In the book of Job, chapter 31, we find Job in the midst of a discourse in which he acquits himself of at least a dozen sins as he unfolds his closing argument prior to resting his case before the Judge.
While it can be argued that when Elihu arrives he charges Job with self-righteousness, perhaps using the monologue in this chapter as key fodder for those accusations, we must nevertheless observe how Job was a model of a holy, godly life. It may be true that he failed to exercise discretion before trumpeting his good deeds to others, there is still much profit to be had in thoroughly digesting this chapter. Here we’ll use it to examine the reasons behind the motivation for Job’s integrity, or why Job was restrained against the numerous sins from which he exonerated himself. These restraints against sin may be summarized as follows
- Loss of inheritance with God (vs. 2)
- Calamity or disaster by the hand of God’s wrath (vs. 3)
- Omniscience of God (vs. 4)
- Heinousness of Sin (vs. 11)
- Loss of estate & soul (vs. 12)
- Hierarchy with God over him (vs. 14)
- Equally Fashioned in the womb by God (vs. 15)
- Terror of Calamity from God (vs. 23a)
- The Majesty of God (vs. 23b)
- Punishment by the judges (vs. 28a)
- Hypocrisy (vs. 28b)
- Fear of God – is the general tenor of all that comprises this list and is the outflow of the overall condition of Job’s heart.
The first three restraints from this summary occur as Job acquits himself of the sin of fornication or lust. In Job 31:1 he acquits himself of gazing lustfully at a woman with the memorable statement “I have made a covenant with my eyes.” Job supports this covenant by pointing toward three restraints, namely the loss of inheritance with God, punishment in the form of calamity or disaster at the hand of God’s wrath, and the omniscience of God. Essentially, Job is questioning what a man who indulges in lust can expect to receive from God. The rhetorical question implies the answer is, nothing good, in fact only judgment. Lust of the flesh can often be a hidden sin because once the eye captures, the heart fans the flames of desire largely resulting in the internalization of the sin, though it may have obvious outward manifestations. Still, though it be a hidden sin, it is not hidden from the all-seeing omniscient eye of God as Job readily recognizes.
Similarly, Job next applies a set of restraints to adultery, or what we might say is the physical expression of the lusts that were denied previously. Too often we fail to realize that allowing lust of the eyes unfettered access into our hearts can, and often does, result in a greater depth of sin, namely adultery. Here Job acquits himself of this sin by stating two restraining factors that have held him back, the heinousness of sin and the everlasting fires of judgment that destroy a man’s estate and his soul.
The next two restraints from sin that Job mentions are applied to his business relationship with his employees, described for us as manservants and maidservants. Here he is restrained by understanding the hierarchy of God to master and master to servant. In essence, Job has described Ephesians 6:9, “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master (Lord) and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.” The second restraint applied to this case is the equality between the classes, master and servant, because God has fashioned both in the womb. This is certainly a lesson for us that all men and women are created equal because God is the Creator and Maker of all, in His own image we may add.
The next set of restraints are applied to the societal sins from which Job acquits himself found in verses 16-23. These two are fear of calamity from God and the majesty of God. James Durham remarks, “He adds [these] reasons to show, that it was neither his natural temper so inclining him, nor applause of men, nor baseness of spirit, that made him forbear such things, but the awe of God, which was the principle of his acting and forbearing.” (pg. 180)
Finally, we arrive at the sin of idolatry, from which Job says he was restrained by the consequence of punishment by judges and the hypocrisy of denying God. The sin of idolatry was considered a violation of the law and therefore subject to punishment from the civil authorities. Additionally, Job sees a higher constraint for idolatry, namely that it would mean he had denied God, which in his case would have been hypocrisy of the highest order.
Parsing through these, we find a godly fear operating within Job as the undercurrent that motivates him to refrain from committing open sins. This is corroborated by the opening commendation of Job in chapters 1 & 2, “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.“ While Job mentions at least these eleven restraints it is clear that the chief restraint is the fear of the Lord. This calls to mind the very words of Job in chapter 28 describing the height of wisdom from God, “And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”
In addition to the restraints that Job mentions in this chapter, applied toward particular sins, he also calls down a series of curses upon himself applied in the case of other sins. Job weaves between restraints and consequences both acting to guard him from delving into a life or pattern of various sins. Oh that our hearts would be so quick to shun evil as was Job’s. Oh that we would open our eyes to see the fear of the Lord clearly before us that we might be restrained from sin.