13 “God will not turn back his anger;
beneath him bowed the helpers of Rahab.
14 How then can I answer him,
choosing my words with him?
15 Though I am in the right, I cannot answer him;
I must appeal for mercy to my accuser.
16 If I summoned him and he answered me,
I would not believe that he was listening to my voice.
17 For he crushes me with a tempest
and multiplies my wounds without cause;
18 he will not let me get my breath,
but fills me with bitterness.
19 If it is a contest of strength, behold, he is mighty!
If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?
20 Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me;
though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.
21 I am blameless; I regard not myself;
I loathe my life.
22 It is all one; therefore I say,
‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When disaster brings sudden death,
he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.
24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;
he covers the faces of its judges—
if it is not he, who then is it?” – Job 9:13-24 ESV
Job clings tenaciously to his claim of innocence but knows that he will have a difficult time proving it in the divine court of law. He is faced with the formidable task of having to present his case before the Judge of the universe and, as far as he can see, his prospects of success are small. Taking the advice of Bildad, Job inquired of bygone ages and considered what the fathers searched out (Job 8:8). He took a look at history and came to the conclusion that God doesn’t always side with the righteous. His ways are not always predictable.
Job makes mention of Rahab, likely a reference to Leviathan, a mythic creature (Job 26:12) that the Jews associated with the sea. Rahab is most often used in Scripture as a reference to the sea and God’s power over it. The God who can control the oceans of the earth cannot be defeated by the rhetoric of mortal men. Job mournfully concludes, “…who am I, that I should try to answer God or even reason with him?” (Job 9:14 NLT).
The oceans bend to the will of God. The creatures of the earth must do His bidding. Nothing and no one can stand before Almighty God, so what hope does Job have of successfully stating his case and receiving justice? Even if he is right, he will be powerless before God. His words of self-defense will prove meaningless, leaving him with no other option than to plead for God’s mercy.
From Job’s perspective, God was the cause of all his troubles, and this conclusion led him to see no hope in arguing his case. As far as Job could see, God had made up His mind and He would not be swayed by some mortal’s pathetic pleas of innocence.
“For he attacks me with a storm
and repeatedly wounds me without cause.
He will not let me catch my breath,
but fills me instead with bitter sorrows.
If it’s a question of strength, he’s the strong one.
If it’s a matter of justice, who dares to summon him to court?” – Job 9:17-19 NLT
At this point in his life, Job’s conception of God had become marred by his circumstances. He saw God as the divine bully in the sky who was using His superior power to taunt a weaker and undeserving victim. Job’s theology had become warped by the recent events of his life. He was viewing God through eyes clouded by tears and a mind heavy with grief. Nothing made sense. God appeared to be uncaring, even callous. Job had reached the conclusion that the justice of God had less to do with righteousness and rightness than it did with His overwhelming power. Job had divorced God’s justice from His goodness. In his grief, Job had decided that the only difference between God and mortal men was His undiminished sovereignty and unaccountability. God answered to no one.
Because Job understood God to be just and right, it didn’t matter what he said. He could claim his innocence but it would do no good. Job could state his case but God would ultimately win any war of words and the divine verdict would be binding and non-negotiable. This pessimistic and defeatist mentality led Job to conclude, “Innocent or wicked, it is all the same to God. That’s why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked’” (Job 9:22 NLT).
But Job was wrong. His conclusions, though heartfelt and sincere, were inaccurate. His understanding of God was flawed, having been heavily influenced by his circumstances. The Scriptures paint a starkly different image of God.
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. – Psalm 18:30 ESV
He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT
“God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.
He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?” – 2 Samuel 22:31-32 NLT
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. – Psalm 84:11 NIV
This last verse is particularly pertinent because it reminds us of God’s previous assessment of Job. The Lord had declared His servant to be “a blameless and upright man” (Job 1:8 ESV). He viewed Job as faithful and a man of integrity. But God had allowed Satan to test Job’s allegiance. The Almighty permitted the enemy to take away all that was near and dear to Job, except his life. Satan had conjectured that Job would turn his back on God if all the blessings of life were removed. And, in a way, it almost seems as if Satan was right.
Job still acknowledges the presence and power of God. He has refrained from following his wife’s advice to curse God and die. But Job does not come across as a man who has a healthy relationship with His Creator. He doesn’t seem to view the ways of God as perfect and favorable. He doesn’t refer to God as his rock, sun, or shield. And while he readily admits that God is just, Job doesn’t describe Him as faithful or fair. In fact, Job’s assessment of God is anything but favorable or optimistic.
“When a plague sweeps through,
he laughs at the death of the innocent.
The whole earth is in the hands of the wicked,
and God blinds the eyes of the judges.
If he’s not the one who does it, who is?” – Job 9:23-24 NLT
What makes this statement so significant is that it comes from the same lips that earlier declared, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10 ESV). Job no longer appears willing to “receive evil” from the hand of God. He has had enough and demands that his innocence be acknowledged and his suffering come to an end. In a way, Job reveals that he knows what is best and is determined to get his way, and the only thing standing in his way is God. Whether he realizes it or not, Job has decided to play god and, in doing so, he has declared war on Yahweh. He has decided that Yahweh is unfair and ultimately, unjust in His dealings with men. Without realizing it, Job has succumbed to the same tactic that Satan used to deceive Eve in the garden. He has bought into the enemy’s tempting offer of autonomy.
“…your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” – Genesis 3:5 NLT
Job’s eyes had been “opened” by the lies of Satan and he believed that he knew what was best for himself. He decided that he was right and God was wrong. Without actually saying it, Job declared that his way would be better than God’s way. His brand of justice would be superior to that of God. His definition of right and wrong was the only one to consider and his preferred outcome was the only one he would accept. But Job had a lot to learn about the justice of God, and he would soon discover that his desperate desire to play god would not improve his circumstances. The solution to his problem was not the removal of all the problems from his life. What he needed most was a healthy understanding of the character of God.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.