How Can a Man Be Righteous Before This Majestic God? (Job Sermon 15)
June 13, 2021 | Andy Davis
Imputed Righteousness, Majesty of God
Andy Davis preaches a sermon on Job 25-27. Bildad asks how someone can be found righteous before God. Jesus' imputed righteousness is the answer.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
This morning, we'll be looking at Job 25-27, and as we do, we come to a very challenging section of this book for the interpreters, for scholars, for preachers like me. It's a challenging section for a couple of reasons, and therefore, it's good for me to give you just some of the principles, or perhaps even remind you of some of the principles that I use as I approach the book of Job, as I approach all scripture. Really, it's beneficial for me to teach you how to read the book of Job for yourself. So that years later, when you're no longer listening to a sermon series in Job, and you may actually never hear an exegetical sermon series on the book of Job again in your lives; it's actually pretty unusual. And you may not ever hear again, expository sermon on Job 25-27 again. So how can we understand the book of Job? How can we understand this passage?
It is with great reverence that we should come to the Scriptures. We should come to it realizing we're reading a document that has stood over and been involved in the lives of God's people for two and a half millennia or more. This book is going to be here long after any of us are dead, and so there's a respect and a reverence that we take to this. And also we're taught in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is God breathed. And so we're reading the words of men. We're reading human words, but we are reading the Word of God. So the Holy Spirit is saying something to us as we read these chapters. And that's an awesome thought, isn't it? The idea that we can actually have God speak to us and talk to us, but it's not simple. It's not a simplistic thing. We have to interpret it because it's coming to us through the words of the actors, the players in this drama, through Zophar or Bildad or Eliphaz, through Job. And so we kind of filter what we're reading through them and through what we know about them and try to understand it, but we know that it's God-breathed. And so behind their human words, we have God speaking to us, and we want to try to understand that and to understand what God is doing in our lives. And so in order to do that, I think it's good to go one section before 2 Timothy 3, where we're told what the purpose of all Scripture is, and how Paul said that Timothy “from infancy had known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
So I believe the book of Job is for that purpose. It's able to make all of us wise. It's a wisdom book, but able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ. And not only that, the Scripture is given to equip us. “[So] all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” So I expect to get rebuked and corrected when I read Scripture. And I think that's going to happen for us today, and that rebuking and correcting will bring me, in some amazing way, to Christ. I expect to be brought to Christ by reading Job. And I expect, having been brought to Christ for salvation, for the forgiveness of my sins, I am brought to Christ by the Scripture for equipping and training and preparation so that I might be prepared to do good works. "So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work," the text says 2 Timothy.
So I expect that this book of Job, not only will it aid or point toward the salvation of my soul through faith in Christ, but it's able to equip me and prepare me to do good works for the rest of my life. But it does so in a unique kind of pattern here. It's a book about suffering. It's a book about a man who lived it a long time ago, we don't know when, who was blameless and upright, who was a godly man and who suffered overwhelming afflictions and trials, in his life; who lost overwhelming percentage of his wealth and his possessions; and whose 10 children died in a single day, all of them; and who subsequently then lost his health in an affliction that was just so overwhelming that his physical appearance was very different than usual. He was in agony, physical agony. So those three things, the dread of all of us who live in this world. Shouldn't be, we shouldn't be filled with dread, but we do naturally fear the loss of our possessions, our money, what might happen to our loved ones, our children, our loved ones, our spouses, and what might happen to our health, even to the point of death. These things stand over us and we are afraid of them.
And along comes this man and he walks through this, and then he begins to talk and some friends, Eliphaz and Zophar and Bildad, come and they talk to him. And there's this cycle of discussions that go on that make up the bulk of the book of Job. And we're nearing—this is the end.
I. Bildad’s Question: How Can a Man Be Righteous Before God? (Job 25)
This is the final time that we'll hear from one of Job's friends, Bildad, his third speech. But here we come to some interpretive problems. I was thinking this, I don't know if this is helpful, but I'm going to go ahead and say it. Therefore, you shouldn't say it, but anyway, I'm going to say it.
There was a woman that Jesus dealt with. It said of her that she had a problem of bleeding, she had suffered a problem of bleeding for 12 years. And it says in Mark's gospel, she had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and didn't get any better, but only got worse. Hence, this text, it has suffered a great deal under the care of many interpreters and didn't get any better, but only got worse. And I'm probably one of them, because I think it's quite possible that the second half of Job 27 isn't Job, but maybe is Bildad or one of his friends. And yet there's no scene telling me that. There's no, "Bildad answered," or any of that. So it's right in the Job section, but it's so contradicts stuff that Job said earlier that you're left scratching your head. So you're either saying, "Why did the account get kind of rearranged or shredded in some way?" Or you're like, "What is up with our friend Job that he says one thing in chapter 21 and something entirely different in chapter 27? How do we deal with that?" Either way, you've got a problem.
So that's what I get to preach on today. Hence all kinds of introductory comments saying, "All right, what are we going to do with this text?" But here's the thing, I think in the end, I have to be honest, it doesn't matter who said these words. It doesn't matter if it's Job. It doesn't matter if it's Bildad or one of the other friends. It doesn't matter. We know that it's not God Almighty saying it. It's coming through a human. So we're going to have to do the same thing we always do: take the words you read and evaluate them by the rest of Scripture. And we're going to find some things that will be very true and helpful, no matter who said them, and we're going to be lifted up from the present text and the circumstances to a timeless meditation that I hope will lead to your salvation and to your fruitfulness in service to Christ. So that's what we're going to walk through today.
And what we're finding in the book of Job, I said this to a woman at the back of the church last week, I find this every week, the book of Job raises some of the deepest, most profound questions there are in life. Questions about life and death and suffering and pain, and about resurrection, death, resurrection. Some of the deepest questions, and I find again and again, and again, the answer is Christ. The answer is Christ. And we're going to find that here right away with Bildad. Bildad asks a question here, in his section in Job 25. And this is part of the problem, Bildad's section is so short, six verses. It's like, “Is that it? You have nothing more to say? Job has worn you out, and you have nothing more to say?” Or did his section get transposed to somewhere else? We will never know, I think.
So there's some brevity here, but he asked this profound question, verse 4, "How then can a man be righteous before God?" So we could just expand it and say, "How can wicked, sinful people like you and me actually stand righteous before such a majestic, holy God?" Do you not see how that question will lead you to Christ? How that question will be useful for your salvation? That's what we're going to look at today. So we're going to walk through this and try to understand what Bildad says and the exalted language he uses about Almighty God. And then I'm going to jump over to chapter 27 and read the second half, and then kind of continue as though that's still Bildad. That may be right or wrong, but no matter what you do with it, I think you're going to have to evaluate the words anyway and their statement. And then we're going to walk through Job's statement and apply it.
So in verse 1-6 of 25, "Bildad the Shuhite replied: 'Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes peace in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise? How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot—a son of man, who is only a worm!'" This is an excellent question. God is infinitely majestic, so how can a man be righteous before him?
He says, "Dominion and awe belong to God." Dominion is God's sovereignty. His kingly rule over the universe. As Nebuchadnezzar said in Daniel 4:35 of God, "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?'" That's dominion. He is king. He doesn't ask permission. He's not accountable to anyone for anything he does. Dominion belongs to God and awe belongs to Him. Dread, terror, the fear of the Lord that comes upon creatures who come into his presence. "Would not his majesty terrify you?" Job 13:11. Yes, it would. And so awe, even the holiest angels cover their faces when they come into the presence of such a holy God.
And it says, "He establishes peace in the heights of heaven." This is the Hebrew word shalom, which is a deep, rich, full word, has to do with a peaceful orderliness, an arrangement in an orderliness. And God in the highest heavens establishes peace or tranquility, order. God is a God of peace. He is of tranquility of mind. The heavens, therefore, where he has his throne are in perfect order around Him. Almost, you get the picture in the book of Revelation of concentric circles, all around the throne of God. Everything's in order in heaven. All of the angels are gladly and instantly obedient to Him, and they worship him. More importantly, God has peace, shalom, within himself. God is at peace with himself. He is one with himself. What that means is He has not ever conflicted within his being about anything. He never has second thoughts or doubts. He's never conflicted. His attributes never fight each other so you get half of the attributes on one side and half of the other, and he's going back and forth on any decision. It's just not the case.
God is one with Himself, and we Christians understand in the deep mystery of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, God, this one, God exists in three persons. And the three persons, the Father and the Son and the Spirit are perfectly at one with one another. They never disagree with each other, ever. And isn't it marvelous to think that we, God's children, will someday be as one with each other, every one of us, as one with each other, as the Father is with the Son. Perfect unity in heaven. There's that peacefulness the highest heavens represent the realm of God himself. He is above even the highest created order, and there God is at peace.
But we human beings are not so. We are not so. We are deeply divided within ourselves. We are deeply conflicted within ourselves. We battle within ourselves as Isaiah 57:20-21 says, "The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and [muck]. 'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked.'" We have that churning mire and muck going on inside our minds and hearts.
And because we, individually, are not at peace with ourselves, we're not at peace with each other, either just person A to person B or nation A to nation B, there's all this disharmony and disunity in the world because of our wickedness and our sin. Says an Isaiah, 17:12, "Oh, the raging of many nations—they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproars of the peoples—they roar like the roaring of great waters!" We see that every day on whatever news based websites you go to find out what's happening in the world. Disunity, disharmony, brokenness, strife, and conflict because individuals, sinners, are not at peace within themselves. And they're not at peace with God. But God—praise God! God brings order out of chaos. That's what's happening in our salvation. He's taking all of this churning wickedness. And in the end He will banish it. He will convert it, transform it, or destroy it. And the universe will be at peace with God and with one another. That's where we're heading.
Reminds me of Jesus stealing the storm. Remember how he was asleep in the back of the boat, on the cushion, and the disciples were distressed to find their boat filling with water. And they went and woke Him saying, "Don't you care that we're about to drown?" The things they said to Jesus. "Don't you care that we're about to drown?" But you remember what Jesus did, “[He] got up, and [he stretched out his hands] and said to the wind and the waves, ‘Peace, be still.’" And instantly it became quiet. He has that power. He establishes peace.
And Bildad says, "Look at the imensity of his army. He's got a very impressive army. Can his forces be numbered?" Well, we get some numbering of the forces of God's angelic army. He is the Lord of hosts, the Lord of army hosts, the angelic armies. And so in the book of Daniel, in Daniel 7, and also Revelation 5, we get 10,000 times 10,000. Some pastors will do the math and others won't, all right? So that's 100,000,000 angels, 100,000,000. See, you're looking at me. My kids never got over of the fact that I was in the math club. Say, "Dad, what is the math club? What did you do?" I'm sorry I said that. Let's move on. But actually, Bildad is implying His forces are beyond number.
And it's incredible because, you know, we're told in that account about Sennacherib and the Assyrian army, that a single angel went out and killed 185,000 as Assyrian troops in one night. That's one angel, imagine 100,000,000 angels. And Bildad says, "His light illuminates the entire universe and every creature in it." Verse 3, "Upon whom does his light not rise?" That started on the first day of creation when “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” And then He delegated that job on the fourth day to the sun and the moon and the stars, but He didn't need them because in the new heaven, the new earth, they will not be needed. Revelation 21:23, it says, "The city [the new Jerusalem] does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." So Bildad is saying that all light ultimately comes from God, and there's not a single creature that God's light does not illuminate. "As a matter of fact," says Bildad, "to God who is pure light, even the moon and the stars are dim by comparison." Look at verse 5. It says, "If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes."
"Bildad is saying that all light ultimately comes from God, and there's not a single creature that God's light does not illuminate. "As a matter of fact," says Bildad, "to God who is pure light, even the moon and the stars are dim by comparison.""
Now what's the point of all this poetical, meditation on the greatness of God? Well, keep in mind, this is debate going back and forth between Job and his friends, Job and his friends, and their basic theology is God is a just holy God who gets involved in human affairs, who gets involved in human history, and brings justice against the wicked and great justice against those who are greatly wicked—judgments. And therefore, in their theology, Job must be a greatly wicked person because of the magnitude of the judgments God's brought on him. That's their theology.
And yet, Job keeps claiming to be innocent. He keeps claiming to be righteous. And so Bildad says, "How can you, a human, be righteous before such a God?" Look at verses 4-6, "How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot—the son of man who is only a worm!" Now, that kind of language, like "Amazing Grace," we sang earlier, "that saved a wretch like me." That's wretch language, maggot, worm is not popular with those who would like their preachers to tickle their ears and fluff up their self-esteem, but Jesus didn't come to do that. He didn't come to fluff up anybody's self-esteem. He came to heal us of a deadly contagion, which is sin.
And he said, "[It is not the righteous. He has] not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. It's not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” It's a great work of therapy that he's doing here. He's healing maggots and worms and rebels like us so that we'll be healthy, we'll be forgiven, pure, and holy. That's what he's come to do. And so the Scripture does this kind of leveling work in us, using very extreme language like maggots and worms, and then poets come along like John Newton and say, "Wretch, saved a wretch like me." So the central question he's asking here is how can such an evil corrupt being as I am, be righteous in the sight of such a majestic, holy, glorious, powerful God? Now, Bildad is asking this of Job. It's a tool in his arsenal against Job. That's what he's doing.
"It's a great work of therapy that he's doing here. He's healing maggots and worms and rebels like us so that we'll be healthy, we'll be forgiven, pure, and holy. That's what he's come to do."
Job has consistently said, "I'm innocent. I want to make my defense before God, and he will equip me." So Bildad is actually right to ask this of Job. It's a good thing for Job to feel the weight of that question: "How can a maggot like you, by comparison with a holy God, ever be righteous before such a God?" It's right, actually. And not only is it right for Bildad to ask that of Job, but it's right for all of us to ask that of ourselves. Are you feeling the of that question? You should. How can I, someone like me, stand before a God like this, forgiven of my sins and righteous in his sight? Bildad's problem is he doesn't seem to ask it of himself, doesn't seem to bother him—it's for Job to deal with.
I can't help but think about Jesus' parable in Luke 18 of the Pharisee and the tax collector. “Two men went up to pray,” and the Pharisee prayed about himself. He was self-righteous and he said, "I thank you, God, that I'm this and I'm that," and he's so full of himself, self righteous. “But the tax collector beat his breast and would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but said, ‘Be merciful to me, oh God, a sinner.’ … ‘That man,’ [Jesus said,] ‘went home justified.’" So the answer to this question is Christ. That's the answer. I cannot go any further in this sermon without celebrating the answer. There is an answer. If there were no answer, we would, all of us, be condemned. God's perfect holiness would exclude us all. God's future world, the new heavens and the new earth, would exclude us all. As Revelation 21:27 says, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful." And so only in Christ can maggots and worms and wretches like us be made pure and holy, and be able to stand in His presence.
As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, concerning Christ, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." So look, just look with your eyes at whatever form of Scripture you have in front of you. Look at Bildad's question, Job 25:4, "How then can a man be righteous before God?" Just stop and ask yourself that question, "How can I be righteous before God?" And you will stand before God, so will I, so will Bildad, so will Job. We're all going to stand before Him. How can we survive? And the answer in the gospel, the good news is we survive by faith in Christ, alone by his gift of perfect righteousness, alone, and no other way.
If you stand before God and you pray about yourself saying, "I thank you that I'm so awesome," and you're effectively saying, "I thank you. I don't need Jesus to save me," that's what you're saying, then you will not be justified. You'll be condemned. But if, on the other hand, you like that tax collector, in some way, you're beating your breast and you won't even look up to heaven to such a holy God is this, and you say, "Be merciful to me, oh God, the sinner." And you know that mercy is found in Christ, crucified and resurrected, then you will be forgiven.
II. Bildad’s Final Warning to Job (Job 27:13-23)
Well, if we jump ahead now to Job 27:13-23, again, I don't know if this is the right procedure. If you want to say, this is Job speaking here, fine, but you got to pay your money, make your choice at the fork and the road. So we're going to jump ahead, and let's think for a moment that this is one of Job's friends, or maybe Bildad finishing, or it may be Job contradicting himself. That's fine. Either way, you have to make some—but let's just walk through what he says.
Now, what he is going to say in this section is the wicked are going to be overwhelmingly judged by God. That's what he's saying, but you've heard that before. The wicked are going to get it, they're going to get crushed. Look at verse 13, "Here is the fate God allots to the wicked, the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty." And what does he say? Well, their children are going to get slaughtered by the sword or die of starvation or of the plague. Verse 14-15, Job 27:14-15, "However many his children, their fate is the sword; [their] offspring will never have enough to eat. The plague will bury those who survive him, and their widows will not weep for them." Now, the problem I have as an interpreter is this is a direct contradiction of what Job said in chapter 21. What did he say in chapter 21? He said, "The wicked actually seemed to do very well. Many of them die in their beds and their children sing and dance with tambourines." You remember that? So let me just read it again, Job 21:7-8, "Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes." So that's hard to harmonize those statements. There's not a single commentator that writes a commentary on this that says this is Job. And if you're going to say to me, "Well, how did they get disconnected?" Or "Where's the 'Then Job said,' or 'Then Bildad said'?" I'm going to say, "I don't know." But in any case, this is what this text is saying.
So what Bildad is continuing—I think, his final case against Job, he's saying, and he lines these things up with what Job actually, what happened in his life. He suddenly lost his children. They died quickly. See that's what happened to you? He lost all of his wealth, instantly. See that's what happened to you. All the wealth of the wicked melts away. Other people are going to get their ill-gotten gains. Look at verse 16-17, "Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver." And the mighty mansions of the wicked will crumble though they build with marble pillars. And though they look like they're going to last forever, they won't. Verse 18, "The house he builds is like a moth's cocoon, like a hut made by a watchman." You're going to lose everything. The disasters will come on the wicked instantly. Verse 19, "He lies down wealthy, but will do so no more; when he opens his eyes, [everything's] gone."
Doesn't that seem like that's something like one of the friends would say to Job? It seems that way. The judgements of God are overwhelming, like a man swept away by a mighty wind or a flood powerless to stand against the onslaught. Look verses 20-23, chapter 27, "Terrors overtake him like a flood; a tempest snatches him away in the night. The east wind carries him off, and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place. It hurls itself against him without mercy as he flees headlong from its power. It claps its hands in derision and hisses him out of his place."
Well, how do we hear all this? How do we read the second half of Job 27, no matter who says it? Well, in one sense, this is going to be true, ultimately, of all the wicked. They are going to face the overwhelming judgment of God. They will lose everything, all of them, in some ultimate sense. God's wrath cannot be escaped. It cannot be avoided. There is one and only one refuge for the coming wrath, and that is Christ. He's the only refuge. And so if those words cause a sinner to flee to Christ, then they will have done good. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, "The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly." And so that is coming. Judgment day is coming. Your own death is coming. Everything will be lost and quickly. So as I said, the problem with this being Bildad is that he's saying it to Job, saying, "Look what happened to you? You are a wicked man, in a way the rest of us aren't. You're a significantly evil man. Look, what's happened to you. This is why it's happened. And secondly, I don't need to worry about this." Those are the problems with this being Bildad saying it.
III. Job Praises God’s Majestic Power (Job 26)
All right. So let's go now to chapter 26 and look at Job's statement. First of all, as always, he rejects Bildad's council. We start with—almost every Job's speech starts with some version of "You guys are losers, and why should I listen to you?" Something like that. Not exactly like that, but you know what I mean. Look at verses 1-4, "Then Job replied: 'How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble! What advice you have offered to one without wisdom! And what great insight you have displayed! Who has helped you to utter these words? And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?'" All right, that's sarcasm, friends. He's not like, "Boy, I'm so glad to have a friend like you." Not at all. So he’s just rejecting.
Here's a man that was beaten and crushed and struck down by trials. His friends come, they sit with him, and he has got nothing but destroyed by them, so he swats them aside like annoying mosquitoes. Then Job has his own meditation on the majestic power of Almighty God. Again, let me say to you, we talked last week about transcendence and imminence. Transcendence is the sense of the infinite majesty of God. There are a few books in the Bible that speak with such transcendent language as the book of Job above God. So any drinking in of transcendence and majesty you can get, do it, because we all have a very lax, low view of God. We're very informal, casual people. And so whatever ways we can have a sense of God's majestic power, it will do us good.
Look at verses 5-6 of chapter 26, "The dead are in deep anguish, those beneath the waters and all that live in them. Death is naked before God; destruction lies uncovered." God knows the living and the dead. He knows them completely. There's nothing hidden from Him. God is mighty over the heavens and its celestial bodies. Look at verse 7-11, "He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke."
So Job here is touching on the mysteries of God's creation, especially of the heavens above of invisible physical forces that cannot be explained, how the earth itself hangs in space on nothing at all. Just like God created the universe itself out of nothing at all. So the earth just seems to hang suspended on nothing at all. And then Job ponders, the clouds they're made up of water, he knows, and they're heavy. And yet they just float in the air, again, suspended on nothing at all. And then those clouds, suspended on nothing, are massive enough to block the light of the moon and snuff it out entirely on some nights. He also ponders—Job ponders the mysteries of the horizon line. Have you ever watched the sunrise over the ocean? Have you ever gone where it's just pitch black and you're there throughout the whole pre-dawn, and then watch the sunrise? At some point, there's this line of light that separates night from day, and then it gets brighter and brighter. It's really quite spectacular. I think the astronauts had the clearest example of these kind of sunrises around the edge of the earth, or around the edge of the moon if they were that far. And you can see God putting a line of demarcation between night and day, light and darkness. He's talking about that. And he speaks of the pillars of the heavens, whatever they are. The heavens rest on them and do not come crashing down, yet God is able to shake those pillars, make them tremble, with his voice anytime he chooses.
And he's mighty over the sea, verses 12-13, "By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces. By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent." So the sea is mysterious with its endless, powerful, undulating waves. Its breakers rolling on one after the other, frothy, foamy crashing, and it's God who stirs up the storms and controls them, and He sets a limit to the boundary of the mighty wave saying, "This far, you may go and no further." He has that power. And then he mentions Rahab, in Old Testament wisdom literature, this Rahab character shows up. Some scholars talk about some mythological dragon or serpent or something like that, that's part of the primordial creation order. It's very fascinating to me. I don't know really what the truth is, but the image here is of God, a mighty warrior, hacks Rahab to pieces and brings peace to the sea.
And so the idea is God, a warrior for peace, is able to defeat wicked enemies, even one as powerful as Rahab the silent, hidden serpent. So you get the idea, part of the problem with the ocean is that it's monsters are invisible. They're below the surface. I will never forget the summer that Jaws came out, and I didn't know the difference between fresh water and salt water. We were in Lake Winnipesaukee, and I didn't want to go swimming because you can't see what's down below. You know what I'm saying? You just don't know what's down there. But what Job was saying is whatever is down there, God's sovereign and powerful over it, mighty over it. And He has the power to churn up the sea and then calm them. As we said, Jesus has that power. And His disciples looked at Him after the distilling of the storm and said, "What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves, obey Him."
And Job says in all of that, in all this meditation we're doing, we're only touching the fringes of the edge of his garment concerning his power. This is just the absolute fringes. Verse 14, "These are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint is the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?" So as I was writing my book on heaven, this whole thing has expanded for me in ways I can't even begin to explain to you. When you die, in Christ, and go to heaven, you will begin in earnest your education in the greatness of God, and you'll spend eternity learning it. I really believe that. You're going to spend eternity finding out how infinitely majestic God really is. Isn't that exciting, to understand that you're going to be studying the glory of God? As Psalm 111:2-4 says, "Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered," or studied, "by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered," forever. And so we're going to study them forever. And we're going to find out just how great God was, is, and always will be. And that's exciting, isn't it?
IV. Job’s Conscience Testifies That He Is Innocent (Job 27:1-12)
Well, Job in 27:1-12 continues his testimony that he is innocent. And here's where he gets into trouble too. Fundamental is his claim that he is innocent, that God has, in some sense, wronged him. Look at verse 1-5, "Job continues discourse: 'As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice.'" Stop there. That is a problem. I hope by now, we've heard many of these sermons, whenever you see Job say these kinds of things, that's just not okay. "[God,] as surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, my tongue will utter no deceit. I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity." He cannot agree with his friends that he is secretly wicked, famously wicked though no one knows yet how wicked he is. He will never agree to that. This is just not true. And it's amazing how this same Job who just celebrated the infinite immeasurable majesty of God in chapter 26 says, "Yes, but He has denied me justice." And he even takes a Hebrew kind of vow on this, "As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice."
We just need to understand when we suffer, when we hurt, when we ourselves have the cancer diagnosis or a loved one does, or we're walking through that, that trial can bring us to these points. It's never OK, but it can push us to the point where we can start saying these hard, wrong things about God. The book of Job is given to help you not do that, so that you can be fruitful and do good works in the midst of your suffering, and lead other sufferers to Christ rather than be bitter toward God, because it seems Job is very bitter toward God. And fundamental to his bitterness, it seems, is that he's accepted the same basic theology that his friends have, right? The same basic theological structure. The only possible explanation for all this suffering is I am a great wicked man. That's the only way we could understand this. And I'm not, therefore God has made a massive mistake concerning me.
Like there's no other possible explanation for the sufferings that Job's going through. And this is the very blunder that God is going to rebuke him for at the end of the book. At Job 40:6-8, "The LORD spoke to Job out of the storm: 'Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?'" We should never do that, ever. Now, Job's greatest defense, he says, is a clear conscience. Verse 6, "My conscience will not reproach me as long as I live." What is conscience? Well, it's part of the original equipment of creation, inside the heart and mind of every human being that presses them to do the right and avoid the wrong, and then evaluates behavior after the fact to see whether you did right or wrong. That's what conscience is. Every human being has this as part of the original equipment.
Now, conscience is only as good as two things. First of all, is it harnessed to a true system of morality, to a true understanding of right and wrong? And secondly, conscience is only as good as if you listen to it, because if you don't listen to conscience, its voice will get dimmer and dimmer and dimmer in your life. Those are the limitations of conscience. So people in false religious systems have a conscience about their religion. For example, a Muslim is taught by his religion to do the Ramadan fast, so a month of fasting during Ramadan. Well, you could imagine a Muslim secretly violating the fast, but looking like he's a righteous Muslim to all of his neighbors, and then his conscience will smite him for the falsehood. So his conscience is harnessed to a false religion, because I believe every non-Christian religion is ultimately demonic, taught doctrine of demons, Paul talks about, and so ultimately false. And yet he's conscience is smiting him because he snuck food or did something that violated the Ramadan fast. And then beyond that, for anyone, even if the conscience is tied to the Judeo-Christian system of morality, if you don't listen to the conscience, then the conscience will become what Paul calls seared, a seared conscience. 1 Timothy 4:2, it says, "Such teachings come from hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." That means you don't feel anything anymore. The nerve endings are seared. You just don't feel anything. I read an account of an abortionist doctor who, when she performed the first abortion, went home and vomited and wept all night. Then she performed thousands of them. And after, you know, she didn't do any of that on the 1,000th or 2,000th. Her conscience was seared. Didn't bother her anymore.
Now beautifully, when we come to Christ, the conscience gets healed. Our conscience gets tied to a biblical system of right and wrong, and we begin to feel things again. And I would say, it's very mysterious how Holy Spirit and the conscience work, but there is some kind of partnership there. And Paul gives us both sides of the healthy Christian conscience. He said in Acts 24:16, "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Why? Because there's going to be a resurrection and a judgment day. I'm going to have to give Him an account for everything I've done in the body. So every day I try to keep my conscience clear, vertically before God, and horizontally before others to do nothing to violate my conscience.
And so the author to Hebrews says, in Hebrews 13:18, "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way." Isn't that a great statement? Wouldn't you love to be able to look someone in the eye and say that? "Pray for us. We're sure that we have a clear conscience and [we do] desire to live honorably in every way." But there is a limit, Paul says, to conscience. 1 Corinthians 4:4 he says, "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." So you can have a clear conscience and still be wrong. You can have a clear conscience and still you'll find out on judgment day, so it'd be good to be humble about your clear conscience. Paul was. Job had a clear conscience, and he was wrong. And he found out on a mini judgment day how wrong he was about God and about his own sense of righteousness.
Job then gives some final words in verses 7-12. He says, "May my enemies be like the wicked, my adversaries like the unjust! For what hope has the godless when he is cut off, when God takes away his life? Does God listen to his cry when distress comes upon him? Will he find delight in the Almighty? Will he call upon God at all times?" So there's going to be judgment for his enemies. So you could think who are his enemies? Are his friends, his enemies? I don't think he's thinking necessarily about his friends here, but I think about the Chaldeans and the Sabeans who came and killed his servants and stole all his stuff, and then there's people in the community there that were mocking him and opposed to him, et cetera. But then he zeros in on his friends, verse 11-12, he says, "I will teach you about the power of God; the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal." Verse 12, "You have all seen this yourselves. [So] why then this meaningless talk?"
All right, applications, I've already given you the central application for this text, and I just want you to feel the weight of it. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Almighty God, and Christ will sit on that throne, and He will judge all of us. And He's going to separate everyone into two categories: the believers and the unbelievers. What about you? How can a sinner like you stand before such a holy God? You need to ask that question. What is your hope? What is your confidence? If your answer has something to do with your own righteousness and good works, you are lost. But if your answer is, "I am a great sinner, saved by a great Savior and his name is Jesus Christ," then you have eternal life. So feel the weight of Bildad's question. And isn't it beautiful that impure people like us can actually be purified by faith in Christ, purified. We are purified, perfectly pure positionally in God's sight the moment we come to faith in Christ. He sees us pure in Christ.
"What about you? How can a sinner like you stand before such a holy God? You need to ask that question. What is your hope? What is your confidence? If your answer has something to do with your own righteousness and good works, you are lost."
And then, as we live our lives, he then continues to purify us as we walk in the light. It says in 1 John 1:7-9, "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin." So you can be walking in the light, a Christian, and still need purification from every sin. Still need it. And how do you get that? First of all, don't deny it. Come to God honestly. "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." But "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins..." And what else? "... purify us from all unrighteousness." So did you come here today with a guilty conscience? Maybe you're able to hide it from others, but others are not the point. God is the point. He knows everything. As soon as you go home, as soon as you have time alone, confess your sins to God, call them by their biblical names, whatever it is you've done wrong. However your conscience is smiting you, confess it, and receive from 1 John 1:9 the forgiveness and the purification that God has the power to give. And then beyond that, if I can just urge you do what Paul does, "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Do that. Don't do anything, ever, that would violate your conscience.
And then thirdly, stand in awe of the majesty of God. Go back and find some of these great passages in Job, and read them and drink in the infinite majestic Person who God is. We are way too informal and casual with God. Let's fall down on our faces before him and tremble at his greatness and realize this great God loves us in Christ, and wants to spend eternity with us. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the time we've had to study today, these three chapters. So much in here, Lord. We thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit who enables us to walk through these difficult waters, to walk through these difficult words, and put some meaning to them. Father, I pray that you would help us to lift up these truths and press them to our hearts, so that we might find forgiveness through Christ and find the right way to live, that will be maximally fruitful for your glory. In Jesus name, Amen.