The book of Job is the subject of reflections from August to October. Relying on the Revised Common Lectionary’s readings for Tuesdays, I draw on nominated passages from Job to offer us encouragement and to guide our living week by week.
Job 27: 1-6
1 And Job continued his discourse:
2 “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul,
3 as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils,
4 my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit.
5 I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity.
6 I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.
The third round of address-and-response speeches had concluded (without a contribution this time from Zophar) and, after Job delivered his final response to the three, he concluded with the discourse of 27: 2-23.
It is a terrible claim for a man to say that God “has denied me justice”! In this instance Job made that accusation using a very serious oath, “As surely as God lives”! How could Job say such things?
Despair, perhaps total depression, might have described his state of mind. We may be tempted to attribute the brashness of his statement to feeling that he had nothing left to lose and yet Job did have more to lose: he had not lost his life and he had not lost his integrity. Perhaps his claim that God had denied him justice was not unreasonable in that, up to this specific point in time, Job had not seen justice dealt to him. His claim did not necessarily mean that, for him, God’s justice would never be administered.
Job’s next assertion, that “the Almighty … has made me taste bitterness of soul”, was less contentious. Clearly his soul was greatly troubled; through no apparent fault of Job, life had become bitter. Yet his vows recorded in verses 4-6 remained steadfast. Job could not accept the friends’ points of view because those points of view were not correct. Based on assumptions that held no truth, they were plainly wrong. Job found it impossible to call “wrong” “right”. To do so would be to deny his integrity. His conscience then would have reproached him for not clinging to the truth.
Each of us would do well to follow Job’s instructive example. In this age where relativism is so prevalent, where social mores make a virtue of tolerance at the expense of truth and where there is a widespread rejection of the word of God, are we bound to comply with our culture’s world view? Are we obligated to suppress or even to change our own beliefs if these do not align, for example, with an agenda actively promoted by secular humanists?
Encountering attitudes which seem contrary to or hostile to the word of God, I find it helpful to remind myself of the response given by the Apostles Peter and John (Acts 4: 19-20) when ordered not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus: “Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard’”.
May we never be prevented from speaking of what we know about our Lord Jesus Christ.