Job's Law

that man was blameless and upright

The Tale of a Blameless Man

Job 1:1   There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job 1:8   And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Job 2:3   And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”

Job is perfect... or pure... or blameless, depending on the translation. The first question has to be, perfect at what, blameless in whose eyes. All the major translations follow with upright, and one that fears God, so the context is clear. Job morally upright before God. He fears the condemnation of God. This is underlined by the fact that God Himself says the same thing nearly word for word, not once, but twice. God adds that Satan's challenge against Job is ‘without reason’.

Job lived several hundred years before Moses and the land of Uz is in Edom so he is most probably a descendant of Esau (Gen 24:30), not Jacob. He doesn't have the Mosaic Law so how clear is his understanding of God's Law? For the answer to that we turn to Chapter 31 which is Job's “oath of clearing”. This is the ancient equivalent of a declaration of innocence with the a serious ‘cross my heart and hope to die...’. Here Job is declaring his innocence outlines what he believes would be a sin.

Job articulates adultery is sin (Job 31:9-10). He understands that he can sin simply by gazing with longing at a young woman (Job 31:1-2). He covers false gods, covetousness, theft, lies, and murder. He goes on to call gloating over his enemy's death a sin (Job 31:29-30), as well as inhospitality (Job 31:31-32), and a lack of mercy for orphans and widows (Job 31:13-22). The table below shows how well Job's understanding of sin equates with Mosaic Law.

Job's ‘Oath of Clearing’
Job 31:1
I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?
You shall not commit adultery. Exo 20:14
...But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mat 5:28
Job 31:5-6 If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit... You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exo 20:16
Job 31:7-8 if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out. You shall not steal. Exo 20:15
Job 31:9-12 If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her. You shall not commit adultery. Exo 20:14
Job 31:13-15 If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant, when they brought a complaint against me... You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. Lev 19:15
Job 31:16-22 If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it... If among you, one of your brothers should become poor... you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, Deu 15:7
Job 31:24-25 If I have made gold my trust or called fine gold my confidence... You shall not covet ... Exo 20:17
Job 31:26-28 if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand... I would have been false to God above. You shall have no other gods before me. Exo 20:3
Job 31:29-30 If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him... The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself... Lev 19:34
Job 31:31-32 if the men of my tent have not said, ‘Who is there that has not been filled with his meat?’... I have opened my doors to the traveler. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself... Lev 19:34
Job 31:33-34 if I have concealed my transgressions as others do by hiding my iniquity in my bosom... Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow... Deu 27:19
Job 31:38-39 If my land has cried out against me and its furrows have wept together, if I have eaten its yield without payment and made its owners breathe their last, You shall not murder. Exo 20:13
Job 31:39-40 If I have eaten its fruit without money, Or have caused its owners to lose their lives, Let briars grow instead of wheat, And stinkweed instead of barley. You shall not steal. Exo 20:15
You shall not murder. Exo 20:13

He misses the law against graven images and taking the Lord's name in vain, although those might well be assumed from verses 26 to 28. Honoring mother and father he misses, possibly out of his agitation. Honoring the Sabbath may simply not be an issue for God's people as yet. They haven't spent much time in Egypt. As Job speaks his agitation becomes more apparent by the incomplete sentences. What is clear is that Job has a very solid understanding of what the Lord requires. He feels he has been faithful to God's commandments.

The Book of Deutoronomy contains the blessings and curses associated with proper or improper fulfillment of the Law. Satan complains that God has been protecting Job (Job 1:9-10) and the reason is clear, Job has been doing an exceptional job at following the dictates of God's Law. Job understands blessing and curses associated with fulfilling God's Law and has every reason to be confused now that the promised blessings have been withdrawn.

Job has no way to know that God is not punishing him. Job is not under a curse of the Laws of God, not the curse of failure to keep the commandments of God, but the curse of the Law itself. The Law is important to the schooling of God's people, but the Law has limits as to how close it can bring a person to God. It is time for Job to graduate from the school of the Law, but Job wants to stay in the school where he is the star pupil. He is being thrust out.

A Need for Justice

Isaiah 59:15   Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.

Matthew 23:23   Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

A typical Hollywood script begins with something awful that is being done. Immediately, our indignation rises up, and we look for the saviour. When he appears we root for him until justice is done, or the evil is thwarted. This is the most successful Hollywood formula, which has been in place since men began to tell stories. A story in which the good guys and the bad guys are hard to tell apart, or where justice is not accomplished, leaves the audience feeling cheated. Why? We are wired for justice. We want good to triumph.

We should want justice, for this is the heart of God. “Justice and mercy and faithfulness”. Justice implies a standard of what should and should not be done. This leads to laws. That is why the Law is so important. The Law is the clear pronouncement of God's standard, God's desire. And the law provides standards for reward and punishment.

When we seek justice, 999 times in a thousand, we have pegged ourselves to one law or another. Laws require obedience. Paul who is speaking at length about the Law and freedom from the Law, freedom from the curse of the Law, turns around and speaks at length about obedience. Is Paul speaking out of both sides of his mouth at once?

Romans 13:1   Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Does this seem to be a confusing soup? Jesus is rather forceful in his attempts to turn us away from judgement towards others, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luk 6:37). But while he is asking us err on the side of mercy and forgiveness, judgement and the Law of God have not vanished. “Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.” (Joh 8:16). The Law, which is our theme here, has not vanished, but is taken out of human hands and placed in the Father's hands. Even those laws which appear to be purely human fabrications. Even unjust laws.

We soon find ourselves caught in a desperate vise. We want justice, but when our eyes open to God's standard, unless we are Job (blameless, perfect) we really need mercy. And we beg for mercy and grace so that justice doesn't send us immediately to our just desserts. So the Word declares “Judge not”. To get mercy we must give mercy. You and I war against our very nature, our fears, our judgements, our critiques. When I am cut off in traffic by someone on a cell-phone, is my first thought mercy or justice? When those in authority over me, or those I care about hurt my feelings, yell at me, pressure me against my will, do I default to mercy or justice? Immediately there is a chasm between where we should be and where we are.

Besides the lack of mercy, which fixes in place our judgement, there is an even more dreadful error that occurs when we hang on to judgement and our own perceptions of the Law. We can come to a determination of how I think God should be, and how I think God should act in any given situation. When God fails to meet our expectations when can begin to judge God. Doubt creeps in. Job is a man flirting with this danger. As his disease wears on, his expectations of God are being sorely tested. Job is wondering, am I forgotten, has a clerical error been made, has God been rummaging through the trash of my youthful days? Is there no advocate for me? Have I not fulfilled the Law? He will receive his answer when God asks him to step beyond the Law, to mercy. Undeserved mercy for those who have ill used Job himself.

Are Christians under the Law?

Matthew 5:18   For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Our standard orthodoxy says that we are not under the Law. But, Jesus clearly articulates that the Law is not disposed of when a person gives their life to Jesus Christ. Some of the extra laws cooked up by men may be set aside. Covenantal signs (i.e. circumcision, kosher foods, etc.) are not imposed on the gentile church. Jesus, himself, is less than strict about their imposition on his own disciples. So when Paul begins to speak of the end of the Law, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace,” Romans 6:14, we are justifiably confused, unless we retain the context of his declaration.

Paul is talking about a gift of cleansing justification (Romans 5:10-16) and of righteousness (Rom 5:17). The condemnation against the Law's transgressors, you and me, is lifted when we lay ourselves before the Lord. By the infusion of the Spirit we are transformed to naturally righteous creatures, needing no Law to curb them. For some this is an almost instantaneous action. For most, this is a long, slow and laborious process by which we change glory to glory. C. S. Lewis states this well:

“The Holiness of God is something more and other than moral perfection... God may be more than moral goodness: He is not less. The road to the promised land runs past Sinai. The moral law may exist to be transcended: but there is no transcending it for those who have not first admitted its claims upon them, and then tried with all their strength to meet that claim, and fairly and squarely faced the fact of their failure.” ((C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 1940, 1996, Pp. 59-60).

Psalm 50:23   to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!

For those, like myself, who have not been graced with instant transformation, we must constantly remind ourselves that our standard and God's standard are at variance. “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:1-2). Paul's solution is not to disregard the Law, but to go directly to the Law-giver. “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Rom 6:13). We need to continually seek His face. The Law is our continual schoolmaster, confronting us with our seperation from the Lord and causing us to turn and seek Him.We are not transformed by our holiness... we are transformed by the grace of God when we lay our lack of humility, lack of grace and lack of holiness before Him. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Mat 7:7). This all seems a confusing paradox: you cannot be holy by striving to be holy, but you must be holy to enter the presence of God. There is only one answer: “ask in prayer”, (Matt 21:21).

Sin and wrath come from the Law. Hence, no one dies to the Law who does not die to sin; and whoever dies to sin, dies also to the Law. As soon as a person is free from sin, he also is free from the servitude of the Law. So, then, when sin has dominion over us, then also the Law has dominion over us, and visa vera.” ((Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, 1976, Pg. 108).

Is There a Place for the Lawer?

Let's look at one of the most troubling passages in the New Testament:

Revelations 6:9-11   When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

These are Christians. They are in heaven, but they are bound, not in a awful way, but they must wait. This is scary stuff. These are Christians who have suffered horribly in faithfulness to Christ Jesus, but where is the glorious liberty? Their own voice declares their desire to cling to the reigns of justice. “how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Let's look at another group of martyrs for Jesus:

“For some time the man-eaters did not dare to touch or even approach the bodies of God's beloved, but rushed at the others who apparently were irritating and provoking them from outside; only the holy champions, as they stood naked, and in accordance with their instructions waved their hands to attract the animals to themselves...” ((Eusebius, The History of the Church, 1965, originally written in 325. Pp. 335-336).

Our greatest foe is the desire to hold the reigns, to get things right, to get what I want. These Christians, in contrast to the those mentioned in Revelations 6, are seeking to distract the wild beasts, attracting them to themselves rather than to their tormentors. They are seeking mercy for their tormentors who are not saved, who are under the curse and destined for hell if they do not change. Their first thought is not justice, but mercy.

Job is a man who has mastered the Law and so he is a man who is well qualified to stand in the gates and judge. Job in a nostalgic remembrance declares his love: “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth. (Job 29:15-17). Job loved to dispense justice and mercy. And then God shows up. At first God challenges his understanding, which cuts at Job qualifications to judge and at the foundations of his expectations. Job remains solid in his self-justification.

Job 40:9-14   Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? ‘Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.’

Job may be righteous, but he does not have the full picture. Moreover, Job's ability to dispense justice is severely limited. God paints a picture calling for justice for which Job, despite his former power and authority, simply could not stop the outpouring of pride and wickedness. If that power was in his right hand, he would have the power to save himself. What follows is an allegory of two spiritual types clarifying for Job the spirit to which he is called.

Job finally comes to understand that the tighter he grips justice, the further away from God he is drawn. The more he tries to control, to grasp, to hang on, the more empty he becomes. He finds himself swimming in darkness proud of his own phosphorescent glow, never realizing just how much light he can have if he lets go and turns to God. And so Job releases his grip. Then, while he is still homeless, sick and penniless, God turns his back on Job to speak to Job's friends who are now his greatest detractors:

Job 42:8   my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

God doesn't ask Job's permission, his opinion, his desire. God says, “Job will pray”. Job does just that.

Does Job Receive Just Compensation?

Job is compensated double for all the material possessions that he has lost. He once again, despite advanced age has ten more children. But the question must surely linger, by any worldly standard has Job been given just compensation? Does doubling his former wealth and replacing his ten dead children erase all the pain? If God were to be filed with a civil suit in any contemporary Western court system, would this suffice as justice?

The question is serious. It is precisely on the horns of such a challenge that the God pictured here seems capricious, even mean spirited to many people. And so it is that many well intending Christians and Jews draw a mental line through this portrait, or pull out their pen and ink and begin redrawing the outlines of God. The result is a transformed image of God, a golden calf. “And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” (Exodus 32:8).

Whether the nature of God is clear to us or not, we dare not shy from it. We must continue to gaze on this situation until the righteousness of God is clear. If not we run launch out upon a slippery slope, in which the fear of the LORD ceases and all sorts of corruptions seem acceptable. How many Christian leaders must be caught in grievous sin before we humble ourselves?

Romans 1:18-25:   For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Job began believing that an injustice had been done, but in the end, even before he is restored, we hear no such cry? Why not? God has pierced his Adamic armour and exposed the fundamental flaw of every legalist in the flesh. The best and most devout devoté of the Law is still caught in all the rights and wrongs of the flesh, that is, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God is not of the flesh. God the Father is of the Spirit. To walk in His Spirit requires trust and humble obedience. In practical terms it means a willingness to die to all rights, it is the path to Golgotha that sets us free.

So here is Job, approximately 2300 years before Jesus shoulders his cross to climb the hill of Golgotha, choosing to release all his rights, real or imagined and lay his trust in God. His payoff is not restoration of his wealth or a new family. His payoff is a new walk with the God of the Universe, in which his trust in God makes him a man whom God can trust. He will surely dine at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

*All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated.
Wm.W.Wells – February 19, 2010

Copyright © 2010 Wm.W.Wells. May be freely copied without alteration.