Bildad, Job’s second friend, has just completed his first speech. He has suggested that the tragedy that Job’s children faced was a result of their sin. Job does not immediately appear to be offended by this suggestion. We should easily admit that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. Job does have a response. He asks one of the most important questions that any person can ask: “Can a man be right before God?”
This is not the first time that this question has entered upon the pages of this book. The Spirit that spoke to Eliphaz brought up this very question with an anticipated answer of, “Absolutely not!” There is something to that answer, though it is very wrong. It needs more words. We should say, “Absolutely not! Not in ourselves.” A way has been revealed through which people can be declared righteous before God in the Lord’s gracious provision of a Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. God has provided a sacrifice for us. The blood of an animal would not do. A perfect man was required, a man without sin.
If you consider the Old Testament, there had to be a way for man to be right before God, since God promised His people a heavenly home full of beauty and eternal glory. Yet God also said that He would by no means clear the guilty, and from Adam all the way to the children of Job and beyond, everyone was guilty. The only solution had to come through substitution. We needed someone who would provide all the righteousness that God required, who would stand as our representative, taking the penalty that we deserved and providing the righteousness that we needed. This is the only way for a man to be right before God, but this one way is a good way, and we gladly embrace it.
In ourselves there is simply no way that we could contend against God. We cannot expect to do battle against His holiness and succeed. He rules the entire universe. He placed the stars in the skies. Who are we to match wits with Him? Though every suffering servant of the Lord might question God concerning horrors of providence, by what right can we demand an answer from the Almighty? We may still shake our fists, but there is no sanity in this. He shakes the earth.
We do well to remember what Job says here about God: “He does great things beyond searching out.” Job himself may not be able to take in this good advice yet. He is plainly overwhelmed. What is so hard for this man to accept? It is not apparently the enormity of his loss, the pain that has come upon his body, or even the words of correction that come from those who are not his match. What is infuriating to Job is that he is sure that he is in the right, and though he knows it is a foolish request, he would like to have his day in court against the Lord.
Job says, “I am in the right,” and in some sense he is, at least concerning what he says about God. We know this because God insists on it. Could it be that Job is technically right, but he still should not seek to prosecute a case against the Being who is the source of all being?
Maybe we need to listen to Job. Maybe it is true that God is crushing Job with a tempest of sorrow. Maybe it is a fact that the Lord has multiplied this man’s wounds without a cause, at least not any cause that this greatest man of the east, or any lesser man, could ever have rightly discerned. But just try to win a debate with God on this or any matter. Job knows that the very thought of such a contest is absurd, though he still seeks his day in court.
We struggle for answers. We wonder whether these troubles of life are randomly distributed by the Lord. But no, that cannot be correct. How could we suggest it? That is just pain, looking for some help in unbelief. The soul will never be satisfied with that kind of solution. But what is the reason that all of this has happened to Job? Is God mocking Job? No, that cannot be right either. Could it be that we are just to ignore the pain and act as if it did not even exist? Can we imagine it away? Impossible. There is simply no way out of this. Job cannot get beyond this suffering. He must go through it. He must find the full life intended for him in it. Ultimately he must find the God who loves him in the midst of this deliberate pain.
When the one Man came who could make it possible for us to be right before God, He also encountered unimaginable suffering and affliction. He was not willing to run away from it, which would have destroyed the glory of the grace of God. He had to yield Himself up to it. He had to trust the Father in it. He lived the fullest life that a man could ever live. The measure of His life was in the depth of His purposeful suffering. He felt the weight of the sins of His people, and He deliberately leaned into it. Now He has become the one Mediator between God and man. There is something in this for which Job was longing. He wanted a Mediator who would stand up for him before God. Because of Him, we are counted as right before God. We are as white as snow because He faced the dark pit of the penalty that we deserved. His perfect love for us has delivered us from all fear of eternal torment. Now we lean into our own suffering with some measure of confidence, and even with joy if we are able. We receive the fullness of a life that includes grief, knowing that in Jesus Christ we are counted as the beloved children of God.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our Father, who can contend against You? You stretched out the heavens and formed the constellations. We see the works of Your hands everywhere, but we cannot see You. Who are we to say to You, “What are You doing?” We appeal to You for Your everlasting mercies. Teach us to have gentle hearts in the day of trial. We are not blameless, O Lord. You surely love Your servants. The testimony of the cross is the greatest story of love. We shall not be condemned, for Your Son has faced a pit of judgment for us. Thank You that we have a Mediator in Your holy Son. We will worship You forever in Him.