The Book of Job-Chapter Thirty-One:
"Job Reverts to Works & Rewards"
After all we have been through with Job so far, well, I had hoped for steadier progress by now. He is exhausted and confused, I'm sure, but he is still so wrong. Wrong about God, very wrong about Satan (of whom he still knows nothing), and wrong about his own righteousness. Let's get started:
Verse 1: "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?"
He's still relying on what he considers some of his best "works" to commend Him to God. We have to be careful not to brag too much to the Lord about our sexual purity. Remember He knows ALL our thoughts, dreams, and deep down desires. I've found over time that He knows more about some of them than I know myself. Don't you think it's tiresome to God when we who are religious try to pretend we don't have a sexual drive within us? If we behave morally in this area it is by His mercy and through humility and pure Love for others and from Christ's sacrificial example to us in our day. And I don't think that's anything to brag about. Those who assert today that God owes them something because they pretend to be "immune" to all sexual feelings are at least as fooled by Satan as Job is here.
Regretfully, we are now watching Job's total spiritual meltdown. Listen:
Verses 2-4: "For what portion of God is there from above? and what inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity? Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps?"
Come on, Lord, he seems to be saying! Is the system broken? You've punished the wrong man. Reconsider my case. What are You doing?
Verses 5-6: "If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know mine integrity."
From my easy chair this evening it seems vain and foolish of Job to be asking God to judge him in this way. But I am reminded how much he has suffered and how empty he must feel. He's in trouble and exhausted and, to be honest, couldn't you or I fall into these errors in equivalent circumstances?
Verses 7-8: "If my step hath turned out of the way, and mine heart walked after mine eyes, and if any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; Then let me sow, and let another eat; yea, let my offspring be rooted out."
His offspring are already lost to him in this life. He must be almost out of his head. Is he praying for a time machine to be taken back to a brighter time? This a desperate man. Satan wanted to discourage Job's faith. Well, every blow hit the mark and Job is staggering.
Verses 9-10: "If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door; Then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her."
Job's complaint here is that he KNEW he WASN'T an adulterer. So why was God treating him like one? Of course, never committing the act doesn't mean you are not internally covetous or lustful for these things. Later Christ would say that makes you just as guilty as any adulterer! O, Lord.
Verses 11-12: "For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges. For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase."
Job's next point is even more slippery. He says, hey, haven't I been good to the those who were less fortunate than me?
Verses 13-21: "If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb;) If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; If his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate:"
We just saw in the last chapter that Job's inner attitude toward the poor was not, most likely, always pleasing to God. Charitable works may actually conceal wrong motives or cruel distain at times. And here too, nothing is hid from the Lord's view.
Next comes a very bold statement from Job. Bold, desperate, and really a sad way to approach our Living Creator:
Verse 22: "Then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone."
Here comes something that should not be cryptic to us at all! It takes us directly back to chapter 1, starting at verse 4.
Verse 23: "For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure."
One of the early and primary lessons of this study, strongly reinforced here, is that Job's relationship to God was built on a real terror of losing his worldly blessings. And even now when most of them are already gone, Job is apparently still stuck in those terrors.
Now he will attempt to justify himself by works in the area of greed:
Verses 24-25: "If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I rejoice because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much;"
Then he addresses pride and conceit:
Verses 26-28: "If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above."
Now he boasts of not having hated even his enemies:
Verses 29-30: "If I rejoice at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul."
And then he reminds the Lord about his great hospitality:
Verses 31-32: "If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied. The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller."
We could not attempt a better case for works and rewards, even if we tried. But here comes the real kicker to all this--Jobs now says, I'm better than Adam:
Verse 33: "If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom:"
Would you say that to God? When any of us, in our day too, tries to impress and obligate the Lord with our good works that is really what we are saying, isn't it? Hey, I'm above Adam's curse and transgression. I'm better than that! I've evolved beyond that! But according to the prophesy of Isaiah we haven't. Take the time to read Isaiah's description of God's opinion of the "human good works" of ANY man or woman (see Isaiah 64:6).
This approach isn't ever going to work for Job. But like us sometimes, instead of better reasoning, Job just gets a little louder and closes with a flurry to try and make his points stick:
Verses 34-40: "Did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door? Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him. If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise thereof complain; If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life: Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended."
O Lord, where did I go wrong, he cries. Exactly what did I do to deserve all this? He's so sure God has the wrong man.
But Job isn't getting anywhere with God, not yet. He still thinks of God as the adversary. But we are getting somewhere, beloved. I'm getting more and more encouraged about our little study of Job. We have just witnessed a powerful refutation of Works for Rewards based religion. And it NEEDS refuting! MUCH better things are coming for Job and to us as we approach the conclusion of his story. But before all that a young man who has been listening to Job and his friends and respectfully biding his time is just about to speak. His name is Elihu.