The story of Job is a very inspiring, yet frightening one. I used to ask myself, how is it that a man could be so faithful? But also, why did God allow this to happen to him?
In the story of Job, God orders a hedge be put around Job’s life. We see this in Job 2:6:
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life. (Job 2:6 KJV) [emphasis mine]
The word save is the Hebrew word shamar, which means to guard, protect, or to hedge about (Strong’s Concordance). A hedge serves many purposes – but the most obvious one is for protection. But why, even with this hedge of protection, did Job lose his wealth and possessions, his family, and his health?
We find out later on in the book from a young man named Elihu:
And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity. (Job 36:7-13)
You see, a hedge not only protects us from outsiders, it also blocks the view on the inside, allowing us to focus on ourselves. I believe God wants us to see the faults in our character and to repent. He already knows what’s in our hearts, but we are often blind to our own faults.
Where did Job go wrong?
I think we can find Job’s problem right at the beginning of the chapter (Job 1:1-5). Here we see an account of his 7 sons and 3 daughters, whom are feasting. On a regular basis, Job offers sacrifices for them because as he says “they may have sinned and cursed God in their hearts”. But do we see Job asking forgiveness for his own sins? Even the sins he may not be aware of?
Let’s contrast this to Nehemiah’s attitude in Nehemiah 1:5-6. He asks forgiveness not only for the sins of Israel but also for his own sins:
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
But if it wasn’t what Job said or didn’t say that caused him to sin (Job 2:10), what was it?
Throughout his trial, while his friends were trying to open his eyes, Job refused to acknowledge his own faults. Instead, he resorts to self-pity:
Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! (Job 6:2 KJV)
Discarding the advice of his friends, he basically tells them: ‘Yeah yeah I’ve heard it all before. Who are you to be telling me anything? You don’t know more than me!’ (Job 12-14,16) and spends all of chapter 24 talking about how evil everyone else is.
Job is stubborn and still unchanging:
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Job 13:15 KJV)
Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified. (Job 13:18 KJV)
Job didn’t realize that there was a hedge around him because he only wanted it for the purpose of safety and protection.
Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved [shamar] me; (Job 29:2 KJV, emphasis mine)
We too could be doing all kinds of righteous things like Job in chapter 29 but is that all God really wants?
Elihu then says something profound.
Take heed, regard not iniquity: for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction. (Job 36:21)
He tells Job to not choose vain self-pity (iniquity: Hebrew – ‘awven – exerting yourself in vain; – different from `evel – unrighteousness, wrong doing) because Job was not having true misery or depression.
It is important to note that “Take heed” is the same Hebrew word shamar. It is telling us to do more than just listen up.
It is telling us to put up our own hedges and take a look at ourselves.
God wants true self-examination
Elihu finally tells Job the proper attitude to have:
Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more. (Job 34:31, 32 KJV)
Job’s situation is still a contemporary one. We live in an individualistic society where it’s all about me, me, me, how great I am, how comfortable I am, all the great things I do, and about how low you are, and what things you are doing wrong.
This is why we need God’s hedging: it forces us to take look at ourselves and what we need to be doing better instead of pointing out the faults of others. Christ says to take the log out of our own eye before pointing out the speck in others (Luke 6:41).
Even when we feel we are in the right, even if we are in the right, as Christians we need to examine ourselves first—lest self-righteousness and self-pity set in. We need to self-examine at the point of attack.
Adam was responsible for working in the garden and hedging the garden, keeping it safe (Gen. 2:15). Instead, the serpent slipped in and turned away Adam’s focus from working in the Garden. The result was that God had to shamar the garden from Adam.
If we fail to examine ourselves and protect against outside influences, we will find ourselves on the outside looking in.
Tips for self-examination this Passover season
- Exalt others before yourself
- Check your pride at the door
- Always consider your own sin first before accusing anyone else
- Ask, what did I do wrong or could have done better?
- Listen to and consider correction and chastisement
What are your tips for self-examination? How do you self-examine at the point of attack?
Photo by Ben Clinch