Have you ever read about people who are described in the Bible in glowing terms and said to yourself, ‘I can’t be like them!’ You might reason, ‘I’m not blameless or righteous, and I definitely don’t always do what is right.’
The patriarch Job is described as “blameless and upright.” (Job 1:1, footnote) Lot was called a “righteous man.” (2 Peter 2:8) And David was said to do “what was right” in God’s eyes. (1 Kings 14:8) However, let us take a closer look at the lives of those Bible characters. We will see that (1) they made mistakes, (2) we can learn much from their example, and (3) imperfect humans really can please God.
THEY MADE MISTAKES
Job suffered a series of personal hardships that seemed unfair. He got the wrong idea, concluding that God did not care whether he kept his faith in Him or not. (Job 9:20-22) Job was so convinced of his own righteousness that to others it sounded as though he were proclaiming himself more righteous than God.
Lot hesitated to make what should have been a clear and simple decision. He was greatly distressed by the gross immorality of the people living in Sodom and Gomorrah, even “tormenting his righteous soul” over their behavior. (2 Peter 2:8) God announced that he intended to destroy those wicked cities and gave Lot an opportunity to be rescued along with his family. You might imagine that troubled Lot would be the first one to leave. At this crucial moment, though, he lingered. The angels sent to rescue him and his family had to grab hold of their hands and take them out of the city to safety.
David on one occasion showed a lack of self-control and committed adultery with another man’s wife. Shockingly, in an attempt to cover it up, David had her husband killed. (2 Samuel, chapter 11) The Bible says that what David did “was very displeasing to Jehovah.”
Job, Lot, and David all made mistakes, some very serious ones at that. But, as we will see, they were wholehearted in their desire to serve God obediently. They were willing to show that they were sorry and to change their ways where needed. Hence, God looked on them with favor, and overall the Bible refers to them as faithful men.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
As imperfect humans, we cannot avoid making mistakes. (Romans 3:23) But when we do, we need to show that we are sorry and then do what we can to put matters right.
How did Job, Lot, and David try to put their mistakes right? At heart, Job was a man of integrity. After God reasoned with him, Job corrected his wrong thinking and took back what he had said. (Job 42:6) Lot’s view of the immoral conduct of people in Sodom and Gomorrah completely agreed with God’s standards. It was his temporary lack of urgency that was the problem. He eventually fled the condemned cities and escaped God’s judgment. Obediently he did not even look back at what he was leaving behind. Although David made a serious mistake in breaking God’s law, he revealed what was truly in his heart by sincerely repenting and throwing himself on God’s mercy.
God’s favorable view of those men is in accord with his reasonable expectations for imperfect humans. God “well knows how we are formed, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:14) So, if God knows we cannot avoid making mistakes, what does he expect of us?
God “well knows how we are formed, remembering that we are dust.”
HOW CAN IMPERFECT HUMANS PLEASE GOD?
David’s counsel to his son Solomon gives us the key to how we can please God. “You, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart.” (1 Chronicles 28:9) What is a complete heart? It is a heart that loves God and is resolved to be sensitive to his will and requirements. It is not a heart that is perfect, but it is one that yearns to serve God obediently and is willing to be corrected. Love of God and a desire to be obedient marked Job as “blameless,” Lot as “righteous,” and David as “doing only what was right” in God’s eyes. Although they made mistakes, they were able to please God.
A complete heart is sensitive to God’s will and motivated by a strong desire to serve him obediently
So if we have bad thoughts that we wish had not come into our mind or say something we are ashamed of or do things that we later realize are wrong, let us take courage from the examples just discussed. God knows perfection is beyond our reach at this time. He does, however, expect us to love him and to strive for obedience. If we have a complete heart in this regard, we can be confident that we can please God too.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE REALLY TEACH?
It is possible to live a life pleasing to Jehovah. In fact, you can become his friend.