Our next entry of “hope” in the Bible is found in Job 13:15:
“Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him…”
Wow! Job sounds pretty solid. Until we continue reading…
“…Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
This also will be my salvation,
For a godless man may not come before His presence.
Listen carefully to my speech,
And let my declaration fill your ears.
Behold now, I have prepared my case;
I know that I will be vindicated.” Job 13:15-18
Is Job’s hope really only in God or is it in being able to argue his case with God? It’s an interesting thought. If we only read the first part of verse 15, Job is sounding dependent upon God. It sounds like he is totally surrendered to whatever God wants to do in His life. But Job has a “nevertheless” problem. He says a truth but puts in a “but.” He would have been better off staying with his faith and dependence and leaving out the “nevertheless.”
I think his reasoning makes demands upon God and presumes that he, not God, is in control. Job says he hopes in God which would indicate he is depending upon Him. But then he asserts his own will. That to me indicates he has a qualifier to his faith. It may be saying, “I’ll hope in God, I’ll depend upon God, if I can come before Him and be vindicated” (verse 18). It’s not a “I hope in God regardless whether I get an audience with God.”
Unfortunately, Job has changed his thinking from the beginning of his suffering:
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.“He said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)
In the beginning of his trial there wasn’t any “nevertheless” in his commitment to God. He worshiped and he blessed God’s Name. How wonderful.
But pain has a way of putting in a bunch of “neverthelesses.” I know. I’m not putting down Job. I’ve been there. There were a lot of conditions I went through in my eight month journey through intense pain. I had a “nevertheless” problem too. My hope was in hoping I got better, not “I surrender to you Lord if you never heal me.”
But I did learn more and more to say the words of James, the brother of Jesus, who was martyred for his faith. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15).
May I be bold to say that Job’s faith had turned into one that was conditional, unlike the principle of faith that James is encouraging us to have? Our life is in God’s hands and we have no power to demand anything. We can pray. We can ask. And yes, we should claim God’s promises. James also said that we could ask for wisdom and expect it (James 1:5). But somehow there’s a difference between depending upon however God answers and demanding it. Weary Job, pain-filled, sitting day after day in grief, had lost his grip on “though he slay me….”
I think a part of Job’s struggle was his dependence upon “making his case.” Remember how he said, “ I have prepared my case” (verse 18)? He had it all figured out. He had spent a lot of thought on how he would convince God of his innocence rather than trusting God knew everything already. He was basically saying that God was ignorant of the facts and it was up to him to straighten God out. There’s a self-sufficiency rather than a surrender. There’s a self-confidence rather than a humble heart.
Although we won’t perfectly depend upon God without any demands of a “nevertheless,” we can look positively at Job’s comment that his hope was in God. Though he expected vindication, at least he was still looking to God as his hope. He could have rebuked and rejected God altogether.
How gracious our Lord is to receive us wherever we’re at. Even in our state of demanding, He shows up and ministers to us. He did that for Job. The end of the story is where God contends with Job (the tables were turned!) and basically says, “who are you in comparison to me?” Here’s Job 40:1-5:
Then the LORD said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”
Then Job answered the LORD and said,
“Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
“Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”
His demand for a hearing before God was answered but it wasn’t the vindication from God that he envisioned.
We should examine our own lives. Are we sneaking in a “nevertheless” into our hope and faith? Are we making demands upon God that things must go the way we want them or need them? We may have to lay our hand over our mouth in repentance. That’s when we’ll have a surrendered heart rather than a demanding heart.