It's going to be a million degrees out today, and I really intended to install new sprinkler heads to water the landscaping in the front yard before it gets too hot. Really.
Something popped into my mind as I was picking fox-tails from my sneakers (so that they didn't stab my feet). I thought about Job's friends and how they were trying hard to convince Job that God was responsible for Job's afflictions, by virtue of Job's sin.
That's exactly what I had taken from the book of Job years ago. Maybe all of us have been subjected to some sick memory implantation by Satan to ensure we walk away with the impression that God causes suffering.
But I was devastated. A friend tried to comfort me with these words, "God had a reason for this." The statement implied that God was responsible for my baby dying before he or she ever had a chance to enter this world. Perhaps you've heard the same consolation, or even offered it to someone else. If so, allow me to quote Elihu:
"Therefore, hear me you men of understanding, far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong."
Let that sink in, and please don't ever again blame evil on God. Ever. Job's "friends" did it, and kindled God's wrath.
That's the warning.
It's wrong. What did Abraham have to say about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. 23 Abraham approached and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the entire place on their account.”
Far be it from God, which is the same thing Elihu said. That's two witnesses, readers.
In Job 33:12-18, there's discussion of how God speaks to mankind trying to warn us of the consequences of our attitudes and actions.
12 Behold, you are not right in this matter. I will answer you, for God is greater than man.
13 Why do you complain to Him that He answers nothing a man asks?
14 For God speaks in one way and in another, yet no one notices.
15 In a dream, in a vision in the night, when deep sleep falls upon men as they slumber on their beds,
16 He opens their ears and terrifies them with warnings
17 to turn a man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride,
18 to preserve his soul from the Pit and his life from perishing by the sword.
The next section, verses 19-22, there's a description of man being chastened with pain.
19 A man is also chastened on his bed with pain and constant distress in his bones,
20 so that he detests his bread, and his soul loathes his favorite food.
21 His flesh wastes away from sight, and his hidden bones protrude.
22 He draws near to the Pit, and his life to the messengers of death.
These verses clearly do not say that God caused the pain; they say that a man is chastened by pain. How quick Job was to insist that his pain wasn't warranted because he was righteous, and his "friends" were equally quick to exploit Job's attitude. They made excellent work of convincing Job that he deserved no better. Interestingly, the harder they pushed, the more Job dug his heels in and said how righteous he was.
This is a very human attitude. Accuse someone, and they'll usually become entrenched in their position of defense.
In our lives, chastening (often in the form of something awful happening, like the death of a baby, or a car crash, or loss of a job) is blamed on God so subtly, isn't it? We are sometimes on the giving end (or receiving end) of the platitude, "I'm sure God has a reason for this," implying that God is the cause of the misfortune.
Make no mistake, God can use the misfortune, but he didn't cause it. Far be it from Him. God can remove His protection from us if we rebel and turn our backs on Him. This leaves the door open for all kinds of misfortune, including the worst evil against God's people in the last century: The Holocaust. I can't even comprehend this horror.
But the sheer magnitude of it, I'm confident, will give rise to a correspondingly great event that proves God's glory and mercy. God is so graciously and eagerly willing to bring good from the evil that befalls us. Verses 23-25 explain that clearly through Elihu.
24 to be gracious to him and say, ‘Spare him from going down to the Pit; I have found his ransom,’
25 then his flesh is refreshed like a child’s; he returns to the days of his youth.
Verse 26 (the Gematria value of YHWH) is the beginning of the verses that tell us how, and also provide the answer to the question we ask most often: why?
26 He prays to God and finds favor; he sees God’s face and shouts for joy, and God restores His righteousness to that man.
27 Then he sings before men with these words: ‘I have sinned and perverted what was right;
yet I did not get what I deserved.
28 He redeemed my soul from going down to the Pit, and I will live to see the light.’
29 Behold, all these things God does to a man, two or even three times,
30 to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.
Job, through the torment God allowed Satan to cause, was stripped of the self-righteousness that would have led to Job's destruction if allowed to continue. When Job cried out to God in humility, and repented in dust and ashes in 42:6, God heard him immediately.
After taking a moment to rebuke the three "friends" that had tried so hard to subtly draw Job away from God's truth, He graciously restored Job. Job was immediately given the task of offering sacrifices for those men.
I believe we, who claim salvation through Jesus Christ and have faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are to follow that same model. We are to "sing before men with these words"
I have sinned, and perverted what was right; yet I did not get what I deserved.
Because if we receive salvation and an eternity with our King, then we most certainly got way better than we deserved. That's worth singing about. How much more convincing is our song because we lived in sin and were redeemed? There's something so much more authentic about a former gang-banger or satanist preaching salvation than someone who looks like they've never had so much as a single hair out of place.
If you've been redeemed by Jesus Christ, get singing about God's grace. People who are blaming God for all the bad things that happen in this broken world really need to hear it.
Eyes up. Our redemption draweth nigh.