Would You Condemn Me That You May Be Justified?

Yesterday our retired pastor gave a sermon on attitude in the context of its importance when it comes to training and guiding leaders.  I have always found myself to be somewhat concerned when other people mention the matter of attitude.  I wonder to what extent the message is being directed at me, and whether it is necessary for me, as Job did, to attempt to defend myself from any implicit accusations.  It is quite natural and a longstanding tradition, for leaders in the Church of God to consider attitude to be of the utmost importance.  In many ways it is a simplifying issue of dispute, because in the eyes of many, the fact that someone has a bad attitude can serve as a negation for the valid points they may have as a way of nullifying any perceived disadvantage in a matter.  Is someone upset or embittered at a mistake made by an authority figure?  If the person wronged has a bad attitude about it, the authority figure does not feel any guilt for having made a mistake, or for adding additional, and in this case more justified sanctions.  In truth, attitude is a major issue, and something that tends to create and exacerbate many problems, but it is also something we need to consider, because to the extent that we justify ourselves and our own blunders because of the attitudes of others, we do not consider our own role in helping to form and harden negative attitudes, which reflects a bad attitude in ourselves, a lack of self-awareness as to our own fallible state and a lack of concern for the well-being of others in that we refuse to apologize for our own blunders and compound them with additional hostility at the reactions of others.

Despite my general dislike of having people talk at length about questions of attitude, and my general concern of the implications of it, I found the message to be very thought-provoking.  In many respects, I was reminded of a contretemps I had with someone about the aspect of the book of Job being a covenantal lawsuit [1], given the fact that the structure of the book of Job presents challenges, lengthy debates that sound like the arguments in a procedural drama (think Law & Order), and that a big part of Job’s attitude problem was the presumption of deigning to bring up a covenantal lawsuit against God for having given him an undeserved trial, only to come to terms, at last, with the reality that God is in charge and can do whatever he likes, and does not have to answer to any of us.  Among the many unanswerable questions God asks Job toward the end of the book are these ones that are very much on point in Job 40:8:  “Would you indeed annul My judgment?  Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?”  Those questions, the first two in the second round of God’s decisive interrogation of Job, get to the heart of the question of Job’s attitude, and appropriately enough, at the heart of those who seek to condemn other people for their attitudes as a way of justifying themselves and avoiding repentance and apology for their own mistakes and blunders.  Would we condemn others that we may be justified?  We do it all the time.

I was especially pleased, though, when my retired pastor went to Job 1 and discussed the way that God drew attention to the matter of Job’s character, saying in Job 1:8:  “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?””  And if one mention were not enough, God then repeats the point in Job 2:3:  “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?””  When God repeats an expression more than one time in a short space of time, it is worth paying attention to and considering.  The Hebrew word used for “consider” in Job 1:8 is transliterated as hasamta, which creates an interesting pun for the word for Satan (adversary), hasatan, making a bit of a pun between the two words.  Interestingly enough, a different word translated consider appears in Job 2:3, libeka.  Libeka, as it is used in the Bible [2], is usually translated as letting your heart or taking something to heart.  Rather than merely thinking on it intellectually, it involves a deep sort of emotional reflection and what we would consider soul-searching.  That word appears as “caring for” in Job 1:8, just before the use of the word hasamta, which only appears in the two verses in question in the Hebrew Bible [3].

It is remarkable, in light of all the evil that Satan had done, that when God speaks to him in Job 1:8 and 2:3 that there is still an appeal for repentance.  God still wishes to bring the example of people to Satan’s heart, put their lives and their repentance and their godly example before Satan as a prod to encourage his own repentance, and still desires Satan to reflect about God’s ways in his heart.  These are not the statements of a being that wishes to taunt others, or that has written off anyone, or that has an attitude of seeking to condemn that He may be justified.  Rather, it is the patient voice of someone who, despite being immensely frustrated at the intransigence of someone else, calls their attention again and again to something worth thinking about, worth pondering about, and worth meditating and reflecting on in their hearts, to prompt self-realization, and a sense of godly shame leading to repentance and changed ways.  Nor is this the only time that God shows such patience in dealing with one who would not repent.  One only has to witness, for example, God’s gentleness and restraint in dealing with Cain in Genesis 4:6:  “So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.””  Here again God is being gentle and restrained, using a soft word to try to turn away Cain’s wrath, to ask questions so that Cain would reflect on his anger and its origins and master the possessive longing of sin to dominate and control him.  Sadly, neither Satan nor Cain appear to have taken God up on the offer to reflect upon matters in their heart.

Yet if God can be this patient and this understanding to the most wicked of beings–the continual adversary of God and man as well as the first murderer–surely He would be equally understanding and gracious with us, seeking for us to consider matters in our heart, lest our hearts be set upon evil.  And if God, being all-powerful and righteous without fault, can be so gracious and understanding towards beings as insignificant and flawed as we are, how can we, being the peers and equals of other people, be any less gracious and accommodating towards others, or any more interested in condemning others that we may be justified.  For if God does not condemn, but rather seeks to gently turn the hearts of even the most wicked to repentance through encouragement to consider matters and take them to heart, how can we do anything less ourselves?  What right have we to presume to know the heart of other people when we can only barely or imperfectly know and comprehend our own hearts, so full of mixed emotions and areas beyond our comprehension?

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/no-direction-home/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/job-vs-god-a-covenental-lawsuit-part-one/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/job-vs-god-a-covenantal-lawsuit-part-two/

[2] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/libbecha_3820.htm

[3] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/hasamta_7760.htm

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Would You Condemn Me That You May Be Justified?

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