Friday, April 14, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 40, Job Finishes His Defense Testimony

Job has been naming specific sins he hasn't committed and today he concludes his defense. "If I have denied justice to any of my servants, whether male or female, when they had a grievance against me, what will I do when God confronts me? What will I answer when called to account? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One form us both within our mothers?" (Job 31:13-15) Job says, "God does not show favoritism. He cares just as much about my servants as He cares about me. If I had ever treated them unfairly, He would have seen me. He would have stood up for them."

"If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary, if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless---but from my youth I reared them as a father would, and from my birth I guided the widow---if I have seen anyone perishing from lack of clothing, or the needy without garments, and their hearts did not bless me for warming them with the fleece from my sheep, if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, knowing that I had influence in court, then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint. For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of His splendor I could not do such things." (Job 31:16-23) Job's friends have accused him of oppressing the poor, of taking advantage of widows and orphans. He states here that this is not true. He has not kept his wealth only for himself but has fed the hungry and provided clothing to the poor. He says, "If you don't believe me, if you think I have ever raised a hand against the helpless, then may my arm fall off! For fear of the Lord I would never have done such things, not even if it had ever entered my mind. God is on the side of the widow and the orphan. He sees the misery of those who are poor. He would judge me if I mistreated them."

His companions have also accused him of being greedy and of conducting shady business deals. He points out that he has never lived his life in the pursuit of money. He has never cherished money above his relationship with the Lord, nor has he ever worshiped anyone but the Lord. "If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,' if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained, if I have regarded the sun in its radiance or the moon moving in splendor, so that my heart was secretly enticed and my hand offered them a kiss of homage, then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high." (Job 31:24-28)

"If I have rejoiced at my enemy's misfortune or gloated over the trouble that came to him---I have not allowed my mouth to sin by invoking a curse against their life---if those of my household have never said, 'Who has not been filled with Job's meat?"---but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler---if I have concealed my sin as people do, by hiding my guilt in my heart because I so feared the crowd and so dreaded the contempt of the clans that I kept silent and would not go outside---" (Job 31:29-34) Job has never even said, "Aha! It serves my enemy right to have misfortune fall on him!" Between you and me, I'm not sure I could be that noble. But Job is such a good man he can't even enjoy judgment falling on an enemy. He has never shorted his servants their daily food; he has never denied a safe night's sleep to the traveling stranger. He has never allowed peer pressure to convince him not to speak up about something that is wrong. Over and over his friends have accused him of hidden sins, but there simply aren't any. I said earlier in our study of this book that I think Job diligently searched his heart during the first seven days and nights following his tragedies when he didn't speak a word. Like anyone else might do, he tried to figure out if he had somehow brought these awful things on himself. But his spirit testified to him that he had not. The Holy Spirit testified to him that he had not.

"("Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense---let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing. Surely I would wear it on my shoulder, I would put it on like a crown. I would give him an account of my every step; I would present it to him as to a ruler.)---" (Job 31:35-37) Job cries, "Here is my sworn statement! I sign my name to it. Everything in it is true. If anyone can bring charges against me and make them stick, then I will wear them pinned to the shoulder of my robe for all the world to see. If any of these sins can be proven against me, then I will accept my punishment." It was an ancient practice to pin written criminal charges to the shoulder of an accused person as he stood before a judge, or to write the charges on a board and hang the board on a rope around his neck. In cases where a man was convicted of a capital crime, the charges would be written out and nailed to the instrument of death. This is how Jesus came to have a sign hanging above His head on the cross that said "The King Of The Jews".

"If my land cries out against me and all its furrows are wet with tears, if I have devoured its yield without payment or broken the spirit of its tenants, then let briers come up instead of wheat and stinkweed instead of barley." (Job 31:38-40a) Job may have lived before the laws of Leviticus were given out, but he understood the value of allowing the land to rest from time to time. In Leviticus 25 we find a requirement of the Lord to allow the land to have a Sabbath rest every seven years. Nothing was to be planted in the seventh year. A man was to store up enough food for his family and his servants to get them through the Sabbath year. This was also a Sabbath year for the man and his family, his servants, and his tenant farmers. Job observed these regulations whether he had ever heard of them or not. In his spirit, because he lived in such close relationship with the Lord, he knew it was right to allow the land to recover and to allow his workers to enjoy a time of holiday and recreation. Doing nothing but hard work day in and day out, week after week and year after year without any break, will ruin morale faster than anything. It wears a person down. It's depressing. It's bad for the mind and the body. In the same way, never allowing the ground to rest will cause it to lose many of its nutrients. In time the food that grows from it will begin to lack vitamins essential for human health.

Job can think of nothing more to say. He's exhausted. If all these words haven't convinced anyone of his innocence, adding more words to them will not help. "The words of Job are ended." (Job 31:40b) Of course we will hear from Job again, but he has completed his testimony of defense. He now waits for the Lord to answer. But before He does, we will meet a man we didn't even know was listening all this time, and he will be of no more help to Job than his three friends have been. Satan sneaks in one last jab at Job before God steps in and takes over.

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