Someone reminded me this morning about how people came to visit Job– to get Job to repent of sins that he did not have…sins that he had not committed. She said this: “The book does end.” I’m not sure but what I found more comfort in that little Biblical edification than any in recent times.
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life trying to get people to repent or repenting myself of the sins that easily beset me. I’ve discussed repentance a hundred times with people who were learning the gospel for the first time. I’ve talked about repentance with couples who were putting marriages back together. I have often struggled with personal sin and gone through the heart process of repentance. I do that personal struggle thing pretty much all the time. But I’ve never spent much time thinking about people who were being encouraged to repent of sins that had not been committed. When I think about Job, I understand that’s a real phenomenon and the book of Job draws my attention to that brand of persecution. Just a few thoughts that come to my mind:
- If people say, in any situation, “There’s no innocent party in this,” look at the book of Job. Although he was a man, and thus a sinner, he was completely innocent of the devil’s specific work that brought dire consequences in many innocent lives when “there was a day” (Job 1:6). Sometimes (not always), when sin’s consequences are wreaking havoc, absolutely, positively there are innocent parties.
- Even though Job was innocent in the matter, there were no Job supporters, encouragers, and helpers that we read about. Sometimes, that may still be the case. But there was an Advocate still on the throne in heaven. Job was forced to look to that one Advocate “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). I love that he said that. I always want to say that to the one sure Advocate of the righteous.
- I’m quite sure that there were people all around who did not know the full story of the “why” of Job’s suffering. (Even Job himself did not know.) Job was a well-known servant of God and surely there were people who were aghast at his condition— the ashes, the potsherd, the mourning—people who just did not know the back-story of his innocence or who simply didn’t want to/need to know it or become involved. Surely that’s often the case today.
- Job made mistakes as he was suffering. He misunderstood his own suffering. In 12:6-9 he thought God was just letting wickedness have its day. Surely there are still those who wonder how long God will wait before revealing and punishing evil. God had to “reel in”the heart of Job and show His sovereignty and ask Job some questions (Job 38-42). But that did not mean Job was responsible for the devastation in his world. It meant he reacted to the devastation with doubt and despair, emotions that even faithful human beings sometimes experience.
- The book did have an end. There is great comfort in that, if you are being falsely accused. Although, I know I do not have the wisdom of Solomon or the discernment that it takes to always see the innocent suffering ones, I am going to try to remember Job and refuse to be the Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz who assume the worst and assign blame to the innocent.
Are there innocent parties in tragic sin situations? Absolutely. There is no generically innocent man or woman before God. That’s why Calvary occurred. Praise God for Calvary. But it is also true that there are many righteous people who may find themselves in horrific situations caused by the specific sins of other people; not their own. There are absolutely innocent parties who suffer in catastrophic situations caused by sin in lives around them. But, even the sinner who has caused pain and suffering can be forgiven by the precious blood without which we all find ourselves in hopelessness. That’s the best news about the devil and sin. Christ has won the ultimate victory.