We are living in troubled times. Pandemics, divisive government, crime, economic instability, make the list and the list goes on and on and on. It is very easy to feel picked on by the world! It makes one wonder who’s the blame for all of this chaos? Yet our God gave us His Word to find comfort and to use for advice on how to live in this world. To find the answers, let’s go to the master of troubled times, Job. We can look to see what our God told him when everything around him was in chaos.
The Book of Job is appropriate because it is a story about God and Satan. Job’s story reminds us that Satan cannot bring financial and physical destruction on anyone without the permission of God. It does remind us that Satan exists in our world. Yet, God holds the power over what Satan can and cannot do. It is beyond our human ability to understand why there is suffering and chaos in the world. Yes, we are assured that the wicked will receive their just dues someday. But it is hard to grasp the concept that suffering may sometimes be allowed in our lives by God for a purpose to purify, test, teach, or strengthen our souls.
(Job 36:17-23)1NIV New International Version Translations– “But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you. Be careful that no one entices you by riches; do not let a large bribe turn you aside. Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts sustain you so you would not be in distress? Do not long for the night, to drag people away from their homes. Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction. ‘God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?”
Job was a righteous person. He lived in obedience to God’s Laws. Job’s problems began with his health, an immune deficiency called Scables. The disease produced widespread pain, confusion, skin eruptions, probably a lung infection and bilious vomiting. He then lost just about everything; his sheep, his oxen, his camels, his servants, his home and all of his sons and daughters but remarkably he did not lose his faith in God. God had taken away all he had except his wife and his wife was busy telling him to “curse God and die.” Job’s response was to bless the name of the Lord. Job’s friends try to help. His comfort came from four people: Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bildad, Job’s three main comforters, and from Elihu. Elihu’s insights differed from Job’s other three advisors. In all of his troubles, Job held the position that he had not sinned or blamed God! He blessed God’s name, he worshiped God, and he did not sin. Rather than going along with the idea that his suffering was a punishment for his sinful actions, Elihu concentrated on Job’s reaction to his undeserved suffering. Job’s justification had turned into self-righteousness and that was his sin before God. Job had become judgmental. Self-righteous judgment, Job’s opinion of himself, had placed Job above God’s own authority over the world.
(James 4:11-12) – “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[a] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Elihu thought Job needed to be cautioned about his judgmental attitude because he has chosen to gratify his own pride. Job was taking up his opinion directly with God. By questioning the justice and purpose of God’s ways, Job was demonstrating a perverse kind of pride. Elihu told Job that he should recognize his suffering as “charitable discipline” that would lead to his reconciliation with God. Elihu showed Job that he was the cause of his continued trouble. Elihu cautioned Job not to persist in his stubborn and headstrong position with God. Elihu reminded Job that even good men need to be kept in line by remembering to fear God’s wrath. And how did God finally respond to Job?
(Job 38:2-4) – “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.”
Elihu extended his caution to the concept of bribery (a ransom). No amount of wealth was going to place Job equal to or above God. For us today, even the payment made by Jesus of remove our sin, reconciling us with God still requires more: the humility of repentance on our part. There is no room for sin including the sin of a prideful heart. If you want the protections of Jesus then leading a humble and repentant life is a requirement. Human pride can blind us from the power of our God. Yet God is the best teacher because He is the builder too. Pride casts dispersions on the very ability and reasoning of our God.
Being judgmental is an essential trait to human survival. People need to distinguish between good and bad; right and wrong; and what is true and false. Judgment is part of everyday living. However, the business of judgment can be taken too far when we choose to take up our argument directly with God. When humans become preoccupied with being the judge and jury, they attempt to usurp God’s role over our world. Elihu’s advice to Job, let the unjust, the judgmental, continue their quarrels with God. Job’s task was to never think so favorably of sin, or indulge in any of it. The sin of pride is a slippery slope as the Apostle Paul so eloquently stated in Romans:
(Romans 1:18-25) – “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
Isn’t it absurd for people to try to tell God what right behavior looks like? Worse yet, argue with God about anything? God is the Master Creator of Light, Matter, Truth, Knowledge, and Life itself! And how did God do all these things? As the Master Builder, He commanded our world into existence through His Words. Even today, God directs us through the Bible. Do God’s Words have power? God spoke the world into existence, and He is up to the task to take care of it. God’s Word, best book ever written, also teaches us the way through life by getting to know His Son, Jesus. With supplication, we then are armed with the strength and courage to suffer and wait while we ask for relief. If we’re truly humble, we will ask in faith and continue to believe even when life doesn’t turn out like we had hoped (James 1:5-8). When we’re humble before God, we can acknowledge our sinful condition as well as God’s holiness. Who’s in charge anyway? God’s in charge and we shouldn’t presume to understand God’s overarching plans.
- Where do you see examples in our world today of people trying to negotiate with God?
- Ideas to Explore: The definition of sin, the definition of life, what God must be like?
- Where do you see examples of self-righteousness at work in our world?
- Ideas to Explore: Business? Politics? Media? Sports? Etc.
- When things are not going well, how should we guard against becoming judgmental?
- Ideas to Explore: Testing against God’s Truth? Seeking God’s wisdom through prayer? Using the Bible?
- What is the difference between being judgmental and judging against God’s Truth?
- Ideas to Explore: To know God’s Truth requires one to remove all personal opinion, bias, preconceived notions, and then search for the Truth. How do we do that?
- Judgement is against another person, reflection and repentance are personal. How do these differ?
- Ideas to Explore: Doesn’t being judgmental eventually find something wrong with everyone but you? Isn’t that why we need God to sort out His Truth?
- Introspection, the ability to make an honest appraisal of a situation requires humility. What are the ways you can protect yourself from believing you know more than God?
- Ideas to Explore: If God has placed you in a hard position, how will you learn from it? How often do you search God’s Word for answers? Is prayer an active part of your daily life?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations