath of God against evil was not ignored but fully satisfied. This is the only way that God shows mercy, not by ignoring the glory of His justice but by fulfilling that justice through the sentence of His wrath upon our Redeemer, who took the hell that we deserved. In this way our Almighty God brought the greatest bitterness upon the life of His own beloved Son, in order that we might not perish under the weight of all of His glorious justice.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord of Glory, we thank You for the perseverance of Your Son. He was continually being charged with impropriety when there was no sin in Him. He kept on walking toward His atoning death for us as lesser men accused Him in their arrogance and ignorance. His end came in His work on the cross. In the eyes of men this seemed to be the worst disgrace, but it was His greatest act of obedience. Now we have found our glory in that cross, for we have been reconciled to You through the suffering of our faithful Mediator.