Jesus instructs us in the Sermon on Mount, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” There are certain limits to that instruction. In particular, it is the duty of a superior to protect a subordinate through occasional correction. Therefore a father will need to help his son this way, and a teacher certainly must identify a student’s errors in order to improve her work. This is certainly the case in the community of worship as well. The apostle Paul advises the church in Corinth to make necessary judgments in the church in order to protect the community of faith. He even goes so far as to say, “The spiritual person judges all things.”
Judgment becomes problematic when it is done without love, when it is accompanied by hypocrisy, or when an inferior presumes to sit in judgment over his superior. This third offense is called insubordination, and it has surely always been a popular pastime since the day that Satan convinced Eve that God was not giving commands that were in her best interest to obey. The inappropriate finding of fault in a superior is an important theme in the book of Job. Not only have Job’s friends done this to Job, but Job himself has done this to God. The Lord now brings attention to this serious error. He calls Job a faultfinder, and so he is. It was right for Job to find fault with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They needed correction. It is never right for anyone to find fault with God. Job has desired to bring a lawsuit against the Almighty. This is a staggering act of insubordination.
God has been questioning Job in order to further redirect his attention appropriately to the difference between a creature and the Creator. So far Job has had no answer to give. Now God insists that Job answer. Job’s response speaks for itself: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”
This is an astounding transformation. It has come about through a brutal trial that began in the heavenlies before the throne of God. It continued with great loss and sickness on earth, but then especially with the vague and unsubstantiated accusations of friends. All of these factors gave birth to Job’s error. But this was not the end of God’s work with Job. He only wounds His beloved servants for the purpose of granting a far better healing. After Elihu spoke, Job had nothing more to say. Yet God finished this work of discipline in person. Job wanted to speak with God, so here is his chance.
God continues to speak. Will Job accuse God of being in the wrong for the purpose of maintaining his own righteousness? Of course Job cannot win a fight against God. He always knew that. But there is something else for us to consider in the New Testament era. We know more clearly and plainly how the Lord’s plan of righteousness truly works. If we aim to prove that we are right at God’s expense, then all will be lost. Our only hope of being declared holy is through the perfect righteousness of God credited to us. What if we were able to prove ourselves right in our own merit, but only at the cost of God being proven wrong? Absurd? Yes, but it would also entirely undermine all our hope of eternal peace.
God reveals the beauty of the righteousness of Christ and the power of His cross little by little and in various ways. The book of Job in the Bible is early in that process. God does give an answer here to all who wonder about the mystery of pain in the lives of people that God loves. It is a true, basic, and good answer for every era in the Lord’s dealings with His elect: “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” (See Romans 9:20.)
The trial that Job has experienced started in heaven. The Lord brought up the name of Job to God’s adversary, Satan. Imagine any large beast that has ever walked the face of the earth and know that you have a better chance of fighting such a monster than you do in your present warfare against the devil. Satan has been at work in Job’s trials but only as far as God’s sovereignty would allow. That same Satan many years later desired to sift Peter as wheat, yet the Lord Jesus had prayed for him. Though Peter denied Christ three times, his faith would not ultimately fail. Jesus instructed Peter that when he had turned back to faith he should strengthen his brothers.
It is in the strength of Christ that God will soon crush Satan under our feet. Do not judge the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Do not settle into a pattern of finding fault with the Almighty on account of the trials that He has given you. He has His purposes. You will never fully understand the depths of His wisdom. Surely He intends to hold you through it all, for not one of His children will be lost.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Glorious God, we are cut to the heart. Have we been faultfinders who have spoken against You? Would we dare to charge You with evil and condemn You as if we were right? Our own right hand could never save us. There are large and powerful creatures, seen and unseen, that are stronger than us. Would we imagine that we could contend against You? Have mercy on us.