My scheduled Bible reading took me through Job 17 today. I am using the NIV for my “read-through” this year and was struck by verse 3:
Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?
Given the time of year, I immediately was impressed that Job had offered a succinct Advent prayer. Here, the man of faith buffeted by an unleashed Satan pleads for the only help he knows is worth having: God Himself.
Already in Job it is apparent that he and his “friends” were quite familiar with the idea of total depravity:
Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? (4:17)
Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? (9:2)
Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And do you open your eyes on such a one and bring me into judgment with you?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. (14:1-4)
What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?
Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight;
how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water! (15:14-16)
How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure?
Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes;
how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm! (24:5-6)
A theology of sin in Job must center on these teachings: no man is pure, right, or able to stand before God. Instead, man is unclean, abominable, corrupt, a maggot and a worm. If God is incomparably righteous and man is incurably wicked, the only hope for man is one which God Himself must provide. If man is to meet the righteous demand of God, God Himself must somehow provide the pledge He demands. Hence Job’s prayer for the provision of Christ: the surety of a better covenant.
But is this what Job is really praying for?