The Wounded Hands of Our Arbiter
“If I wash myself with snow and cleanse my hands with lye, yet you will plunge me into a pit…There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.”
– Job 9:30-31,33
There is some question as to whether Job is addressing God in the first part of this quotation or his friends (i.e., will God “plunge him into a pit,” or his friends via their condemning counsels?). However, it is ultimately not a huge issue because Job says the equivalent of 9:30-31 directly concerning God many times even in this chapter (9:2,4,25,30). The point is that Job feels a direct confrontation with his Creator would spell his own damnation since it is impossible to stand against God…..it is impossible to argue a case with Him and win. What then is Job’s (or our) hope?
First I want to look at the human plight as manifested in Job’s situation, second I want to see what Job’s hoped for solution is, and third I want to point to the way that God satisfies Job’s hopes beyond any expectation.
Holy God, Unholy Humans.
Job recognizes that there is simply no way for him to survive a direct confrontation with the living God. “Who,” Job asks in 9:4, “has hardened himself against [God], and succeeded?” The answer is no one. This is not because God is evil or destructive, but because He is holy, limitlessly holy, and sin cannot exist in His presence, it must be dealt with. Even Job – whom God Himself calls “blameless and upright” (1:8) – even Job would be exposed as perverse (9:20) and condemned before the infinite holiness of His Creator. This is a maddening reality for Job to get his hands around, and it is one that should still haunt every deep-thinking person in our day.
If there is an infinitely holy God by whom we must all be judged…what hope do we possible have to be “cleared” in His sight? What hope does a snowflake have of entering a blast furnace unscathed? What hope does a dust mote have of reaching the center of the Sun unharmed? What hope does a gnat have of beating back a tornado with its wings? The most righteous human being has less of a chance than these to be declared perfect before the judgment seat of God…..and “perfect” is the only passing grade.
Job knows this and, in verse 33 we see the solution that he longs for, and yet believes to be impossible.
“There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.”
Job wishes that there could be an arbiter between himself and God, someone who was able to “lay his hand on [them] both.” Someone who could, as it were, plead Job’s case before God and speak with God as one man would speak to another (16:21). But this – it would have seemed to Job – is impossible.
Who could lay a hand on God Almighty except God Himself? Who could speak to God as one man to another, successfully pleading for a sinful human soul? No other being could be so brazen, no other being, even the highest ranking archangel, would dare to so approach the Living God…..except God Himself.
And who could lay a compassionate, sympathetic, merciful hand on Job other than a fellow member of Mankind? What creature, in all the universe, knows the torments and frustrations and unique heartaches of the human condition except for another human?
It would seem that this “arbiter” for whom Job longs, who alone could prevent Job’s damnation at the judgment, it would seem that this arbiter must be both God and Man. But, of course, such a thing is impossible……so Job must have thought.
Immanuel, God With Us
Who could have imagined…who, in their wildest imaginations, could have predicted that Job’s longed for Arbiter would actually appear? And who would have dared to hope that this Arbiter truly would be God and Man, One able to “lay His hand” on us both? But this exactly what we see in the incarnation of God the Son in Jesus Christ.
The man Christ Jesus is absolute, undiluted, undiminished, GOD. And at the same time He is sincerely, thoroughly, and fully MAN. He is the thrice holy YHWH whose word upholds the universe and He was less than an inch long, fully dependant on His mother in the womb. He is the Creator of the universe and He suffered headaches, sickness, and interrupted schedules. He is God in the flesh, Infinite Deity bound to Finite Humanity, Eternity interwoven with Temporality, and He was born, lived, died, raised, and still lives even as I type these words, so that we might commune with rather than be condemned by our God. There is no other name under heaven by which a human being can be saved.
Jesus Christ set His hand on humanity’s rebellious head and received in His own flesh the thorns and nails and splinters of our hatred toward God…..and He set His hand, as it were, on the infinitely holy head of God Himself and received into His own body the Just and Righteous wrath that we deserved. It is almost as if He received our sin into one of His wounded hands, and God’s wrath into the other, and the two met in and ultimately crushed His own soul as He suffered on the cross. Yes – God did this, and this is love.
God is infinitely holy and so we will be condemned if we attempt to stand before Him in the spider webs of our own righteousness, but more fundamental to His nature than His holy wrath is His holy love. And it is this love that moves Him to send His own Son to us as an Arbiter…..it is this love that moves the Son to come as our Arbiter, and to “lay His hand” on us and on God. He suffers our punishment, dies in our place, is raised for our resurrection and clothes us in His own righteousness so that we might come to God as Treasure rather than Terror. Job’s far off hope is our present and glorious salvation.
A Concluding Prayer
So, I end these musings with a prayer for myself and for you and for those who don’t yet enjoy the Living God as their life….May we feel the absolute hopelessness of standing before our Judge in the rags of our own righteousness….may our estimation of our own holiness (or the estimation that others give us) feel laughably inadequate to hold up under the blast furnace of YHWH’s eyes….and may this deeply rooted sense of our own sinfulness lead to a desperate and hope-filled trust in Jesus Christ as our Arbiter. May we cling to Him alone for righteousness, purity, cleanness, acceptance, and – in Him – may we approach the throne of God with confidence, knowing that for those trusting in Christ it is a throne of Grace and not of Condemnation.