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Righteous Suffering: Of Maggots and Men

In chapters 27 and 28, Job continues his discourse in response to the accusations of his friend Bildad from chapter 25. Bildad essentially asserted two things. First, he argued that “no one” can be declared blameless or righteous (I suppose he really means Job, and not himself). Second, he implies that “no one” can taste the wisdom of God, because human beings are worms and maggots before God. Again, Bildad seems to have Job in mind, and he is likely being unkind because of Job’s physical condition. It is helpful to frame the desperate state of humanity as Isaac Watts did in his famous hymn (Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head, for such a worm as I?). However, Bildad appears to be simply stating that Job is a worm and a maggot in his current state, and one who does not know God.

In response to all of this, and in chapter 27, Job declares that he will not let go of his righteousness. At the very beginning of the book of Job, God did indeed declare Job to be a righteous and blameless man – one who has “turned away from evil”. And in looking at Paul’s perspective on how this can be true of us (Romans 4), it is clear that anyone who has been declared righteous by God has been justified by faith and not by works. In other words, anyone who has truly “turned away from evil” has been justified by faith and not by works. Paul emphasizes that we too are justified when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and his atoning sacrifice, so that we might be declared righteous by God and saved from His wrath. Job understands the incredible hope he has been given by God, and he is very angry with his friends for calling into question what God has done for him. Job is so frustrated that he actually pronounces the erroneous judgment on them that they were heaping on him previously (they are wicked and so their children will die).

In chapter 28, Job transitions to a beautiful discourse regarding the incredible accomplishments and intelligence of human beings, who are created in God’s image. He references the amazing accomplishments of people who have mined for gold, silver, and other precious stones. But then Job contrasts our accomplishments, and the objects of our affections, as being utterly insignificant in comparison to the wisdom of God. His closing statement of chapter 28 (Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding) reminds us that the wisdom of God is only available to those who have been justified by faith and declared righteous by God.

We discussed four applications from these two chapters from the book of Job.

  1. Embrace what is at stake for the unbeliever. Skeptics ought to turn to the Lord, who is the only source of wisdom, and ask for God’s truth of the gospel to be revealed to them. And Christians should take heart when we are declared foolish, because the wisdom of God has always been seen as foolishness to man.
  2. Hold fast to righteousness received by faith. The worm has turned! God has redeemed us through his Son, and we ought not despise the gift of righteousness. We are called children of God, the bride of Christ, beloved, not guilty, and righteous, all because of the work of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for sin. This indeed is a truth worth fighting for.
  3. Stand in awe of the wisdom of God and the creation of God. Human beings accomplish amazing things in pursuit of knowing more about creation. May our pursuits guide us to seek God, who is the Creator of all we desire to explore.
  4. Grow in the wisdom of God in Christ. If God is the source of wisdom, then we will only grow in wisdom as we grow closer to God. Our hunger for experiencing spiritual wisdom will be satisfied only when we draw close to God through Jesus Christ, and when we are justified and declared righteous by the work of Jesus Christ.

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