God on Trial?

Job 34

Questioning God not confined to story of Job, did not end there. Are other places in God’s word – Psalms, Habakkuk, e.g. More recent authors: C S Lewis, God in the Dock; Elie Wiesel, The Trial of God; how about Elihu, Justice for Ourselves. Instead of standing before God-as-Judge, let’s put God in place of defendant, see how he measures up. Last one (Elihu’s) sure sounds like a come-on found on about page 3 of the Bible! You can know both good and evil for yourself. Is as if Elihu challenged onlookers: I’ll be prosecutor, you be jury, let us determine for ourselves who is right – Job or God? And so he begins, taking the part of the accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury. Reaches the same conclusion…again…Job is definitely guilty. Even expresses desire that God test Job to very breaking point, and break him of his sinful rebellion.

Elihu is skilled at knocking down straw men. A faulty kind of logic when you misrepresent the other guy so you can make him out to be wrong. You exaggerate or distort what he has said so it is easy to find fault. Elihu misrepresented Job and his statements; just like the three amigos, Elihu treated Job unjustly. But in the process, Elihu provokes some good questions. As you might expect, doesn’t answer them very well; like we said last week – Elihu understood the big theological principles, had the textbook answers.

Fell short on applying on personal level those answers to big questions. Can hear Job thinking: I know what it says, but what does it mean down here on the ash heap where I’m living? Sure, I get it that God is just; he has to be, he’s God after all. But how is the way God is treating me right now just? Can God be unrighteous? Who can challenge God, anyway? And what if he remains silent? What then? And also the one we all wonder about: is it really ok to question God?

Let’s address last one first: is never ok to question God’s motives; is ok to question his purpose. Is never ok to challenge God’s authority or his character; is ok to seek understanding, knowledge of him. Must keep in mind both: God is our King and God is our Father. For those who would put God on trial, let’s ask:

A. Can God be unrighteous? v.10, 12

LBCF 3.1 – “From all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will. Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners.” Num. 23:19; Isa. 46:10

Gen 18:25 “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

God does what is right, Elihu declares that plainly: “It is impossible for God to do wrong” (10) HCSB“It is unthinkable that God would do wrong” (12) NIV

Job got that, in the big picture – thinking of God as the Sovereign ruler over his creation, no problem believing firmly / being convinced God could never do wrong, would never act unjustly

but….what about when it is absolutely personal? when you are the one singled out for special treatment? especially when doing your best to live “pure and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil”

if God can’t do wrong, did this wrong come from Satan? apart from God? against God’s wishes?

without question, unrighteousness abounds; happens all the time, sometimes we are guilty of it ourselves; but, when we are afflicted as Job was, what then? where is God in that unrighteousness? quick answer – where he’s always been; God hasn’t moved, if anyone has moved it was you

no kidding! but that’s not a helpful answer; better question – what is God’s purpose for me in this unrighteousness?

B. Who can challenge God? v.17

“If He takes away, who can hinder Him? Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?'”Job 9:12

LBCF 5.5 “…all that happens to His [God’s] elect ones is by His appointment, for His glory, and for their good.”

remember what Job said

Job 1:21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Job 2:10 “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

ok, we can get that; can deal with difficulty – hard times, sickness, setbacks – know we’ll make it through with God’s help…and what we have left

but what about when it’s the really important stuff: like all your income, retirement account, and your very life seems about to end

do you begin to think maybe God has gone a little too far? that he’s taken away what is rightfully yours – after all, you worked really hard for it and earned it and it’s yours, isn’t it?

1 Cor. 4:7 “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Job got that; truly did acknowledge every last thing he had – including his very life – belonged to God and God had the right to do whatever he pleased with it all

Job, like Paul, could be content with a lot or a little or even nothing…so long as he had God, his good, faithful, caring Heavenly Father

so can we, when confidence is truly in God (not self or stuff); Paul expressed that confidence this way:

Rom. 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

not “we think” or “we hope” or “we expect” – “we know” this to be true; when comes to contest between intellect and emotions, what we know and how we feel, must be what we know to be true about God that wins out

God always and in every situation does what will bring glory to himself and what will be good for his children – we know God is good, God does what is good, only gives his kids what is good for them

obvious from Job 1 & 2 God and Satan both involved in Job’s affliction and their intentions were exactly opposite

was one set of circumstances: Satan intended outcome to be Job’s denying his faith, his ultimate destruction; God intended outcome to be Job’s preservation in his faith and ultimate blessing

not at the end of the book yet, but outcome was guaranteed from eternity past: God wins, end of story, and Job wins along with him

is exactly the sort of situation Joseph was in: his brothers meant it for evil but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20)

and apostle Paul, writing from prison: Phil. 1:12-14 “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

here’s the issue: for Job and Joseph and Paul and you, the pain and suffering and affliction feels the same regardless of motive – what makes it bearable for the Christian is knowing the truth as expressed in God’s word

C. What if God is silent? v.29

when it’s really tough is when God is silent and it feels like God is the enemy; all is dark and difficult, the silence is oppressive, no hope of it getting better – then what?

first thing to know: God’s silence can be apparent or actual, it is never equivalent to His absence

“God does not have size or spatial dimensions and is present at every point of space with his whole being, yet God acts differently in different places.” Grudem

so how can it be that we are genuinely convinced that God is not responding to our cries for help?

God speaks on a different frequency from where we are listening

we expect God to respond in particular way, to give a certain kind of answer – when he doesn’t, we think he is silent

we are listening so intently to the voice of our suffering, don’t hear God’s voice – covered up by louder, more insistent things we give attention to

God temporarily refrains from “speaking”

true, God promised “before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isa. 65:24 –but…God is not obligated to act that way, and truth is, he doesn’t; if he did, wouldn’t have “ask…seek…knock”

in Job’s case, if record is substantially complete, God was indeed silent toward Job until eventually spoke from the whirlwind (chapter 38)

Job’s real experience: “Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.”Job 23:8-9

Job could not see God because God purposely prevented him from doing so…at that time

Job didn’t get that – didn’t understand why, after so many years of close friendship between him and God, also in the presence of such great affliction as Job was enduring God would remain silent

so…now what? Elihu was right, both in last chapter and this

Job 33:13-14Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words?For God does speak–now one way, now another– though man may not perceive it.” NIV –and– Job 34:29if God is quiet, who can condemn him?” NET

but…not the whole answer to Job’s dilemma

Isa. 55:6 “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” not just look around, seek

if Job had gotten answer first time he asked God a question, what lessons would he have missed? if Job had retained his conscious awareness of God’s nearness, what lessons would he have missed? and what dimensions of those lessons would have been lost on Job because he wasn’t fully prepared for them? and…having said all that, what about all those who have been instructed by Job’s experience?

which takes more faith? for Nik Wallenda to cross Grand Canyon the way he did? or to cross it blindfolded?

Job wanted to understand his circumstances; more importantly, he wanted to understand his God. Ultimately, he trusted God and was satisfied in God. Go ahead, call out to God: “Help me understand all I can and am supposed to understand, help me trust you for the rest, help me be satisfied with what you provide.” Here’s one more piece of assurance (4 verses later in Rom. 8):

Rom. 8:32Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?

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