Ordering your Cause – Job 23:1-6

Tonight we were to have Bro. Fulton start a new series of messages. I was smiling to myself Sunday when Austin was showing his excitement about beginning this evening. But as most of you know, he returned to Colorado with hopes of getting a few more days of work done before that state closed down completely. It did just that this afternoon. Anyway, you are stuck with me once again. I’ve decided to go back to the subject of prayer, taking up where we left off two weeks ago, and also incorporating a thought or two from Sunday.
As you know Job had problems.
If Job were an American, how many people might have walked up to him and asked, “How are you doing?” It is customary here to greet people with that question. Over the last several weeks, hasn’t the question been asked with a little more sincerity? “How ya doing?” Well, for me, life is just a bit topsy-turvy. Unusual. Out of ordinary. But my health is fine; I have food in the fridge and pantry; I have a wonderful companion and a library full of books. And the truth is, I don’t personally know of anyone whose current problems are as bad as those of Job. For those who are moaning and groaning about lock-downs and lack of toilet paper, I point them to Job and remind them, things could get worse – perhaps things WILL get worse.
Job had problems which can be summarized quite easily. He was suffering great pain with “sore boils from the sole of his foot, unto his crown.” It wasn’t SARS, AIDS or Covid-19, but for the sake of this message, at least, there is a parallel. He hurt – physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. He had lost his usual means for making a living – his livestock were gone and so were his employees. It wasn’t a government-mandated lock down, but there were similarities. His cash-flow had dried up, and who knows if in a couple weeks he could afford to buy any food. You could also say that his investment portfolio had been destroyed – his stock market had collapsed. He was in an instantaneous and practical form of poverty. And not the least of his situation was grief – he had lost his children and by this time his wife. He had nothing but a few friends, who were of very little comfort. In v. 2, when he said, “Even today is my complaint bitter,” he may have been referring to their “comfort.” “After all that has been said to me thus far, my pain hasn’t diminished – I am feeling no better.”
And as a result of those circumstances, Job’s faith was a bit rocky.
Speaking of the Lord, he said, “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!” One might interpret that to be, “I wish I could find and approach God’s throne for the help I need.”
Everyone’s faith is different; it isn’t wise to judge another’s faith by comparing it to your own. And besides, haven’t you found that the strength of even your faith rises and falls like irregular tides? Sometimes those cycles of faith rise defy logic. Sometimes problems strengthen our faith, and at other times those problems suck the life out of us. Sometimes, it is prosperity and peace which hurts our faith and relationship with the Lord. In this man’s case, with the unwise counsel of his “friends,” circumstances were bringing Job to question the Lord’s love and care for him.
I can just hear Eliphaz or Bildad, reprimanding Job – “Come on Job, you know where to find the Lord. Repent of your sins and fall on your face. God is right in front of you. Seek the Lord … and find him … he is not far from any one of us. BUT you had better bend low, seeking Him while on your knees – you must be a sorry, wretched sinner.”
I hope that if I had been Job’s counselor, I would have been more gentle. I hope that I can say to you in the midst of your problems, pains and fears, something a little more kind. The Hebrew word translated “seat” is just that “seat.” But I can’t read this statement without thinking about Hebrews 4:16 – where we were two weeks ago. Job, why don’t you join me, and “let us … come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in (this) time of need.”
After saying that he didn’t feel any confidence in approaching the Lord, Job said…
If I COULD speak to the Lord, I’d order my cause before him.
How often do we “shoot from the hip” – even before the Lord in prayer? How often are our prayers filled with nothing but emotional fluff – self-centered, self-gratifying, thoughtless? “Ordering our cause” brings a military word into the equation as we stand before God’s throne. Not everything which come into our lives are worthy of mention before the Lord.
Have you ever been in a three or four-way conversation, and someone starts talking. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why did he say that? That was inappropriate. That was embarrassing – to me, if not to him. That was a little too private to bring up here.” Or perhaps we think – “that is so obvious, it didn’t need to be mentioned.”
There is a sense in which prayer is a conversation with the Lord, and sometimes even in that spiritual conversation we say things we shouldn’t. It is not for me to judge what you consider to be important and things about which you should pray. What is important is for me to have sifted through my thoughts and desires, bringing my requests into an orderly arrangement. For example, we should be bold in praying for our sick loved one with that high fever and abdominal cramps, but when the Lord tells us to stop praying about that thorn in our own flesh, then we should stop. Paul testified in regard to a situation like that, saying, God “said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Yes, we should pray for that man whose job has been eliminated, but should we pray for enough money to buy ourselves that new toy? I wonder how many professing Christians were praying that the basketball season would quickly restart? Are such prayers worthy of the Lord? We should examine and bring into order our prayers.
And a part of that order is dealing with those things which grieve the Lord. When Job’s friends began saying, “There must be sin in your life or you wouldn’t be suffering these things,” I am sure that Job took stock of his life. Ordering our lives and preparing our cause, involves confessing and forsaking sin. Yes, I know that you are covered in the righteousness of the Saviour, and your are approaching His throne in His holy name. But do you need to acknowledge your unworthiness and repent of your recent sins? There was that hasty and unkind word that you spoke to your neighbor. Do you need to confess your anger towards God for permitting those problems in your life? “I (better) order my cause before him.”
And then we need to learn how to properly argue that cause.
How do you argue? Generally speaking, what is the nature of your arguing? Some people cannot disagree with another person without engaging – fully engaging – their emotions. Some people never win their arguments, even when they think they do. They think they have won, just because their opponents walk away because emotions have clouded the discussion until nothing else can be seen but the fog. When it comes to prayer, controlling our emotions is of the utmost importance – because more often than not there is sin in those moments of heat. God will not listen. If you argue with the Lord, do it in faith and humility, not in heat and the flesh.
To what does Job refer when he speaks of arguments? Certainly, as a man steeped in doctrinal accuracy, he doesn’t mean that God must be informed about circumstances surrounding his need. The Lord is not going to be talked into doing things for us, through the excellency of our logic and eloquence. He knows how it was that Job’s children were lost, and God doesn’t need to be reminded. The Lord doesn’t need to learn about Covid-19 or about the emptiness of your wallet. And certainly the Lord doesn’t want to hear how worthy we are of His blessings and answered prayer. We are not worthy, and that is not a worthy argument.
What arguments should we use in prayer? Bro. Austin mentioned this on Sunday. Plead God’s own promises. If the Lord has said He’d do something, then we have an invitation to mention that in prayer – to argue it. “Lord, I know that all things work together for the good of your people. Please help me to be blessed with that good as it applies to me.” “Lord, is it your will that good things will come. Would you grant me faith and patience until that day arrives?” “God, You have told me to ask, knock and seek. I am knocking on your door and asking for your blessing. Help me to look earnestly toward Heaven, as I seek these things.” There are hundreds of promises available to us. Read your Bible and learn those promises; plead those promises and trust those promises… or rather trust the God who made those promises.
Job then says, I promise to listen to your reply.
How often are we not interested in the Lord’s reply unless it is exactly what we want it to be? When He says “not yet,” we interpret that as “never” or “God is angry with me” and we stomp away from His throne pouting. Or when the Lord answers our prayer with something other than what we sought, we question His wisdom or love towards us.
Job says, “I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.” “I would know” – that is, “I want to understand. I will try to understand.” Are we really interested in the Lord’s reply to our requests? As we heard Sunday, the Lord’s judgments may fall on the wicked, but because the righteous are in the vicinity, they feel the effects as well. A drought was sent to Israel to punish Ahab and the wicked in Israel, but Elijah and many other righteous people got even more hungry than some of the idolaters. It may be that Corvid-19 will strike someone in your family, but it is not judgment upon you – and it may likely not be judgment upon them either. This is a global problem. Are we willing to hear the Lord’s explanation when it is offered?
Are we willing to respond to the Lord’s will in the way that Job endeavored to respond?
Verse 6 – “Will (God) plead against me with his great power? No, but he would put strength in me.” If it was the Lord’s will to take away your spouse, your house, your health and your children, how would you react? If God’s power appeared to come at you with all its strength, would you run up to Him and cling to His promises, or would you flee? Do you remember James’ encouraging words – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Job was seeking for wisdom and an explanation for all that had befallen him. Throughout most of the Book of Job he didn’t get that explanation; all he heard was philosophical arguments of his friends. But then the Lord spoke, and Job listened.
Do you remember the context of James statement? It is the context of Job. It is the context of plague and pandemic. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” – testings, problems, trials. “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.”
I won’t say that Job was always ready to receive God’s strength and instruction. And I can’t say that I will be ready in the time of my trial, but I pray that I will be ready. As Peter said in a different context – “Lord ….. to whom shall we go?” Our friends, like Job’s, may mean well, but what can they do to lift this man from his grief? Our government cannot make our grandparents healthy when they succumb to this disease, and the medical community can only try. Our neighbors are limited. “To whom shall we go?” Job knew the answer. Elsewhere he said, “Though (the Lord) slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
In the midst of your trials – pray, laying out your requests with all the logic and sanity you can muster. Plead the Lord’s promises to you. And then rest on His unchanging wisdom and grace. Jehovah is the God who always does right. Be prepared to praise His name no matter what He determines should apply to you. “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” – Deuteronomy 32:4.