Job 35:1-16 – WALLOWING IN SELF PITY AT CHRISTMAS
When old people suffer more than normally, I find myself despairing, feeling sorry for them and myself. There is a gastric bug in one of the sections of Shalom, the Aged Care Facility where I work, and I can no longer have the Christmas Service for them in the Chapel. We are in lock-down quarantine mode. The Service is hastily held in another hall with residents from different parts of the site but it is not the same. I am feeling depressed. Sometimes I think “What use it is to live the Christian life? What difference am I really making?” What can I do except pray.
Then in the middle of wallowing in self pity I once again see Job. He is sitting in the dust covered in boils and feeling excruciating pain, asking the same questions.
In Job 35 a young man named Elihu is speaking to Job arrogantly and cruelly. He thinks God is causing Job to suffer because of his sin. One thing about Job’s friends is that they are verbose and come to the worst of conclusions and judgments. He says “Do you think it is right for you to claim, ‘I am righteous before God’?” For you also ask, ‘What’s in it for me? What’s the use of living a righteous life?’ (Job 35:2-3 NLT). Now those questions are straight from my mouth, and I’d like to justify asking them,… but I can’t entirely.
I’ve sorted out the “claim to be righteous before God” bit. The Old Testament and New Testament declare that I CAN claim that I am in RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with God. For example Genesis 15:6 (NLT) says “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous BECAUSE OF HIS FAITH.” Notice it wasn’t because he was living such a good life that he deserved to be made right with God. It was because of his FAITH.
But Elihu says something that is disturbing, “If you are good, is this some great gift to Him? What could you possibly give Him?” (Job 35:7 NLT). So what is the point of even trying to be a good person? Isaiah 64:5-7 (NLT) says … how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags…”
Christmas solves this dilemma of not being good enough and being estranged from God and the sin thing. In Luke 2:10-11 (NLT) an angel says “I bring you GOOD NEWS that will bring great joy to all people. The SAVIOUR—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, …!” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says that the good news is that “For God made Christ, who NEVER sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be MADE RIGHT with God THROUGH CHRIST.” At the end of one of my devotions about this one lady summed it all up by saying “It is not what I have done but what Christ has done for me.” That’s the answer. Faith in Christ alone, not in how good I think I am.
Being righteous (in right relationship to God) is one thing. Living righteously is another. I still have the question “What good is being faithful to God if it achieves nothing? What is the use of living the life God intends me to live if there is nothing in it for me?” I know that sounds selfish, but please let me be honest when I am wallowing in self pity.
Elihu seems to agree with me. He says it doesn’t make any difference to God how I live. He says, “If you sin, how does that affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what effect will it have on Him?” (Job 35:6 NLT). But I know that’s just not true.
It affects Him a great deal! Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t change His character or His purposes, nevertheless I can GRIEVE the Holy Spirit and QUENCH His work in me (Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
At least Elihu is right when he says “…it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned.” I agree. He does listen. He is concerned. It makes a difference to Him. To say “… your sins affect only people like yourself,…” (Job 35:8 NLT) is not true. It made a huge impact upon Christ when He died for our sins. Christmas bears testimony to the fact that God is concerned with solving the problem of sin and our inadequacy to live as God intended.
Elihu says “People cry out when they are oppressed. They groan beneath the power of the mighty. Yet they don’t ask, ‘Where is God my Creator, the One who gives songs in the night? (Job 35:9-10 NLT). That’s not true either. Even Paul and Silas sang praises to God while in jail, greatly oppressed (Acts 16:25).
So today, as I walk down the halls of Shalom, and look into the rooms of suffering people, I take a portable CD player, sing Christmas Carols and wish them a Happy Christmas. Some old faces peer at me and smile and begin to sing with me. Jeffrey (not his real name) says, “I’ve been very sick.” I say “I know, I’ve been praying for you.” He says, “It must be working. I’m getting better.” We sing “Silent Night” together, and as we sing the words about Jesus being loves pure light, once again I am humbled by the dawn of His redeeming grace.
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