The Book of Job-Chapter Nine:
"Open and Honest"
We are at a high point, I believe, in Job's saga. It must have been a personal struggle for him, but Job answers Bildad with honesty, love for God, and spiritual strength:
Verses 1-3: "Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand."
This is a good start for me or anyone who preaches. Pleading ignorance and weakness. Admitting inferiority to God and keeping your heart and your mind open before Him. The Lord is MORE than a thousand times smarter than you, me, or anyone else. So we can't just speak out for him when we feel like it or think we have gained some knowledge.
Verses 4: "He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?"
Job is having all kinds of crises, but not an identity crisis. He knows who he is and Who God is in comparison to himself. Job hasn't lost that much and I find that to be wonderful for him under these circumstances. This puts him in a position to really speak out, and he doesn't disappoint:
Verses 5-10: "Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger. Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number."
I have been often asked how a Christian can be a public school science teacher like I have been for the last 25 years. But I've always found that a keen and open look at geology, oceanography, astronomy, and the other sciences actually builds up my faith. I certainly agree with Job: the finer things in nature all point to a Master and Creator.
Verses 11-14: "Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not. Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou? If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him. How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him? "
The physician, psychologist, and theologian (especially the theologian!) should be discovering reasons to praise the Lord too. That's what I think Job is saying here. Beloved, this is an amazingly beautiful and beneficial sermon up to this point, especially from a man in such agony of body and soul!
Verses 15: "Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge."
Job humbles himself again, and that is fine. But now his message takes a turn (a wrong turn). I might have ended this chapter here (which would have been very stupid on my part in the long run). But Job (like us, too often) is about to turn a corner and proceed from humility, awe, and love for God to insecurity, doubt, and fear:
Verses 16-22: "If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice. For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause. He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness. If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life. This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked."
Job's current understanding of the Lord is similar to that of much of the Church and world at large today. Blaming God for most or all calamity. Fearing material loss more than anything else. Not cultivating a loving respect for the Creator. We say these things today, don't we (at least in our hearts)? That God is the Creator of the chaos we know within and around us. O, this is getting ugly. And Job was off to such a wonderful start in his message. Yes, I definitely would have ended this chapter early. But God has His good reasons for letting us continue:
Verses 23-24: "If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he? "
I take back what I said earlier. Job does have an identity problem. Now he has God confused with Satan. And don't we sometimes take this path also? Even the smallest personal annoyances may cause us to turn our backs on God and blame Him for all that is wrong in this life. We may not say it in public as Job is doing. Still Job is wrong about God. He appears to have little or no knowledge of the devil or the curse of sin on the earth. We have far less reason to believe and behave this way than poor Job. Remember his is the first book of the Scriptures to be written down, so Job had to be lacking many of the common resources for spiritual knowledge readily available to most of us.
And as with anyone, when we really lose our focus on God's true nature, Job has a sort of panic attack. His life seems suddenly ominous and fleeting:
Verses 25-26: "Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good. They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey."
Verses 27-28: "If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself: I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent."
And Job's religion (all his efforts to get himself ready for Heaven) never seemed more futile:
Verses 29-30: "If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me."
But now, just as quickly as he veered into error and despair, Job gets an amazing insight!
Verses 31-35: "For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me."
Being open and honest with God has brought Job to another breakthrough! Again, his knowledge is limited compared to ours today. But still, through sheer inspiration and determination, he gets a glimpse of the Messiah! Becoming the first man to mention or at least describe Christ in print! And let me say if you and I get open and honest and obedient and loving before our Lord today, there is no limit to what blessings or insights we might receive. It may not cause you to go down in history, like Job, but it will perfectly fit your personal needs and be wonderful to you!
O that the Lord were a man, says Job! And could come to visit with me. Then I'd know Him. I'd know His thoughts and I'd understand it all so much better! Don't forget Job isn't in some beautiful lecture hall, he is still out there suffering. In shock really. His head is still fuzzy and he must have a broken heart. But here he is, still open and still honest, in the midst of it all, when it hurt so bad, and nothing was making any sense. And then God fills him with this vision of Jesus.
It may prove to be a fleeting vision for Job. Yet it is full of startling detail. For God indeed did become a Man. Lived among us in the world He created. Laughed and cried, sang and suffered as a man. And did become mankind's official Advocate or "daysman" (see Eph. 2:14 and I John 2:1). And much, much more.
Even with the whole of Scripture and a million teachers aren't we (don't you imagine, beloved) limited too in our vision of Christ? As Job could only envision in a "fuzzy" way His first coming, so we can really only dream of His second. Many speak today as if they know exactly what will transpire and how and when. But let's be honest, since that is our title and theme, much about His Revelation is as much a mystery to us as the Bethlehem Star would have been to old Job. And in the mean time, this world remains a hard place to live in or understand, even in the so-called "good times." We too get easily confused and isolated in despair. That's what makes Job's message and example (warts and all) very important for us.