Read Job 9
9 Then Job replied:
2 “Indeed, I know that this is true.
But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?
3 Though they wished to dispute with him,
they could not answer him one time out of a thousand.
4 His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
5 He moves mountains without their knowing it
and overturns them in his anger.
6 He shakes the earth from its place
and makes its pillars tremble.
7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars.
8 He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.
9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
11 When he passes me, I cannot see him;
when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’
13 God does not restrain his anger;
even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.
14 “How then can I dispute with him?
How can I find words to argue with him?
15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
16 Even if I summoned him and he responded,
I do not believe he would give me a hearing.
17 He would crush me with a storm
and multiply my wounds for no reason.
18 He would not let me catch my breath
but would overwhelm me with misery.
19 If it is a matter of strength, he is mighty!
And if it is a matter of justice, who can challenge him?
20 Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me;
if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty.
21 “Although I am blameless,
I have no concern for myself;
I despise my own life.
22 It is all the same; that is why I say,
‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When a scourge brings sudden death,
he mocks the despair of the innocent.
24 When a land falls into the hands of the wicked,
he blindfolds its judges.
If it is not he, then who is it?
25 “My days are swifter than a runner;
they fly away without a glimpse of joy.
26 They skim past like boats of papyrus,
like eagles swooping down on their prey.
27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will change my expression, and smile,’
28 I still dread all my sufferings,
for I know you will not hold me innocent.
29 Since I am already found guilty,
why should I struggle in vain?
30 Even if I washed myself with soap
and my hands with cleansing powder,
31 you would plunge me into a slime pit
so that even my clothes would detest me.
32 “He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him,
that we might confront each other in court.
33 If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot.
Reading Job 8 yesterday, we learned about Bildad’s theology: God rewards the righteous and God punishes the wicked. For Bildad, theology is simple. It’s an ancient version of the prosperity gospel: Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. Reap what you sow. It’s black and white and neat and tidy.
Job’s response to Bildad acknowledges that while God can work that way, it isn’t always true of how God works because Job cannot reconcile what he knows to be true of God with what he is experiencing of God. He wants to “contend” with God. Meaning, Job wants his days in court with God. He wants answers. He wants to know what he’s done to deserve this even though the first verses of chapter 9 recognize no one is righteous before God, and no one could answer God because God is wise and strong and beyond our ability to understand. And, God alone reserves the Sovereign right to shake the earth, command the sun, seal up stars, and do great and marvelous things (v. 5-10).
We’ll see over and over again the sin of Job: he demands answers from God. And, we’ll see over and over again that God doesn’t shun Job’s questions, despair, and confusion. Job’s confusion is understandable. None of us wonder why Job wants a conversation with the Almighty. All of us understand the spiral of Job’s questions and commentary:
- How can a person be made right before God?
- God’s wisdom is vast (God knows everything).
- God’s power is profound (God is able to do anything).
- God’s might and vastness wasn’t a comfort to Job. It actually made Job feel more distant from God—confirming to Job that he cannot know or understand God.
- Job feels that God is distant and impersonal and unaware of Job’s suffering.
- Job cannot defend himself against God and longs for a mediator or arbiter for help, someone to plead Job’s case.
Ultimately, Job cannot make sense of his narrative: “God rewards the righteous. I am innocent. God punishes the wicked. I am not wicked, yet God is punishing me with suffering, but God is good and does good. This is not good. I cannot figure out God.”
We get this circular thinking. We read Job 9 and want to make sense of the nonsensical. We don’t want to be confused by God. We want to understand God’s ways and how He defines good because it’s easier to have a neat and tidy faith than one that requires faith and trust in the midst of mystery and confusion. However, if we could figure out God, would we need Him? We’d reason God away. We’d explain away the miraculous. We’d become self-reliant and self-righteous. Our awe of the Almighty would be replaced with satisfaction of self. We need Something bigger than us. When we walk through the darkest nights, profound loss, unimaginable suffering, our souls long to rest in One who holds all things together, One who is making all things right, One who defeats the dark, One who is with us through it all.
Job’s grief and confusion challenged—and eventually changed—his simple theology; but his acceptance and awe of God wasn’t quick and easy. His growth took time. Maturity isn’t instant. We’ll sit with Job in his pain and confusion and watch as some offer thin answers to thick questions. Let’s be patient with Job and ourselves as God grows our trust and faith in Him in the mystery of His ways. His ways are not our ways and we need Him to be bigger than our understanding.
- Job asks in verse 2, “How can a man be righteous before God?” How can you answer this question based on Romans 5:17-19?
- Matthew 5:45 reads, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.“ How have you seen this to be true in your life? Where do you find comfort in suffering?
- All of Scripture points to Jesus. In verse 33 Job asks for a mediator, someone to bridge the gap between man and God. 1 Timothy 2:5 reads, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” Why do we need a mediator? What does it mean to you that Jesus is your mediator?
Did You Know?
As Job’s words move away from a dialogue with his friends to a monologue with God, Job also begins to use legal terms (such as v. 32-33) to describe his interactions with God.
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