Who Is To Blame?
February 15, 2019
When bad things happen in life, it is common to look for ways to make ourselves the victim. Often times, people want to cast blame on outside influences as the cause of pain or distress. We look to other people as the cause of our issues. We look to uncontrollable circumstances as the cause to our trouble. Often times, people will blame God as the cause for our pain. The Bible shows that we seldom look within ourselves to know the cause of fault. Whether we are the actual cause for our distress or not is not the point. The Bible teaches that none are righteous. This means that we are always susceptible to doing wrong and causing calamity in our lives and in the lives of others. The Bible teaches that we are hypocrites by nature. The Bible teaches that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The Bible teaches that when we were conceived, we were already sinners in the eyes of God. This means that it is always possible that we are the cause of our affliction. This doesn’t mean that we are always at fault, but it is careless and prideful to automatically dismiss our own conduct and attitudes as the cause for our personal pain. Who is sinless that they should be disqualified from difficulty? Since no one is, it is best to consider how we might be at fault with a humble heart of repentance rather than complain with a heart of self-righteousness.
The testimony of Job provides a good illustration of this principle. Though Job suffered terribly and took on a massive wave of difficulties all at once, the humility, blamelessness, and uprightness that was first spoken about Job was made manifest during the time of his pain. In Job 7:17-21 the Bible shows that Job concluded his case against the charges of his friends. Job’s friends had accused Job of being a hypocrite. They accused Job of being fake, that his previous service unto others and kindness was merely an act that God was exposing as a fraud. Job’s friends felt that Job’s suffering was the suffering that hypocrites get when they are judged, and so felt that, while they couldn’t pinpoint Job’s specific fault, assumed he must have been like those who suffer the way Job was. His friends were wrong, and Job knew it. However, the testimony of Job 7:17-21 shows that Job was willing to at least explore the possibility of his own fault. Though he wouldn’t agree with the accusation of him being a hypocrite, he didn’t dismiss the possibility that some other sin might have been the cause for God’s judgment.
First, Job questioned God’s manner of judgment. Job wondered why God was pouring out so much pain upon him if God was so highly exalted in the heavens. Job asked:
“What is man, that You should exalt him, that You should set Your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?”
It is common for human tradition that those of authority appoint lesser people to inflict the pain of judgment. Those of position and stature figure it to be beneath them to concern so much time and energy with people that are in pitiful positions. If that’s true of people, why was God so focused on Job and continually inflicting pain upon him? This question can be interpreted two ways. First, Job could have been questioning God inappropriately. He could have be accusing God and blaming Him for excessive punishment, almost as if abusing His exalted position to pick on Job. In other words, if God is so highly exalted, why was He using that supreme power and authority to constantly ensure Job’s continual suffering? Wouldn’t a God so holy have something better to do? If this was Job’s manner of thinking, he would have been at huge fault! Who are we to question God and the manner in which He uses His power and authority? If God is the Potter and we are the clay, does not the Potter have the liberty to do anything He wants with the clay? Does clay really have the right or ability to respond back to the Potter?
The other way to interpret Job’s question is in the manner that David addressed God in Psalm 8. There, King David asked a similar question, but in awe and respect of God, admiring the abundant grace God showed by displaying any amount of affection for His creation, even though we are so far beneath Him. In this light, Job could have been wondering why God, so holy, righteous, powerful, and glorious, would spend any amount of time considering Job, especially in his excessively pitiful condition? Why would someone so pure have His mind continually fixed on someone so small and miserable like Job? Why would the perfect mind of God make room to consider Job for any cause, let alone one of persistent judgment and pain? Interpreting things this way shows that Job honored God to the point that his statements weren’t complaints about God’s actions, but expressed his opinion that God was belittling Himself by continually causing Job pain. God could have caused Job pain once, and brought His judgment against Him quickly, but from Job’s perspective, the time of his suffering was as if God was still closely watching Job to ensure His judgment.
The interpretation of Job’s remarks is made clearer by the statements that Job made next. Job asked God how long He would continue to inflict pain. Job asked how long it would be until God looked away from Job with eyes of wrath. Job wondered if the moment would come where God would allow his suffering to relent just a little, so as to allow Job to take a clean breath of fresh air. Job was admitting that his pain and suffering was so intense that it was causing him to be short of breath, perhaps literally affecting his ability to breathe and swallow. Job was admitting that there was no relenting in the pain and discomfort, not even for a second. The accusations of his friends seemed like a probable conclusion because Job recognized that his suffering did in fact resemble the suffering of the wicked. Though Job knew he wasn’t a hypocrite in the sense that his friends accused, he did not dismiss the possibility of his pain being for another reason that he caused.
Job asked God what sin in his life was the cause of his suffering. This is a profound statement of humility from Job, showing that he truly feared the Lord and His wisdom and righteousness. Job Chapter 1 made it clear that God was not punishing Job for any particular sin. In fact, God wasn’t even the one causing the pain. God enabled Satan, but Satan was the cause of the specific issues of Job’s life. Job didn’t know any of this. He didn’t know that his faith was being proven. He didn’t know that his character was being refined. He didn’t know that the devil was being proved a fool. He didn’t know he was being exalted by the Lord through his suffering. Job didn’t know God wasn’t punishing a certain sin. In this sense, Job was innocent. Yet, even though God considered Job “blameless” and “upright,” Job didn’t consider himself to be sinless. He asked God what sin could be the cause of his pain. Job didn’t cast blame on others. Job didn’t accuse God of evil. Job looked within himself, recognizing his depravity, and wondered where he might have been at fault to offend God. Rather than complaining about his pain, he looked to God to find his fault in hopes to repent, receive forgiveness, and hopefully release from his suffering in some manner.
Job did exaggerate his reality. He made it seem as if God had aimed all the arrows of heaven at Job alone. This was not true. While the devil was the cause of Job’s suffering, he was given restrictions. Job was not suffering as much as God could have permitted. Job was not God’s lone target of wrath. Still, Job, not knowing the full dynamics of the spiritual world, looked to his own heart as the possible cause of distress. Job might not have been guilty of hypocrisy in one sense, but might have been guilty of offending God in another sense. The Bible here shows that it is better to error on the side of humility. It was better for Job to look for his own fault and find none in the end, than to state innocence and be at fault later for pride and self-righteousness. Job desperately wanted to know what he might have done to offend God so that he could quickly confess that sin, receive God’s forgiveness, and hopefully receive peace in his life.
Though Job was willing to confess any sin of his own that God might have revealed, he wondered why God didn’t take away his suffering. He knew God was willing to forgive, and figured that he was humbly seeking forgiveness, but his circumstances had not changed. This point goes to show that we as people never really know what the Lord is doing. The suffering Job experienced was not for a specific fault, yet it looked like and felt like Job was to blame. Even Job was willing to admit that. When Job humbly sought forgiveness from the Lord, his suffering remained. Why didn’t God change the circumstances if Job was willing to change his heart? This shows that God’s forgiveness does not obligate Him to change the course of our lives – only the outcome of our lives. God’s forgiveness is focused on provided spiritual benefits for eternal life. This doesn’t mean that God is required to suddenly change the circumstances of this life when we receive His forgiveness. Job was already approved of God and was not in need of repentance for any particular issue at that time. Still, he hoped that willingness to confess sins would cause God to immediately relent in punishment – but God was not punishing. Therefore, there was no reason for God to change anything at that time. God will change circumstances when He is ready to, based on the completion of His work through those circumstances. Job realized that God’s unwillingness to change his circumstances might mean that he would die in that condition. This is why Job was content with death and hoped for it.