31 “I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a young woman.
2 For what is our lot from God above,
our heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Is it not ruin for the wicked,
disaster for those who do wrong?
4 Does he not see my ways
and count my every step?
Job intensified his claims that he was innocent and demanded justice.
This chapter follows a protocol for court procedures in the nations of the area where Job lived. This would be swearing of allegiance to the King or deity followed by statements of “if” and “let”. These statements established the terms of the oath. The “if” describing what the accused is being accused of doing and the “let” being the terms of punishment or curses from the deity. Job’s defence of himself stated that if these accusations were true then let the full weight of the curse come upon me.
This represented Job’s final attempt to defend himself before both God and man.
He brings all of the following accusations to the table… purity (verse 1), general sin (verses 2-3), truth (verse 5), coveting (verse 7), marital faithfulness (verse 9), equity (verse 13), compassion (verses 16-21); materialism (verses 24-25), false religion (verses 26-27), love for enemies and strangers (verses 29-32), secret sin (verses 33-34), integrity within business (verses 38-40). Job recognised that he was a sinner but he asserted that he had no pattern of sin.
He asked God to answer him (verse 35), and to explain why he suffered. Finally, he appeals to God to be the judge: if what he has claimed for himself is not true, let God himself pronounce the consequences (verses 35-40).
This was largely a reply to the accusations from Eliphaz that are outlined in chapter 22.
He spoke here of purity toward women (Prov. 6:25; Matt. 5:28).
Much temptation begins with gazing intensely at something you desire (Psalm 119:37; 1 John 2:16). Job’s covenant” commitment to refrain from lustful desire reveals his refusal to consider adultery or the acquisition of other women as part of a harem (31:9-12). He was aware that adultery can be committed with the heart as well as with the body (Matt. 5:27-28).
Job had made a covenant with himself never to look upon a woman with lust in his eyes. It appears from all accounts, that Job was a faithful husband to his wife. He was not an adulterer. This was something he had promised himself.
I know this to be true when I trace my own adultery back. I began on that track when I stopped being disciplined with lust in the autumn on 2009. It was January 2011 when finally I ended up physically committing adultery. In the autumn of 2009 whilst I had allowed my mind to go there I didn’t think it would ever become a reality nor at that point did I want it to be a reality. I didn’t want it to be a reality in 2011 either, only I found myself in that situation, opportunity knocked and I had already played it out in my head.
A different decision that day may have led to a very different story, that’s true but the door really opened in 2009.
Job in his wisdom protected himself from that possibility. He made a covenant with his eyes.
Job knew that God was his judge. So he was careful about his actions. He made intentional decisions about his life and his ways. He knew that a man might hide his evil deeds from other people. But nobody can hide from God (Psalm 139:1-10). He was saying that there would have been no inheritance from God if he had been such a man.
God saw every detail of my secret life, my wife, my friends and others near me may have seen some cracks and may have known that something was not right but not enough to bring it into question. God dealt with it in his time and in a way that some might call punishment. I don’t see it as punishment but discipline. It was an act of grace and of love. He knew my heart, he knew I would repent but wanted me to feel the consequences and knew exactly what I needed. It was painful but to look back on it I feel it was also beautiful.
He equipped my family to handle it in a way that has matured them and helped them to grow spiritually, he equipped my closest friends to handle it in a way that has brought about growth and flourishing wisdom.
In some of the more difficult moments I wouldn’t have said that as I could not see it. My dominant feeling at the time was probably self pity. In fact I know it was self pity because I have my journals from the summer of 2015 when it all unravelled.
The point is that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Job knew this but was perplexed by his situation. These verses in chapter 31 lay out his defence.
5 “If I have walked with falsehood
or my foot has hurried after deceit—
6 let God weigh me in honest scales
and he will know that I am blameless—
7 if my steps have turned from the path,
if my heart has been led by my eyes,
or if my hands have been defiled,
8 then may others eat what I have sown,
and may my crops be uprooted.
Job was careful about his ways
· his actions,
· his thoughts,
· and his behaviour.
He was sure of his honesty and integrity. He wanted an honest judgment and he knew very well the reap what you sow principles of the world that he lived in.
9 “If my heart has been enticed by a woman,
or if I have lurked at my neighbour’s door,
10 then may my wife grind another man’s grain,
and may other men sleep with her.
11 For that would have been wicked,
a sin to be judged.
12 It is a fire that burns to Destruction;
it would have uprooted my harvest.
It appears that he was accused of adultery but Job protested his innocence and knew that even lust would have taken him down. This kind of sin burned within a person until it totally destroyed them. Intimacy belongs between a man and his wife and as someone who has violated that covenant on every level I know the fallout only too well. I know what it leads to and that recovery from such a destructive pattern is rare.
It is addressed in Deuteronomy 5:18. Jesus had something to say about it as recorded in Matthew 5:27-28.
Job knew that if he had been guilty of this he may as well have given his wife over to another man. His life would have been in tatters and everything he built his life on would be uprooted and destroyed.
13 “If I have denied justice to any of my servants,
whether male or female,
when they had a grievance against me,
14 what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account?
15 Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
In verse 15 we read that Job was aware that he answered to maker of us all and therefore treated his servants with respect. He treated his staff well.
He knew his God as the avenger and champion of all the oppressed. If he had been harsh and cruel to his dependents, he would have provoked God’s anger. Every servant was still a man, a brother; equal with his master.
Job had compassion on the poor and on his servants as well. He had never mistreated any of them. Job was saying if he had mistreated his servants, he could expect no better from God, whose servant he was (Job 2:3).
In the culture of the day and up until recent history a wealthy man would not respect his servants. He would be harsh with them. Much later, Jesus talked about this principle. It is recorded in Matthew 24:48-51.
It is important for me to remember that hierarchy is pretty meaningless. We are all brothers and sisters in this journey through life. It is too easy to think in terms of pecking orders and where I fit whether at work, within the community of church, socially, in my neighbourhood and every setting that I walk into or pass through.
The saying “some days I am the dog and others I am the tree” rings true as an experience of life but really it is my processing that is flawed. I am made in the image of God as relational being. I exist to tell God’s story and to propagate love in any and every situation I encounter.
16 “If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
17 if I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless—
18 but from my youth I reared them as a father would,
and from my birth I guided the widow—
19 if I have seen anyone perishing for lack of clothing,
or the needy without garments,
20 and their hearts did not bless me
for warming them with the fleece from my sheep,
21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless,
knowing that I had influence in court,
22 then let my arm fall from the shoulder,
let it be broken off at the joint.
23 For I dreaded destruction from God,
and for fear of his splendour I could not do such things.
Job had lived his life fearing God and taking on God’s heart for the poor and needy. He not only gave charitable offerings to the poor he connected with them he relationally reflected the heart of God.
· Job was kind to the widows in verse 16.
· The child in verse 17 needed a father figure. Job treated him as though he was family.
· In verse 19 we read that he gave clothing to those that needed it.
· He used his position of influence to defend the poor in legal situations. A voice to those without a voice.
Job knew that God had blessed his life and therefore he shared what God had given him both in terms of his wealth but also of his heart.
How would rather his bones be broken or limbs torn apart than to face God would this not have been the case as his accusers had suggested.
This raises questions about how I view those in need. I have momentary windows where I connect but more often my heart is one of selfishness and self protection. The light goes on occasionally when my heart is moved but there are many times my response is one of indifference. I want that to change.
24 “If I have put my trust in gold
or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’
25 if I have rejoiced over my great wealth,
the fortune my hands had gained,
Job was not overly enamoured by money. His focus was God and not money. It seemed he had plenty of wealth but he knew that everything came from God.
He asserted that his security was in God and not gold. The bible speaks a lot about money and the right perspective on money. Of Jesus’ recorded words there is more said about money than love!! Clearly it is something close to our hearts and the purse strings appear to be connected to the heart strings in some way.
A healthy perspective would be “Spend some, save some, share some” …at least that’s been my recent thinking. Maybe invest some might also be an appropriate addition. However, these are issues of stewardship but what Job is speaking of here is more about where our heart is. To be focused on gold is idolatrous and a violation of our relationship with our maker. The void in our heart is shaped only for the presence of God, to try and place anything else there will not meet that need.
26 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendour,
27 so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
28 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
The sun and the moon were worshipped as God’s by many. A kiss was a symbol of worship in honour of men (Genesis 41:40; Psalm 2:12), or idols (1 Kings 19:18; Hosea 13:2). If such idols were out of reach a kiss on the hand was a symbolic way of throwing kisses to them.
Job did not worship the sun or the moon, or even his own person. He knew his God was the great redeemer. He had a great awareness of idolatry and was not guilty in this way.
Our biggest challenge in idolatry is the worship of self, not in a pious or religious way but just the way that every decision we make is to please self. We dress it up in other ways at times but often there is a pay off to our own well being, our ego or some way of propping up of self that makes us feel significant. I know some people who are successful in the battle against that on some level but most of us are not. I think at best we have small God centred victories.
I don’t think it’s something to over think or analyse but something to go to God with knowing that he is the only one who can sort this out. He is our redeemer.
29 “If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin
by invoking a curse against their life—
Jobs claim was that he never wished ill of his enemies or rejoiced in another persons suffering. He kept a careful guard about what came out of his mouth. He knew that this was not the heart of God.
31 if those of my household have never said,
‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
for my door was always open to the traveller—
Job’s defence continues with an assertion of his attitude towards travellers and strangers. He was a hospitable man and would ensure that those passing through were looked after.
This makes me think about how welcoming and kind I should be to those around me. In this fast paced modern world that we live in and the multiple distractions that take us away from relationships we can easily be focused on our own pleasure and forget about the value of connection.
In the church we kind of have a programmed connection and forced connection in the form of various different group meetings. Family group, church meetings, discipling times but all of these can lack the authenticity of just being a relational being. This is not a criticism of the practice but rather a question about how far gone we are that we have to create a programme to be relational.
Yesterday we were in a small Essex village and we stopped and had three conversations with strangers. It was just small talk. Two we asked for directions and one we were in the village shop but all three offered more than we asked for in terms of conversational content. That is rare in London. We are however …wired for relationship.
33 if I have concealed my sin as people do,
by hiding my guilt in my heart
34 because I so feared the crowd
and so dreaded the contempt of the clans
that I kept silent and would not go outside
The NIV translates verse 33 with the words “as people do”. The Hebrew text could equally be translated “If I covered my transgressions as Adam”, this may indicate familiarity with the narrative of Genesis but more likely is a generic term for the common man. However, Adam did indeed hide from God when he violated the relationship (Genesis 3:8).
Job claimed that he did not hide. He lived accessible to all and transparent.
He allowed accusations to be levied against him and answered them.
In Proverbs 28:13 we are informed “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper”. Job knew very well this spiritual truth since God sees everything and knows the motives of our hearts. He was not someone who would cover up his flaws or blame others for things that went wrong. Even throughout the trauma of his current predicament he was not one to blame but rather struggled with understanding why things had turned out the way they had.
35 (“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defence—let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
36 Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
37 I would give him an account of my every step;
I would present it to him as to a ruler.)—
38 “if my land cries out against me
and all its furrows are wet with tears,
39 if I have devoured its yield without payment
or broken the spirit of its tenants,
40 then let briers come up instead of wheat
and stinkweed instead of barley.”
The words of Job are ended.
Job protested his innocence and invited further accusation from God, he felt that in the presence of God he would be vindicated and justice done. He felt that God was the source of his trouble but could not understand why that would have been the case.
Whatever God said, the Job would accept. That was his position.
He ended his speech with words about the earth being his testimony.
He had often spoken about the soil at the end of previous speeches (Job 7:21; Job 10:21-22; Job 17:16; Job 21:33). We are created from the earth (Genesis 2:7). We return to the earth when we die (Genesis 3:19).
Job had respected the land, the people that had been placed in his path and most of all he had respected his maker. The earth could testify to this but if the land spoke out against him and reclaimed him then his body would be returned to the ground. Nobody would cultivate the soil that he had once taken such good care of. Weeds would grow instead of healthy fruitful crops.
Job finished his speech with these sad words.