The work of the Lord is hard to understand. Not only is it spiritual in nature, but often times, the hand of God that does the work is impossible to see. The Bible teaches that it is impossible to see God the Father and live. When Jesus came into the world, He said that those who had seen Him had also seen the Father. However, that doesn’t mean that the people who saw Jesus saw the full glory and majesty of God. When Jesus took Peter, James, and John onto the Mount of Transfiguration, and Jesus was illuminated by His glory with Moses and Elijah, the brightness of Jesus at that moment was too much for Peter, James, and John to bear. The Gospels testify that they passed out! After Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave His people the Holy Spirit, but when the Holy Spirit first began to work on the Day of Pentecost, the people were confused. Peter was able to connect the work of the Spirit to the scriptures, but the miraculous nature of the Holy Spirit’s influence was hard to understand. The Spirit Himself was invisible, but His work was mind-boggling!
Since this is true, we need to be careful about how we examine life and the work that God does in it. We cannot go through our days with presumptuousness as if we know what God is doing at all times. We cannot make assumptions about the details to God’s objectives. The Bible provides us with some understanding of God’s general purposes, but we have no idea how He’ll use the circumstances of life to achieve those purposes. If this is true of us, how much truer is it of others? If we can’t know the details of God’s work in our own lives, we certainly shouldn’t look at the lives of others as if we know what God is doing in them and through them. Though there might be isolated instances where God provides discernment to know certain things, the Bible does not show that He provides His people with the ability to look into the lives of others and grade the quality of God’s work in their lives.
The Book of Job is a book that makes this point painfully clear. Job’s friends swore up and down that they knew Job was being punished by God. He wasn’t. Job’s friends were convinced that Job was a hypocrite. He wasn’t. Job’s friends thought their physical health enabled them to see spiritually and know better about Job’s life than Job himself. They were wrong. Job’s friends figured that their understanding of God qualified them to have the wisdom of God and examine the heart of Job. They were wrong. In the testimony of Job 23:8-12, Job confessed that he couldn’t even perceive the work that God was doing in his own life. How then could someone else know better than him?
In Job 23:8-12, Job explained how it is impossible to fully know what God is doing, thus making it impossible to fully understand why God is doing what He does. Job confessed that when he moves in a forward direction, he doesn’t see God in front as a Leader. When Job went backward, it wasn’t because he physically saw God turn around. Job confessed that he goes in various directions, but can’t always perceive God. It is not as if God takes physical form for each person to lead us in ways that are clearly visible to the eyes in our sockets. We too go forward and backward, but do we really see God to know which way is right?
Job said that when God is working on his left-hand side, he cannot see Him. The same is true when God changes sides and begins to work on the right. Who really knows when God changes direction? Who really knows when God adjusts His work to a different area of our lives? How many times have we tried to guess the purpose and aim of God’s work, assuming God is doing one thing, only to find out later that we were wrong. Not that God wasn’t working, but not in the way that we thought. If we as believers can’t even know which side of our lives God is working on, what makes us think our spiritual perception and vision is so clear that we can see where God is working on the lives of others? It is exceptionally prideful and foolish to assume that we know what God is doing in the lives of those around us. The Bible makes it clear that God purposefully withholds this information more often than not. Job’s friends felt they knew better than Job because their lives appeared to be “better.” They were wrong, and in the end, exposed as fools.
Though Job couldn’t physically see what God was doing, he trusted that God was wise to do good. Though Job couldn’t fully understand the work that God was doing, Job trusted that God would produce profit. He told his friends, that God knows the way Job is going, whether Job knows which way is right or not. Job might have been confused about his life, but God wasn’t. God knew each and every step, turn, and thought that Job ever had. Since God is omniscient, He knows all things. He alone is wise. He has exercised His sovereign control to direct the steps that seem wrong, foolish, and tragic to us, but still produce the fulfillment of His eternal and spiritual purposes. We can’t see how a “wrong step” or “bad direction” produces profit, but Job knew that God could.
Job trusted that, even though he didn’t understand God’s work; even though he couldn’t see the manner of God’s work; even though he couldn’t perceive the goodness of God’s work, God would produce fruit nonetheless. Job explained that when God’s “testing” of Job was complete, he would appear as refined gold. This is why Job desired to be judged by God. No matter the difficulties of his life, Job had the assurance of God because he knew God to be omnibenevolent. God is the source of goodness. His mercy endures forever. He is gracious by nature. God is love, which is the revelation of salvation in spite of us. How can God do a bad thing? How could the suffering of Job’s life produce an evil outcome if God assured Job that he was a righteous and blameless man? How could a holy and pure God produce anything but purity and holiness in the lives of His people? Job sought to be fairly judged by God because he trusted that God was able to make him pure and valuable in spiritual terms so that Job’s judgment would be on account of God’s gracious work, not Job’s character, wisdom, or ability. Job already confessed in many ways that he had no ability.
Job was confident to face the righteous judgment of God, not because he knew everything about God, but because he trusted in the integrity, character, and nature of God. Job couldn’t always see where God was going, but he spent his life looking for God’s footsteps in order to place his own feet inside of those prints, trusting God’s way is the right way, no matter the perception of the direction. Job trusted in the superior righteousness of God and kept His way. No matter the difficulty involved, Job was governed by the righteous standards that God revealed to him through his conscience. Even without the Law of Moses, Job knew that God was supremely righteous and good. Job made his life all about living according to God’s standards, not his own.
How did Job walk by faith since he couldn’t see which direction God was going? How did Job live according to the righteous standards of God if he couldn’t see what God was doing? The testimony of Job 23:8-12 makes it very clear. Job’s faith was made functional because of His reception, affection, connection, and constant possession of the Word of God. Job said that he treasured the Word of God more than actual food that kept him physically alive. He knew that God’s Word was supremely valuable; and however God spoke to Job, he was sure to listen, consider, and obey the things that God said. Today, functional faith is much simpler. The Book of Hebrews explains that God spoke to people in times past by prophets, but today speak to us by His Son – the Word of God. The Bible is God’s declaration. The Bible is the clear statement of God’s holy and righteous standards. Our willingness to receive the statements of the Bible by faith will ultimately enable our faith. Our affection for the scriptures will ultimately activate our faith. Our constant connection to the Bible will ultimately cause our conduct to resemble God’s.
The scriptures plainly state that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Job didn’t have it as easy as we do now. He heard God somehow, but did not have the benefit of God’s full revelation as we do today. Still, he trusted in God though he couldn’t see Him. He sought to live by God’s standards though he couldn’t perceive Him. He desired God more than anything so that when his life was confusing, difficult, and painful, he trusted in the identity, character, and integrity of God to somehow produce a spiritually-fruitful result. Job was not afraid to face God, but was excited and confident on account of his understanding of God’s mercy, power, wisdom, and righteousness. Job didn’t understand all of the details to God’s work, but that didn’t matter. Job knew who God was and trusted in that. Job’s friends knew God too, but instead of showing humble faith like Job, they responded in pride, figuring their knowledge made them like God, to know the intimate details and purposes of God’s work. The Bible shows that there are two ways to respond to the revelation of God’s righteous character, but only one is correct by God’s standards.