Those who believe in mercy are constantly being brought to justice by the accuser and those that work for him.
I saw this question posted in social media:
Why do people who believe in justice and judgment always ask for justice (for others – of course) and get mercy, while others who believe in mercy and liberty ask for mercy (for everyone) but instead get judgment?
I believe the book of Job illustrates this core life issue. In Job we see God claiming that Job is “perfect” which of course prompts a response from the accuser, “allow me to show you his weakness”. To our great dismay, God says have at it. Job’s life is destroyed. Even more than mine. If I put the proper terms to describe how this feels, this essay would need language warnings. Besides, I try to use more articulate adjectives.
But Jeremiah describes it well in Lamentations chapter 3 when he journals about how God destroyed him:
He has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help.
And David, in several Psalms, describes the desolation that invades our lives. And the Sons of Korah (there is a name that brings focus on Mercy) describe it well in Psalm 88.
So Job’s life goes from a dream life to an inescapable nightmare. Then his friends show up. People like to make fun of them because of what they say, but they are honest and they sat with him for 7 days before they started the discussion. In my life there have been about the same number of friends. Most people are looking for a reason to hate and immediately disregard the destroyed person, as they take the same view as Jobs friends, but don’t have any love to at least sit with the destroyed person. Just get the bad person out of the way. Destroyed people are a terrible reminder of the fragile house of cards that is every life.
So these honest friends, who care enough to come and sit in the ashes with Job for a week, earn the right to speak. And they use that right to do what is foremost in all of our minds: use reason and wisdom to find the problem that has caused Job’s destruction. Between the friends and Job, we get more than thirty chapters of philosophical discussion. A debate right from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you are not sure what I mean by that, it is a subject worth understanding. But it will work just as an allusion here.
Job’s friends are saying that Job has done something wrong and that is why he has been destroyed. Evil earns judgement and punishment.
Job is saying that he has not and he deserves blessing. Good earns blessing. I think God gave us the account of what happened in the courts of heaven at the start of the book to ensure we would know Job was correct about his innocence from God’s perspective. God had removed his sins – Job does reference prior sins, yet has confidence those are not held against him.
Job says he should not have been destroyed because he is innocent in God’s perspective.
Job’s friends say he cannot be innocent, with the proof being that he has been destroyed. God would not allow such things to happen without cause.
Job: “I am unjustly destroyed”.
Friends: “You are justly destroyed”.
So they are all saying the same thing: That the quality of life is the result of how you live: Live a good, moral life and you will be blessed while on this earth. Live an immoral life and you will be destroyed while on this earth.
Many hundreds of years after this story of Job, God confirms that this is indeed the summary of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (there is that pesky Tree thing again). God delivers this message of rewards clearly at the end of Deuteronomy when he gives the Blessings and Cursings. In that section God says Live by the good moral Law I gave and you will have Blessings while on earth. And he says Fail to live by the good moral Law I gave and you will have extremely bad consequences while on earth. So basically God says the same thing as both sides of the “middle of Job” debate.
It is important to note that no-one has ever collected on the Blessing side because the prerequisite for blessing is to KEEP THE WHOLE LAW. Not most of it. Not all of it part of the time. To collect the blessing you must obey the WHOLE Law all of the time. Most people don’t even know what the Law of Moses says as they have been told that that those blessings refer to a different law. But they are wrong. Those Blessings refer to that specific Law, all 600+ commandments.
Job and his friends are debating the question at the start of this essay: why does life experience fail to line up with this innate understanding we have of the relationship of “right and wrong” to “blessings and cursings” . Job and Friends work through 30+ chapters of some articulate discussion of the issue. Which is why I almost never quote from the middle of Job. We even have Elihu, the arrogant, angry young zealot, finishing up with a multi-chapter rant against Job that is totally baseless (remember God ensured that we know that God considered Job to be innocent). In an important way, God negated the whole debate.
If you carefully read the debate, you can see the last statements by Job sure seem to be headed the wrong way. He basically demands that God make an accounting for the destruction in his life. I think we all head that way rapidly. Calling on God to answer for misdeeds is indeed a serious issue. My conjecture here is that Satan was joyfully watching the defendant Job fully incriminate himself. It sures seems like Satan had accomplished his goal: prove that Job was joyfully devoted to God because he lived a life of Blessing. Blessing removed, Job calls God to account for mishandling justice. Some of his last words : “I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing.”
God steps in. He stops the debate. I used to be frustrated as God does not point out who had good things to say in the debate. I wanted so much for him to say one side or the other was correct. But then I realized that he simply insures that all listeners recognize their respective position. That includes Job, his friends, numerous centuries of readers, and Satan. God alone is God. Eternity is his domain. All created things are … well … created. Existence emanates from him. Does one call on God to answer for his actions? What should one call on God for? The first thing God does is ask: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
After God establishes the smallness of man, Job answers “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.”
So the story goes on that the Great and Terrible Divine Being destroys them all for their impertinence. End of Story.
That is what Satan wanted.
But that is NOT how the story goes.
No, God shows his Mercy, he has Job officiate at a blood sacrifice to cover (atone) their sins.
What are God’s plans that they were obscuring? It’s not a hard question, he told his plans. He predestined his plans to show his great mercy. From before the beginning of the world, he predestined (planned and made sure it happened in common language) to make sure people knew their need for mercy,
… no, KNEW their need for mercy
… still not strong enough
… had absolutely no doubt about their need for mercy. He set that Tree in Garden. He made sure the message was clear quite effectively through the Law with its Blessings and Cursings. Then he planned to show that mercy by coming and becoming the once and for all blood sacrifice to fulfill the requirements of all the laws, from Moses or otherwise. And he established once for all that he is merciful. Real Mercy as the sins are very real and worthy of death. Eternal death.
An undefeatable plan. A plan that only needs people to believe it for it to have effect in their spirits.
How were Job and friends obscuring it? By continuing to believe that they could procure blessing via their own actions. Their 30+ chapters of debate, which have continued non-stop to this day, obscure God’s plan. My continual struggle with the the need to call God to account for the destruction in this world daily obscures God’s plan.
In the story of Job, Job experienced fleshly blessings again. Then he died ending those fleshly blessings again. This is important to note as we want all blessings now. But my guess is that Job and his friends had a better view point on life after that phenomenal experience. What view? That the Kingdom of God is far bigger than this life.
Which brings us back to the questions at the top of this essay: Why does God not bring judgement on those the live by judgement?
Because that would obscure his plans. He has mercy while the world runs its course. He does step in sometimes in big ways. I believe that is to prevent people from being completely decieved by Satan. He does step in sometimes in individual lives. But not often enough from my point of view.
I want so much for him to intervene and teach my oppressors a great and terrible lesson. JUSTICE! NOW!
Then I remember that a call for justice requires full justice. If I call for others to face justice, then I will not be excluded. And God does not pay any attention to the custom sets of law. He is not even slightly amused by the feeble attempts to dodge his clear instructions. He rises in anger at those who make mockery of his plans. Including me.
And then he has mercy.
I wish he would step in more. I sometimes think I should call him to account like Job did so that he will step in and give me a lecture like he did Job. That would be great. But I realize that I shouldn’t do that; I fight off the impulse.
Once again I come to the place of dependency.
God have mercy.