Practices of Purity in Job
Job 31 and following 

By Paul Robison

Olivia, five, and her best friend, Claire, were in a nativity play at school.  Claire was playing Mary, and Olivia was an angel.  Before the show, a young boy went around the dressing room saying, “I’m a sheep; what are you?”  Each child responded politely, including Olivia, who proudly declared that she was an angel.  The boy then turned to Claire and repeated the question to her: “I’m a sheep; what are you?”

Claire simply said, “I’m Mary.”  Realizing Claire was a lead character, the boy tried to justify his own role by saying, "It’s hard being a sheep, you know.” “Yes,” said Claire innocently, “but it’s also hard being a virgin (Basset in Larson/Elshof).”  Claire didn't know how profoundly she had spoken!  Those of us who try to live godly lives can also testify to how hard and difficult it can be!

One man who really had it tough as a believer was Job.  In this sermon, we'll consider this unique book's background, then we'll look at some practices of purity in Job's life found in chapter 31, and then we'll elaborate on a final application.  Anytime we face suffering in our lives, Job is someone with whom we can identify.

Let's consider this book's background.  The book opens by telling us that Job lived in Uz and that he was one of the greatest people of the East.  The most likely spot for Uz is the area known as Edom , which is southeast of Palestine .  Job's friends came from places near Edom .  So Edom is the most likely place.

Now what is the era in which this story occurs?  There are several indications that it took place during the time of patriarchs: 1) we see that Job functions as a priest for his family; 2) Job's long life is typical of the patriarchs; 3) a term used for money in Job 42:11 is only associated with Jacob in Gen. 33:19; 4) the name for God, Shaddai, is one that predates the name used for God after the Exodus, which is Yahweh; 5) Job's wealth is measured in terms of livestock, as was the wealth of the patriarchs.  So the time period is that of the patriarchs, before the Exodus.

The authorship of the book is unknown.  The most likely candidates would be Job, Elihu, or even Moses.  Whoever the author was, he had an unshakable faith in God.

With regards to structure, Job is a unique book.  As your bulletin and this slide show, there is a prologue, Job's dialogs with his friends, Job's dialogs with God, and an epilogue.  Job's debates with his friends occur in three cycles.  The friends' speeches start out with gentle probings, then they become stern rebukes, and finally they became quite accusatory with false crimes being presented.  All three tried to get Job to confess his sins since they believed that his harsh suffering was a punishment for some horrible sins that he had committed.  Job, however, maintains that He is innocent and wishes to debate with God, since his friends offer him little comfort.  The speech of Elihu falls between the friends' debates and God's speeches, which heightens the importance of what God says.  In God's speeches, he asks Job many questions that Job cannot answer.  In the epilogue, God approves of Job's innocence, tells his friends to repent, and then restores Job's health and wealth to him.  The book can be outlined in this way:

Job is tested (ch. 1-2)
Job is anguished (ch. 3)
Job is challenged by his friends (ch. 4-37)
Job is approved by God (37-42)(modified Jensen).

The book of Job teaches many great lessons: God can bring good out of evil; suffering is not explained nor is it linked to one's morality; suffering may make no earthly sense to us, but it may make heavenly sense as other spiritual beings who watch our struggles; God puts great faith in those who serve Him faithfully!

Each of those lessons would be worth pursuing, but this morning, let's look at chapter 31 where numerous practices of purity of Job are presented by Job himself.  This is Job's concluding speech with his three friends.  Job continues to maintain his innocence against their false accusations.  Job describes his purity by using an "if-then" approach: if I have done this wrong, then let this punishment happen.

Job makes this kind of statement to really say that he had NOT done the wrongs of which he had been falsely accused.  These practices of purity show us how Job had very high ethical standards.  Let's look at each practice now.

In the first place, Job describes his moral purity in verse 1-8: “I have made a covenant with my eyes.  Why then should I look upon a young woman?  For what is the allotment of God from above and the inheritance from the Almighty from on high?  Is it now destruction for the wicked and disaster for the workers of iniquity?  Does He not see my ways and count my steps?  If I have walked with falsehood, or if my foot has hastened to deceit, [then] let me be weighted on honest scales that God may know my integrity.  If my step has turned away from the way, or my heart walked after my eyes, or if any spot adheres to my hands, then let me sow, and another eat.  Yes, let my harvest be rooted out.”  To make a covenant was a solemn matter and usually involved an animal's death.  So, Job had made a serious pledge not to let lust get the best of him by gazing steadily upon his virgin slaves.  Job believed that such a sin would bring destruction and disaster.  He was well aware that God knew what he did and where he went.  Job "wanted to maintain a pure heart, and not to [tempt] the mind to become corrupted by dwelling on impure images or indulging in unholy desires" (Barnes).  Job then says that he has been honest in his business transactions; he did not do business by using falsehood, deceitful dealings, turning from the path of virtue, or being covetous and underhanded.  God's honest scales would prove his integrity.

Isn't it interesting that Job valued God's assessment of his life over that of his friends?  Brethren, it looks like this passage is addressing us.  Are we striving to live pure lives sexually, to be honest in our business dealings, and to seek God's favor over that of other peers?

Are we trying to guard our eyes, to keep our hands clean, and to live for God's approval?  Job's close relationship with God caused him to treat his female slaves with respect and to treat others with honesty.

Does our close relationship with God affect the way we treat others?

Like Job, let's strive to show moral purity!

The next practice could be called marital purity.  Notice verses 9-12:If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down over her.  For that would be wickedness.  Yes, it would be iniquity deserving judgment.   For that would be a fire that consumes to destruction, and would root out all my increase.”  Listen to Job, here; listen very carefully because he cuts against the grain of our loose American culture like a chainsaw!  One source in 1986 estimated that about 65% of American men and 40% of American women commit adultery (People).  Another source from 1991 said that it was actually lower than these percentages: 35% for men and 25% for women (Patternson/Kim).  Whatever the true statistics may be, we are reaping the whirlwind of such immorality!   Let's get back to Job.  What's interesting here is that if Job was written in the patriarchal time, Job did not know “You shall not commit adultery,” but listen to his keen insights.  He describes adultery as wickedness and an iniquity.  He also calls it a crime against society worthy to be taken before those who were judges.  Then Job compares adultery to a consuming fire that destroys everything in its path.  Job knew that adultery was sin, it had severe and far-reaching negative consequences.  Listen, don't let the office become your moral downfall.  Do all that you can to keep the home fires burning!  “What was once labeled adultery and carried a stigma of guilt and embarrassment, now is an affair—a nice-sounding, almost inviting word.... [But] sexual promiscuity has never been the established custom of any human society [throughout history].  Our culture is near the point of total saturation.  The cesspool is running over” (Petersen in Swindoll).  And God is smelling the stench!  Job proclaims his marital purity.  Let's go against the grain of our culture and demonstrate lives of marital purity!

The next practice Job underscores is social purity.  In verses 13-23, Job is claiming that he has been upright in his treatment of others; he specifically mentions groups that were the underprivileged in his day: slaves, the poor, the widows, and the orphans.  Of course, the law of Moses later shows that these groups were very dear to God's heart.

Job was ahead of his times by seeing slaves as people, and not as property.  Job then explains how he had fed others, had raised others, had clothed others, and helped all to find justice at the city's court.

When he says from my youth and mother's womb, he means that he has constantly served these groups for as far as he can remember (Coffman).  His care for others has been a life-long practice.  Job never tried to take advantage, oppress, or injure anyone in these helpless groups.  What about us?  Have we mistreated or ignored the underprivileged in our society?  Have we ever had a potluck for those who work at the Recycling Center ?  How much of our wealth is being used to serve others?  Have we spent any time lately in the home of a widow or widower or in visiting our nursing homes?  Let's practice social purity!

The next practice of Job could be call financial purity.  Look at verses 24-25: If I have made gold my hope, or said to fine gold, 'You are my confidence'; if I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because my hand gained much.”  In 22:24-25, Eliphaz had urged Job to make God his treasure.  It looks like Job is saying that he has always kept God as his treasure and never exalted money in an idolatrous way.  Job was a wealthy man; he had gold, livestock, property, and houses, but he never let these things become his hope or his confidence.  This is similar to what the apostle Paul told Timothy with regards to rich Christians.  In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul says that the wealthy Christians shouldn't be haughty or trust in their wealth, but they should trust in the living God and to be rich in good works!  They should be ready to give and to share in order to be laying a good foundation for eternal life!  There was once a family who always put their change into a small box.  When they collected $5-10 dollars in their box, then they would give it to someone who came to the door seeking funds—like the Girls Scouts, someone selling candy for the school band, someone asking for a donation to a worthy cause.  Usually, there was more than one family member at the door, and if they felt they should help a person, they'd say, “We'd better get the box!”  The children in this family learned not only the advantage of saving funds but also the joy of sharing them to help others!  Let's do our best to practice financial purity because life does not consist in the abundance of things (Luke 12:15)!

Job next underscores his spiritual purity in verses 26-28: If I have observed the sun when it shines, or the moon moving in brightness, so that my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand, [then] this also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, for I would have denied God who is above.”  In Job's culture, it was natural for people to worship the sun, the moon, and the stars, so Job was going against the grain again.  Job is denying his participation in any pagan worship of these heavenly bodies.  Job says that he not only did not practice blowing kisses with his hands toward other gods, but also he kept his heart from being enticed to do so.  He clearly saw that to worship the heavenly bodies would be to deny the Creator Who had made them!  Here's a little parable that almost hits us too close to home.  There was a spaceship hovering around the new multi-million dollar football stadium built recently in Arlington , TX .  One alien asked the other, “What is this enormous structure with seats for so many of the earthlings?”  The other alien replied, “It must be a great temple to their god.”  With the changing of the season, how many of you will soon be blowing kisses with our hands towards the diamonds, the parks, and the pools during times that you should be in worship with the saints?  Idolatry can come in many forms; it's really anything, any hobby, any sport, any pleasure, any person, any band, anything that steals our heart from God and Christ!  Like Job, let's work hard to maintain our spiritual purity!

Then Job talks further about relational purity in 29-32: “If I have rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, or lifted myself up when evil found him (indeed I have not allowed my mouth to sin by asking for a curse on his soul).  If the men of my tent have not said, 'Who is there that has not been satisfied with his meat?' (but no sojourner had to lodge in the street, for I have opened my doors to the traveler).”  Job again has been meticulous in his conduct towards others.  He has not rejoiced at his enemy's calamity nor pronounced a curse against him.  Job treated everyone well who came to his tent; he was hospitable and opened his door to strangers.  This Job is amazing; he doesn't miss a thing!  He may have lived in the patriarchal age, but he was even anticipating Jesus' teachings.  Do we treat our enemies with kindness and travelers with hospitality?  We should because the apostle Paul tells us to treat our enemies with benevolence, and the writer of Hebrews tells us to host others passing through (Romans 12:17-21; Hebrews 13:2).  Let's do our best to maintain relational purity too!

The next practice could be called devotional purity.  Verse 33-34 of the NKJV might be a bit misleading.  One commentator noted that the Hebrew allows another interpretation which makes better sense: “If I have covered my transgression as Adam, by hiding iniquity in my bosom, then let me fear the great multitude, let me dread the contempt of families, let me keep silent, and let me not venture out of my house.”  The point is that Job was not trying to be deceptive or hypocritical.  Job's friends had made false accusations against him, but Job refutes such charges by saying that he has always been scrupulously open and honest.  It's amazing how sure and confident Job was of his purity!  We recall how God first describes Job as a blameless and upright man (1:7).  We sing a hymn that says, “Keep me from secret sin; reign Thou my soul within.  Purer in heart, help me to be.”  How many of you would be guilty of your own private Watergates?  Let's show devotional purity!

Then Job emphasizes judicial purity in verses 35-37: “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; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.”  Job is continuing to declare his innocence.  Many of the terms here are involved with a legal proceeding, and Job wants God to be the judge and reveal to him his wrongs that have been listed in the prosecutor's book.  Job is tenacious to the end, "eager to have his case settled, and confident of the outcome” ( Anderson ).  A preacher once gave a survey to members in his congregation asking the question: “If you died today, would you go to heaven?”  The responses they could chose from were: yes; no; I don't know; I think so, but am not sure.  About 40% of these members answered in a negative way.  Who do we resemble more?  Are we confident like Job or are we doubtful like those who did the survey?  If we were put on trial for our faith and living in a godly way, could we defend ourselves, just as Job has done in this chapter?  Let's strive towards judicial purity!

The last practice of Job is territorial purity found in verses 38-40: If my land cries out against me, and its furrows weep together; if I have eaten its fruit without money, or caused its owners to lose their lives; then let thistles grow instead of wheat, and weeds instead of barley.”  Job argues that he has done nothing wrong with regards to property; he has paid the labors their wages and treated the owners fairly.  Job continues to show his innocence.  He has not committed any sin which merits the severe suffering with which he has been struck.  In this way, Job answers his accusers!

Someone has said: “In all the Holy Scriptures there is not a more beautiful portrait of an upright, godly, righteous man than that which reaches a climax in this chapter” (Coffman).  Now here's another important lesson that we learn from Job.  If we want to show excellence in our suffering, then we'd better be practicing excellence in the purity of our living.  You see, Job's purity is what led to his tenacity.  He could continue to insist on his innocence because he had demonstrated purity in all areas of his life.  The only thing that broke Job's tenacity was when God steps in and questions him.  His tenacity then gave way to humility!  And his humility then leads to his ultimate victory, as God gives His approval and provides him once again with health and prosperity.  Our daily purity lies at the basis of it all.  A researcher did a survey of Americans in 2006 and asked the question, "Do you consider yourself to be holy?"  Eight out of ten people who were unbelievers answered that they didn't consider themselves to be holy.  When the same question was asked to those who claimed they were believers, seven out of ten answered that they didn't consider themselves to be holy!  That's an amazing and saddening response, isn't it?  Job argued like crazy for his integrity, yet people who claim to live on this side of the cross, who live under Christ's grace, think that they can't be holy, they can't uphold purity!  Has our culture deceived us into thinking: "Well, there are no saints anymore; everybody is corrupt, so why try to live a godly life?"

Job shows that you can live a blameless and upright life if you'll keep God first.  God's grace should motivate you towards even more purity?  Does the cross affect the way you live?  Does Calvary touch your daily lifestyle?  Do Jesus' nail-scarred hands, pierced side, steady voice, and warm smile help you strive for all kinds of purity each day?  Like the kids said, “It's hard,” but if Job could do it without a Savior, surely we can do it with one!  Let's say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)!  Start your walk towards holiness and an eternal home!  It begins by stepping out into the aisle nearest you and coming to Jesus.