Job had a problem. “I know,” someone might say, “He lost all his children, all his livestock (the source of his wealth), and his health. His closest friends became his accusers, and his wife told him to ‘Curse God, and die!’” (2:9). True. But that’s not the problem I’m referring to. Read Job, chapters twenty-nine through thirty-one. Go ahead. I’ll wait. . . .
Several little words were repeated again and again in those three chapters. Job had an “I” problem. One hundred eighty-four times in those ninety-six verses (nearly two times per verse) Job uses first person pronouns (“I” 62 times, “me” 47 times, “my” 75 times). By contrast, he references God by name only seven times. God’s own true testimony of Job given in the first chapter of the book stands: “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (1:8).
But somewhere along the line, Job seems to have begun ascribing to his own character and deeds the merit belonging solely to God, and an unwarranted measure of pride creeps into his heart. As though it were his own worth and of his own making, He laments his lost honor. “When I went out to the gate of the city, when I took my seat in the square, the young men saw me and hid themselves, and the old men arose and stood. The princes stopped talking and put their hands on their mouths; the voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to their palate. For when the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it gave witness of me, because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper” (29:7-12). Job seems almost to have forgotten God in all these self-pitying words.
Then Job asserts his own integrity. “Does He [God] not see my ways and number all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hastened after deceit, let Him weigh me with accurate scales, and let God know my integrity. If my step has turned from the way, or my heart followed my eyes, or if any spot has stuck to my hands, let me sow and another eat, and let my crops be uprooted. If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or I have lurked at my neighbor’s doorway, may my wife grind for another, and let others kneel down over her” (31:4-10). And he continues in this vein of affirming his righteousness for another thirty verses. Without doubt, Job’s self-assessment is accurate. He is actually giving specific concrete examples of God’s more general testimony concerning Job found in the first chapter.
But the moral rectitude that produces good deeds, though commendable, is not the ultimate righteousness. And the charitable acts and moral choices that Job began as a result of his recognition of and thankfulness for God’s abundant blessings on him, he eventually comes, it appears, to attribute to his own character more than to God’s grace. Genuine thankfulness and real humility for undeserved blessings were supplanted, at least in part, by a sense of self-worth. In some measure, Job has taken his eyes off God and focused them on himself.
When God finally answers Job without explaining the reason for his calamities, but with declarations and examples of His sovereignty and omnipotence, Job’s mouth is shut. He ceases to defend himself. His concluding testimony/confession still retains personal pronouns (because it is a personal testimony), but their balance shifts toward God. “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me. I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You. Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (42:2-6).
We face the same “I” problem. Our eyes must be fixed on the Lord and our hearts, minds, and wills yielded to His measureless mercy and grace. Only constant focus on the Lord will afford the right perspective.
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