Job Maintains that He is Innocent
March 30, 2014 / No. 3717
Dear Radio Friends,
Today in our studies in the life of Job we turn to Job chapter 27, and we’ll consider the first seven verses. This section is Job’s final speech, after a lengthy discussion and debate with his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.
In this speech, and particularly in the section that we look at today, Job vigorously asserts his own innocence over against the opinion of his three friends that his suffering is judgment from God against him for sins he had committed.
What Job says here is a part of his patient response to his suffering and it is written as an example for us. At the beginning of the book, after Job had received blow upon blow of suffering, Job’s wife asked him, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity?” Now, towards the end of the book, we see the same thing, Job retains his integrity under severe trial. What an example! Job not only clings to God, but he also guards his mouth, and resolves to continue living in a way that glorifies God.
Sometimes when we go through suffering we can become quite weak and fragile, and then we think we have an excuse for sinful behavior—we can get snappy at our family members, or we indulge in some forbidden pleasure, or some will turn to a substance to drown their sorrows. But Job does not do any of those things, instead he retains his integrity, and that is what we see here in this passage.
In verse 2, Job begins by taking a vow before God. With the words, “As God liveth…,” Job calls God to be a witness to what he is about to say. This is not a rash vow. Job realizes that God is alive, that God is real, that God is aware of all he does, and so he takes a vow of resolve and determination to live before God.
In verse 2, Job gives a description of God that is also a description of his own bitter experience. He says, “As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment, and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul.”
Here, Job is again confessing that all the trouble and bitterness that has come to him in his life is from the hand of God. It is not wrong for Job to confess this. He says that God has “taken away his judgment.” He means that God has denied him an explanation for his suffering. Throughout the book, Job has asked for a hearing with God, not only so that he can have an explanation for his suffering, but also to silence the accusations of his friends. But God has taken away his judgment. As we will see in the next message, here is where Job sinned in response to his suffering. He wants God to explain himself, but God is greater than man, and is under no obligation to explain Himself to man. But you see, this is exactly what makes Job’s suffering so severe. His friends are accusing, his wife is forsaking, his children are dead, he is destitute and sick, and God seems to have withdrawn himself. So Job says that the Almighty has vexed his soul. His suffering is not just external and physical, but it troubles his soul and brings bitterness into his experience. And, Job says, the Almighty has done this. God, who is all powerful and sovereign, has brought this on me.
So this is Job’s bitter experience. God has brought all this suffering into his life, and God is giving no explanation for it, and meanwhile he is being accused by his friends of hypocrisy.
How is Job going to respond? How will we respond to the bitter providences of God that come into our lives.
In these verses there are two things that Job expresses in his response. First, his godly determination, and then second, his clear conscience, and by this, Job silences both his accusing friends and the devil.
Sometimes Satan will plague us in our troubles, with doubts and accusations. He will try, like Job’s friends, to tell us that we are suffering because we are really bad sinners, and that our suffering proves that God does not love us or care about us. How do we drive away the devil and the accusations of conscience? By responding as Job does here.
First, you have his godly determination in verses 3 through 5. Job has taken a vow before God: “As God liveth.” And now he gives the content of that vow. “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God in my nostrils, my lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove my integrity from me.” So, God lives, and I am alive, and so long as I live, so long as I have breath, till the day I die, Job vows, I am resolved to serve God.
Job will do that because he realizes that this is why God has given him life. In verse three, when he says, so long as “the spirit of God is in my nostrils,” he is alluding to the way man was created in Genesis 2. God formed him from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. By creating man that way, God showed that man was different than all the animals and other creatures. Man became a living soul. He was made in the image of God. He was made to love and to serve God consciously. That is what Job is saying: “So long as I live, I have this purpose, from God, to serve Him.” Despite his circumstances, even though trouble has come into his life, still he will serve the God who has brought this on him. That is his resolve and determination.
In Psalm 146:2 we read, “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.” This is why I was made, this is why I am here on the earth, this is why God still gives me breath. So that I might praise and glorify Him.
Do you think about that? Today you are listening to this message. That means you are alive, you are breathing. Do you say, “While my breath is in me, I will serve the Lord” ? You see, we are not here in this world for ourselves, for our gain, fame, happiness, or pleasure. No, we are here for God. We are not here for the general well-being of humanity. No, we are here to serve God. This is man’s chief purpose, to glorify God.
That is so important for us to remember, especially as we are going through troubles and difficulties. It helps us not to become self-focused or overwhelmed. Our response is always a response to God. Every trial is an opportunity to bring glory to God in a new way. And the way that we respond to God in our trials is a testimony to others of our faith.
That is Job’s resolve and determination of heart. But you will notice it does not just stay in his heart. It is a resolve to control his entire life, and especially his tongue. In verse 4 he says, “I will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.” He means that he is going to be careful, in response to his trials, to watch his tongue. In Psalm 39:9, the psalmist responds to a severe trial by saying, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou Lord didst it.” There his concern is that the name of God be glorified in the presence of the wicked. That has been Job’s motivation too. In chapter 1, when he makes the beautiful confession, “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away,” we read that Job sinned not nor charged God foolishly. In chapter 2, when his wife says, “Curse God,” after Job’s response in which he tells his wife that we should expect both good and evil from the hand of the Lord, the Bible says, “In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
So Job is a man who is concerned that he never use his tongue to dishonor the name of God. And that includes, for him, that he tell the truth, that he be honest. In response to his trials and the accusations of his friends, he is not going to pad his record by boasting and lying.
How refreshing it is to know someone whose word you can trust, who deals with facts, and not fantasy. You can trust his words, because you know he is not trying to manipulate you, because what he says is what he means. Job was this kind of a man, and that is part of why his friends and Satan fall silent. His friends give long speeches on how just God is, and on what sinners can expect from God, but it is quite indirect. Job does not deal with people that way. He is forthright. In verse 5 he says, “God forbid that I should justify you.” He means, I am not just going to agree with you because you are my friends, or just to keep peace between us. He is a man of his word.
This determination of Job to control his tongue is a determination with regard to his entire life. In the New Testament, James says that a man who has control of his tongue has control of the whole body. Job’s resolve here is not just about his words, but it includes his entire life, it is a resolve to live a life of obedience to God. Later, in chapter 31:1, he says, “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” He is resolved to control his eyes and his sinful desires. Then in the verses following he says, “Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps? If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit; Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity” (Job 31:4-6). Job is resolved to a life of obedience to God, with all that he is, because he loves God with all that he is. Though God smites me, hides His way from me, and makes my way bitter, yet I will love Him, and I will show my love and commitment by continuing in His way. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Love for God is not just a feeling, it is not just words, but it is actions of obedience to God’s Word, and a resolve to persist in that way.
Where does Job’s resolve and obedience come from? It comes from his heart, it comes from within. Outward words and conduct always reveal what is in the heart. That is what Job means at the end of verse 5 and into verse 6. “Till I die, I will not remove mine integrity from me.” What is integrity? It has to do with character. Job has a heart that has been worked on by the grace of God, and by that inward power of grace. That work of God will continue. You see, by nature Job was born, just like every other person, dead in sins, and with a heart that was not willing to be subject to the law of God. But God in grace had changed him, so that God Himself gave this testimony concerning Job to Satan, “He is a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and eschews evil.” The grace that God had worked produced this love in Job for his God, and out of that love comes the commitment.
Job’s friends accused him of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is external conduct that does not come from a sincere heart. Speaking of the hypocrite in verse 10, Job says, “Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?” Of course not; trials will expose his hypocrisy and he will curse God. But you see, because Job’s heart is sincere, he calls on God and determines to love God, even when God has afflicted him. Sometimes in our trials God seems far off, and we are tempted to doubt His love or our salvation, but the very fact that in trial we look to Him is an evidence of His grace in us. That should be an encouragement to us that we are His, that we are not the hypocrite or wicked person that Job describes later in this chapter.
So you have here Job’s godly determination, which arises from a sincere heart of love for God.
Then in verse 6 we have Job’s declaration that his conscience is clear. Job says this, “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.”
To understand these words, we should see first that Job is not justifying himself before God, nor is he saying that he is righteous by his own works. No, last week we looked at Job chapter 9 verse 2, and there Job says that no man can stand before God and be righteous in himself. We need Jesus Christ the Mediator. But here, Job is not talking about his legal and eternal standing before God. He is not talking about heaven or hell, and his acceptance with God. Rather, these words are spoken in reference to his earthly life, and are his answer to the accusation of his friends. He uses the word “righteous” in reference to his living; his life is righteous. His conduct is in line with God’s law. Yes, he is a sinner, but the general way and direction of his life is one that agrees with God’s word. He is not a flagrant rebel. He has not committed some great sin, for which he is now being punished. And so, when he says, “My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go,” Job is insisting on his innocence. He is saying to his friends, “You throw all these accusations at me, but none of you is able to point to a specific sin. Your words are just generalizations, and they don’t stick, because there’s nothing for them to stick to. I’m going to insist on it, that I am an upright man, and that God is not sending these troubles in my life as punishment for my sin.” Back in verse 5 he says, “God forbid that I should justify you,” and that fits here. “For me to say that God is punishing me, when I know that He is not, would be to agree with your wrong theology of God, and I’m not going to do it. God is sovereign over all that has happened in my life, God has the right to bring these things, but God is also a God of mercy, who doesn’t operate according to your strict view of justice. You have judged by what you see, by providence, but that doesn’t always tell us what God’s heart is. I hold fast to my innocence, because I know that in love and faithfulness God has afflicted me.”
Really, what Job is saying is this, “My conscience is clear before God.” Notice the end of verse 6, “My heart shall not reproach me, so long as I live.” The word heart there refers to the conscience.
Everyone has a conscience. The conscience is the inner part of us that knows about God, and knows what is right and wrong. The Bible tells us that the conscience of the natural unregenerate man will either accuse him or excuse him. That is, it will tell him that he is not right before God, it will accuse him, and then he will either make an excuse so that his conscience is cleared, or he will suppress that witness of the conscience in unbelief, he will do what he can to drown it out with pleasure, or philosophy, or something else.
And so the Bible talks about having a conscience seared with a hot iron. That is the same as saying that a person has a heart that is hardened to God’s Word and the gospel. They simply do not hear it anymore, or, when they do hear it, it does not go beyond their ears. Having ears, they hear not; having eyes, they see not; nor do they understand. And, you see, that is the natural and depraved state of everyone apart from the work of grace.
But where grace comes, that is where God comes by His Holy Spirit into the mind and heart of a person. Then, when the conscience accuses, there is repentance instead of excuses. And the child of God learns to live before God, not just in conduct, but with a heart of love and sincerity before Him. The heart of the child of God is not simply a voice that must be silenced, but it is subject to God’s judgment, and it is directed by the Word of God. The unregenerate man wants to silence and escape from the witness of his conscience, but the child of God, because he loves God, realizes that in his conscience God is speaking, and he stands before God the judge, and his conscience is directed, not by his own desires and ideas, but by the Word of God. As he lives before God, his life begins to conform to the law of God, and then he can have a clear conscience before God, so that he can say with Job, “My heart shall not reproach me, so long as I live.”
It reminds us of the famous words of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
And that, in essence, is what Job is saying to his friends. God is my judge, and I have a clear conscience before Him.
We must be warned here not to use this kind of language too quickly or too flippantly. Too many today talk this way in order to excuse their sin: “You leave me alone, God is my judge.” But at the same time, their conscience is not directed by God’s Word, and rather than standing before God in their conscience, they are excusing it and suppressing its testimony. That is fearful, because that is how the mind of the reprobate unbeliever operates. So, though others cannot judge our conscience, our conscience is clear only when our life conforms to God’s Word. Otherwise, it should smite us and bring us to repentance.
But at the same time, every believer should be able to say what Job says here, or what Luther said at Worms. I think of the way David prays, many times over in the Psalms.
In Psalm 17:3: “Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.”
Or again, in Psalm 26:1: “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity.”
Then also in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Yes, there are times when we fall into sin and must repent; and there are daily sins in our lives that also need repentance, but the child of God, as he lives a godly life with the determination and resolve that Job had, can live with a clear conscience before God and not have to live before the accusations of Satan and the world.
Is that because we are righteous in ourselves? No, but in our love for God and our commitment and resolve to serve Him, we do see the work of His grace. And though repentance is always necessary, we know the pardon of sin from this same gracious and loving God. Then, when troubles come, we know that they also come out of God’s love for us.
Then Satan has nothing to say, he is silenced. That is the effect of the words of Job here. Job’s accusers are silenced. Satan had said, Job is a fair-weather Christian, who fears God only for what he has. Take it all away, he said to God, and he will curse thee to thy face. But it did not happen. Still Job clings to God, still he loves Him, still he confesses God’s sovereign love and mercy, and still he lives with a clear conscience as he serves God.
And so Job says, in verse 7, “Let mine enemy be as the wicked, and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.” Who is Job’s enemy? We could say it was his so-called friends, but Job speaks in the singular, one enemy. That is Satan. Let him be as the wicked, that is, let him be judged and cast out and silenced and come under the wrath of God, just as the wicked will. Job is clear before God, but Satan will be judged and vanquished for his hand in the troubles that came in Job’s life.
We see here that there is nothing in all this world that can separate us from the love of God. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
Let us pray,
Father, give us the determination and resolve of Job, and give us a clear conscience, by searching our hearts and our way, and purging, and leading us in the way everlasting. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.