A Blameless Man
You can sum up not only the book of Job, but also the whole Gospel in the words used to describe Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. In fact, you can reduce it even further with the one word: blameless. The central question of religion is “How can human beings get free of guilt?” How can we escape that sense, however vague, of gnawing insecurity that dogs our every step? Jesus asked His disciples, “Why are you afraid?” I don’t know about you, but I am sometimes afraid because of my lingering suspicion that it is impossible to please God. Oh, I know that God loves me—but how can I be sure He likes me? In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the father loved both the rebellious son and his straight-laced elder brother, but in the end, only the younger son pleased him. Only the prodigal delighted his father’s heart.
Of course, God loves us. Everybody knows that. But that is precisely the problem we have in relating to God: He loves everybody, indiscriminately, even the people that will suffer Hell. Who needs love like that? The real question is not whether God loves us, but whether He approves of us, whether we are pleasing to Him. One thing is certain, if we are not pleasing to God He will never be pleasing to us. Why should we like someone who is forever condemning us? On the other hand, can we imagine what it would be like to so move and excite the heart of God that He would run to meet us, throw His arms around us and kiss us, dress us in His best robe, and put rings on our fingers? Can we picture the Lord Almighty killing the fattened calf for us and throwing a big party in our honor? Can we imagine having the Creator of the universe say to us, just as He said to Jesus Christ, “You are my son, and you are my delight”?
If we cannot imagine being, as Jesus was and the Scripture claims Job was, beyond reproach in the eyes of God, all our faith is useless. If we cannot get past God’s criticism and into His favor—if we cannot be good friends with Him—then what is the point of our religion? On the other hand, if Job really was a living example of blamelessness in his relationship with God, then it must at least be possible. If this is true, we had better pay attention to this man and find out what his secret was.
The secret seems to begin with a solid grasp of the fact that being blameless is not quite the same as being guiltless. If someone is guiltless, it simply means that he has done nothing wrong. If he is accused of wrong, then he is accused falsely and that is all there is to it. But if someone is blameless it means something more mysterious: it means that no matter how horrible his offenses may have been, all the charges against him have been dropped. Absolutely no blame attaches to him, because the very one he offended has exonerated him. In the words of Psalm 32:2, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him.” Once the reality of that sinks in, we will burst out and do a little “happy dance”! God’s covenant with us in Christ is not that He will prevent us from ever committing a sin, but rather that He will forgive us our sins. He will be faithful in forgiveness. Our part is to believe this—that is to be blameless not so much in our outward conduct (though obviously we strive for this also), but in our faith, our trust in the Lord’s faithfulness. It is with your heart that you believe and are justified. If we are blameless in this respect, then all the credit for our righteousness will very plainly not be ours but the Lord’s, who, as Jude assures us, is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault.
The story of Job shows a remarkable man who somehow intuitively grasped and accepted this astounding message. So much so, that even when he was tempted to the Max to let go of it, he still held to it firmly against all odds. Under attack Job groaned, he wailed, he doubted and fell into deep depression, he lashed out like an infuriated animal—and yes, he even sinned. Yet, when it came to this one point regarding the settled fact of his status of irreproachable blamelessness before the Lord, he refused to give an inch. Having placed his trust totally in God, he violently resisted the notion that there might still be some other step he should take. Something else he must do, to gain God’s favor under adverse circumstances. All of us fall into the same trap. We constantly look at our lives and count ourselves unworthy of the Lord’s attention. Or, worse yet, ignore His presence and invitation for relationship. We simply do the “church thing” and never seek anything more of the Father. The problem is, when that happens, we live empty, lonely, unsatisfied lives. We are never satisfied to sit back and enjoy the love and favor of our Father.
In my own pursuit of Christ, I have seen times when, as Brennan Manning has so perfectly described:
“There have been times pockmarked by disastrous victories and magnificent defeats, soul-diminishing successes and life-enhancing failures. I have known seasons of fidelity and betrayal, periods of consolation and desolation, zeal and apathy.
“There have also been times . . .
“when the felt presence of God was more real to me than the chair I am sitting on;
“when the Word ricocheted like broken-backed lightning in every corner of my soul;
“when a storm of desire carried me to places I have never visited.
“Then again, there have been other times . . .
“when I identified with the words of Mae West: ‘I used to be Snow White—but I drifted’;
“when the Word was as stale as old ice cream and as bland as tame sausage;
“when the fire in my belly flickered and died;
“when I mistook dried-up enthusiasm for gray-haired wisdom;
“when I dismissed cheap slivers of glass tot the pearl of great price.”
As we move on in the story, the first five verses introduce us to this man named Job and provides a very brief description of his personal character, wealth, position, and size of his family. The passages carry a strong patriarchal flavor. Job was a man like Abraham, a kind of yahwistic sheik so rich and influential that his private estate would have been virtually a self-contained town. In the case of Abraham, we know that his traveling tent-city consisted of at least 318-trained men born in his household. Now this only refers to fighting men, not their families or other men who were not trained fighters. This implies a community, including women and children, of a thousand at the very least, and Job’s domain appears to have been even larger than that.
In our modern civilization, massive wealth is such a common phenomenon that we can easily miss the significance of this inventory of Job’s estate. His household possessed ten children: seven sons and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys and a large number of servants. In fact, he was considered the greatest man among all the people of the East.
In the Western world today even those who are among the top 5 percent of the world’s wealthy are called “middle-class,” and most of us who are in this bracket have (not surprisingly) a somewhat schizophrenic attitude toward our affluence. On one level we take it for granted, thinking of it as something to which we have a right or even as a sign of God’s approval. Yet, at a deeper level, we know that we are only kidding ourselves. We know we live in a fool’s paradise.
It is not that there is anything inherently bad about being rich. If God had been an ascetic, He would never have created the world. Asceticism is a simplistic answer to a complex problem. Paul exposes the folly of the “Do not taste! Do not touch” approach when he stated that those types of regulations have an appearance of wisdom . . . but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. There is no spiritual value in poverty, per se, but there is great worth indeed in the godly management of a large number of possessions and affairs.
In my opinion, our problem today is that not many of us have the attitude toward our riches that Job had. Later in the story, we catch a glimpse of what Job actually did with his money and with his time and energy. We will see how he rescued the needy; cared personally for the handicapped and the dying; brought orphans into his home; he even took the power barons of his day to court and argued the case for the underprivileged (see Job 29:12-17; 31:16-21). On top of that, this was all done without any government programs or assistance and without any tax benefits or receipts for charitable donations. If Job did not follow the letter of Jesus’ command to “sell everything you have and give to the poor,” he did follow its spirit by administering all his resources not for his own good but for the good of society. When Jesus warned how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, he was pointing to the tendency of lucre first to bury itself in a man’s pocket, and then to bury the man. The problem is not the wealth, it is the character and spirit of the man who has it. However, Job’s wealth did not cling to him—it flowed through him. He was not so much a collector of wealth as a distributor of it, not an owner but a steward. That is why he could say so easily, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Job was that rarest of millionaires—one who is not “filthy rich” but rather “clean rich,” not “rich as sin” but “rich as righteousness.”
With great wealth comes great responsibility, and like the other Biblical patriarchs, Job must have led a tremendously busy life, filled with hard work and practical cares. No hut-dwelling hermit or introverted pietist, he was an active man of the world, continually rubbing shoulders with other people and meeting the challenges and stresses of ordinary life. These will be important facts to remember as we come to reflect on his approaching ordeal.
Where are you with your wealth–or lack of wealth? Do you own it, or does it own you? Something you will learn about Job is the wealth just was. It did not consume him, he enjoyed its benefits, but was willing to lose it any time. Well, we will examine Job’s journey in future posts . . .
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