“My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun.” Malachi 1:11
Sometimes I read scripture and I’m led back to The Garden, where it all began. God creates this majestic, beautiful, pure, and innocent dwelling for plants, animals, and humans. I love that picture! How peaceful and calm a place like that would be, with uninterrupted and undistracted fellowship with God. Oh, to be able to walk along the crystal rivers with the Lord at my side. Feeling the fresh air and smelling the flowers would be like Heaven, I imagine.
But he placed a choice in The Garden for humans. Though we were created in his image and meant to live in close relationship with him, he still gave us the option. Unfortunately, we chose to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil. Satan, knowing of our desires (which we may not have known we had in us), deceived us and birthed the new emotions of pride, envy, lust, and much more.
Since God is righteous, sin could not be in his presence (another dirty trick from Satan). This is where we witness the first sacrifice needed to atone for sin and the separation between God and man because of it. We also see the consequences of sin with Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden and cursed with trials and pain.
So begins the narrative of God working to redeem his beloved creation. This battle arises for the souls of his people. With that, the characteristics of God are revealed in part. We see his righteousness, love, justice, jealousy, mercy, and anger, to name a few.
I can’t say whether God had intended for the world to turn out the way it has. I’m not sure this was part of his original plan for his creation. But throughout the Bible (and thank goodness we have this good book), we see God unleashing all of who he is, all of this power and control, and every heavenly and earthly resource he has, to bring us back and make things right.
Job’s “friend,” Elihu, says in his rant, “If you sin, how does this affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what affect will it have on him?” This statement stuck with as I went through the SOAP process this morning. It’s what brought me back to The Garden. Let’s explore it a little more, shall we?
S – Scripture: Job 35-37
- 35:1-3 – Then Elihu said: “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?'”
- 35:6-8 – “If you sin, how does that affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what effect will it have on him? If you are good, is this some great gift to him? What could you possibly give him? No, your sins affect only people like yourself, and your good deeds also affect only humans.”
- 36:7-11 – “He never takes his eyes off the innocent, but he sets them on thrones with kings and exalts them forever. If they are bound in chains and caught up in a web of trouble, he shows them the reason. He shows them their sins of pride. He gets their attention and commands that they turn from evil. If they listen and obey God, they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives. All their years will be pleasant.”
- 36:16-17,21 – “God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld…Be on guard! Turn back from evil, for God sent this suffering to keep you from a life of evil.”
- 37:5-7 – “God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power. He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down. Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power.”
- 37:19-20 – “So teach the rest of us what to say to God. We are too ignorant to make our own arguments. Should God be notified that I want to speak? Can people even speak when they are confused?”
O – Observation:
- Elihu brings up a questions that Job had previously asked – What good is it to be righteous when everyone ends up in the same place?
- Elihu is saying that whether we are good or bad, it doesn’t affect God. It only affects the person (in the case of righteousness) or others near us (when sin is involved).
- The good and forgiven will be blessed and the wicked punished.
- Adversity gives light to sin, Elihu says. This is Job’s opportunity to turn from sin and away from the dangers of it.
- “Justice and judgement will be upheld.” Yes, on God’s timeline not ours.
A – Application:
“He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
Everything he does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
how just and upright he is!” Deuteronomy 32:4
“Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Isaiah 59:1-2
“You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” Exodus 34:14
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:5&9
“God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.” Psalm 7:11
“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5
“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21
I know, I went a little verse crazy. But, oh my goodness, it’s all good stuff! What Elihu said about how our sin and righteousness don’t affect God got me going. I had to unpack this.
There is part of me that is okay with knowing that God can ultimately work his plan whether I am righteous or wicked. His purpose will transcend anything I do. I know that temptation surrounds me and I will fall sometimes, God will still work. There are seasons where I will be obedient and more “righteous,” and God will still work.
I also agree that God’s character was never affected by my sin, but like I mentioned before, all of who he is was unleashed when sin entered the world. It didn’t change him, it allowed him to reveal all that he was and all that he could do. But based on the actions after “The Fall,” God’s plan was affected, and every action since has been to bring his people back to himself (that’s the other part of my thinking).
God is Righteous, and therefore, sin (and sinful people) can be nowhere near him. He is Just, and so all acts of disobedience must be punished, or reconciled. God is angry at the wickedness of the world. He hates it! Our God is Jealous and longs dearly for us to be with him. He will go to any lengths to get us back to him. God has unconditional love and mercy for us. This is a free gift, given and not earned by anything we can do because we are all sinful.
God is all of these things, and has to be all of these things in order for us to be saved. These verses in Job not only take me to The Garden, but to The Cross. When sin entered and we were separated, God devised a plan to take out the penalty of sin once and for all and give us eternal fellowship with him in Heaven. He would ultimately win the war against the devil and be reunited with his precious creation.
It took all that he is and all of his resources re-write history with The Cross. He sent his Son, part of himself, to be the sacrifice to atone for all of the world’s past, present, and future sins. It was his righteousness, justice, anger, jealousy, love, and mercy that made the event on the Cross as powerful as it was. What an amazing gift!
I ponder God’s story throughout the Bible and I am in awe. Everything he has done was because of his supernatural, unconditional, unexplainable love for his creation that he made so long ago. God was called to action that day in the Garden of Eden. Why he put the choice between him and the tree in the Garden, I don’t know. But I know the sweetness of this grace. I feel the power of his justice and jealousy in my life and long to be in his presence one day, wrapped in his loving arms, in purity and innocence because of the Cross. I get teary-eyed just thinking of how much someone could love me so much and die for me, despite my unrighteousness.
P – Prayer:
Thank you, Lord, that you didn’t just leave me to the fate of death because of sin. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your son to pay the penalty. Life would be hopeless without it.
God, you are so much. Too much to comprehend. I am in awe of all that you are and all that you have done for the world and for me. God, I lift up all of those who are searching for answers. I pray that they would be able to step out in faith today and accept all of the known and unknown things about you. It’s easy to get caught up in the incomprehensible and miss out on the life-changing act of accepting your gift by faith. Lord, break down those walls that you might be able to enter in those lives that you have been working on reaching.
You are so good. You are so much more than I can think or imagine. Amen.