24 “If I have made gold my trust
or called fine gold my confidence,
25 if I have rejoiced because my wealth was abundant
or because my hand had found much,
26 if I have looked at the sun when it shone,
or the moon moving in splendor,
27 and my heart has been secretly enticed,
and my mouth has kissed my hand,
28 this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges,
for I would have been false to God above.
29 “If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me,
or exulted when evil overtook him
30 (I have not let my mouth sin
by asking for his life with a curse),
31 if the men of my tent have not said,
‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’
32 (the sojourner has not lodged in the street;
I have opened my doors to the traveler),
33 if I have concealed my transgressions as others do
by hiding my iniquity in my heart,
34 because I stood in great fear of the multitude,
and the contempt of families terrified me,
so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors—
35 Oh, that I had one to hear me!
(Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
I would bind it on me as a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
like a prince I would approach him.
38 “If my land has cried out against me
and its furrows have wept together,
39 if I have eaten its yield without payment
and made its owners breathe their last,
40 let thorns grow instead of wheat,
and foul weeds instead of barley.” – Job 31:24-40 ESV
Job continues his list of hypothetical if-then scenarios in an attempt to strengthen his claim of innocence. He produces a lengthy and wide-ranging catalogue of potential infractions that would warrant some kind of judgment from God. He is basically challenging his friends to come up with one solid piece of evidence that might provide proof of their charges of guilt. “If I am guilty,” Job says, “then God can punish me accordingly.”
But the obvious inference behind Job’s little speech is that he has done nothing wrong. He goes out of his way to list petty “crimes” that everyone commits everyday without suffering the kinds of loss he has faced. He is not trying to minimize the gravity of these “lesser” sins; he is simply pointing out their ubiquitous nature. Whether it’s the sin of lusting after another man’s wife or the mistreatment of household servants, Job claims that his hands are clean. He also demands that he is innocent of neglecting the poor and needy.
“No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father,
and all my life I have cared for widows.” – Job 31:18 NLT
He asserts that these kinds of selfish actions are commonplace and yet no one seems to incur the level of judgment that he has had to face. What makes matters worse is that he has refrained from doing these kinds of things and has still lost everything.
Job is demanding proportional justice. He is asking that his punishment match his crime. If he has committed a sin worthy of God’s wrath, then it seems only fair that his judgment be balanced and equitable. He is willing to accept God’s verdict but only asks that it be in keeping with whatever wrong he has committed.
“If I raised my hand against an orphan,
knowing the judges would take my side,
then let my shoulder be wrenched out of place!
Let my arm be torn from its socket!
That would be better than facing God’s judgment.
For if the majesty of God opposes me, what hope is there?” – Job 31:21-23 NLT
From Job’s perspective, his punishment has been disproportional to any sin he may have committed. This once wealthy man was now impoverished and destitute. Yet he declares that he never put his trust in money or gloated over his superior financial status. So, what would have caused God to take away all his material possessions?
Had Job been guilty of idolatry, worshiping the sun, moon, or stars in place of God Almighty, the judges of his community would have dealt with him severely. There were already laws and punishments in place for just such infractions. But what he suffered was far worse than any punitive measures an earthly judge would have meted out.
When Job looked back on all the disasters he had endured, he could more readily accept their occurence if he had been guilty of wishing that same fate on one of his enemies.
“Have I ever rejoiced when disaster struck my enemies,
or become excited when harm came their way?” – Job 31:29 NLT
The answer was, “No!” Job claims to have never wished ill-will on anyone. Yet, he was forced to endure a litany of devastating disasters that had left him nothing. That is the part he was wrestling to understand. He was willing to accept any and all punishment as long as it was deserved. But he could think of nothing he had done that was worthy of the kind of pain and suffering he had endured.
He had not lived a secret life, clandestinely committing his sins behind closed doors and hiding his indiscretions from the eyes of others.
“Have I tried to hide my sins like other people do,
concealing my guilt in my heart?
Have I feared the crowd
or the contempt of the masses,
so that I kept quiet and stayed indoors?” – Job 31:33-34 NLT
Job wasn’t a hypocrite or a pretender. He couldn’t be accused of being a fraud or an impostor. His former life as an outstanding pillar of the Uz community had been anything but a sham. His righteousness had not been a cleverly crafted veneer designed to hide a secret life of sin and shame. He was exactly what he appeared to be. And yet, he had lost everything.
All Job is asking for is a fair trial. The vigilante justice of his three friends was wearing then and he longed for an opportunity to stand before God and defend himself from all their false accusations.
“If only someone would listen to me!
Look, I will sign my name to my defense.
Let the Almighty answer me.
Let my accuser write out the charges against me.” – Job 31:35 NLT
As far as Job could tell, no one had come up with a single piece of evidence that proved his guilt or adequately explained his losses. If they could produce the crime, Job would “wear it like a crown” (Job 31:36 NLT). In other words, he was so confident in his own innocence that he would take their indictment into the throne room of God and boldly give a defense of all his actions. But their accusations were all speculative and unspecific. They were forced to guess because they didn’t know the facts. But Job did and he was confident that God would decide in his favor.
Job was willing to accept punishment – if he was guilty. But that was the rub. He did not believe he had done anything to deserve what he had suffered. His judgment was way out of proportion to any sin he could have committed, and he firmly and consistently denied having done anything wrong at all.
There is little doubt that Job longed for relief from his pain and suffering. But his greatest desire was to have the integrity of his name restored. His reputation had been ruined, and it didn’t help that his three friends continued to drag his name through the mud as they hurled unsubstantiated rumors and allegations against him. None of this was done in a vacuum. This was a public trial that placed Job in the awkward position of being the “celebrity” defendant whose entire life was put on display for all to see. Rumors ran rampant. Gossip made its way through the streets of Uz as everyone debated the guilt or innocence of this former icon of the community.
This entire scene brings to mind another man who suffered unjust treatment at the hands of his fellow citizens. In this case, it was King David, as he fled from Jerusalem because his son, Absalom, had staged a coup and taken over the throne. As David and his royal retinue made their way out of the city in shame, he was met with a less-than-favorable reaction from one of his own citizens.
As King David came to Bahurim, a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. He threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him. “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!” – 2 Samuel 16:5-8 NLT
David’s companions offered to kill Shimei for his mistreatment of the former king, but David restrained them. Instead, he took a more reasoned reaction to the reproach of Shimei.
“Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” – 2 Samuel 16:11-12 NLT
David was willing to leave the matter in God’s hands. He was able to see the entire affair through the lens of God’s sovereignty. David had a firm belief that God was behind all that happened in his life. That doesn’t mean the pain wasn’t real or that Shimei’s words didn’t hurt. In fact, David would later record the state of his feelings at that very moment.
O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!” Interlude
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain. – Psalm 3:1-4 NLT
David went on to say that, despite the negative nature of his circumstances, he was able to sleep at night because he knew he was under the watchful gaze of God.
…the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side. – Psalm 3:5-6 NLT
Job demanded resolution and restoration. He would not be happy until his lot in life had been remedied and his former lifestyle had been reinstated. But David was content to accept his situation and rest in the sovereign will of his all-knowing and ever-watchful God. This doesn’t mean that David didn’t desire rescue or vindication. He makes that point perfectly clear.
Arise, O Lord!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May you bless your people. – Psalm 3:7-8 NLT
David didn’t waste time arguing his innocence or allowing the false attacks of his “ten thousand enemies” to get him down. He kept trusting in the Lord and patiently waiting on Him to set things right. He had full assurance that God would ultimately avenge him and all his enemies would get what they deserved. But in the meantime, he was able to sleep peacefully and wait patiently for God’s will to be done.
Job was having a difficult time resting in the will of God. He was far from content with his circumstances and less than willing to trust God to determine the outcome. It’s doubtful that Job was getting a lot of restful sleep, and it seems obvious that he didn’t share David’s view of God’s watchful and protective care. He felt abandoned by God. He believed he had received unfair treatment at the hands of God. And it’s hard to imagine Job saying, “you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high” (Psalm 3:3 NLT). But in time, he will come to see things from David’s perspective and learn to see God as a friend and not a foe.
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.