Revisiting Inevitable Sin Again

Further discussion with the author of the email in this subject’s previous post identifies that we have been talking past each other.

His question stems from the idea that sin is so ingrained now in human nature that there is nothing that comes from us that does not have the taint of sin as long as we are this side of the eternity.  It is the struggle that St Paul decries in Romans 7 (and remember that Paul is speaking not as one who has not yet come to faith, but rather that this is the issue that comes because he is a believer):

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [vv 15-21, 24]

Paul complains bitterly that whatever he does, despite his intentions, it never escapes the fact that it must go through “this body of death” and the outcome can end up not as noble as he had imagined.  In fact, the result can even be the direct opposite from what the plan was when it started in his mind.  A similar frustration can be found in the observation about himself that CS Lewis once confessed:

Burrowing into his past, [C.S. Lewis] was appalled at what he found… “I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character.  Sitting by, watching the rising thoughts to break their necks as they pop up, one learns to know the sort of thoughts that do come.  And, will you believe it, one out of every three is a thought of self-admiration: when everything else fails (having had its neck broken), up comes the thought ‘What an admirable fellow I am to have broken their necks!’ …  I catch myself posturing before the mirror, so to speak, all day long.  I pretend I am carefully thinking out what to say to the next pupil (for his good, of course) and then suddenly realize I am really thinking how frightfully clever I’m going to be and how he will admire me….  when you force yourself to stop it, you admire yourself for doing that.  It’s like fighting the hydra… There seems to be no end to it.  Depth under depth of self-love and self-admiration…  Pride … is the mother of all sins, and the original sin of Lucifer.
[Roger Lancelyn Green & Walter Hooper; C.S. Lewis: A Biography  (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974), 105]

In this regard, my friend is very correct in saying that sin is indeed inevitable.  Actually, that is what I alluded to when I talked about how Satan counts on the fact that humanity already leans so toward sin that it should not take much to push someone all the way.

It is true that Job curses the day of his birth [chapter 3].  He makes his complaint “in the anguish of my spirit … in the bitterness of my soul … I loathe my life; I would not live for ever” [7:11,16].  He questions, “Why have You made me Your mark? Why have I become a burden to You?” [v 20].

He seeks at least a trial where he could at least find out what the charges are supposed to be: “Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!  Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown” [31:35-36].  “I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; show me why You contend with me.  Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands, and smile on the counsel of the wicked?” [10:2-3] – is this insolence, or is it the bewilderment of observing what seems to be a direct contradiction of the character of God that he has trusted in all along, as identified later in verses 12-13:  “You granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit.  These things You have hidden in Your heart; I know that this was with You”?

He has the confusion of one who has “talked the talk and walked the walk” and has been a strong witness to God’s participation in life, yet there is now a sense of betrayal as his relationship to God is mocked: “I am a laughingstock to my friends; I, who called upon God and He answered me, a just and blameless man, am a laughingstock” [12:4].

For many, they may be quick to jump on his assertion that he is “blameless,” but this is not the only time when we meet someone who is identified as blameless.  David declares, “I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity” [II Samuel 22:24; Psalm 18:23].  Zechariah and Elizabeth are “both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” [Luke 1:6].  Paul asserts “concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” [Philippians 3:6].  And, of course, Jehovah Himself declares Job, “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” [1:1,8; 2:3].

Yet each “blameless” person is not perfectly righteous and holy – as Job himself acknowledges, echoing the point made in the beginning of this post: “But how can a man be righteous before God?  If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand. … Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; Though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.  I am blameless, yet I do not know myself; I despise my life” [9:2-3, 20-21]
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There seems, at play, to be two levels in regard to sin in this story.  On the one hand, there are the sins of daily life; the rebellions that surface throughout our day, again, as identified in the first part of this post. But there is also “the sin against the Holy Spirit” [Mark 3:29; Matthew 12:31-32], which, although is specifically the rejection of Jesus in the New Testament [John 3:18; 3:36], would be the rejection of God in the Old Testament, that is, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die!” [Job 2:9].

Of course, the “daily sins” are indeed a serious matter, because if not dealt with, like termites that gradually destroy a house, one’s faith and relationship to Jehovah can eventually collapse.  But the second type is the irreversible severing from God that becomes finalized at death, when one utterly rejects the relationship with Jehovah which the Lord has offered him.

What is Satan’s goal with Job?  It is not the first kind of sin – that is little stuff compared to “the big score.”  He wants Job to be like himself, utterly rejecting God – this is the “sin” that he expects is inevitable once God appears to stop being nice to this man.  It is not just the removal of the supports of blessing, it is when everything seems terribly against Job which would be the clincher.

It does not happen that way at all:

Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped.  He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the Name of Jehovah.”  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. [1:20-22]

In reply to his wife, he says, “’You speak as a foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’  In all this Job did not sin with his lips” [2:10].  Again, he would say to his “friends,” “This would be my consolation; I would even exult in pain unsparing; for I have not denied the words of the Holy One” [6:10].

In fact, as miserable as he is, and how he curses the day of his birth, still he holds to the expectation of some kind of value coming out of this whole experience:

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside.  I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured in my bosom the words of his mouth.  [23:10-12]

and of seeing his Lord in a resurrection:

Oh, that my words were written!  Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!  That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever!  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!  [19:23-27]

So, yes, Job does sin, but not the way that Satan has fully expected that he would (“Curse you to Your face!” [1:11; 2:5]).  Job struggles and complains, challenges God and does many other things, and yet, oddly enough, these things are done within the security of his relationship to Jehovah, as one might have in an argument with a close friend.  He knows he could ask such questions, even if he does not get quite the response he is hoping for, and he depends on a final resolution that would ultimately end in him being satisfied with what God has done.

And it is for this reason that Satan could only shake his head in bewilderment as he walks away.

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