The question made me chuckle because, as I’ve often stated (either here or elsewhere, I’m not sure), I don’t have a favorite anything. I can’t decide on a favorite color, favorite movie, favorite book, song, food, or anything else. When someone asks, “What’s your favorite __________,” I usually try to weasel out of answering.
But I didn’t this time—because for once, I knew what to say! The answer I gave isn’t really my all-time favorite Bible verse ever (because there is no such thing). But I’d been thinking about a particular verse recently and the truth it conveys, so I declared it my favorite at the time.
The fact is, I’d not only been thinking about that verse, but I’ve been contemplating another passage in the same book and thinking I might blog about it. So here I am, finally breaking my long blog silence, for better or for worse.
If I had a favorite book of the Bible, Job would be in the running. It’s one of the most mind-blowing, multi-layered sources of immeasurably deep wisdom I’ve ever encountered. Every time I read it, which is once or twice a year, it takes my breath away all over again.
Many Bible scholars believe it to be the oldest (first written) book in the Bible, with Job having lived in the same time frame as Abraham. Whether or not that’s true, there’s no disputing that it was written thousands of years ago.
Modern man likes to think of himself as more intelligent and sophisticated than the primitives of old – more “evolved,” in today’s lingo. The thinking is that people used to be cruder than today, with less sensitivity, more violent. I might be wrong about this, but I get the impression the prevailing attitude is that the ancients weren’t all that bright but—to give them the benefit of the doubt—did the best they could with their limited intellectual and moral capacities.
A serious look at the book of Job reveals the opposite. The portion that arrested my attention recently is Chapter 31. Because it’s rather long, I won’t reproduce the whole text here, but if you’re interested, hop over to Bible Gateway where you can read it in its entirety. This link will take you to it in the King James Version, but if you prefer a different one, you can change it once you’re there.
To refresh your memory (or fill you in if you’re not aware of what’s going on here): Job was a wealthy, influential guy, considered an exceptionally righteous man by everyone. But when Satan accused him of only being good in order to get good things from God, God told Satan he could make things go badly for him just to prove that Job’s faith was real.
Long story short, Satan made things go very badly for Job, until he was left with nothing but a body full of sores and a less-than-supportive wife who advised him to curse God so He’d kill him and put an end to his misery.
He also had a few friends left. Though apparently most abandoned him in his hour of need, three guys who heard about his misfortunes traveled quite a distance to come and comfort him. A fourth—a young man named Elihu—makes an appearance as well, though I’m not sure if he was a local fellow or if he came from afar.
In any event, these guys are no more helpful than his dear wifey. They accuse him of hideous crimes and urge him to repent. They haven’t a shred of evidence to support any of their charges, but they assume he must deserve everything that happened to him, or God wouldn’t have allowed it; because he’s suffering so, he must be hiding some terrible secrets. They say, “Come on, man, out with it! Confess your sins, and God will forgive and restore you!”
But nothing’s ever that simple, is it? Job knows he’s been honest before God and man his whole life. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he does know it’s not the result of anything he’s done wrong. He tries to reason with his so-called friends, but to no avail.
In answer to their charges, he says (and I’m condensing and paraphrasing):
I made up my mind long ago not to ogle a woman. Why do you accuse me of lusting? I’m not so foolish as to think God wouldn’t know about it and hold me accountable. If I’ve been dishonest in this or any other way, may God reveal it. Let others steal food off my table and banish my offspring from the land.
If I’ve been tempted by a woman or been drawn to my neighbor’s wife, then let another man take my wife as a slave. For it would be a heinous crime for me to lust after another woman.
If I treated my employees unfairly and ignored their complaints, how could I stand before God? If I’ve withheld what’s owed to anyone, if I’ve allowed others to go hungry or cold when I had the means to help them, if I haven’t given of my own goods to help those in need, then let my selfish arm fall from my body.
If I’ve put my confidence in money instead of God’s providence—if I’ve taken pride in my possessions—if I were ever so much as tempted to worship anything above Jehovah God—this would be worthy of severe punishment.
If I ever wished ill to those who hated me, it would be a sin to be repented of. If I have ever taken anything that wasn’t mine, or caused any harm to anyone, then let thistles grow in my fields instead of wheat and noxious weeds instead of barley.
I’ve said all I have to say and will speak no more.
Did you catch what he said was a “heinous crime”? Being attracted to a woman who was not his wife. Heinous. Criminal. How does our enlightened society see it?
Does the average person today think dishonesty demands retribution? How do we feel about treating others unfairly? Do we shrug it off, or convince ourselves it’s no big deal?
Do we wish bad things would happen to people we don’t like? And do we feel justified in doing so? Or do we fall on our faces before God and repent of that sin?
Contemplating this chapter caused me to realize how far we are from God’s holy standard—as if I needed another reminder.
But yes, I think we all need regular reminders of this. When we lose sight of what God’s holiness requires, we grow comfortable with our flawed understanding of righteousness.
It’s also important to realize humanity isn’t evolving into a kinder, gentler organism. We’re all filthy—all of us!—and unable to redeem ourselves. That’s especially important to understand for those who are lost in their sins. But those who are redeemed (saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ) dare not lose sight of what we’ve been saved from as well as the holy lives we are called to.
That old guy Job? He might have been practically a caveman, but he knew some things we moderns have forgotten. Are we too enlightened to learn?