Guests: Dave Thomas and Jenn Ogden
Related Verses: Job 10, 15
Leading Question: How is it possible for a man who shares the common guilt of all humankind to also claim to be innocent as Job did?
The book of Job shows us that a man who is sinner like all of us can still claim to be innocent. Given his status as sinner, should he be faulted for claiming to suffer without cause?
Sometimes innocent people claim to be sinful just because they are convinced that it is wrong to claim innocence. But are there any biblical examples of sinners to rightfully claimed innocence?
Note: The long shadow of Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) can prevent us from being honest with our own situation. It is indeed possible for good people to be accused of evil when they don’t deserve it. The following examples may be helpful:
1. Jesus himself. The problem with taking courage from Jesus’ example is that Jesus truly was without sin of any kind. It would seem arrogant for a sinful human being to piggyback on his good life. But there is an impulse for evil people to avoid the good precisely because they are themselves evil. Jesus put it this way in John 3:
John 3: 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (NIV)
2. Daniel. Even though the Babylonian wise men owed their lives to Daniel’s intervention under Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2), under Darius his colleagues apparently found his “goodness” to be insufferable and tried to find a cause to accuse him. They finally concluded: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Dan. 6:5, NIV). In this case, Daniel escaped unscathed and his opponents were crushed when the king threw them to the lions in place of Daniel.
3. The Psalmists. Nearly half of all the psalms are complaints and several of these are lament psalms in which the psalmist complains because he is being attacked even though he is innocent. Ps. 17 and Ps. 26 are two examples of this type of psalm. So Job is not the only good man who has suffered and has not been afraid to tell God so.
4. Jeremiah. One of the more striking examples of someone who has suffered innocently is the prophet Jeremiah. And in his case, he was not able to keep from giving his accusers a verbal tongue-lashing. Jeremiah 19:19-23 is a good example, translated with remarkable vividness in the Contemporary English Version:
19 Please, Lord, answer my prayer.
Make my enemies stop
accusing me of evil.
20 I tried to help them,
but they are paying me back
by digging a pit to trap me.
I even begged you
not to punish them.
21 But now I am asking you
to let their children starve
or be killed in war.
Let women lose
their husbands and sons
to disease and violence.
22 These people have dug pits
and set traps for me, Lord.
Make them scream in fear
when you send enemy troops
to attack their homes.
23 You know they plan to kill me.
So get angry and punish them!
Don’t ever forgive
their terrible crimes.
Question: What is the role of the demonic in attacking innocent people?
Note: Job and Jesus are the two most obvious examples of innocent people who were attacked as a result of demonic machinations. Job, course didn’t know about Satan in the same way as New Testament people do. But he is clearly an example of someone who suffered as a result of a demonic plot.
Question: What is the role of Providence in those situations where innocent people suffer?
The NIV margin of Romans 8:28 reads as follows: “In all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good.” That allows more flexibility than the typical reading of “all things work together for good.” It is easier for a free-will person to see God working within circumstances than to claim that all things are good.
Question: In Job’s case, what was the “good” that came out of his disaster?
In terms of earthly goods, Job received twice what he had before and also another family of seven sons and three daughters. Some have suggested that this “reward” actually undermines the moral of the book that Job is an example of “disinterested morality.”
Could one point to the cosmic impact of the book? Job does demonstrate to the universe that it is possible to be harassed by demonic forces yet maintain one’s integrity. The unwritten law underlying Job’s experience seems to be that when one commits one’s way to God, permission is granted to be thrown to the lions, so to speak, in order to demonstrate the goodness of God.
Finally, in the spirit of Romans 8:28, lines from George MacDonald are appropriate:
It is so true, as the Book says, that all things work together for our good, even our sins and vices. He takes our sins on himself, and while he drives them out of us with a whip of scorpions, he will yet make them work his good ends. He defeats our sins, makes them prisoners, forces them into the service of good, and chains them like galley slaves to the rowing benches of the gospel ship. He makes them work toward salvation for us. – George MacDonald, “The Bloodhound,” The Curate’s Awakening (Bethany, 1985), 200