Mercy in the midst of the madness
“So how could I ever argue with him, construct a defense that would influence God? Even though I’m innocent I could never prove it; I can only throw myself on the Judge’s mercy.“ – Job 9:14-15 MSG
Imagine yourself in Job’s sandals. How would you have handled all that had happened to this man? He had lost everything, including his health, and now he was being “comforted” by his friends. They have looked at the circumstances of Job’s life and logically, but wrongfully concluded that is all a result of sin – the sins of his children as well as his own. In the middle of a tremendous time of pain, loss, and suffering, Job finds himself having to defend himself against the attacks of his friends. I know they mean well and their conclusions seem logical, even biblical, but they seem to have overlooked a few of the character qualities of God. They stress His justice, but leave out His mercy. They have their God in a box. They have worked out their theology of God and it determines their interpretation of the world. Bildad begins his counseling session with Job with a rhetorical question, “Does God twist justice? Does the Almighty twist what is right?” (Job 8:3 MSG). Of course, the answer is no, so Bildad concludes that what has happened to Job is the result of God’s justice. God is a just and righteous god and is simply dealing with Job’s unrighteousness.
Job’s assumed guilt is what drives the messages of each of his friends. Was Job sinless? No. He is a man living in a fallen world. But God declared him blameless. “The LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil'” (Job 1:8 NASB). Again, Job was not sinless. He was blameless. Lehman Strauss describes Job this way: “Job was known for being faithful. He was not sinless, as the word perfect in verses 1 and 8 might imply. A better word might be blameless, meaning that he was ethically upright, morally above reproach, and religiously devoted to God. Job had a deep and devout reverence for the Lord. His consistent practice was to hold God in highest awe and respect. He was faithful.”
Yet something tragic had taken place in this man’s life. He had suffered tremendous loss. Job’s friends conclude that it is the result of sin. And they are partially right. Anything that happens in this world is the result of sin. It is the result of the fall. We live in a fallen world where sin reigns and even the creation is impacted by the presence of sin. Disasters happen. Earthquakes take place. Wildfires consume thousands of acres and hundreds of lives. And every person living on the planet is exposed to the affects of the fall. Good men and evil men all suffer. Righteous men get cancer. Godly women lose children. Faithful Christ-followers lose their jobs. Innocent children are born into abusive homes. That is life in a fallen world. In his commentary of Job, John Gill states, “Job’s view in saying this is to observe, that a man’s state God-ward is not to be judged of by his outward circumstances, whether he is a good man or a bad man, since they may both be in the same afflictions and distress, and which he opposes to the sentiments and sayings of Eliphaz and Bildad.” We can’t judge based on circumstances alone.
Job’s greatest dilemma was that he couldn’t defend himself. He knew he was innocent. He knew he had done nothing that would have led to this kind of suffering. But how could he prove it. Who was he to argue with God. If he tried, even his words condemn him. He would say something he would regret. How do you argue with a God you can’t even see? How do you stop God from doing what He wants to do? God is just and can do whatever He wants to do. And because He is just, whatever He does is always right. So if God IS doing this to Job, then He must be right and Job must be wrong. But Job knows he is innocent. Do you see his point of frustration? Even if Job accepts his lot in life and puts on a happy face, his friends will never let him live in peace. “Even if I say, ‘I’ll put all this behind me, I’ll look on the bright side and force a smile,’ All these troubles would still be like grit in my gut since it’s clear you’re not going to let up” (Job 9:27-28 MSG).
So what is Job supposed to do? How is he supposed to respond. He appeals to the mercy of God. “I can only throw myself on the Judge’s mercy” (Job 9:15 MSG). Rather than argue with God, he trusts IN God. Rather than defend himself, he decides to let God defend him. Job turns to God as his merciful judge.
…though he is a just God, and a righteous Judge, yet a Saviour; and it is one of the privileges of his people that they can come to him, not only as the God of all grace, and as their God and Father in Christ, but to him as to God the Judge of all, and lay their case before him, and entreat his protection; and this Job chose to do rather than contend with him. – The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible
So what do we do in times of difficulty? Do we turn to God as our righteous, yet merciful God? Do we appeal to His mercy and “entreat His protection”? Or do we try to contend with Him? Job was worn out from suffering. He was beat down from his friends’ words of wisdom. He knew he would lose a war of words with God. So he simply decided to turn to God as his ultimate judge. He knew God was righteous, but he also knew God was merciful. He could trust Him.
Father, life has a way of throwing us curve balls. It doesn’t always work out the way I think it should. We live in a fallen world and are surrounded by sinful people. I sometimes screw up my own life and reap the results of my own stupidity and sinfulness. But I can always come to You as my righteous and merciful judge. And I can rest in the fact that I have someone Who stands before You as my representative – Jesus Christ Himself (Romans 8:34). Thank You for allowing me to come before You. Thank You for Your mercy. Amen