The Wrong Of Self-defense
A daily devotion for December 18th
1 Job continued his discourse:
2 "How I long for the months gone by,
for the days when God watched over me,
3 when his lamp shone upon my head
and by his light I walked through darkness!
4 Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God's intimate friendship blessed my house,
5 when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
6 when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil.
7 "When I went to the gate of the city
and took my seat in the public square,
8 the young men saw me and stepped aside
and the old men rose to their feet;
9 the chief men refrained from speaking
and covered their mouths with their hands;
10 the voices of the nobles were hushed,
and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths.
11 Whoever heard me spoke well of me,
and those who saw me commended me,
12 because I rescued the poor who cried for help,
and the fatherless who had none to assist him.
13 The man who was dying blessed me;
I made the widow's heart sing.
14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger.
17 I broke the fangs of the wicked
and snatched the victims from their teeth.
18 "I thought, 'I will die in my own house,
my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will remain fresh in me,
the bow ever new in my hand.'
21 "Men listened to me expectantly,
waiting in silence for my counsel.
22 After I had spoken, they spoke no more;
my words fell gently on their ears.
23 They waited for me as for showers
and drank in my words as the spring rain.
24 When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;
the light of my face was precious to them.
25 I chose the way for them and sat as their chief;
I dwelt as a king among his troops;
I was like one who comforts mourners.
1 "But now they mock me,
men younger than I,
whose fathers I would have disdained
to put with my sheep dogs.
2 Of what use was the strength of their hands to me,
since their vigor had gone from them?
3 Haggard from want and hunger,
they roamed the parched land
in desolate wastelands at night.
4 In the brush they gathered salt herbs,
and their food was the root of the broom tree.
5 They were banished from their fellow men,
shouted at as if they were thieves.
6 They were forced to live in the dry stream beds,
among the rocks and in holes in the ground.
7 They brayed among the bushes
and huddled in the undergrowth.
8 A base and nameless brood,
they were driven out of the land.
9 "And now their sons mock me in song;
I have become a byword among them.
10 They detest me and keep their distance;
they do not hesitate to spit in my face.
11 Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me,
they throw off restraint in my presence.
12 On my right the tribe attacks;
they lay snares for my feet,
they build their siege ramps against me.
13 They break up my road;
they succeed in destroying me—
without anyone's helping them.
14 They advance as through a gaping breach;
amid the ruins they come rolling in.
15 Terrors overwhelm me;
my dignity is driven away as by the wind,
my safety vanishes like a cloud.
16 "And now my life ebbs away;
days of suffering grip me.
17 Night pierces my bones;
my gnawing pains never rest.
18 In his great power God becomes like clothing to me ;
he binds me like the neck of my garment.
19 He throws me into the mud,
and I am reduced to dust and ashes.
20 "I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
21 You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
22 You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
23 I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.
24 "Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
my body burns with fever.
31 My harp is tuned to mourning,
and my flute to the sound of wailing.
1 "I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl.
2 For what is man's lot from God above,
his heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
4 Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?
5 "If I have walked in falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit-
6 let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless-
7 if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
8 then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.
9 "If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door,
10 then may my wife grind another man's grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
11 For that would have been shameful,
a sin to be judged.
12 It is a fire that burns to Destruction ;
it would have uprooted my harvest.
13 "If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants
when they had a grievance against me,
14 what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
16 "If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
17 if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless-
18 but from my youth I reared him as would a father,
and from my birth I guided the widow-
19 if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or a needy man without a garment,
20 and his heart did not bless me
for warming him with the fleece from my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint.
23 For I dreaded destruction from God,
and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.
24 "If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, 'You are my security,'
25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained,
26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendor,
27 so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
28 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
29 "If I have rejoiced at my enemy's misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him-
30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against his life-
31 if the men of my household have never said,
'Who has not had his fill of Job's meat?'-
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveler-
33 if I have concealed my sin as men do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart
34 because I so feared the crowd
and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
that I kept silent and would not go outside
35 ("Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
36 Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
37 I would give him an account of my every step;
like a prince I would approach him.)-
38 "if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
39 if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
40 then let briers come up instead of wheat
and weeds instead of barley."
The words of Job are ended.
If my land cries out against me and all its furrows are wet with tears, if I have devoured its yield without payment or broken the spirit of its tenants, then let briers come up instead of wheat and weeds instead of barley (Job 31:38-39).
With this, the words of Job are ended; he has nothing more to say. Baffled, questioning, tormented, yet unwilling to forsake God, he falls silent. What can we say about the trials, the pressures, and the riddles of our own life? Remember that Job at this point has learned that his theology is too small for his God. That is true for many of us. We think we know the Bible, we think we have God boxed in, and we understand how He is going to act. And just as surely as we do, God is going to do something that will not fit our theology. He is greater than any human study of Him. He is not going to be inconsistent with Himself; He never is. He is not capricious, acting out of anger and malice. He is a loving God, but His love will take forms of expression that we do not understand. Up to this point Job has had his faith in the rule of God, but now at last he has begun to reach out tremblingly to exercise faith in the God who rules. That is a transfer that many of us need to come to.
The second thing that we can see at this point in the book is that Job's view of himself is woefully inadequate. He has been defending himself, and he has been remembering all his good deeds. We all do this, don't we? When trouble strikes we all tend to think to ourselves,
Why should this happen to me? By that we mean,
I haven't done anything wrong. I've been perfectly well behaved. Why should I be subjected to this kind of torment? All this makes us realize that he and we also have little understanding of the depths of sin's attack upon us and the depravity of our hearts. Jeremiah says,
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9)? The one thing God teaches us by these pressures and problems of life is to understand that there are depths of sin within us of which we are not yet aware.
The third thing that we need to see is that his self-vindication explains the silence of God. Why does God not help this man? The answer is because he has not yet come to the place where he is willing to listen. As long as people are defending themselves, God will not defend them. There is a theme that runs all through the Bible:
As long as you justify yourself, God will never justify you. And as long as Job thinks he has some righteous ground on which to stand, God's silence remains. This is true in our lives as well. That is why Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3), those who are bankrupt in themselves, who have come to the end. When we shut up and stop defending and justifying ourselves, God will rise to take up our cause. That is what we will see in the book of Job at the end; God will begin to speak on Job's behalf.
Lord, help me to lay aside all my flaunting schemes for self-improvement and self-defense and stand naked before You, trusting Your loving grace to give me all I need,
Life Application: We inevitably whitewash our conduct in self-defense. Are we willing to stand naked before God who knows us intimately yet defends us as we stand complete in Christ?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.