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“If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. Job 9:20 “Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul; I would despise my life.” Job 9:21.
Looking at this statement of Job without taking into account the narrative, one would naturally suppose that Job laid no claim to perfection.
There are some people who seem to be more anxious to find something in the Bible against perfection than in favor of it. As a rule, people generally find what they are looking for. If they are hunting for flaws in Christian character, contradictions to holiness in the Bible, or discrepancies of other kinds, they can succeed satisfactorily to themselves. We know of a certain kind of bird that succeeds in finding enough putridity in this world to encourage its continual seeking. Yes, we can find what we are bent on finding. If we are searching for pure Christians they are around. If we want to find the way of holiness made plain and possible in the Word, there is no trouble to do it. If we want to reconcile those apparent contradictions in the Bible, all of this can be done. If any one wants to get at Job’s thought in the text before us he can do so. Instead of looking for license to do wrong or to live imperfect lives, we should have to find out how we can better fill the niche in which we live.
To understand him properly, we must take into consideration the awful afflictions through which he was passing. The news had come that his oxen, asses, sheep, camels, servants, sons and daughters were either destroyed or taken away. Then Satan covered him with boils from head to foot. One boil is sufficient to make some men boil, but here is one that is literally covered with them. It seems that his only earthly comfort was to crawl out on the ash pile and scrape himself with a potsherd. Then, to cap the climax, his wife turned on him and told him to “curse God, and die.”
But this is not all. Three men, purporting to be his friends, came to comfort him; and instead of doing so, they fell to accusing him, and gave him to understand that all his suffering and afflictions had come upon him because of his lack of purity and uprightness. He is told in the chapter previous to the one in question, “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will He help the evil doers.” — Chapter 8:20. That is , they would inform him, that there was prima facie evidence that he was not perfect, or he would not be in the condition he was. Now, suppose Job had taken Bildad at his word and begun to tell the Lord that he was perfect, therefore by virtue of his perfection he should not be so apparently east away and afflicted; thus, pleading his perfection as a reason why he should not undergo such troubles. We can readily see how it would condemn him and prove him perverse. But he finds no fault with God, and lays no claim to any goodness as immunity from suffering. Hence, he very humbly asserts, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.”
Surely it is very unwise and wrong for any Christian, no matter in what state of grace he is living, to tell the Lord that he is holy or perfect, therefore, because of his perfection, he ought not to be suffering affliction.
Even if Job had in his humility refrained from professing any perfection, or even had ignorantly declared that he was not perfect, there is One who understood him far better than he understood himself, and whose testimony I would rather take than Job’s. The Lord had previously settled that question beyond any peradventure, in the first chapter of Job and the very first verse: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” To make the fact doubly strong, He repeats the statement twice to Satan.
Now, if Satan, and Mrs. Job, and his “miserable comforters,” and even Job himself, should all decide that perfection was an unknown quantity in his experience, I prefer to take the testimony of Him who knew. God said that he was perfect, and He cannot lie. The trouble with critics is, they confound Christian perfection with absolute perfection. They forget that Christian perfection may admit of mistakes and blunders, and that the absolute pertains only to God Himself.
But even after Job had made his statement disclaiming any perfection as a reason why he should not be afflicted, it would seem that he held up for the experience, intimating also that he was enjoying the same, and then stated just what we have been saying, that God allows the holy ones to suffer affliction as well as the unrighteous. Hear his declaration:
Does the Word of God teach the possibility of perfection and give any examples of the same in Old Testament times? Let us see: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations.” Genesis 6:9. “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Genesis 17:1. “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy 18:13. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” Psalm 37:37. “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.” <19A102> Psalm 101:2. “He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.” <19A106> Psalm 101:6. “Blessed are the perfect (see margin) in the way.” <19B901> Psalm 119:1. “For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.” Proverbs 2:21. “I beseech Thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight.” 2 Kings 20:3. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9.
When we read such statements as these, we must certainly admit that there was not only a possibility, but a real experience of some kind of perfection in the Old Testament days. It is true that the standard of perfection may not have been as high as it is now, but that only puts more responsibility upon us, because of the greater privileges we enjoy.
If one has obtained what salvation God intended him to receive, and is living in the sphere in which He desires him to live, and is filling the niche that He has marked out for him to fill, that person then is regarded as a perfect man. Even if that salvation, or sphere, or niche in those Old Testament times did not mean as much as now, yet if any one measured up to the standard then he was counted a perfect man.