Job 31: (Job said to his friends and to God) 16 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17 or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not eaten from it— 18 for from my youth I reared the orphan like a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow — 19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or a poor person without covering, 20 whose loins have not blessed me, and who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; 21 if I have raised my hand against the orphan, because I saw I had supporters at the gate; 22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. 23 For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty.
Job is not backing down. His friends are convinced that Job’s immense suffering must be a consequence of serious hidden iniquities. Why? Because the theology of the day teaches that bad things do not happen to good people. Job must have messed up big time in the eyes of God. It’s the only way Job’s suffering makes sense. Yet, again, Job denies wrongdoing. This dialogue between Job and his three friends has been going on for many chapters. God, however, has so far said nothing. That will change beginning in chapter 38.
What gets my attention here is the focus on Job’s response to those in need. He claims to have been particularly attentive to the poor, the orphan, the widow. Why this focus? Because one of the primary lenses for determining righteousness before God, particularly in the Old Testament, is how a people cares for the most vulnerable in their midst. On many occasions God’s people are taken to task by the Lord for failing in this area. Regularly sacrifices in the temple were not a substitute for dealing fairly with one’s workers, slaves, and the poor.
In addition, I continue to be astounded by Job’s boldness here. He is NOT backing down from confronting the charges of assumed iniquity by his so-called friends.
Finally, it is obviously frustrating to Job that God has not yet spoken. If Job is being punished then Job challenges the Lord to lay out the charges against him. Yet God remains silent.
Lord you are holy and righteous. I am not, nor would I suggest innocence before you as Job has done here. Forgive me for my many sins. Thank you for your grace and mercy extended through Jesus Christ in whose name I pray. Amen.