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 16: 18-22; 17: 8-10 (NIV)
18 “O earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest!
19 Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.
20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God;
21 on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.
22 Only a few years will pass before I go on the journey of no return.
17: 8 Upright men are appalled at this; the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.
9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger.
10 “But come on, all of you, try again! I will not find a wise man among you.”
In the second of the three rounds of these address-and-response speeches, Eliphaz again addressed Job (chapter 15). The verses above from chapters 16 and 17 present Job’s response.
It is evident that Job’s replies to these men he thought to be friends have become increasingly sharp. He began (16: 1) with “I have heard many things like these, miserable comforters are you all!” This was prompted by the harshness of their criticisms of his attitude in refusing to acknowledge that he must have committed what they considered to be sin.
Job however continued to protest his innocence to them and to God. His argument was that to do otherwise, when he firmly believed that he had not done anything to warrant such attention from God, was to corrupt his integrity. “Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household,” (16: 7) represents how Job viewed this attention. Although his friends considered his conscience to have been corrupted, Job remained confident he deserved acquittal.
Strangely, although Job had received no communication at all from God since the beginning of his ordeals, he believed there was someone in heaven to stand before God and to plead on Job’s behalf. The reference to “intercessor” in verse 20 suggests somebody in the heavenly court was appointed to defend Job’s case before the divine Judge. Did mention of this “intercessor” anticipate Jesus’ resurrection and ascension in glory to sit at the right hand of God? Whether the author of the book of Job was given such insight is debated; the enduring comfort for us in these times of the New Covenant is that we have a Redeemer, one who has already purchased for us our righteous standing before the divine Judge, just so long as we put our full faith in Jesus as Saviour of the world.
Meanwhile, in the passage above as Job clung to his assurance of his own innocent status, he was alluding to himself as he asserted to his friends what he believed to be true: “Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger” (17: 9).
Job did, throughout his entire ordeal, hold to his faith in God. This both challenges us and inspires us to commit to do likewise, and to do so with hands ever “clean”.