Live with Righteousness, Even When Life is Upside-Down | Tom J. Nettles

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Old Testament, Practical Theology



Here in the finale of Job’s last appeal for a hearing with God, he lays out his case that he is willing to plead with this all-powerful being that seems to be his adversary. He laments the loss of former days of favor with God and man (Job 29:1-11) He was an oracle of wisdom and a power for righteousness and justice (29:12-17). He sensed that all his days would be filled with renewed and increasing security, prosperity, health, and strength (29:18-20). The regard given him by people was of implicit trust and virtually self-evident truthfulness of insight. “After my words they did not speak again, and my speech dropped on them” (22).

All has changed! None of the former awe-stricken trust and reliance survives. The human rubbish of the land now mock him and taunt him in his putrid situation. “I have become their taunt, …they abhor me and stand aloof from me.” None will come to Job’s defense—“No one restrains them” (30:13). Now replacing the placid confidence and satisfaction of the past, his soul is poured out within him because God has cast him into the mire and is manifesting his strength in a step-by-step systematic destruction (30:16-23). Contrary to the compassionate response he gave to those who cried for help, his cries and mourning receive no comfort from God or man (30:24-31). “I go about mourning without comfort; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help” (28). Existentially, he has no sense of the blessing Jesus pronounced, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

Job resumes his defense against the false pronouncements made by his accusers (31). He points to the determined way in which he has pursued purity in his moral life, the punctilious care he has given to showing mercy to the needy, and the purposeful detachment he has maintained regarding earthly wealth. Neither his enemies, nor strangers, nor his land, nor his tenants can accuse him of cruelty or a covetous presumptuousness about his possessions. Job wants to bring all these things before the Almighty so that he might see exactly what the charges are against him.

Job described his determined pursuit of moral purity (31:1-12). This involved purposeful strategy to avoid any opportunity for lust toward younger women (1-4). When Jesus pointed out that to look on a woman in lust was to commit adultery (Matthew 5:27-29), he pointed to the connections that all of our senses have with our depraved affections. Sight is particularly susceptible to those connections, and for this reason John mentioned the first two elements of the “world” were “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.” (1 John 2:18). Job knew this intuitively and had been given a heightened sense of righteousness by divine grace so that he had made a covenant with his eyes to avoid any gaze that could induce lust.

Even though he might not act upon this lust, Job is aware that God on high knows all his thoughts and will discipline for those internal acts of unrighteousness (2, 3). Workers of iniquity will at last come to destruction. As surely as we are justified by faith through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, condemnation comes from the conglomeration of unrighteousness that flows from the unrenewed heart (Revelation 21:8). Job knows that neither thought nor action can pass unknown and uncounted by God (4).

Job continued his earnest defense of a commitment to sexual virtue in verses 9-12 – As with younger women, so with married women, Job knows that adultery is a heinous moral perversion worthy of every level of punishment. He sets up a scenario that was a well-known and justly reprobated violation of moral life. He called adultery “a lustful crime,” not only a blemish on one’s personal life but something so destabilizing to society that it was an iniquity even before judges. This violation of the home had far-reaching implications into the stability of personal and social life and was peculiarly abominable to God. He puts forth a situation in which he has conceived a lust for another man’s wife and fondled it and planned for an execution of his lust at a time of the least possibility of detection (9).

In verses 10-12, he agrees that should he have done such a thing, the most severe manifestation of judgment from God would be expected and just. God’s own providence would provoke a like violation of Job’s domestic safety and integrity. Such a judgment fell on Daivd because of his violation of the wife of Uriah (2 Samuel 12:11). So it was with the false prophets in Jeremiah 8:10. This sin would tend toward condemnation from human courts and for the ultimate ruin of his life both in time and eternity (12). Jesus gave clear teaching that sins against persons in human society were to be material for judgment in eternity. See Jesus’ employment of this evaluation of a crime from its susceptibility to human judgment to its condemnation before God in Matthew 5:21-26.

Adultery strikes at the very root of the happiness and stability of society and should be subject to severe human laws. It also violates God’s intention for the demonstration of faithfulness in the abstract for those made in his image. It profanes the image of God and his commitment to his people and will be judged with commensurate penalty at the bar of eternal justice. The invincible commitment of Christ to his bride, the church composed of the people given him in eternity by the Father, is mocked by the committing of adultery. No church should tolerate it among its membership but should insist on repentance and the sincere detestation of such a sin. Job’s abhorrence of this sin is a condemnation of our licentious age and our lax churches.

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