What Do I Do Now?

Waiting on God when One has Said all that can be Said.

Job 31:5-6,9-10,13-17,24-30,33-34

 

Tom J. Nettles

 

Here in the finale of Job’s last appeal for a hearing with God, he lays out his case that he is willing to plead with this all-powerful being that seems to be his adversary. He points to the determined way n which he has pursued purity in his moral life, the punctilious care he has given to showing mercy to the needy, and the purposeful detachment he has maintained regarding earthly wealth. Neither his enemies, nor strangers, nor his land, nor his tenants can accuse him of cruelty or a covetous presumptuousness about his possessions. Job wants to bring all these things before the Almighty so that he might see exactly what the charges are against him.

 

I.  Job’s determined pursuit of moral purity – 31:1-12

 

A. Job’s purposeful strategy to avoid any opportunity for lust toward younger women. – 1-4

1. – verse 1 - When Jesus pointed out that to look on a woman in lust was to commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-29), he pointed to the connections that all of our sense have with our depraved affections. Sight is particularly susceptible to hose connections, and for this reason John mentioned the first two elements of the “world” were “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.” (1 John 2:18). Job knew this intuitively and had been given a heightened sense of righteousness by divine grace so that he had made a covenant with his eyes to avoid any gaze that could induce lust.

2. – verses 2, 3 - Even though he might not act upon this lust, Job is aware that God on high knows all his thoughts and will discipline for those internal acts of unrighteousness. Workers of iniquity will at last come to destruction. As surely as we are justified by faith through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, condemnation comes from the conglomeration of unrighteousness that flows from the unrenewed heart. See Revelation 21:8

3. Verse 4 - Job knows that neither thought nor action can pass unknown and uncounted by God.

 

B. Job claims honesty in all his dealings with others – 5-8

1. “If I have walked with falsehood . . . If my step has turned aside from the way” - Job now begins a series of possible conditions that would justly bring about divine judgment on him. About seventeen sections begin with “If I have . . .”. sometimes these “If” clauses contain more than one conceived action. They are followed by what Job would consider a just consequence of retribution. He is setting out in a clear and candid way the propositions of the accepted sin-and-punishment code of the day. He is letting those know who will listen, including God, that he consents to the justice of this code, is willing to be punished in accord with it, but does not see where he has violated it. It is as if he is signing his name to a declaration of innocence—“Here is my signature!”(35)—and puts it before the judge challenging evidence to the contrary. The code to which both he and accusers consent is not wrong, in biblical terms as far as it goes, but it does not take into consideration many other ideas that must be a part of the equation. His friends, ostensibly, do not accept that possibility; Job, however, as has been shown in other chapters knows tat there must be more to take into consideration.

2. After the first conditional statement (5) Job asserts his willingness to bear divine scrutiny on this issue. “Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!”

3. If covetousness or greediness have stuck to him so as to alter his determination for just and generous dealing with others, then he is willing for his labors to go immediately to the benefit of others (7, 8).

 

C. Verses 9-12 - As with younger women, so with married women, Job knows that adultery is a heinous moral perversion worthy of every level of punishment

 

1. verse 9 - He sets up a scenario that apparently, like our own age, was a well-known violation of moral life that had far-reaching implications into the stability of personal and social life and was peculiarly abominable to God. He puts forth a situation in which he has conceived a lust for another man’s wife and fondled it and planned for an execution of his lust at a time of the least possibility of detection.

2. verses 10-12 – Should he have done such a thing he consents to the most severe manifestation of judgment from God by his providence [look at God’s judgment pronounced against David in 2 Samuel 12:11 and false prophets in Jeremiah 8:10), from human courts and for the ultimate ruin of his life both in time and eternity. [See Jesus’ employment of this evaluation of a crime from its susceptibility to human judgment to its condemnation before God in Matthew 5:21, 22].

3. Adultery strikes at the very root of the happiness and stability of society and should be subject to severe human laws. It also violates God’s intention for the demonstration of faithfulness in the abstract for those made in his image. It profanes the image of God and his commitment to his people and will be judged with commensurate penalty at the bar of eternal justice. The invincible commitment of Christ to his bride, the church composed of the people give him in eternity by the Father, is mocked by the committing of adultery. No church should tolerate it among its membership but should insist on repentance and the sincere detestation of such a sin. Job’s abhorrence of this sine is a condemnation of our licentious age and our lax churches.

 

II. In light of his fear of God, Job has not failed to deal in mercy with the needy – 13-23

 

A. He has not mistreated his servants – 13-15

 

1. He presents a case in which, one of his servants might have a just complaint against Job, not in the legitimate role of having authority, but in the relational role of human to human, or even more compelling of fellow servants of God. Paul reminded the masters that “whatever fod anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free” and sets before them the reality, “He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” (Ephesians 6:8, 9).

2. verse 14 -  If his action, and not that of his servant, has been reproachable, then how will he answer God. God sees things without partiality and does not evaluate moral action on the basis of one’s status in human society. We are reminded that James gave severe warning to the rich that did not pay fairly or promptly in dealing with their field-laborers, and the cries of those laborers reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (James 5:4, 5). Job knows of God’s perfect impartiality and has sought to govern his relations accordingly.

3. verse 15 – Job points to creation as the great leveler. One God made us all; one God fashioned us in the womb. How can one creature conduct himself as if he had diminished moral obligations to another creature of the same moral nature, fashioned by God in his own image. Paul appeals even beyond this when he reminded Philemon that his slave, a runaway, should be received “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother” (Philemon 16)

 

B. He has shown special concern to the poor and the fatherless – 16-23

 

1. verses 16-21 – Job mentions the poor, the widow, the orphans, and those with special needs of immediate aid in food and clothing. To each of these cases Job has been conscientiously compassionate, taking from his own table, fleecing his own flock, and refusing to bring a case against the helpless even when a compelling case could have been made [21]. Job knew that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17) and that seeing those that are poorly clothed and lacking in daily food must bring forth generosity to provide for the things of the body. Job’s actions would perfectly coincide with the concern of John who said, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 91 John 3:17).

2. Verse 22 – Job brings an imprecation on himself of great physical pain, if he has not cared for the physical needs of those around him.

3. Verse 23 – Job, even in this time of seeking to find the face of God and present a case before him, shows his exalted conviction of the perfect justice of God and the need to live in healthy fear of his majesty. This has motivated Job in the conscientious attention to mercy and generosity that characterized his life. He shows here his openness to the kind of meeting with God that he will have in just a short while. He knows that had he not shown kindness, compassion, and deference to others, he “could not have face his majesty.”

 

III.  He has avoided idolatry – verses 24-28

 

A. Job, though he had great possessions did not give his trust even to the most precious of these. (24, 25)

1. Again, Job showed an insight that is emphasized by Jesus when he told of a man that had great wealth; this man spoke to himself and said “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be.” Job did not want to be rich while missing the knowledge of God. (Luke 12:19-21)

2.  Warnings against the allurements of riches are abundant in Scripture. The pervasive impact exerted by material possessions gives a false sense of invincibility and satisfaction. Nothing can disturb our future, we think, for we have sufficient means to cover any eventuality. Nothing can inhibit our present good temper for all that can give us secure and pleasant days is readily available. Paul knew that such was the peril of riches and he instructed Timothy, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” Job did not want to substitute riches for true life.

 

B. verses 26-28 - He was not among those enticed to worship the natural order in quest of greater personal gain and pleasure.

1. Job probably was familiar with persons and clans around him that saw nature itself as the great provider of good things, and did not look beyond it to the God of creation. They personified what Paul described in Romans 1 as those that “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Job, though in mysterious distress, would echo Paul’s benediction at the mention of the Creator, “Who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:25)

2. He knew this to be irrational idolatry. He would never engage in the symbolic gesture of worship and adoration of the brilliant and apparently life giving source of material energy to the world as the worshippers of Baal, the Sun-god, would do in kissing the hand.

3. The punishment of this sin should be two-fold. One, the judges of the society should condemn it. Perhaps Job lived as a near descendant of Nahor, thus related to Abraham, but not in a society that would receive the call as a peculiar people and would be inheritors of the promises of the Land and through whom the Messiah would come; but still with sufficient knowledge of the character of the God that gave grace to Noah, and that had taught Terah to fear him (Genesis 11:27ff and 31:53). Job lived in the land of Uz, the name of the first son of Nahor through his wife Milcah. Idolatry was increasing as indicated by the tower of Babel event that had occurred a few generations after Noah (Genesis 10:25; 11). Job, consistent with what would later be the law of the covenant descendants of Abraham, looked upon idolatry as worthy of punishment from civil authorities in light of the distress into which it plunged a society. Two, and more important, and not susceptible to change, is the reality that it is a false way of life, an insult to the only true God, and will be judged by God (Colossians 3:5, 6)

 

IV. Enemies and sojourners have not received evil from Job– 29-32

A. verse 29 - He has not rejoiced at the ruin of his enemies or when their own evil actions have come back to destroy them.

 

B. verse 30 - He has left these that have been malicious toward him completely to divine providence and has not even uttered words that could be construed as vengeful.

 

C. verses 31, 32 - Even those that have been his domestic employees recognize that Job has not turned away the needy or the traveler that stood in need of nourishment and shelter along his way. They are in a peculiarly strategic position to know of Job’s unbounded hospitality, for they have, perhaps, been called on to make sure that such person are cared for in a respectful way. In the spirit of Hebrews 13:2 and from his awareness of the dangers that could accompany travelers that had to weather the outside, Job treated others a he was wont to be treated.

 

V. He has not had a secret life of evil and lived as a hypocrite, nor has his land nor his tenants suffered at his hand – 33, 34, 38-40

A. Though his accusers had accused him of concealing what must obviously be a great sin [20:12], Job claimed that he hid nothing and held nothing illicit near his heart. He was not like Adam [this is a possible translation of what the ESV translates “as others do.”]  who sought to hide behind fig leaves and then blame Eve and even implicate God in his transgression.

 

B. Though have secret sins that they indulge in private because of their fear of neighbors and the loss of reputation if such practices were known in society, Job claimed that he did not live his life in the fear of the multitude or of other families but in the fear of God (34, cf 23). He is not expressing that he is free from sin, for he recognizes his weakness and God’s strength, his corruption and God’s absolute holiness, but he argues that he is not consciously holding on to some darling sin; nor is he hiding some evil of he is consciously aware. He is not being duplicitous; what he is in soul, he is before all.

 

C. He has not taken land unfairly, nor has abused the land upon which he has depended for the sustenance of himself and his family, a well as all the various persons for whom he has cared through the years. He understands the necessity of a Sabbath rest for the land, and probably has rotated fields in planting and allowing to lie fallow.

 

D. Unlike Ahab later who coveted and then stole Naboth’s vineyard and killed Naboth, Job has not coveted the land of others or eaten the food produced by those that farm his land as tenants without giving the proper recompense for its consumption. Much less ha he ever taken measures to take away their life either directly, or by dominating that which they have produced for themselves.

 

E. If he has done unjustly in any of these areas then he submits to the legitimacy of a curse upon his land to grow thorns instead of wheat and foul weeds instead of barley. The sin of Adam originally brought this curse on the land (Genesis 3:17-19) and Job submits to the personal curse on his land as proper due for his personal sin, if indeed any of these things, which he denied, be so.

 

VI. Interrupting his narrative because of the frustration building up within him, Job calls for an opportunity to defend himself before God – 35-37. Since he is driving toward this call as a culmination of his defense, we treat it as a finale, rather than in the place it appears. The intensity of Job’s call and the drama of the literary effect of the writing in placing it as a pent up exclamation should not be lost in this rearrangement.

 

A. 35 a – Job’s entire narrative is a testimony to his keen sense of the character of God and his awareness that God knows all that he does and will always render a just judgment. It is ironic, therefore that he calls, “Oh that I had one to hear me!” He presents as it were, verbally, a petition signed by himself requesting an audience with this God whose presence cannot be escaped.

 

B. 35 b – In light, however, of all that Job has presented as his case for innocence and thus free of performing those things that should surely bring judgment, he wants God, who appears to be his adversary, to put in writing all the things for which he is being called to account.

 

C. When God gives him a clear list of the offenses for which he has had to endure this grievous test, Job will make sure that every one of the accusations is considered fully and carefully. “I will bind it on my as a crown.” As Job cried in 10:2, “Let me know why you contend against me.”

 

D. The disadvantage of the unknown has made Job tentative and perplexed. But, so he believes, when he knows the precise things for which God had called him to account, he will be able to function with greater confidence and more forthrightness. “I would give him an account of all my steps, like a prince I would approach him.”

 

VII. Job has now said all that he possibly can say about this matter as it stands. He has listened to those that have examined the peculiar providence and have concluded that Job is reaping wrath for a life of folly, selfishness, cruelty, and secret sin. This has all been exacerbated by his refusal to admit and repent. Job has looked squarely in the face of these accusations, examined his own conduct and his own heart, and contends to the end that the viewpoint of these three friends is wrong. Their theology is inadequate and their accusations insensitive cruel, and mere platitudinous cant.. He calls for God to be simultaneously his defender, his ransom, his accuser, and his judge. He knows of nothing more to say.

 

VIII. Lessons from Job to be in the process of contemplating. These will be repeated in future lessons.

A.  Embrace and absorb into your central spiritual world view that Providence and Redemption are no less in the control of God and under his ultimate purpose than was the immediate operation of creation. Wisdom always resides in submission to the divine will.

 

B. The driving passion of our lives should be a reverent and filial fear of God that leads to discernment and enjoyment of the attributes of God.

 

C. Don’t allow some knowledge of God and his ways to drive you to arrogance, judgmentalism, and sinful over-confidence. We must not retreat from what we know to be true, but must also realize that other dimensions of present knowledge will constantly flow into our heads and hearts.

 

D. We must value spiritual knowledge and holiness of life above all earthly advantage. If God will teach us more of Himself and his purity through the loss of what can be lost then the loss is a great advantage.

 

E. While maintaining integrity in individual cases as each relates to the judgment of men, we must submit to God’s prerogative to design any event for our overall sanctification. True godliness always involves resignation.

 

F. Be thankful for the progressive nature of revelation—learn to admire the divine wisdom in the gradually unfolding of layer upon layer of truth—as well as the immediate perfection of the redemptive action of God.

 

G. We should contemplate the importance of the question, “How can a man, sinfully despicable from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head, be in the right before God?” Where will we find a ransom? Of what honor must such a ransom be?