The Error of Legalism

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-ninth in a series

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Each of Job’s three friends and one young upstart have tried to convince him that he is in need of repentance— His devastation is so comprehensive that only God could have effected it! This proves that God is angry with Job which proves Job has done evil deeds.

But Job is not evil and God is not mad at Job. There is much fallacious logic in the Book of Job. It would be interesting to have philosophy students pore through it to find all the illogical arguments of Job’s detractors.

Job 38:1-3 NIV Now, in Job 38, God himself takes the stage, not to explain his actions, but to wake Job up from his misconceptions.

By these words, we perceive that God judges Job to be a man in need of correction, of deeper insight. Some commentators view his opening statement to be directed to Elihu: was not he the one darkening God's counsel? Yet it is clear that God is addressing Job. He has come to answer him by imparting wisdom, while not offering specific answers to his questions.

Job 38:4-7 NIV Since the Lord’s opening words are an obvious effort to lower Job in his self esteem, do they show that God considered Job his enemy or an evil man? No, he merely desires to correct his doctrinal error — his belief that he was due God’s favor and explanations based on his behavior, also known as the false doctrine or error of legalism or works righteousness.

Can a person pave his own road to eternal life? No? Why then did Christ state: …except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:20)?

Righteousness is a prerequisite to companionship with the Lord, is it not? Don’t good works prove our faith? Can we be saved without them?

True, our works show our faith, but if they are not enabled by oneness with God and not the works God has called us to do (Eph 2:10), then we are doing them in our own wisdom and strength, in isolation from God, we might say. If we believe these works are tickets to God’s favor and honor, then we have misjudged our powers and rights in this universe.

Though Job could not have known that God would require the sacrifice of his only Son as the means for men to receive his mercy, he could nevertheless understand that God as the Creator of all, and by his revelations to men of that time in history, could not — cannot be manipulated to respond and perform by man’s behavior. If that were true, who would be in control of the world? Who would be sovereign?

Yet, though we may not force his hand, we can enjoy him. We can walk with him and serve him. We can pray for his help and receive it. We can take pleasure in obeying his commands. We can put him first and wait patiently for his answers, by his help.

There is no fine line between doing good works to earn his help and doing good works by his help. There is a vast gulf, a huge divide, in the difference between self promotion and understanding God’s mercy. If Job would know God and the enjoyment of a relationship with him, then he must realize that he was not God’s puppet master. He needed to have a new vision of God and to consider his place in the scheme of things as the creature, not the One in charge.

Job 38:8-11 NIV Imagine the intelligence and strength of the Lord!

Job 38:12-15 NIV Imagine the brute rebellion of men who believe Evolution is the force behind Creation. Job was not presumptuous as they, yet it is said that overturning pride in a religious man who believes false doctrine can be more difficult than convincing an unbeliever.

Job 38:16-21 NIV Light shines by God’s design and illuminates the deeds of the wicked; God displays the beauty of the earth and hides wisdom from evil men.

Job 38:22-30 NIV Job is reminded that he is very young in years compared with God.

Reading God's questions to Job is humbling, yet uplifting. We are called to consider the greatness of the Lord. Do we normally do this on our own recognizance?

Job 38:31-41 NIV For a blog post, this is long enough. Enjoy reading the rest of Job 38.

Worldly wisdom

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-eighth in a series

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A clap of thunder! The storm that began in Job 36 has come nearer. It frightens Elihu.

Job 37:1-4 NIV

By the word of God divine instructions are conveyed to the mind through the ear, by his works through the eye; but, because those ordinary sights and sounds do not duly affect men, God is pleased sometimes to astonish men by the eye with his lightnings and by the ear with his thunder. It is very probable that at this time, when Elihu was speaking, it thundered and lightened, for he speaks of the phenomena as present; and, God being about to speak (ch. 38:1), these were, as afterwards on Mount Sinai, the proper prefaces to command attention and awe…
Thunder is called the voice of the Lord (Ps. 29:3, etc.), because by it God speaks to the children of men to fear before him, and it should put us in mind of that mighty word by which the world was at first made, which is called thunder. Ps. 104:7, At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away, namely, the waters, when God said, Let them be gathered into one place. - Matthew Henry

Job 37:5-8 NIV Elihu describes how the Lord can bring all activity to a halt by the weather.

To Elihu the weather in all its glory is the glory of God, and God stops people from their work so they can see it. … Is not the whole book of Job about men who have been stopped from their work? It is about an enormous work stoppage, an enormous inconvenience that has fallen out of the sky and forced five busy people to drop everything they were doing and to turn for a while to a more important task. (- Mason -ref)

Job 37:9-13 NIV God is in control of the weather to effect his purposes; at least, up until the present generation he was. Today, we have learned of HAARP and cloud seeding. Elihu wold not have known of these.

Job 37:14-20 NIV Though Elihu has forgotten, Job has considered the works of the Lord. Did he not say:
He stretches out the north over the void
and hangs the earth on nothing.
He binds up the waters in his thick clouds,
and the cloud is not split open under them.
He covers the face of the full moon
and spreads over it his cloud. (Job 26:7-9)
the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14b)
A single-minded focus or personal agenda can prevent a full recollection of related conversation.

It was not that Job had no awe of the Almighty when he pled for answers. Yet he did address God directly and ask for a hearing:
Withdraw your hand far from me,
and let not dread of you terrify me.
Then call, and I will answer;
or let me speak, and you reply to me.
How many are my iniquities and my sins?
Make me know my transgression and my sin.
Why do you hide your face
and count me as your enemy? (Job 13:21-24)

Job 37:21-24 NIV Though Elihu seems to be centered on God, his real focus is on Job. He describes a supernatural type of disturbance in the heavenlies but does not believe that God would condescend to man’s cry for understanding of his ways. Elihu does not realize that God himself is drawing near. His ending statement is that God will not regard the one who is conceited, namely, Job.

But who is wise in their own conceit? Is it Job, or is it Elihu?

In his great wisdom, Elihu does not know that God desires close communion and friendship with his own. He desires a relationship and to converse with us.

Elihu’s wisdom is worldly, defining a foundation for a faith in a God, but not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Change on the horizon

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-seventh in a series

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Many Bible commentators criticize Elihu as prideful and disrespectful. Perhaps in the judgment, along with Chorazin (et al) (Mat 11:21-23), he will face stiff condemnation. On the other hand, he is a young man, so we older ones should lessen our vitriol and increase our permission, with respect to his critical nature. We cannot overlook his doctrinal errors, but may nevertheless see him in a good light as one who loves God and has many wonderful thoughts.

Neither he nor the older men have considered the possibility that God has not brought Job to ruin for his sins but rather for his good. Indeed, there are times when reversals are not for the purpose of punishment or even of discipline. Reversals do test our faith, but when they are not served to us for any gross sin, then we must seek deeper understanding. The superficial view blocks the sun of God’s glory in Job’s terrifying trial, and we cannot see God’s hand of help.

Job 36:1-4 NIV Elihu desires to continue in his discourse, even though he has taken more time than the older men. He believes that what he has to say is from the mouth of God.

Job 36:5-7 NIV He explains to Job: God is evenhanded with the mighty and the weak, but unmerciful to evil men. He exalts the righteous to rule with kings.

Job 36:8-10 NIV Here we see a softening of Elihu’s previous words in Chapter 35 that God will not “make repayment” to the prideful man, or in Chapter 34 where he denies that Job has any standing with the Almighty. He returns to his insight of Chapter 33 that God will deliver the soul of the repentant.

Job 36:11-14 NIV Yet, Elihu considers Job a reprobate who refuses to come down from his high horse and is heaping up God’s wrath.

Job 36:15-17 NIV If Job would only confess his wrongs, he would by now be restored. Now who is determining God’s timetable? Previously, Elihu condemned Job for thinking God was late in coming to his aid.

Job 36:18 NIV Elihu had originally offered to be a ransom for Job. His words as God’s messenger would effect Job’s release from his trial, for he would realize he needed to change his ways.

Job 36:19-21 NIV He warns Job not to continue in his opposition to repentance, but to embrace the affliction that has resulted from his sins. Of course, for Job to agree with him, he would need to deny his integrity.

Is Job right to refuse to deny his integrity? What do you think?

Job 36:22-23 NIV Elihu speaks eloquently for God: No one should ever dispute God’s works. Likewise, no one should think he infallibly understands the purposes of God in the events of life.

Job 36:24-25 NIV All men of God should be careful to testify that God is good all the time. Their witness is in plain view and others will take it to heart.

Job 36:26 NIV A wonderful thought!

Job 36:27-31 NIV It is through rain or drought that men know God's judgment of their behavior. Without rain, they will not eat.

Job 36:32-33 NIV There seems to be a change in the weather stirring; Elihu’s thoughts turn to the phenomenon of rain. God has designed his creation to water itself yet he controls the cycle. (This was written before the heavy hand of geoengineering.)

We perceive a storm approaching in the distant thunder, and the cattle know it, too, by their perception of atmospheric change. Thus, the thunder may serve as confirmation to the stirring of the cattle that we see first. Likewise we can discern God’s warnings to us through events in our environs, if we pay attention.

How perfect are the ways of the Lord. No matter how intense our suffering, we will rest in his lovingkindness. At times his love is only perceptible by his power to preserve us whole, despite Satanic assault, degradation, insults, catastrophe, bereavement, loss and grief, and self focus.

Attention Readers

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Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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