May I Present My Case to God? | Tom J. Nettles

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Old Testament, Practical Theology



Having given an account of his conduct concerning his accountability to the second table of the commandments, Job now looks at his awareness of the accountability set forth in the first table.

He claims that he has avoided idolatry (24-28). Job, though he had great possessions, did not give his trust even to the most precious of these. Again, he showed an insight that is emphasized by Jesus when he told of a man that had great wealth; this man spoke to himself and said “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be.” Job did not want to be rich while missing the knowledge of God (Luke 12:19-21).

Warnings against the allurements of riches are abundant in Scripture. The pervasive impact exerted by material possessions gives a false sense of invincibility and satisfaction. Nothing can disturb our future, we think, for we have sufficient means to cover any eventuality. Nothing can inhibit our present good temper. The abundance of our possessions, so we reason, can give us secure and pleasant days for all that we need for safety and for pleasure is readily available. Paul knew that such was the peril of riches and he instructed Timothy, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (ESV). Job did not want to substitute riches for true life.

He was not among those enticed to worship the natural order in quest of greater personal gain and pleasure (26-28). Job probably was familiar with persons and clans around him who saw nature itself as the great provider of good things and did not look beyond it to the God of creation. They personified what Paul described in Romans 1 as those who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Job, though in mysterious distress, would echo Paul’s benediction at the mention of the Creator, “Who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25). He knew this to be irrational idolatry. He would never engage in the symbolic gesture of worship and adoration of the brilliant and apparently life-giving source of material energy to the world as the worshippers of Baal, the Sun-god (26), would do in kissing the hand.

The punishment of this sin should be two-fold. One, the judges of the society should condemn it. Perhaps Job lived as a near descendant of Nahor, thus related to Abraham, but not in a society that would receive the call as a peculiar people and would be inheritors of the promises of the Land and through whom the Messiah would come; but still with sufficient knowledge of the character of the God that gave grace to Noah, and that had taught Terah to fear him (Genesis 11:27ff and 31:53). Job lived in the land of Uz, the name of the first son of Nahor through his wife Milcah. Idolatry was increasing as indicated by the tower of Babel event that had occurred a few generations after Noah (Genesis 10:25; 11). Job, consistent with what would later be the law of the covenant descendants of Abraham, looked upon idolatry as worthy of punishment from civil authorities (28) in light of the distress into which it plunged a society. Two, and more important, and not susceptible to change, is the reality that it is a false way of life, an insult to the only true God, and will be judged by God (Colossians 3:5, 6).

Job’s true and pious fear of God has molded his mind to trust divine providence for judgment of his enemies. His own sense of responsibility before the all-seeing God prompts him to steer clear of personal vengeance or imprecatory attitudes toward virulent opponents. Enemies and sojourners have not received evil from Job (29-32). He has not rejoiced at the ruin of his enemies or when their own evil actions have come back to destroy them. He has left these that have been malicious toward him completely to the perfection of divine justice. Even those who have been his domestic employees recognize that Job has not turned away the needy or the traveler who stood in need of nourishment and shelter along his way (31, 32). They are in a peculiarly strategic position to know of Job’s unbounded hospitality, for they have, perhaps, been called on to make sure that such persons are cared for in a respectful way. In the spirit of Hebrews 13:2 and from his awareness of the dangers that could accompany travelers that had to weather the outside, Job treated others as he was wont to be treated.

So conscious is Job of the glorious perfection of God that he has not even uttered words that could be construed as vengeful. He knows clearly the truth, “’Vengeance is mine. I will repay,’ saith the Lord.” The substance of Romans 9:17-21 was embedded in his conscience. Job’s feelings of having been abandoned by God have actually given rise to a profound and deepening sense of the presence and purity of God. Though he is complaining of an inability to gain a hearing, his sense of divine assault is actually evoking a testimony of deep knowledge, reverence, and respect for Gods purity, prerogative and grace toward him. That he is not enmeshed in the idolatry, mercilessness, and vengefulness of the society around him testifies to a distinguishing grace in Job’s life.

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