Today: [Job Thirteen] May We Rightly Question God? In this chapter Job continues his reply to Zophar who has attacked him savagely. Job insists that he is upright. He insists that his punishment is no indication that he is in sin or guilty in anyway. In frustration we will see Job command his 3 friends to be silent and then Job turns and demands an audience in the courts of heaven to make the case before God regarding what a just and godly person he is. When we cry out “why God” in the midst of struggle we join with Job in a veiled accusation that somehow God should not be subjecting us to situations we don’t appreciate or understand. In this chapter we will see the viability of this approach in prayer and what the godly alternative would be.
[Job 13:1-28 KJV] 1 Lo, mine eye hath seen all [this], mine ear hath heard and understood it. 2 What ye know, [the same] do I know also: I [am] not inferior unto you. 3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God. 4 But ye [are] forgers of lies, ye [are] all physicians of no value. 5 O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom. 6 Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips. 7 Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him? 8 Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? 9 Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye [so] mock him? 10 He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons.
In chapter 13 Job continues to answer Zophar, the third of his friends to speak out against him in his suffering. Zophar is even more outspoken and critical than Bildad and Eliphaz – insisting that Job is presumptuous in protesting how righteous he is and that Job is arrogant in his demand that God explain why he is suffering so. Job answers Zophar with great sarcasm in the previous chapter and continues in chapter 13 declaring to Zophar that he doesn’t know anymore than Job himself does. Job further pronounces that he is not inferior to Zophar or to the other two critics.
Although not commendable but it is understandable that under pressure Job lashes out at his friends who have criticized him so viciously. However, Job does not stop there. In verse 3 Job steps over the line of propriety and not only wants to make his complaint about his friends but now wants to contend with God. Speaking almost as a defense attorney Job is demanding his day in the court of heaven to make the case for how unjust it is that he suffer so. He tells his friends he is not inferior to them but now insists that now he wants to confront God Himself and reason with the Almighty in order to justify Himself.
11 Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you? 12 Your remembrances [are] like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay. 13 Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what [will]. 14 Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand? 15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. 16 He also [shall be] my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him. 17 Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears. 18 Behold now, I have ordered [my] cause; I know that I shall be justified. 19 Who [is] he [that] will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.
In verse 11 Job denounced his friends for presuming to speak for God. His friends maintain that Job is guilty and based on his own sense of self righteousness Job insists that they can’t be speaking for God because God knows the truth therefore God knows Job is just and not guilty of what his friends accuse him of. Job condemns his friends asking them with great incredulity that if they had any fear of God how could they possibly suggest that Job was anything other than a godly person? Knowing that they will not listen to him we see in verse 13 Job tells his friends after listening to all their denunciations to be quiet and just let the judgment of God come. He wants all his accusers to “shut up” and let him make his case before God Himself.
In this remark we see that Job persists in his belief that it is God and not the devil that is tormenting him. In verse 15 we read an often quoted verse that for all it’s power nonetheless strongly reflects Job’s misunderstanding about what he is going through: “Though he slay me, yet I will trust him…” Job’s friends are convinced he suffers because he is in sin. Job himself believes that God is causing his suffering in spite of how righteous he is. Job and his friends do not have the benefit of the behind the scenes look we have in Job ch. 1 and 2 that show without disputation that God was not the originator of Job’s suffering.
Job insists that he is not guilty and for whatever reason God has failed him in being reliably good – Job will trust God no matter what. He accuses God of not maintaining His own faithfulness while insisting that he himself will remain faithful. This is a veiled accusation by which Job is suggesting that not only are his friends wrong but God is wrong and unfair as well. Job thinks God is intending to slay or kill him. Is God’s purpose to kill Job? Is that consistent with his nature? Jesus, testifying about His Father states the following:
[Jhn 10:10 KJV] 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.
We can see by the assertions of John 10:10 according to Jesus Himself that God doesn’t steal, kill or destroy. Job in the pathos of his suffering is misled in thinking that his suffering originates with God however authoritative his voice of suffering and anguish may seem. In verse 16 Job declares that sooner or later God will exonerate him because Job is not a hypocrite. In other words, Job is saying that God will give him what he (Job) thinks he has coming to him. Is this how we are to pray? Do we approach God from the perspective of religious performance and expect God to bless us because we have been compliant with (what we think) is His revealed will? In Luke 18 Jesus speaks of the Pharisee and the Publican who come to pray. The Pharisee points out to God that he is more righteous than the publican and erroneously believes he goes home justified. The publican’s prayer is much different:
[Luk 18:13 KJV] 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
This is the prayer that God answers – a prayer for mercy. Job is insisting, in fact demanding that God exonerate him on the basis of his upright behavior. Job is incorrect in expecting God to acknowledge him self-righteousness. God is gracious not because we buy his love with religious performance but because we like the publican realize we are helpless and without an answer before a righteous God and simply ask Him for mercy.
20 Only do not two [things] unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee. 21 Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid. 22 Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me. 23 How many [are] mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin. 24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy? 25 Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble? 26 For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth. 27 Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet. 28 And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth eaten.
Job cries out to God to lift His hand of unjust punishment from him so they can have a conversation, a debate about how wrong it is for Job to suffer in the first place. In v. 22 he asks God to give him a chance to speak for himself and then God can answer and (v. 23) explain to Job where he is wrong or where he deserves the suffering he is going through. In all of this Job does not hesitate for one moment to consider that perhaps it isn’t God at all plaguing him. Instead he rails on God like a highly skilled defense attorney maintain his own innocence and insisting that God should not be tormenting him so bitterly.
We can empathize so much with Job. He is in pain. He is grieving the death of loved ones. His wife has denounced him. His friends rejected him. Nonetheless his anguish does not justify a hypocrite’s approach to the throne on the basis of religious performance or perceived moral excellence. Our righteousness however lofty does not give us standing before God. Our only resort to God at any point in life’s narrative is to come to Him crying out for undeserved mercy that He will surely demonstrate to those that love Him.
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