“Can mankind be just before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?”
Still in the context of Job’s “friend” Eliphaz trying to be comforting comes this verse. Eliphaz says he heard a voice at night; that he heard a spirit speak to him. Now, not every spirit is from God and this one is debatable, but the questions asked are valid. The answer to both questions is both “Yes” and “No.”
The bad news: No one is just or pure before God on their own merits. Mankind, taken as a whole, is a disagreeable bunch of reprobates. Collectively, we engage in all manner of sinful behavior, approve the sinful behavior of others, and come up with creative new ways to commit the same old sins. There are those who try not to or who eschew certain sinful practices, but humanity as a whole is a bunch of greedy, grasping, clutching, covetous sinners. We want what we want when we want it and woe betide any who try to stop us from getting it. This is exactly the kind of attitude shown at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. We are going to do what we want to do and not even God can stop us. Of course He did. And of course humanity was wrong. But we tried it anyway.
That’s mankind as a whole. There is not one single individual who is pure before God. the word used for pure could also mean without disease, ceremonially clean, morally clean. No one is without disease and to be ceremonially clean is a rough job, though some might manage it for a time. But to be morally clean is impossible. None of us is morally clean — not even by our own standards. It was written that all men alike stand condemned not by alien codes of conduct, but by our own. And that is true. I don’t need God’s Law to condemn me when my own moral compass has been ignored and violated often enough to render me a moral mudhole.
All that is the Bad News. The Good News (a.k.a. The Gospel) is that the answer to both questions is “Yes: through Christ.” Can mankind be just before God? Sure. A segment of mankind is exactly that through the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died in our place. Done. Finished. He said almost exactly that while on the cross. His word(s), recorded in John 19:30, were “It is finished (τετέλεσται — tetelestai).” In Revelation 5, the redeemed around the throne sing of how Jesus redeemed people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. There is no partiality and anyone who wants to be saved can be saved. Anyone who wants to be just and pure before God totally can be.
That is, to me, fantastic news this Monday morning. See, my daughter gave my wife and me a rough weekend. Since my daughter is still a wee little lass — not even using well-formed words, let alone sentences — it is difficult to know how to address her moods and will. Sometimes, I’m not sure I’m getting this “daddy” thing quite right. Just as I am completely sure that I’m not getting this “Christian thing” quite right. In thousands of years of human history, the “daddy thing” has been done millions upon millions of ways and resulted in billions and billions of individuals. In thousands of years of people throwing themselves on the mercy and grace of God, there has been only one result: righteousness; being just and pure before God. Genesis says that Abram believed God and it was counted to him (Abram) as righteousness. The book of Job will include Job’s declaration that his redeemer lives. So many people in The Bible place their faith in Christ; throw themselves on God’s mercy. And His mercy never fails. Habakkuk 2:4 includes the statement that “the righteous will live by his faith.” The only way that mankind as a whole or man as an individual can be just and pure before God is through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is it.
Today and every day, I throw myself on the mercy of God; at the foot of the cross. I know that I will not get this Christian thing right. I also know that my righteousness does not depend on me, but on Christ. And His righteousness is perfect. Through Christ, I am just and pure before God.