Repentance for Questions

As the book of Job comes to a close, we watch the dramatic confrontation take place, but it is not the one we expect at the beginning. From the third chapter of the book onward, we are expecting to see Job confront the Lord with his questions as to why all this bad stuff is happening to him. But, in the end, it is the Lord confronting Job, and rightly so.

By chapter 40, we have already had a couple of chapters in which God has shown Job that Job is unqualified to even ask the questions that he is demanding that God answer. Job was not there when God set the universe in place. Job was not there when God set the stars in order. Job does not know how God keeps the snow and the hailstones. Job is finite, and there is no way that he is ready to question God.

And as chapter 40 begins, God checks with Job to see if Job has gotten the point.

Job 40:1-8

1 And the Lord said to Job:
2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but I will proceed no further.”
6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
7 “Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
8 Will you even put me in the wrong?
Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?

In verses 1-2, God asks Job if he really wants to fight this battle. And Job, in 3-5, says that he will remain silent. Job has almost gotten there, but he is not quite there yet.

Thus, with the beginning of verse 6, we get another couple of chapters of questions in which the Lord again declares his infinite might and infinite wisdom in comparison to Job’s finitude.

All this to get to verse 8, the question that God asks that should ring in our ears like a gong. In verse 8, God asks, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” And you should be able to feel what the answer to this question should be. It is a rhetorical question, and it’s obvious teaching point is this: No human being has the right to attempt to declare God to be in the wrong.

Stop and consider this truth more clearly. What would be required for a human being to have the right to declare God to be in the wrong? There are only two possibilities that I can think of, and each of them is horrific. One possibility would be that a human being could declare God to be in the wrong if there is an external measure of right and wrong to appeal to that is outside of, beyond, and over God. But if such a standard existed, a thing above God to measure him and find him right or wrong, that standard would be the ultimate, not the deity it claims to measure. Thus, to declare that God is measured by an external standard would declare God to be less than God. The second alternative, one even more blasphemous if possible, would be to declare that the human himself is in a superior position to the Lord and thus has the right to measure and judge God.

But all of theology teaches us that God is the ultimate. God is holy, a cut above us in his perfections, and is measured by no external standard. God gives us the standard of right, not the other way around.

Job 42:1-6

1 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
2 “I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

In chapter 42, Job repents. He even laughs at his own foolishness for how he darkened counsel by words without knowledge. Job knows that his words added nothing to the discussion. Job knows that his questions came from an entirely wrong place and lacked wisdom. And so, unlike chapter 40 when Job merely said he would be silent, now Job repents. He was wrong in his questions and attitude. He was wrong in believing that he could declare God to be wrong. And so Job turns. And the book ends with God showing Job grace and favor.

I do not, in this little post, desire to be unsympathetic to Job. He messed up—otherwise repenting would not be the proper response—but he messed up far less than many a human would have done in his setting. Remember his wife telling him in 2:9 just to curse God and die? No, I do not want to put Job down in any way. But this is a significant point that we must grab hold of. God is God and we are not. We are in no position to judge the morality of God, because we lack the wisdom and purity to even begin to measure his perfections.

I have had conversations with many people who do not understand the ways of the Lord. They may even say, at the end of the day, that they disagree with laws God made or things God calls sin. They may disagree with the existence of hell or that Christ is the only way. And all of these are questions of the actual morality, the moral goodness, of God.

We must, if we are not to be taken down a very dangerous path, begin with a proper understanding of the infinite wisdom and unending holiness of god. We must remember that, if God really is God, he cannot be measured by a morality that is external to him. He must be the standard of perfection, for no other being in the universe matches his glory. God is right. And when we think that we can judge his choices, we are acting, to follow Scripture’s own description, like fools.

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