There are many aspects to God’s character. Sometimes we choose a narrow view of God, and ignore what makes us uncomfortable, or doesn’t fit our concept of who God is. It’s easy to become entrenched in a limited theology. Job’s friends weren’t wrong about God, but they weren’t right, either. How can we learn to rely on God’s wisdom instead of our own?
Today’s Listen When He Speaks reading is Job 12. If you know Job’s story, you know that almost everyone abandoned him in his misery after he lost everything. The few who stuck around were less than helpful.
His wife told him to stop being so faithful, to curse God and die (Job 2:9). After mourning with him, his friends started accusing him. If God is righteous, then Job must be unrighteous to have such suffering inflicted on him. If Job wanted God to relent, he must repent of the secret sin for which God was punishing him.
We know Job’s friends were out of line.
But here’s the kicker: Job’s friends’ advice was Biblical. What I mean is, their advice was in line with Scripture. But it was still wrong.
God does destroy the wicked with righteous judgment. It’s that simple, but also not that simple.
It certainly wasn’t with Job.
In Chapter 12, Job points out that God doesn’t constantly pour out wrath on those who defy Him. As the psalmists pointed out, the wicked can prosper, and often do. Even more to the point, although God blesses the righteous, they are not exempt from earthly misery.
In Psalm 73, Asaph cried out to God, asking why the wicked prospered while the faithful suffered. Like David, Asaph knew what to do with his pain, his doubt, and his questions: he turned to God. Asaph and David also knew that no matter how things went for the wicked and faithful in the seasons of this life, each would receive what he deserved from the only One who truly knows.
Job’s friends were right that God punishes wrongdoing, whether it is blatant or hidden. But they didn’t look further. They focused on one truth, uninformed by the rest of what God had revealed of Himself by that time in history.
It’s wrong to base theology on one passage of Scripture. All Scripture must be interpreted in light of all Scripture. If we want to honor God in all we believe, think, and do, we need to never stop reading and studying His Word.
Instead of looking beyond the truth about God they were comfortable with, they dug in their heels.
While Job chose to turn toward God for his answers, his friends continued to rely on their own limited understanding. They got stuck in their beliefs, and misjudged Job despite what they’d intimately witnessed of his goodness and generosity before his tragedies, and despite his protestations of innocence.
Job was a good man. The best of his time. God was proud of Job.
But Job was imperfect. Though it was not Job’s imperfection, but his goodness, that led to his troubles, God was not gentle with him when the man questioned his Creator.
When Job was brought as low as life could bring him, he was confronted by the reality of God’s holiness. Not only did Job understand his smallness in comparison, he recognized his own pride.
I don’t know many of us who would be excited at the prospect of suffering as Job did, so God could be glorified in and through us. But do we trust Him enough to echo Job (Job 13:15):
Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him…
I identify more with the next part:
Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
Oops. Job had a whole lot more good ways than I do, but it’s our nature to argue our rationalizations of our failures, isn’t it?
While we can live in victory over willful sin, it is not in our own strength or wisdom. We cannot make ourselves holy.
Because I Do Not Know Him
The more we learn about God, the more we realize we don’t know. The more we grow, the further we see we have to go. It sounds overwhelming, but it’s beautiful. The more in awe we are of God’s holiness, the more we can appreciate His love. I don’t trust Him, because I don’t know Him.
Job in his suffering, psalmists in their pain, Jesus in His agony in Gethsemane, each had a choice. It’s a choice each of us must make. We must make it, and keep making it:
…not My will, but Yours be done
Even Jesus had to make the choice. In the shadow of unimaginable suffering in Gethsemane, He knew His Father’s will must prevail, for us. He knew what it would cost Him, and that through His suffering His Father would be glorified, and He would be returned to His glory. He could see the big picture. We can’t. We can’t see how our little stories fit in the arc of history, for God’s ultimate glory.
Do you think when Job lost all his possessions and his children, and suffered physical agony, he had any idea that for centuries, for the rest of history, people would find hope and wisdom in the story of his life? No.
I want God’s will to be done in and through me, not despite me, so why do I struggle against it, against Him? It will not always feel good, but it will always be worth it. We are only truly wise when we submit to God’s wisdom. It is only in choosing to be brought low that we are raised.