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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Transgression Bag

The eye of faith is an amazing thing.

In all his bitter distress and confusion, Job never completely loses sight of the character and purposes of God. Like most sufferers, he talks at length about how things appear to him: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.”

Yep, can confirm.

But nowhere in all of his inquiries does it occur to Job for a moment that God may not be there at all. That’s one big difference between the righteous and the wicked. “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” as Paul puts it. They do not consider God in the slightest. “They did not see fit to acknowledge God.” God and eternity have simply been dismissed from their calculations.

Job, on the other hand, cannot stop considering him, and despite expressing it, he is never comfortable with the idea that God is hounding and persecuting him. Every now and then we see his faith peek through the shadow over his heart and sustain him, keeping him from complete despair:
“If a man dies, shall he live again?”
In Job’s day the answer appears to be no. Sheol awaits, and that’s that. Yet Job is a man of faith. A conclusion that intellectually satisfies others doesn’t satisfy him. His concept of God is higher than that. Job’s God is not content merely to leave men in the dirt. So Job speaks of “renewal” (or perhaps “relief”: the actual word doesn’t matter much since the event itself is bound up in Job’s anticipation of the call of God to the dead, and the dead answering). He says:
“All the days of my service I would wait,
till my renewal should come.
You would call, and I would answer you;”
That’s not, to my knowledge, a standard component of the theology of the day. But Job’s God is relational. He deeply desires an eternal connection to his creations:
“you would long for the work of your hands.”
Job’s God even has a plan to deal with sin:
“For then you would number my steps;
you would not keep watch over my sin;
my transgression would be sealed up in a bag,
and you would cover over my iniquity.”
Job is able to conceive of a God who covers over iniquity and seals transgressions in a bag. There’s no sense here of Job somehow atoning for his own sin; rather, God must deal with it.

But as much as he is possessed of keen spiritual intuition, without specific revelation even a man of great faith cannot fully conceive of what God has really done. Job’s “transgression bag” falls well short of the reality the psalmists and prophets would later foretell:
“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

“He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Job’s solution is probably the best man could imagine. But you can always break a seal, reopen a bag, drag out its contents into the light and expose them for all to see. But my transgressions are blotted out utterly, stomped on and buried in the depths of the ocean. That sounds like they’re not coming back to bite me. And as a math guy, I don’t even know what to do with the east/west metaphor. That’s a distance that can’t be calculated, can it?

Admittedly, a transgression bag is a cool idea.

The reality in Christ is even better.

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