26 June 2020 – How can we be right before God?

Bildad, one of Job’s friends, had been speaking in the words recorded in the previous chapter (Job 8). He had a very simplistic approach to understanding how God worked in the world and how our behaviour impacts the course of our lives. Bildad’s view was that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people. For this man, if you really are a good person then you will be blessed with reasonable health and material prosperity.

If everything goes wrong in life, as had happened to his friend Job, then although he, Bildad, couldn’t identify it, Job must have been guilty of some serious hidden sin for God to punish him like this with the loss of his children, his businesses and finally his health. It is difficult to read the words of Bildad and not feel Job’s pain. I would like to think that every reader of this message would be horrified by Bildad’s line of reasoning. Certainly the unknown author of the book of Job does!

However, the false prosperity gospel held by some people in every age is a twisting of biblical truth to use Bible language to convey a message that is completely untrue. God does honour those that honour Him, but we may live an exemplary life like Job and still see a business fail; still experience the searing pain of the death of one or more of our children or struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis of a serious health condition. Throughout his life Job although imperfect pleased God. In the latter stages of this book of Job this analysis is confirmed.

 Here in Job chapters nine to ten the patriarch attempts to present a different perspective in his response to the charges of Bildad. In Job 9:2 he asks this question: But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? Job has no quarrel with Bildad’s main thesis that God always does what is right. He is equally convinced that God will not reject someone who has led an exemplary life free from sin and wrongdoing.

The problem we face, and which Job faced before us, is that none of us are perfect. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). When we point the index (or first) finger at another person, there are three other fingers that point back at us. Does this object lesson not teach us a simple point? Be very careful how we judge the choices of words or actions of other people. Other people make judgements about us and I assume each of us would want others to pass judgement fairly on what we say and so. 

 Job here imagines a courtroom where he could present his case before the jury. But he stops to consider that it is God with whom he is pictured as debating. Job 9:1-4 is a response to Bildad’s message. It states: Then Job replied:‘Indeed, I know that this is true. But how can mere mortals prove their innocence before God? Though they wished to dispute with Him, they could not answer Him once in a thousand times. His wisdom is profound, His power is vast. Who has resisted Him and come out unscathed?

Simply claiming that we are better than some other people may be stating the obvious truth, but it would not get us very far in a court of law. Job knew that he had to be honest before God and trust Him to work out his future pathway through life. God would later honour him for taking that stance.

 As followers of Jesus we know that God took action to bridge the gap between us and Him. Romans 3:23, cited above, is true, but in the person of Jesus we have someone who modelled for us how to live, before dying as a substitute for sinners on the cross outside the city wall in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. How can I be right before God, the question with which we began this brief reflection, is answered in many Bible passages including John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

I cannot be good enough in what I do to earn God’s favour, but thank God He sent Jesus to die in my place. Jesus was perfectly good and the one person who could die in our place and offer a sacrifice sufficient for us to be saved. This is the greatest good news in history. Have you received God’s gift of salvation?  It is simple enough for a little child to receive it, but so amazing that a person of extraordinary intellect can struggle to grasp the extent of the amazing love of God towards us.     

Our song for reflection today is ‘The power of the cross’

Brian Talbot