It seems only fitting that a post on Job should follow up the post on Moses’ sin, particularly as it relates to the effects that sin may have on an individual. In that post, though we saw that Moses’ actions had the direct consequences of prohibition into the Promised Land, there was also mention of the danger in wrongly applying our circumstances to an individual sin.
An example of this wrong application may be seen on the part of the disciples in John 9 where our Lord and His disciples encounter a man who was blind from birth and they asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied that neither this man nor his parents sinned but that he was blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. This isn’t to imply that this man, nor his parents, never sinned, only that his blindness was not a direct result of an individual act of sin.
In the book of Job we are introduced to a righteous man. This declaration by God defines all that comes afterwards and in fact aides in understanding Job’s response to his personal calamity. What does it mean that Job was righteous? It CANNOT mean that Job was sinless.
This is important.
Here’s what we read in the prologue of Job:
“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.” Job 1:1
Three key descriptions are given to Job:
- Blameless and Upright
- Feared God
- Turned Away from Evil
In short, we may surmise that Job did not live in open sin and he feared God. By all accounts we would describe him as a morally upright man. If we were to strictly conclude that individual sins may always be directly correlated to “disciplining” events in our life at the hand of God, as we saw with Moses, it would appear that Job would be the least likely candidate for what was to happen in his life.
In other words, there is not a DIRECT correlation between a particular sin that Job committed and the suffering that he endured. This was partly the error of his 3 counseling “friends” who felt that the justice of God demanded that He must bring physical retribution against any and all sin, so that must be the reason for Job’s troubles. They represent the classic example of misapplying correct doctrine. Essentially they were flattening out the justice of God to an across the board application. More on that perhaps in another post.
So what may we glean from Job that would help us better maintain the tension between sin and discipline that was mentioned in the post on Moses’ sin?
First, through Job we see that physical suffering is not necessarily tied to individual misdeeds or sin.
Second, because we live in a fallen world, all suffering finds its roots in sin, generally.
Third, we often do see the wicked prospering, but it does not mean that God is unjust. We need also to remember that in such a case, God is storing up wrath for the Day of Judgment (Romans 2:5-11). Conversely, we often see the “righteous” suffering, though this is only temporary and is not to be compared with the eternal weight of glory which awaits them.
Fourth, when suffering does come, it is not punishment, though it may be discipline for our good and God’s glory. This may require that we expand our understanding of God’s discipline to realize that it is always loving, it is always to purify, and though it may be generally painful, it is temporary and working to conform us more to the image of Christ (See Hebrews 12:4-13). In other words, suffering is never meaningless.
Fifth, God is sovereign over every circumstance, including the trials and tribulations that come in our lives.
Six, when suffering/discipline comes we should
- A) Recognize the hand of a Holy God
- B) Recognize our own inherent sinfulness.
Seven, trust as Job did, in our Mediator – Jesus Christ; that He intercedes on our behalf to the Father; and that through Christ we may come to the mercy seat and find grace in our time of need.
Eight, in the face of suffering at the disciplining hand of Almighty God, consider 1 of 2 responses
- A) Keep our mouths shut before the all-holy God
- B) Confess our inherent sinfulness and plead mercy on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In either or both responses, trust the sovereign hand of a just, holy God (more to come on this in the next post, Lord willing).
There is a danger in reading of a tragedy like Moses’ where his sin was specifically tied to an episode of discipline and then extract that principle across the board, either to our own lives or to the lives of others, wrongly concluding that a particular sin or lifestyle of sin has caused a difficult circumstance to arise. Make no mistake, it can, as with Moses, and this should cause us holy, reverent fear of God, but it cannot be flattened across the board, as with Job.
God is far too complex for that simplistic view of how He governs the universe. Again, this was one of the errors of Job’s friends.
In summary, as believers in Christ when we experience challenging and trying situations or are counseling others through them, we need to avoid the two ditches of applicational error. The first, that of Job’s by thinking that we do not deserve to suffer. The other, that of his friends, by thinking that all trials are just retribution and precisely what we deserve. Keeping this balance and maintaining this tension will go along way towards helping us navigate the waters of difficulty.