Sin and Death
It should not surprise us that in the middle of his thoughts and meditations on death, Job also brings up the issue of sin. In his mind, you cannot separate the two. They are so entwined that they are almost one and the same. The very reason human beings die is that they are sinners. “Death came to all men,” Paul wrote, “because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Death is not only the consequence but also the evidence of sin. When the body dies, all that is left is sin; all that is left is the naked fact of total corruption, laid out for everybody to see. Hence, the old warning, “Your sin will find you out.”
This is the very essence of Job’s problem. Since he finds his body “wasting away like something rotten, like a garment eaten by moths” (Job 13:28), he assumes that the Lord is refusing to forgive him, refusing to release him from his sin. As far as Job is concerned, as long as sickness and death are in the world, sin remains unconquered. His friends seem to believe that righteousness is living without any taint of moral corruption. Yet, if that was true, it should also be possible to avoid physical corruption. Then the righteous would go on living forever, while only the godless died. Clearly, this is not the case, so for Job the physical death of the righteous was an obstacle in the way of the helplessly naïve theology of his friends. Beyond that, any religion that cannot get its followers free from the curse of death, has not done a good enough job with the problem of sin.
The biggest difference between Job and his friends is most evident in their vastly different views to the problems of sin and death. His friends, like many of us, have struck a kind of a deal with death, where we just don’t think about it much. Then the Lord steps in and says, “Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand” (Isaiah 28:18). But you see, Job never made that type of agreement, that’s why he is free to protest loudly to his God about the outrageous insult of death: “As torrents wash away the soil, so you destroy man’s hope. You overpower him once for all, and he is gone.” When it comes to the issue of sin, the friends imply that it is possible to “put away sin” and lead an impeccable life. Job, on the other hand, hopes that the time will come when his sin will no longer be “kept track of” by God, but will be “sealed in a bag.” He seems to know the truth of I John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
He freely admits he is a sinner, and yet still he clings to an obscure hope that somehow the Lord will “cover over” his sin. By this, he means that his God must save him from the curse of death. In Job’s mind, liberation from death would be the only acceptable sign and proof that his sin had been forgiven. Freedom from sin would be the sole and necessary sign that death had been conquered.
Every Christian has wrestled with the text in I John 3:9: “No one who is born of God will continue to sin.” What about Jesus’ promise in John 8:51: “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death?” Job understood that sin and death are two heads of the same monster. This is why the Son of God had to die in order to take away sin. It is also the reason Christ rose from the dead, in order to guarantee our righteousness, because the righteousness of Christ is true life.
By drawing a direct equation between righteousness and life itself, Job was proposing a solution to the problem of sin and death. In fact, this turned out to be the solution of the gospel itself. The gospel of a divine forgiveness is so radical that it would not only cancel all sin but also, by that very act, raise the dead to eternal life.
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