May 21, 2019
Sin is a terrible thing. Perhaps the most terrible thing about sin is the subtlety of it in the lives of all people. All sin doesn’t look the same. Some think that sin against God is limited to murder, adultery, and stealing. Jesus dealt with this flawed way of thinking in the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus showed the subtlety of sin by explaining that sin begins in the heart. When Jesus addressed the issue of murder, He said that those who have unjust anger have the same heart condition of one that commits the physical act of murder! Though people wake up in bad moods all of the time, and have unexplainable anger frequently, most of those people wouldn’t consider their attitudes to be murderous. God does. This shows that, the subtlety of our sin doesn’t mean that it’s less offensive to God. In the eyes of God, an offense is an offense; a transgression is a transgression; an infraction against His Law and against His righteousness is guilt, regardless of how we might measure it.
This truth shows a real danger in the lives of all people. The scriptures show that people often grow numb to sin because we don’t consider the magnitude of offense we cause against God. We don’t often think of how a simple attitude is offensive towards God and spiteful against His goodness. The testimony of Job shows that it is easy to offend God in massive ways, and never realize it, even as faithful believers. The scriptures reveal that even the best of God’s people have attitudes that are disgusting to God, but we just move on through our days, never taking notice. Thus, our relationship to God is tainted and we never know why. Our connection to Him is less intimate. His responses to our prayers seem to be less favorable. It can often seem as if God is ignoring us. The truth of the matter is, the Bible teaches that God does ignore us when we have these unconfessed and unresolved issues in our hearts. When our hearts are filled with bad attitudes towards God, the Lord will turn His ears from us, affecting our prayer life, our service unto Him, and our ability to receive the benefits of our salvation.
The testimony of Job 35:1-3 shows that Elihu noticed this sort of flawed attitude present in Job. The scriptures teach that Job was upright and blameless before God. He did not curse God and blaspheme God during his suffering. However, there were many times where, in Job’s long discourses, that he spoke amiss about God. He sought the Lord in prayer, but with an attitude that was offensive to God. He wanted relief from his suffering, but Elihu pointed out that Job’s approach towards God was absent humility and dependency. Thus, God heard Job’s cries, but did not respond favorably to Job because of the manner in which Job cried out to God.
When Elihu asked permission to address Job, he explained that his primary reason for rebuking Job was on behalf of this one issue: Job spoke as if he was more righteous than God. This was very offensive to Elihu, and scripture shows that it is more offensive to God. Thankfully, God used Elihu to expose Job’s fault, for which Job had no defense, thereby enabling us all to learn from his mistakes. When Elihu addressed Job about this matter, he asked Job, “Do you think that this is right?” The tone of Elihu’s rhetorical question shows that Elihu figured Job to be a better man than his speech suggested. Elihu respected Job and wanted to win him back to the Lord. It was as if Elihu was saying, “Job, you’re better than that to say these terrible things.” The scriptures show that Job remained silent, as if Elihu’s gentle correction was well received by Job in humility. This is important to recognize because it shows that all of God’s people make mistakes. God’s people can often have good intentions that become offensive to God because the true nature of our sin makes itself apparent without us knowing. Job didn’t want to be self-righteous. He wanted to justify himself to his friends that accused him of hypocrisy. Yet, in that noble attempt, Job spoke more than he should have, and in that time, allowed the true nature of his flesh to come out, bringing offense against God. It was true: Job was better than his offensive words against God – when walking in the Spirit. Job’s errors show how easy it is to quickly jump into the flesh without realizing it.
How did Job state that he was more righteous than God? Elihu mentioned three different occasions and dealt with three different issues that Job expressed throughout his speeches. Elihu first addressed the sentiment that Job expressed that it is unprofitable to seek the Lord. Back in Job 9:30-31, Job responded to his friend Bildad to defend his integrity. In that discourse, he spoke as if he had purified himself and made himself righteous. Job was trying to say that he was innocent of the hypocrisy that his friends accused of, but it did not come out that simply. Job was trying to say that he was seeking the Lord and His righteousness, but said it all wrong. Led by emotion rather than the Spirit, Job said that he had washed himself with snow water and cleansed himself with soap. Here, Job used language that is centered on the work of the Messiah, as if Job was able to do His job. The scriptures teach that it is the LORD Himself who is able to cleanse to make His people white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). It is the LORD Himself that purifies to make clean as by launderer’s soap (Malachi 3:2). If this work is appointed to God as the Messiah, how then could Job make himself clean? How could Job purify himself?
In Job 9:30-31 Job went on to say how he felt God was treating him in response to his pursuit of righteousness. Job stated that, even though he felt like he had cleansed himself (of hypocrisy), God sent him to “the pit” anyway. Job felt that he had tried to do what God said was right, and was just treated like trash. Though Job sought to live by God’s standards, Job felt that God did not respond fairly to his manner of living. Therefore, he felt that it was unfruitful to live by God’s standards. In Job’s mind, he felt like it was pointless to try to hard to live rightly like God, only to suffer to the extent that he did, as if God was discarding him and all his attempts to be a good person. Though it might seem like Job is justified in his thinking, it is a serious offense to God to think this way!
Who is right except God? Can a person justify themselves before God? Can a person cleanse their souls on their own? Can a person do what God says is right by their own ability? The Bible teaches that, if not for God’s gracious revelation of His righteousness, we as people wouldn’t even recognize that something was wrong with us, and perish in condemnation. The scriptures plainly, and repeatedly state that no one is good or right in the eyes of God. The scriptures teach that God sees our natural efforts to live righteously as “filthy rags.” Why? God sees the heart! God sees the pride and self-righteousness that motivates works that seem good to other people. God sees the evil that feels our works can match the glory and power of God’s works. If God alone is true and right, and He stated that He alone cleanses and purges sin, then Job’s comments about his own righteousness were boarder-line blasphemous!
Later in Job 10:15 Job spoke as if it was all the same to be righteous or wicked. Job felt that, because he had worked so hard to please God, but God allowed so much suffering to come into his life, that it didn’t do any good for him to have done all of those works for God’s glory. Job acknowledged that the wicked do get punished in ways similar to the way Job suffered. Though Job was not being punished, he felt that his circumstances paralleling the lives of the wicked made it seem worthless to strive to live rightly. Why strive to do what God says if the consequences of our lives mirror those of wicked people who don’t care? This was Job’s thought, and it was wrong! Elihu pointed these things out because, when the essence of Job’s points were put together in context, Job was speaking as if God was unfair. Elihu pointed out that Job was speaking against God as if God was a poor Master. Job spoke as if he labored in goodness and deserved a certain quality of pay for his labor, but God’s pay was of a poor quality. Job felt his labor was deserving of blessings, but God paid him with suffering. Thus, Job felt that God was an unjust, and unfair Master. Job felt as if he had done more good for God than God had done good for him; and that the suffering Job experienced was evidence that serving God well doesn’t produce a profit in this life.
This type of thinking is equal to that of a non-believer! Though Job was blameless, upright, and a hero of faith, his suffering had exposed the weakness of his flesh. He was justified before God on account of his faith, but CLEARLY that did not make Job righteous. In fact, the very words that Job spoke to justify his righteousness were the very words that proved his unrighteousness. Job’s defense for his cause actually served to be the proof of his guilt. Is it possible to do more good for God than God does for us? Certainly not! Who gives life to whom? Who provides for whom? Who gives wisdom and revelation to whom? Who holds all things together in the span of His hand? Who is the Author of the greatest covenants known to mankind? Who judges whom? Who calls out to whom for escape from judgment? Who is the One who offers justification and forgiveness to the guilty on the basis of mercy and grace? Who is the Redeemer? Who is the One who propitiates the consequences of sin? Who sits highly exalted above all others? Who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? Who is the source and cause of any good thing? Who is LOVE?
The Bible shows that, when life gets hard, it is easy to lose focus on these fundamental truths about who God is. It is easy to look at the body of our work and feel like God owes us something. It is easy to forget that we are dust of the earth, corrupt in nature, unable to produce any good thing in the eyes of God unless He is the motivator and manufacturer of the work. It is easy to feel as if we are better than we really are. Job spoke of God as if he were God’s equal. Job spoke of God as if God was lesser than the Word says He is. For all of the faith that Job had, he clearly had issues of unbelief during his times of suffering. Jesus taught that it is by the abundance of our hearts that our mouths speak. Thus, while Job might have spoken amiss about God, it was because Job’s attitude and heart-condition were amiss as well.
Why should God respond favorably to those who think so little of Him? Why should God lavish those who belittle Him by exalting self? Why should God do what we ask when we make demands of Him with the thought that our corruption is deserving of His goodness? Why should the God of grace bless those who cheapen His mercy through attitudes of self-entitlement? Though we may love the Lord and believe upon the Gospel, we are still prone to these terrible things in our hearts. These are issues that need to be dealt with daily, so that we humbly seek the Lord in shame of our true nature, that He might reveal these hidden issues of the heart, enabling us to repent so that we can seek Him the way He deserves to be sought.