Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; the same was a perfect and upright man, and one that feared God and eschewed evil.”
Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘I am vile. . . .’ Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous!’
Job 40:3, 6, 8
“Then Job answered the Lord and said . . . ‘I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ ”
Job 42:1, 6
There is no question that Job was a perfect man. The book of Job begins by describing Job as “perfect and upright”, and later in that opening chapter, God Himself asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God and eschews evil?” (v. 8). And in chapter 2, God repeats this glowing praise of Job. So, no one who believes the Bible will read the opening two chapters of the book of Job and question the fact that Job was a perfect man.
That being the case, how can it be that at the end of the book, we find God blistering Job with stern questions, rebuking him for his pride, and condemning him for giving ignorant counsel? And after Job, throughout the book, has insisted that he was innocent and pure in heart, how is it that we find him at the end of the story repenting and calling himself vile? How did Job get from confidence in his perfection to a confession of utter vileness before God? The answer is that, with some help, Job had caught a glimpse of God’s majesty, a majesty that is so far beyond earthly perfection that perfection itself appears vile and contemptible.
A mysterious young man named Elihu was God’s instrument for leading Job to this overwhelming vision of God. Elihu had politely sat in silence throughout the first thirty-one chapters of Job, out of respect for the elders; namely, Job and his three aged friends. But when Job’s friends at last gave up their quest to condemn Job, and when Job ceased in his efforts to defend himself, Elihu spoke up. It was as though in using Elihu, God had again fulfilled the Scripture that said, “Out of the mouth of babes, thou hast perfected strength.”
When Elihu’s last words were still in the air, at the end of chapter 37, God Himself showed up and took up Elihu’s indignant speech, almost, it seems, in the midst of one of Elihu’s thoughts. It was as though Elihu and God were one, although that cannot be, for Elihu admits that he, like Job, is “made of clay”. He was, however, an exceptionally wise and holy young man.
The end result of Elihu and God’s speeches was that Job, the “perfect and upright man”, learned that wisdom is nothing in comparison to God, for God is beyond wisdom; that righteousness is nothing compared to God, for God is beyond righteousness; and that perfection is nothing to God, for God is beyond perfection. Through me, the Spirit asked a question of the congregation yesterday in our prayer meeting. The Lord said, “Are you going to be satisfied with [mere] perfection?” That question carried with it a little twinge of sarcasm, as if God was asking us, “Is being ‘perfect’ as close as you want to be to me?”
God recently revealed to us that He has the power to create life that is different from His own. We all know this is true, even if we have not considered it very deeply. God has created animal life, plant life, human life, angel life, and who knows what other kinds of life, and none of His life! And now, we see that He is so far beyond perfection that even perfection on earth is, in comparison to Him, “as filthy rags”. “The righteous shall scarcely be saved”, wrote Peter. Jesus told his disciples that even after they had done everything they were supposed to do in the sight of God, to consider themselves to be nothing more than “unprofitable servants”. These kinds of statements in the New Testament indicate clearly that it will be only by the mercies of God that those who obey Him will be saved. So, while it is true that we must obey God in order to be saved in the end, it will still be His mercy alone that saves those who obey because God is greater than the commandments He has given.
God is greater than we know, holier than we know, more powerful than we know, and wiser than we know. Even if we perfectly keep God’s commandments, He is so holy and so great that He still has to humble Himself to deal with us. In Psalms, David said that “God humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and on earth.” “The heavens are unclean in His sight”, wrote another man of God. Often in the Bible, when God’s angels appeared to righteous men, they would tremble, or pass out, or even become ill (Daniel, for two weeks after one visitation). But we are told in one Scripture in Job that God charges his own angels with foolishness. God is not impressed with visitations from angels. And, as I have said before, God has never even read the Bible.
God is good, and He loves us. God “is faithful and just”, “slow to anger”, and “not willing that any should perish.” If that were not true, then all of us, even the best men and women who ever lived on earth, would long ago have been destroyed.