SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Integrity in the Presence of God
Key Verse: I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. – Job 42:5
We were on
a family vacation, driving through
Fear seized all of us. We were afraid someone might hit us from the rear. We began to pray for God’s protection and peace as we waited anxiously. Minutes later the sand storm ended and the traffic began moving again.
I mention this experience because what we needed most in the midst of that storm was a word from God. We wanted to know that God cared about our dilemma. Thankfully we received the assurance that he did. Our fear subsided as we moved on.
It was in the midst of a frightening windstorm that God spoke to Job. Job had been doing a lot of talking, both to his friends and to God. Now Job is silent and God speaks. What a moment that must have been! God’s voice pierces Job’s ears despite the noisy windstorm. I am thankful that God did not speak us, during that sand storm, in the same way he spoke to Job! We would have made an altar of a pile of that sand!
Some people talk incessantly. At times we pray silently while others are blabbering on and on, “Please God, make this dear soul shut up for a few minutes!” My dad had a way of reminding me at times of the value of listening. He would say, “Son, remember that you can never learn anything while you are talking.” How right he was!
Job was a righteous man. He had done many things well. He is so well informed that, in his own mind at least, he believes he can inform God. There are things God does not know, and Job is prepared to update the Creator! He may not have a long list of sins to contend with, as most of us do, but Job certainly was guilty of the sin of presumption!
Ever since Adam and Eve, Satan has been tempting people to think they are smarter than God is. A stubborn child sometimes displays this attitude. A parent gives instructions about how to do a particular thing, but the child arrogantly refuses to obey because the assignment can be accomplished in another way – the way the child wants to do it. Parents, however, can respond to God in the same way. Stubborn disobedience is as ugly in adults as in children.
At last Job is speechless. No wonder, considering the questions God was putting to him. Where were you, God asks, when I laid the foundations of the earth? Can you measure the size of the world? Do you have an arm as mighty as mine? Where were you when the morning stars sang together? Job has no answer to give the God who knows the names and the number of all the stars!
Job probably wanted God to stop asking those hard questions. Instead, God continues to speak to him with a voice like thunder, so strong it could be heard above the noise of the storm. God confronts Job with his accusation that God has been unjust. Imagine how uncomfortable that must have felt to Job.
Finally God gives Job a chance to respond. He blurts out that now he realizes that God can do anything and that God knows everything. Job confesses that God knows Job’s own thoughts before he can express them.
My friend John Nichols, an excellent teacher of the Word at St. James United Methodist Church, reminded me that the great idea of this lesson is the necessity of humility in the presence of God. Thankfully Job finally works his way through to the point of humbling himself before God. As John Nichols shared with me, it was Jesus who helped us see that humility is the only attitude we can have when we stand in the presence of God.
The truth is, we cannot stand in God’s presence; we can only fall on our knees and ask for mercy. Before, Job knew much about God. Now he is becoming personally acquainted with God. Job began to realize what Jesus would confirm for us years later that God desires intimacy with each one of us. He wants to be known. He wants us to know him as our loving Father.
When Job says, “mine eye seeth thee,” he does not mean that he actually sees God. He means that for the first time in his life he realizes that he can know God. As all of us have learned in our personal struggles, we cannot know all the answers to the hard questions of life, but we can know God. And knowing God is far greater than knowing answers!
For me, the greatest verse in this study is Job 42:6 – “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Real integrity is being willing to embrace the truth about ourselves. Job does, and we see a picture of him on his knees, confessing that he does not know everything but now he does want to know God!
Job’s words are reminiscent of the cry of the prophet Isaiah when he, overwhelmed by the presence of God, cried out, “Woe to me! …I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5).
Peter echoed this thought centuries later when he reminded us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
In our struggles should we not seek to know God, with our whole heart, and constantly humble ourselves under his mighty hand until at last he leads us gently home? May our attitude always be one of humility, not arrogance, in God’s presence!
+ + + + (Walter may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)