Today: [Job Twenty-Nine] Do Good Works Leverage God? In this chapter Job looks longingly back at his past prosperity. He believes that now God has unfairly abandoned him. Did God abandon Job? If you are suffering could that ever be properly construed that God is punishing us in some way? On what basis does God bless us and put us in a place of advantage? Because of good works or moral excellence? Or because of God’s grace and tender mercy?
[Job 29:1-25 KJV] 1 Moreover Job continued his parable, and said, 2 Oh that I were as [in] months past, as [in] the days [when] God preserved me; 3 When his candle shined upon my head, [and when] by his light I walked [through] darkness; 4 As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God [was] upon my tabernacle; 5 When the Almighty [was] yet with me, [when] my children [were] about me; 6 When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil; 7 When I went out to the gate through the city, [when] I prepared my seat in the street! 8 The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, [and] stood up. 9 The princes refrained talking, and laid [their] hand on their mouth. 10 The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. 11 When the ear heard [me], then it blessed me; and when the eye saw [me], it gave witness to me:
In this chapter Job looks back at his life and pines for the “good old days”. One of the great dangers in life is looking back. Jesus warned about this in the gospel of Luke:
[Luk 9:62 KJV] 62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Job longs for times past as those times “when the Almighty was with me…” Now answer the question – is God still with Job? Job might feel abandoned by God because of his circumstances but the fact of the matter is that God is still with Job and God isn’t angry with Job. Negative circumstances are not a reliable indicator as to whether God is displeased with you in some way. In reading the first two chapters of Job we can see that God considered Job a good man and was not disapproving of him.
The trial came to Job because he lived in a fallen environment and was vulnerable to assault because of unreasoning fear. The enemy always wants us to base our understanding of God on outward circumstances that he can manipulate and therefore deceive us as Job is deceived in thinking that God is no longer with him. In Hebrews 13:5 we read “I will never leave you nor forsake you. In hard times and challenging circumstances you cannot go by feelings. Faith does not originate in emotion. Emotionally you may be struggling but faith runs deeper than emotion and is rooted in the confidence that though you are struggling and may not understand why you are going through a particular situation you are confident that God is with you and His word is reliable even though at the present time you are enduring contradictions to it’s promise.
12 Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and [him that had] none to help him. 13 The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. 14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment [was] as a robe and a diadem. 15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet [was] I to the lame. 16 I [was] a father to the poor: and the cause [which] I knew not I searched out. 17 And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.
Job in remembering his past state of blessing and prosperity now goes on to reveal on what basis he thought his blessing came. He feed the poor. He took care of widows. He met the needs of the disabled. Is this why God blessed Job? For all of Job’s benevolence he was still a fallen creature. Good works do not negate the sin condition in our hearts. Consider the words of Isaiah:
[Isa 64:6 KJV] 6 But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
If God’s blessing is predicated on good works or moral excellence then we have no need of a savior. Were you to be a great philanthropist and bestow many blessings upon the disadvantaged – in the court of heaven this would bring you no special status. The only standard of judgment before the throne of God is based on an appeal to His mercy that for us is ultimately found in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you are under pressure and suffering it is very tempting to go back and look at our good works, our tithe record or church attendance. This is the definition of self righteousness – a perceived approach to God based on who we are or what we have done. The opposite of this is struggling with condemnation. We feel as though we are being punished for past wrongs. Looking back either way on our works or our failures is a perspective that denies the cross. To complain that we shouldn’t be struggling because we are a good person ignores the efficacy of the shed blood of Calvary. Likewise to grieve because we feel we are being punished for previous misdeeds does not take into account that we have been forgiven and our sins are cleansed. Sometimes our friends and enemies alike are happy to bring up our past. It is easy to feel as though someone is being punished by God for something from their past life. What about us? The bible teaches that we are born in sin. We are sinners not because we sin but because we are born in sin. The only solution is the new birth. All the good works in our life cannot undo the sin debt of being born an enemy of God. Thus the self righteousness / self condemnation dichotomy is a unified indicator of a lack of understanding of the basis of our approach to God – in the Old Testament through the blood of a sacrificial animal, in the New Testament through faith in the blood of Christ.
18 Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply [my] days as the sand. 19 My root [was] spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. 20 My glory [was] fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand. 21 Unto me [men] gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. 22 After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them. 23 And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide [as] for the latter rain. 24 [If] I laughed on them, they believed [it] not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down. 25 I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one [that] comforteth the mourners.
Job first asserts his righteousness and then states what his expectations were because of his opinion regarding his own goodness. He expected God to be impressed. He expected men to be impressed. He is shocked that anyone could genuinely not believe and readily acknowledge what a good person he actually is. His opinion of himself is so lofty he feels utterly justified to question the faithfulness of God. This is why unbelief is considered transgression because it is rooted in a sense of entitlement that is based on our good opinion of ourselves. This is the thinking that arises from the fall – that men can be like God independent of God and therefore leverage God to act in our behalf. Nothing could be further from the truth. God moves in our lives and shows mercy to us not because of who we are or what we have done but because of who Jesus is and what He did for us 2000 years ago. Because of that fact we cannot expect to earn privilege with God in terms of answered prayer. Likewise we can resist the suggestion of Satan that God will not hear our prayers because of our own failures and shortcomings. God accepts us and hears our prayers because of Jesus regardless of whatever spiritual state we may find ourselves in at the time.
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