1 Then Job answered and said:
2 “Truly I know that it is so:
But how can a man be in the right before God?
3 If one wished to contend with him,
one could not answer him once in a thousand times.
4 He is wise in heart and mighty in strength
—who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?—
5 he who removes mountains, and they know it not,
when he overturns them in his anger,
6 who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
7 who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
8 who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
9 who made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
10 who does great things beyond searching out,
and marvelous things beyond number.
11 Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
12 Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” – Job 9:1-12 ESV
Job was convinced of his own innocence but he wasn’t quite sure how to state his case before God Almighty. Bildad had brought up the topic of God’s justice and Job took no issue with his friend’s assessment. His only point of contention was with Bildad’s insistence that he “seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy” (Job 8:5 ESV). That all sounded well and good but how was a mere man to come before the God of the universe and hope to stand a chance of declaring his own innocence? Despite his strong belief in his innocence, Job asked, “…how can a person be declared innocent in God’s sight?” (Job 9:2 NLT).
Eliphaz had boldly proclaimed, “If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him” (Job 5:8 NLT). But Job insists that Eliphaz’s confident assertion is easier said than done.
“Yes, I know all this is true in principle.
But how can a person be declared innocent in God’s sight?
If someone wanted to take God to court,
would it be possible to answer him even once in a thousand times?
For God is so wise and so mighty.
Who has ever challenged him successfully?” – Job 9:2-4 NLT
Job found it easy to confront and contradict his two friends, but to hope to stand before God and demand a fair trial was something he couldn’t fathom. He was more than confident debating Eliphaz and Bildad; after all, they were only human and were hampered by their unenlightened, earth-bound perspectives. But God is all-wise and all-knowing. As the sovereign God of the universe, He “is wise in heart and mighty in strength” (Job 9:4 ESV). How was Job supposed to come before God and hope to stand any chance of arguing his case with any success? He pessimistically concedes, “Who has ever challenged him successfully?” (Job 9:4 NLT).
In this doleful response to the counsel of his friends, Job reveals the extent of his reverence and awe for God. He displays a strong understanding of God’s sovereignty but it is tinged with a hint of resignation. For Job, God was a distant and disembodied deity who was to be feared. There is no sense of intimacy or personal friendship expressed in Job’s description of God. In his mind, God was the “unmoved mover,” a phrase coined by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. He wrote, “…there must be an immortal, unchanging being, ultimately responsible for all wholeness and orderliness in the sensible world” (Sach, Job. “Aristotle: Metaphysics”. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.).
Job’s concept of God was that of an invisible, all-powerful deity who created the universe and was fully capable of doing with it whatever He wanted to do.
“Without warning, he moves the mountains,
overturning them in his anger.
He shakes the earth from its place,
and its foundations tremble.
If he commands it, the sun won’t rise
and the stars won’t shine.” – Job 9:5-7 NLT
Job was awed by God’s power but not comforted by God’s presence in his life. He could not conceive of this great God giving him the time of day or listening to his pleas of innocence. Job couldn’t fathom why the One who hung the stars in the heavens and maintained the order of the entire universe would ever bother to care about someone as insignificant and unimportant as him.
Job’s humility is to be admired but it reveals a woeful understanding of the nature of God. His concept of God, while accurate, is incomplete. He has no idea just how much God loves and cares for him. Like his two friends, Job is blind to what is going on in the unseen realms. He is oblivious to the conversation that God had with Satan, in which the Almighty declared His pleasure with him.
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” – Job 1:8 ESV
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” – Job 2:3 ESV
Job seems to believe that his all-powerful God has no time for or interest in him. This “unmoved mover” is too busy caring for the universe to take note of some insignificant human living in the land of Uz. Job admits that God “does great things too marvelous to understand” (Job 9:10 ESV), but he concludes that God is too busy to deal with his petty problems or listen to his pleas for assistance.
Job displays an all-too-familiar concept of God that is shared by far too many believers today. This idea of a great God in the sky who has no time or interest in the billions of helpless, hopeless earth-bound creatures scurrying across the planet is alive and well today – even among professing believers. We may pray to this God, but we don’t actually believe He hears or will answer. We give lip service to His grace and goodness but live as if He is too distant or disinterested in what is going on in our lives to do anything about it. He may help others but He probably won’t help us. He keeps the lights of the universe on but He’s too busy to do anything about the darkness enveloping our lives. This pessimistic perception of God is all too prevalent in today’s world and fully embraced by many who would declare themselves to be faithful God followers.
And these very same people would wholeheartedly agree with the gloomy perception of Job.
“…when he comes near, I cannot see him.
When he moves by, I do not see him go.
If he snatches someone in death, who can stop him?
Who dares to ask, ‘What are you doing?’” – Job 9:11-12 NLT
But this one-dimensional view of God is unbiblical, inaccurate, and unhelpful. It paints a distorted view of God that is unmerited and diminishes His glory. The Scriptures paint a starkly different image of God.
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
The righteous person faces many troubles,
but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. – Psalm 34:17-19 NLT
The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
The Lord protects all those who love him… – Psalm 145:17-20 NLT
God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! – Psalm 46:1-3 NLT
Job didn’t have access to these truths. He had no Bible to open up and read about the goodness of God, so his entire understanding of God was based on his own experience. He was confined to judging God based on circumstantial evidence. In looking at his life, Job could remember a day when he was blessed by God. He had enjoyed good health, financial success, and the joy of a happy home life. His God was good and so was his life. But then, in a moment’s time, all that changed. He lost everything. The blessings were replaced with curses that were unbearable and inexplicable. He couldn’t understand what was going on but was firm in his belief that he had done nothing to deserve such a fate.
In hopeless resignation and spurred on by the unhelpful counsel of his two friends, Job began to draw unhealthy conclusions about God that would do more harm than good. He could only conceive of God as a righteous and unapproachable judge who had no patience or time to hear the petty complaints of a mere human. Job wanted to defend himself and testify to his own innocence but didn’t believe he would get a fair hearing. His faulty view of God left him in a state of resentment and frustration because he couldn’t imagine the “unmoved mover” being moved by his plight or persuaded by his pleas of innocence. And his growing resignation will result in an ever-increasing sense of despair that, left unchecked, will turn into disdain and doubt.
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.