God in the Dock
Day: 31 | Plan: Suffering and Sovereignty
Today’s Reading: Job 31
Job 31:35 (NIV) “Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing. ”
During criminal trials in the United Kingdom, the accused is placed “in the dock” during the court proceedings. Unfortunately, our culture has slipped into the mindset of putting God on trial. We quickly assume the office of judge and put God in the dock – reversing our roles and forgetting that God alone sits on the bench to deliver justice.
In his book God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis observed the following:
“The ancient man approached God as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”
Job 31 begins with Job’s final oath of innocence. After a long and grueling dialogue with his three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar), Job issues his concluding challenge. This time however, Job does not address his friends. Instead, Job addresses the Almighty. In other words, Job puts God in the dock.
Job’s closing argument begins with an examination of both his interior life and exterior life. He lays it all out, refusing to utter an insincere confession of sin. Job maintains his innocence before God. He was faithful to his wife. (Job 31:1, Job 31:9) He was faithful to his servants. (Job 31:13-15) He was faithful to the needy, his household and even his enemies. (Job 31:16-23, Job 31:29-34) Job is so confident of his commitment that he is willing to invoke God’s most severe punishments. Job knew he was not guilty, and Job was right!
Unfortunately, in the midst of Job’s final plea, his thinking subtly shifts. Job moves from seeking to justify himself, to demanding justification from God. He exclaims, “ Oh, that I had someone to hear me! I sign now my defense—let the Almighty answer me; let my accuser put his indictment in writing ” (Job 31:35). It’s at this point that Job begins to cross the line as he presses God to either accuse or defend him.
So many times in life we find ourselves in unfair situations. Maybe we’ve been victimized or marginalized. Everything in us longs to shake our fist at God and demand justice. And usually, we have a pretty good idea of what that justice should look like. In fact, if given the opportunity, we could outline a detailed verdict for God to deliver. There are even times when we slip into trying to pressure or manipulate God to respond the way we want Him to by making promises or rash vows to Him.
As much as God cares about our situation, if He enacted justice the way we saw fit, it would be short-sighted and unbalanced at best. God calls on us to trust His justice without dictating or demanding what He should do – and even without issuing a deadline for action.
Instead of putting God in the dock when we long for justice, our role is to rest our case in God’s sovereign, omnipotent hands — trusting that the Almighty is faithful and just, so He will eventually bring all things to their proper end.
Prayer: Lord God, You alone are just and the Justifier. Help me to remember that even in the darkest of times, You can be trusted and will do what is right. Help me fight the temptation to pressure or manipulate You to respond by remaining yielded to Your will. Though I may not understand Your plan, I know You love me and want what is best for me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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