Sometimes it’s all about where you put the emphasis. Take a phrase, or a question, and place the emphasis on different words and you can have a very different phrase or question. The nuance shifts . . . the question really asks a different question. Case in point, Job’s question at the beginning of chapter 9:
Then Job answered and said: “Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God?”
(Job 9:1-2 ESV)
Place the emphasis on the words be in the right, and you have one question. How is it possible for a man to be right before God? How can he be righteous? How can he be justified? At first I thought that’s the question Job was asking?
But I read further in chapter 9, and Job twice declares, “I am in the right” (9:15, 20). Thus, his question, I’m thinking, places the emphasis on the world before. How can a man be in the right BEFORE God? How does he enter the presence of the Almighty? How does he book an audience with the God of all creation to plead his case?
Job contends he’s done nothing deserving of the circumstance he finds himself in. True statement. But he’s as perplexed as his miserable comforters as to how a righteous man could end up in such a royal mess. And so he wonders if an audience with the Almighty would clear things up. But no, he concludes, how can a man, who’s in the right, stand before the God “who does mighty things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number?” (9:10). Not gonna happen, says Job, “If I summoned Him and He answered me, I would not believe that He was listening to my voice” (9:16).
So Job breathes a heavy sigh and thinks, No, God is too big to contend with, even if I am in the right . . . “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both” (9:33).
And though Job’s question might be a bit off kilter, his sense for the need for an arbiter is spot on. Though Job isn’t as “in the right” as he might think he is, and though the question really should be how can anyone BE RIGHTEOUS before a holy God, rather than, how can righteous people assert their rightness BEFORE God, his conclusion resonates. An arbiter is needed . . . both as the basis for how people conceived in sin can BE DEEMED RIGHTEOUS before the God of heaven and, as the basis for how people, sinful by nature, can BE PRESENTED BEFORE God spotless and blameless, forgiven of their sins.
Cue something else I encountered as part of my reading plan this morning:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1John 2:1-2 ESV)
Bam! That’s how I stand BEFORE the holy God of heaven. Through my Advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous. Brought before the throne of heavenly Majesty by an Intercessor . . . presented to the Father in the Son . . . carried to the table by Shepherd of my soul. And, that’s how I can BE IN THE RIGHT before God . . . through His atoning sacrifice for my iniquity . . . by His death on the cross to satisfy the wrath of God deserved for my transgression . . . because of the blood shed for the remission of my sin . . . clothed in His righteousness and not my own.
There is an Arbiter. We have an Advocate with the Father. He is the how of OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS before God . . . and He is the how of the intercession which brings us BEFORE God.
All by His grace . . . all for His glory.