"Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?" (Job 9:1-2)
The patriarch Job was the most "just" (i.e., "righteous") man of his age, according to the testimony of God Himself (Job 1:8; 2:3), yet his friends were insisting that his terrible suffering had been sent by God because of his sins. He knew he was innocent of the sins of which they were accusing him, and he knew he had earnestly tried to be obedient and faithful to God. Yet he also knew that he, like all men, had come far short of God’s holiness (Romans 3:23). "I have sinned," he had confessed, "what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men?" (Job 7:20). "Cause me to understand wherein I have erred" (Job 6:24). And then comes the plaintive plea in our text. "How should a man be just with God?"
There is, indeed, no way by which a man can make himself righteous before God, for he is even born with a sin nature, inherited from father Adam. "If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse" (Job 9:20). Yet God created man for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7) and wants "all men to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4). The great enigma is, how can God justify unrighteousness in men and still be righteous Himself.
The answer, of course, is that God, in Christ, has paid the price to make us righteous by dying for all our sins. "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
Even Job finally realized that God must somehow become his redeemer. "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and . . . in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:25-26). It is indeed wonderfully true that God can both "be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). HMM