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Questioning God

June 7, 2020 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Job

Topic: Expository Passage: Job 8–10

 

Introduction

There has been a lot of talk within our nation the last couple of weeks about justice and injustice. On one hand, people are outraged that oftentimes our society does not treat people justly based on their character, their actions, and their hard work but instead based on things that they cannot control, like the color of their skin. On the other hand, people are outraged that some are looting property with no consequence.

Our frustration betrays the fact that one of the deepest longings of the human soul is that we want to live in a just world. We want to know that if I do the right things, I’m responsible, I work hard, and I stay out of trouble, that I will be rewarded. We also want to know that evil people will receive just punishment for their crimes.

Turning to Job, at the beginning of Job’s story, his life illustrated the world everyone wants. He lived a righteous, responsible life, and he reaped abundant blessing. That’s how we want it to be. We want to know that we will reap the rewards of righteous living.

But that worldview took a huge gut punch when Job lost everything for no apparent reason. It seemed incredibly unjust. And even more troubling, it contradicted the notion that God guarantees swift justice.

As a result, Job 4–37 is largely a record of man’s attempt to explain injustice. Therefore, they are wrestling with some of the hardest realities of life, and we can relate. Today, we’ll consider chapters 8–10. Bildad takes his first shot at explaining Job’s plight in chapter 8, and Job replies in chapters 9–10. We’ll begin by looking at Bildad’s speech.

I.  Bildad’s Speech (Job 8)

When Eliphaz spoke, he tried to gently argue that Job must have done something wrong to endure such suffering. Bildad will make the same argument, but he is not going to be nearly as gentle. In vv. 1–7 he argues…

God brings swift justice to all people (vv. 1–7). Bildad doesn’t mess around. He immediately compares Job’s words to a “strong wind.” We would say, “You’re full of hot air,” or “You’re just blowing smoke.”

Then in v. 3, Bildad gets right to the point (read). To be fair, the answer to both questions is, “no.” God doesn’t “subvert judgment” or “pervert justice.” God is just. So, Bildad has some decent theology, but in v. 4, he makes an arrogant and heartless application of his theology. He claims that because God is just, Job’s children must have done something to offend God; otherwise, they would not have died prematurely.

That’s not how you comfort a grieving parent. And we know that Bildad is wrong. Job had faithfully offered burnt offerings to atone for his children’s sins, and God told us that Job and his children were not being punished. But Bildad is determined to fit Job’s situation into his worldview. He refuses to admit that God may have a higher purpose in Job’s suffering or that we don’t always receive swift justice.

As a result, in vv. 5–7 he claims that if Job will repent and get right with God, he will surely “prosper your rightful dwelling place.” He even goes so far as to say that God will multiply Job’s former wealth.

In response, I particularly want to emphasize that God will bring justice, but not necessarily on our timeline. Verse 3 is absolutely true. God is just, and he does what is just. Romans 12:19 states, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rathergive place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Now, I’m thankful as someone who is born again that my sin was ultimately judged in Christ on the cross. The same is true for everyone who is in Christ. We will never have to endure the justice of God. But we can look forward to the promise that he will reward every righteous deed. And for those who are not in Christ, God promises that someday he will judge every evil deed. So, justice is coming.

But where Bildad struggled and where we struggle is that we want justice right now. But God never promises swift justice. Instead, he often delays justice, because he has many other good purposes to fulfill. As a result, we must “wait on the Lord” (Ps 130:5–8). As hard as it may be to be patient, we have to trust that our Lord will bring justice and that in the meantime he is accomplishing many good things. But Bildad didn’t see that, so he argues…

God quickly removes the wicked (vv. 8–18). In these verses, Bildad compares the wicked to several fragile things. Verses 11–12, compare them to papyrus and reeds. They may look healthy and strong, but as soon as you cut them down, they wither to nothing. Bildad claims that in the same way God quickly cuts down the wicked.

Then in vv. 16–18, he compares the wicked to another plant that looks healthy and strong. But it does not have deep roots; rather, it’s wrapped around rocks. When the sun gets hot, it withers and dies. Again, Bildad asserts that God always uproots the wicked like that plant. In contrast…

God blesses the righteous (vv. 19–22). Bildad sounds like some of the prosperity preachers of our day. He promises that God will prosper Job if he is blameless. He claims that God will “fill your mouth with laughing and your lips with rejoicing.” He will remove every enemy, and life will be grand.

We don’t have to look very far to see that it’s not true, but Bildad’s theology is alive and well, isn’t it? I already mentioned the prosperity theology that is so prevalent in the American church and around the world. People want to believe that God gives immediate prosperity to those who obey his will. And even many secular people believe in some form of Karma, where some impersonal force insures us that we will reap what we sow. So, the question is why is this theology so popular.

We want to comprehend the ways of God. Of course, we should want to understand as much as the Scriptures reveal about God’s ways. But we often try to cram an infinite God into a tidy little box that our little brains can understand. It always ends in a distorted God who is less than the true God. It’s very important that we embrace everything Scripture tells us about God and that we trust him with the rest. We must accept the fact that we will never fully comprehend God’s ways, but that’s okay, because we know that he is always wise, good, and just. A 2nd reason is…

We want sovereignty over our lives. This goes back to my introduction. We want be in control of our destiny and know that I can get what I want if I follow a particular path. But our desire for control betrays the fact that we don’t trust God enough to leave complete control in his hands. We aren’t really sure he will give us what is good, so we grasp for control.

Therefore, I must develop a sanctified mind that is dominated by the goodness, wisdom, and power of God. And I must daily submit my will to God’s will, trusting that he will do what is right, so I will be content with whatever he has. That’s hard, but it is essential to Christian joy, peace, and contentment. In sum, Bildad has argued that God always brings swift justice; therefore, Job must be unjust. Job responds in chapters 9–10.

II.  Job’s Response (Job 9–10)

I’ll say at the outset that Job agrees in principle with Bildad. He assumes that the world should operate on a strict principle of retribution, where we quickly reap what we sow. The big difference is that Job is sure that he has not sinned. But rather than trusting the purpose of God, he is going to argue that God is using his infinite power recklessly and cruelly. He begins by arguing that…

“No one can resist Almighty God” (9:1–12). You may have noticed that Job makes some powerful statements about God’s majesty. Verse 4 declares that God is “wise in heart.” And then Job delares God’s almighty power. In the ancient world, mountains were considered to be the epitome of strength and stability, but vv. 5–6 declare that God is able to shake the mountains and the earth itself. Verses 7–8 declare that God is sovereign over the heavens, and v. 9 declares that God created the stars, including the great constellations. Then vv. 11–12 declare that God is an invisible Spirit who is beyond our grasp.

Job has a lot of good things to say, but we must not miss the cynical tone of it all (vv. 2–3). He begins by agreeing with Bildad about how things should be. God should reward Job, but then Job claims that it is impossible to demand justice from God. Even if you have a great argument, you cannot “contend with Him,” because he’ll just talk circles around you like a good lawyer (v. 3).

As such, all the great things Job says about God in vv. 4–12, are colored with cynical despair. Job believes God is using his wisdom and power against Job to cruelly withhold justice.

As terrible as it is, we’ve probably all struggled with similar feelings. We are enduring some hardship that we don’t understand or God’s Word forbids something that our flesh desperately wants. We begin to view God as a heartless, vindictive ogre who is using his power against us. We develop a distorted picture of God that justifies our bitterness or disobedience. The end result is a God who looks like your reflection in one of those wavy mirrors you see at a carnival. Everything is distorted and disproportional.

Therefore, when we are feeling confused, out of sorts, and troubled, it is essential that we hold fast to everything the Bible says about God’s nature. He is good, he is wise, he is holy, and his will is always good and right. But Job doesn’t see it that way. He is convinced that God is treating him unjustly. As a result in 9:13–35 he bemoans his belief that…

“I cannot possibly resist God’s injustice” (9:13–35). Hopefully, you caught the bitterness and despair in Job’s voice. Job is imagining what it would be like if he were able to make an appeal to God for the justice that he thinks he deserves.

He claims that even if he could get an audience with God, it wouldn’t do any good. He says in v. 15, “Though I were righteous, I could not answer Him.” And notice the bitterness in v. 17. He says in v. 19 that he wishes he could take God to court, but he says in v. 20 that going to court wouldn’t do any good, because God would just talk circles around him like a sleezy lawyer.

And then notice that Job returns to the idea of going to court in vv. 32–33. Now, we have to remember that Job is speaking before there is any inspired Scripture, so he isn’t thinking of Christ, but it’s still fascinating that he brings up the idea of mediator between him and God.

Job is saying that because he doesn’t think he could get a fair trial with God, he longs for a mediator who is equal to God and who will stand between him and God in order to bring justice.

While he isn’t thinking of Christ, this desire should cause us to give thanks for Jesus. Like Job, we also stand condemned before God, though there is nothing mean or vindictive about our condemnation. It is absolutely just, because we have all violated God’s law.

And we have no hope as guilty, frail sinners of reconciling ourselves to a holy God. I can never do enough good works or live a righteous enough life to bring myself to God. Our only hope is that an equal to God would stand between us and him.

And praise the Lord that Jesus did just that. He stood between our sin and God’s justice, and he endured the judgment we deserve. And then he sat down at the Father’s right, where he pleads for us as our mediator.

If you have never received Christ as your Savior, I hope that you will see today that there is only one way to be right with God (1 Tim 2:5; John 14:6). If you will believe on Christ, he will become your mediator so that you can be adopted into God’s family and call him your Father. Please come to Christ today and be saved.

But what does all of this mean for those of us who are saved? We must stay anchored to a biblical understanding of God. That may sound obvious, but it’s very easy amidst all the pain and suffering of our world to press God into our liking vs. pressing ourselves into his true nature.

This spring I watched the 2nd American Gospel documentary. The film included several clips of Bart Compolo. He used to be an evangelical preacher, but now he completely rejects God. What he said was that as ministered among the poor, he became more and more bothered by the problem of evil. How could God allow so much suffering?

So, he started tweaking his theology of God to make it more palatable with what he wanted God to be. He claimed that this god was awesome. But he ultimately came to grips with the fact that this god was a figment of his imagination, so he abandoned theism altogether.

It’s a heartbreaking story, and what is particularly sad is that I guarantee that Compolo’s imaginative god was less than the true God, because he is infinitely glorious. So, when you don’t understand God’s ways, go as far in your understanding as Scripture will take you and then cling to what you know to be true. Then leave what you cannot understand in his hands. Resist the urge to sit in judgment on God. But Job didn’t. He arrogantly believed that he knew better. As a result, in Job 10 he addresses God and says…

“I will express the bitterness of my soul” (10:1–22). Job begins in v. 1 by forewarning God, “I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.” His bitterness comes out of his anger and arrogance. I find v. 7 particularly interesting. Job begins with the true claim, “You know that I am not wicked,” yet he adds, “There is no one who can deliver from Your hand.” In other words, “It doesn’t matter that I’m righteous, because you are going to judge me anyway, and no one can stop you.”

In vv. 8–12, Job reflects on the fact that God created him, but Job claims that God only created me to “destroy me” (v. 8) and to “turn me into dust again” (v. 9). Then in vv. 18–22, he returns to a theme from chapter 3. Job wishes that his mother had miscarried and that he never would have had to endure life in this world. At the very least, he wishes that he could go the grave now. And notice that it’s not because he longs for heaven; rather, vv. 21–22 picture the grave as nothing but darkness.

Again, it’s all pretty dark. Job is bitter at God, he believes he knows better than God, and he has no hope. So what do we do with a chapter like this, and really this entire conversation in Job 8–10? Specifically, what do we do when we are hurting because of injustice, human suffering, evil, or the temptation to sin, and we are wrestling with how God can allow such pain?

God invites us to ask our questions. This one is important, because I’ve been pretty critical of Bildad and Job today. But I don’t want you to conclude that the solution is to always ignore the hard questions of life as if it is sinful to voice them to God or to a fellow-believer. If you think that’s so, then just read Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentations, or Habakkuk sometime. All of them are filled with laments, where godly people voice their questions to God.

The fact that Scripture includes so many laments tells us that God knows our frustration and confusion. He wants us to bring them to him, knowing that he cares, and he will listen.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in our nation. Frankly, it’s been a rough 3 months. Maybe you have a lot of pent up frustration and anxiety. God wants you to talk with him about it honestly and openly. Don’t just suppress it, if it’s not going away.

And let me add that we ought to feel comfortable expressing these things to each other. If your heart is in knots or you just feel at a loss, then come to me, come to Pastor Kris, or come to someone else that you trust and let us be a sounding board. And then be someone who is ready to love a brother or sister by being that kind of resource yourself. Be ready to listen with love and patience and to gently steer them toward Christ. So, understand that God invites us to ask questions. But it is essential that…

Our questions must drive us to biblical answers. This is where Bildad and Job missed it. Instead of coming to God with humility, they came arrogantly demanding answers and thinking they had the answers. But their answers missed the mark terribly. I could tell stories for hours about individuals and entire theological systems that were ruined by this spirit.

Even when we come to God with hard questions, we must always come in humility, knowing that God is God, and I am not. I need to hear from him, not he from me. So, I will run to God’s Word, to the character of God, and to the promises of Scripture. And I will trust that the God is good and everything that he does is good.

More in Job

June 14, 2020

Hope in Life and Death

May 24, 2020

Trusting God in the Fog

May 17, 2020

When Life Doesn’t Seem worth the Pain