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A Model of Integrity

August 9, 2020 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Job

Topic: Expository Passage: Job 29–31

 

 

Introduction

When I was a kid, my best friend was named Jeff Larson. He lived about a mile from me on another farm. We had a lot of fun playing farm, playing sports, and pestering the livestock. Jeff was also one of the most kind-hearted, caring, and fun people I’ve ever known.

As we entered our senior year of high school, he was excited about the year ahead and then about farming with his dad and grandfather for years to come. But by the end of football season, Jeff had lost a lot of weight. He was a big guy, so most people didn’t even notice, but he continued to lose weight and by the new year, it was obvious that something was wrong. In early March, Jeff was diagnosed with liver cancer, and it was so advanced that there was nothing that could be done. Jeff was going to die.

It was incredibly difficult watching his body and energy waste away. Among other things, I struggled with the question, “Why Jeff?” We had some classmates who were real jerks. Others were doing drugs and sleeping with a different girl every weekend, but not Jeff. He was kind, and he kept his nose clean. So, why did Jeff get cancer instead of one of those other kids? That was tough!

Turning to Job, we’ve reached Job’s final extended speech. We’ve watched Job wallow in bitterness and despair, but we have also watched him hold fast to his integrity and express great faith. And what is particularly important for our text is that he has held fast to the conviction that he is righteous and that God will bring justice in the end.

Therefore, Job 29–31, is essentially Job’s closing arguments. He is going to make one more complaint about his terrible plight and one more appeal to God to vindicate his righteous life. In the process, he provides a challenging model of godly character. There is something for all of us in Job 31. Job also provides another encouraging example of how we should bring our questions to the Lord and trust his purpose, when we don’t understand his ways. Let’s begin in Job 29, where…

I.  Job remembers the good ole days (Job 29).

This is another chapter that is brimming with intense emotion. Job grieves as he remembers all the blessings he once enjoyed. Notice what Job says about his former glory in vv. 1–11, 21–25.

Job’s Glory (vv. 1–11, 21–25): We’ve heard a lot of this, but I hope we don’t become numb to Job’s pain. He is enduring intense physical pain, he’s lost everything, his children are dead, and he has no idea why. Therefore, in vv. 1–6, he remembers God’s former kindness. In vv. 2–3, he thinks wishfully of “the days when God watched over me” and “When His lamp shone upon my head.” Of course, God was watching over Job just as much in Job 29 as in Job 1, but it didn’t feel that way in the moment.

In vv. 4–5, he remembers when God was his “friend” instead of acting like an enemy and a time when “When the Almighty was yet with me.” I love the picture of v. 6. Everything is better with more butter or cream! If you don’t like dinner, just add a stick of butter. But Job laments the feeling that God’s kindness has vanished.

We’ve all felt that way. Sometimes, it’s the trials of life. At other times we endure spiritual drought. God seems distant, and we have no motivation to follow him. We grow jealous of past times when life was easy and we were full of spiritual hunger and fruit. God is saying that you aren’t alone. Every Christian faces times when it feels like God’s kindness has vanished.

Then in vv. 7–11, Job remembers his former honor with men. Have you ever been around someone really important, who demands attention? This spring, we watched a new documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. It was incredible to watch how Jordan dominated every room that he entered.

That’s how it used to be for Job. Even princes and nobles stopped what they were doing and gave him their full attention. Verse 10 says “Their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth” with nervousness.

Verse 21 says people listened intently to Job’s insights, and after he spoke, every argument was settled. Verse 23 says that even the greatest of men “opened their mouth wide” for Job’s words, like desert creatures when the first rains come.

So, Job wasn’t some corrupt billionaire who everyone despised. No, everyone respected Job. But now it was all gone, and Job is hurting. God is very honest with us about the fact that life in a sin-cursed world is hard and that even the godliest people wrestle with God’s ways.

There are a lot of discussion in our day about feeling “safe.” I’m not talking about safety from criminals or disasters; instead, people are demanding emotional safety from rather basic realities like criticism and opposing views. We think we can create a neat and tidy bubble without pain.

But the Bible lovingly warns us that this is not reality. Sin has broken this world, and life will be painful. And God is telling us that he understands, and he is compassionate toward our pain. So, as we listen to Job’s lament, let’s also hear God’s fatherly voice of compassion. He cares, and he will carry us through. So, Job is hurting. Then notice that adding to Job’s pain about all that he has lost is the reason for his former glory. Job was blessed because of…

Job’s Integrity and Compassion (vv. 12–17): In other words, Job didn’t steal and cheat his way into his position. Rather, notice his former conduct in vv. 12–17. Notice the types of people Job had cared for. He cared for the “poor,” “fatherless,” “a perishing/dying man,” “widow,” “blind,” and “lame.”

These are the weakest and the most helpless people in society. They would have had a much harder time in the ancient world than in ours, because family played a vital role in securing work and income. Women had little if any earning power, and there was no government aid. Therefore, they were at the mercy of others to survive, let alone thrive.

Over and over the Scriptures say that these types of people are near to the heart of God and that helping them is at the heart of godliness. Notice the example Job set. Verse 12 says Job “delivered the poor,” probably meaning that he defended their rights in a day when justice was often lacking.

Verse 13 says “I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.” We don’t know the specifics, but clearly Job cared generously for them. Verse 14 compares Job’s noble deeds to being clothed in righteous and justice. He was known as a man who defended the poor and the oppressed. In fact, notice how far he was willing to go (v. 17).

Job didn’t fit the Marxist stereotype of the rich man, who uses his money to oppress the poor and take advantage of them. Instead, Job used his wealth to serve and defend those who couldn’t care for themselves.

Over and over the Scriptures tell us that we have the same obligation. But sadly, our culture has largely relegated this responsibility to the government. But the fact that there are so many aid programs doesn’t negate our responsibility. Jesus said in Matthew 25 that we love him and serve him by serving the weakest of his children. Godliness requires sharing God’s compassion for the weak and sacrificially care for them.

So, Job sets a great example, but in the context of Job 29, it only serves to heighten the sting of Job’s suffering. He has been the model of grace and compassion, but it doesn’t seem like he has received anything in return except suffering. Again, Job is struggling with the justice of God’s ways. So, Job 29 longs for the good ole days, and then in chapter 30 Job turns his attention to his present situation.

II.  Job laments his present suffering (Job 30).

I’ll just give a quick summary of this chapter. In vv. 1–15, laments the fact that he is being abused by ruffians. These are not the poor and the weak that Job mentioned in chapter 29 (read v. 8). They’re people who have been driven from society because of their crimes.

Yet these wicked, destitute people were cruelly mock Job (vv. 9–10). It’s a far cry from the glory Job once enjoyed. Considering Job’s righteous life, he is frustrated that such evil people were gloating over him.

Then sadly, he turns his frustration toward God. Notice Job’s complaint in vv. 20–23. Maybe you’ve never said it so boldly, but we’ve all felt the same way. We try to serve the Lord and do the right thing, but it feels like there is a bullet-proof wall between us and heaven. It feels like God doesn’t care and he isn’t fair.

In sum, Job spends the chapters 29–30 lamenting his awful plight. The Lord gave so much to Job in his former days, and then he took it all away.

But despite all of that Job continues to hold onto 2 important truths. First, he is righteous, and second, God is just and will ultimately give Job justice. Therefore, in Job 31, he puts himself on the witness stand. He swears to “tell the truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and he details his righteous life.

III.  Job affirms his righteous life (Job 31).

In this chapter, Job details his righteous life. I’m going to break it down into 10 areas of godliness. And each time, Job invites God to judge him if he is not telling the truth. It’s a strong closing argument. Something else that stands out about this list is that Job highlights issues of the heart that a hypocrite could easily hide or just get by with and not lose face. You only pursue these character qualities if you have a sincere heart of godliness.

As such, this chapter really pushes us to examine our hearts. We have to move fairly quickly through each item, but I’d challenge you to pick a couple and go back later today or this week and really think about what God is saying. The first sin Job highlights is…

Lust (vv. 1–4): Considering how perverse our culture is, I could preach a whole sermon to v. 1. That’s because lusting after woman or viewing pornography is perfectly acceptable in our culture. And sexual passion drives much of our entertainment. But Job made a covenant with himself to have a zero-tolerance policy. He refused to look at young ladies with lustful eyes.

Why it that? Notice what he says in v. 4. You might be able to hide sexual perversion from everyone who knows you, but God sees. No matter what our culture says, God says that lust is evil. Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28). All of us should make the same covenant as Job. 2nd

Dishonesty (vv. 5–8): Honesty is another quality that is sorely undervalued in our day. We don’t think a second thought about telling a lie to help get ahead. But God highly values honesty, and even if no one else sees, God sees when we are dishonest.

And Job is so committed to avoiding “falsehood” and “deceit” that he invites God to judge him truthfully if he has lied. Would you be comfortable inviting God to examine your honesty? Commit to being truthful. Yes, sometimes truth-telling is costly, but no matter what you may gain by lying, it is never worth more than the favor of God. Be honest. 3rd

Infidelity (vv. 9–12): Job returns to the issue of sexual purity. But this time, Job is especially thinking of faithfulness to his wife. He declares that he has never allowed his heart to be drawn to another woman or pursued another woman. His heart and body belonged exclusively to her.

No matter what our culture says, when you get married it forever changes your relationship to everyone else of the opposite sex. Husbands, you are to love your wives with an exclusive love and refuse every competing passion. The same is true of wives. Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt 19:6).

Notice the consequence Job invites on himself if he is not true to this oath (v. 10). There’s not much that is more shameful than to have your wife violated by another man. Job is serious about his marriage.

And then notice how Job drives home the wickedness of adultery in vv. 11–12. Fidelity matters to God. It doesn’t matter what’s wrong with your spouse, or how your marriage makes you feel. God’s will is that you love him or her like Christ loved the church and aggressively maintain your marriage. 4th

Exploitation (vv. 13–15): It’s hard to overstate how radical these verses would have been in the ancient world. Slaves were property, just like an ox or a camel. They didn’t have any rights. But Job leans into Genesis 1 and the fact that all people are made in the image of God, and he makes a remarkable statement in v. 15. God made the slave just as much as he made Job.

Therefore, no matter what Job’s culture said, he was determined to treat his servants justly. Just think about how most masters would respond if a servant complained about them? They’d beat them. But Job listened and pursued justice. Why? Because Job was accountable to God for how he treated others. He was determined to do what was right before God, no matter what society told him was acceptable or unacceptable.

If God has blessed you with any level of authority over others, make sure that you use it to serve not to exploit. As v. 14 says, no matter how much authority you have today, God is your authority, and your judgment is coming. Do what is right before God. 5th

Miserliness (vv. 16–23, 31–32): Job again brings up his care for the weak and the poor. He gives a long series of examples to prove that he has not been miserly or cheap. Instead, he has been generous and giving. For example, he has given to poor and invited them to eat at his table. He has provided clothing and met pressing needs. Verse 31–32 describe how he cared for everyone that served in his household and housed travelers.

It’s another reminder that generosity is at the heart of godliness—and not generosity to people who can give us something in return. No, true love serves those who can give nothing in return, because Christ has given so much to us, and we want to glorify him. So, how are you practicing generosity? Do you make room in your life for people who can’t give you anything in return? Let’s strive to love like our Savior, who loved us in our brokenness and gave generously for our salvation. 6th

Materialism (vv. 24–25): Those are perfect verses for people in America. It’s so easy to put confidence in our bank accounts and nice things. If you don’t have them, it’s easy to think that if you had a little more or this circumstance changed, you’d be content.

But it’s all a lie, and ultimately it is a denial of God’s lordship. Verse 28 states the consequence of both materialism and idolatry. There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but we must never let them take priority over the Lord or think that they can satisfy as only he can. Seek your joy only in the Lord. 7th

Idolatry (vv. 26–28): It was common in the ancient world to worship the sun, moon, and stars. For a farmer like Job, the temptation would have been to offer a prayer in hopes of getting good weather that would allow his crops and livestock to thrive. And in a world where people worshipped many gods, the temptation would be to offer up a prayer, thinking, “It can’t hurt.”

Therefore, v. 28 is again incredible inciteful and goes right along with the 1st of the 10 Commandments. If I worship any other god in addition to the true God, I deny him altogether. This is because God’s exclusivity is essential to his nature. He is a God alone, and he is jealous for our worship.

Now, I doubt any of us were tempted this week to bow before an idol, but I know our hearts were drawn to competing desires. Job reminds us that God demands our exclusive commitment. He alone must be on the throne of my heart. 8th

Envious Gloating (vv. 29–30): Here Job talks about his response to enemies. Have you ever found a little pleasure in watching a rival suffer? Of course we have. Or have you ever longed to see someone get what they deserve? But Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Again, these are issues of the heart. You can hide bitterness and envy from everyone, except the Lord. But he sees, and we need to drive it out.

Hypocrisy (vv. 33–34): Like Adam in the garden, we are all prone to make excuses about our sin and try to cover it up so that we look much better than our hearts truly are. We don’t need to broadcast our problems, but we also shouldn’t be dishonest about who we are. The church should be a place, where we are honest about our struggles and our need of grace so that we can lean on each other well. 10th

Unfair Compensation (vv. 38–40): The primary issue here seems to be the fair treatment of farmers who rented or lived off Job’s land. Again, Job is concerned that he is just and fair in all his dealings. As powerful as Job was, he surely could have gotten by with abuse, but he was a man of integrity and honesty. How we need to be the same.

IV.  Conclusion

Job has laid out quite the case. He’s laid out 10 areas of impeccable godliness. I hope that you will think seriously about each item and about how God would have you change. Confess your sins to the Lord, knowing that he forgives. And then look to him for the strength to do what he is calling you to do. God never asks more than he gives the grace to fulfill. You can make progress. And then make practical plans to change. Even if no one else sees or cares, God does. He will be pleased, and he will satisfy your heart.

By God’s grace, let’s strive to leave a legacy of godliness like Job and let’s trust with Job that God sees and in his time, he will vindicate us and bless us for all eternity.

More in Job

September 20, 2020

Joy Will Come in the Morning

September 13, 2020

God Is God and I Am Not

September 6, 2020

God’s Dominion over Animals