Friday, March 17, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 13, Job Answers Bildad, Part Two

Job is angry with God, as we will see today. I've been angry with God, haven't you? I've been angry when He hasn't answered prayers the way I thought He should, or when He hasn't answered them as quickly as I wanted. Imagine how angry and hurt and bitter Job must have been after losing his wealth and his health and his children.

Job doesn't believe God would give him an answer even if he could go before His throne and demand answers. "Even if I summoned Him and He responded, I do not believe He would give me a hearing. He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason. He would not let me catch my breath but would overwhelm me with misery. If it is a matter of strength, He is mighty! And if it is a matter of justice, who can challenge Him? Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me; if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty." (Job 9:16-20) Job is giving us his opinion of God's attitude toward him. He feels that God is against him and that there is nothing he can do to please the Lord. We know, of course, that God is pleased with Job and says he is the most faithful man on earth, but Job in his distress doesn't believe God cares for him very much. He has been so careful to live his life in a way that honors God and so quick to repent when he recognizes he has fallen short. If this has not pleased the Lord, Job wonders what more he could have done. If his faithful heart wasn't enough to protect him from calamity, what could he say before God to make things any better? Job says, "Even if I gained an interview with the Lord, something wrong would come out of my mouth. I would stand before His awesome holiness and somehow manage to condemn myself. I am not aware of any unconfessed sin in my life, but I am a weak and imperfect human being and I could have made mistakes I'm not aware of. I may have broken a law I don't even know about. Who can defend himself before Almighty God, the holy Judge and the Maker of laws?"

Job knows he hasn't committed any of the sins his friends suspect him of. We don't know exactly which sins they think he has committed but we can safely assume they are big ones. They believe God is punishing him harshly because his sin has been especially despicable. Job knows he hasn't done the things they think he's done, but he can't be certain he hasn't messed up without being aware of it. King David once asked, "But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults." (Psalm 19:12) Job thinks, "What if I stood before God to defend myself only to find out I've sinned in ways I didn't even realize? Who can be certain? His laws are so much higher than man's laws. His thoughts are so different from man's thoughts. Perhaps I've offended Him without knowing it."

Job has lost the will to live. If God decides to take his life, that's fine with Job because he's tired of living. "Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life. It is all the same; that is why I say, 'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.' When a scourge brings sudden death, He mocks the despair of the innocent. When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, He blindfolds its judges. If it is not He, then who is it?" (Job 9:21-24) In his bitterness Job concludes that God doesn't care about the unfairness in the world. If an illness strikes a community, the death toll includes both the godly and the wicked. Injustice prevails in the courts, so that the wicked often trample the rights of the godly underfoot. Job asks the question that mankind has been asking since the beginning of time, "Why does God let these things happen? If He is all-powerful, why doesn't He stop it?" We know something that Job doesn't know, which is that it's Satan who struck him and his family and his fortune. God didn't do it. But He allowed it, and that is the part that's so difficult to understand. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn't God reward the faithful with nothing but blessings? Why do the same hardships that afflict the wicked also afflict the godly?

These questions torment Job day and night. It's no wonder he can't sleep with these thoughts going around and around in his head, with these questions remaining unanswered. "My days are swifter than a runner; they fly away without a glimpse of joy. They skim past like boats of papyrus, like eagles swooping down on their prey. If I say, 'I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile,' I still dread all my sufferings, for I know You will not hold me innocent. Since I am already found guilty, why should I struggle in vain? Even if I washed myself with soap and my hands with cleansing powder, You would plunge me into a slime pit so that even my clothes would detest me." (Job 9:25-31) These words are painful to read. Job has tried to cheer himself up but it hasn't worked. Now that he feels God is his enemy, he derives no joy from anything. He cannot enjoy the beauty of this world because he fears the wrath of its Maker. He cannot enjoy the company of his wife because she is even angrier at God than he is. He cannot take comfort in the fellowship of his friends because they think he is guilty of abominable secret sins. He says, "Why should I keep trying? God must have condemned me for something I'm not even aware of doing. My friends have condemned me of sins I didn't commit. What's the use?"

"He is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer Him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God's rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot." (Job 9:32-35) If his fellow man took him to court and accused him of crimes, Job would be able to put on a defense. He would not fear to speak up in front of a human judge. But how to defend himself before the One who, in Job's tortured mind, is now both his accuser and judge?

Job utters the heart-cry of the ages when he says, "If only there were someone to mediate between God and me! If only someone would step up and bring us together! If only there were someone to save me from my sins and from the wrath of God!" This prayer of Job's was answered when God sent His own Son to save mankind, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people." (1 Timothy 2:5-6) Job, godly man though he was, needed a mediator. You and I need a mediator. We have all "sinned and fallen short". (Romans 3:23) And when it comes to talking about what we deserve in this life, the Bible tells us that we are sinners and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), so we can come to no other conclusion except that God owes us nothing but the death penalty. Does He owe us a prosperous life filled with riches? No, no more than He owed it to a man as righteous as Job. Does He owe us lives of ease and comfort? If Job didn't qualify for a life without sorrows, neither do we. I can't answer the question, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" But I can say, on the authority of the holy Scriptures, that even at our best we fall far short of perfection. We are sinners and our works, though some of them are good in our own eyes, cannot save us. By our sins and failures we earned a day of judgment in which we would stand before our Judge and be found guilty.

When we began the book of Job we knew we wouldn't get all our questions answered. Job himself won't get all his questions answered. But there is one question, the most important question of all, for which we receive a firm answer. Job wonders in his heart, "Does God love me?" We can answer that with a resounding, "Yes!" In our own struggles, when we wonder if God still loves us, the answer is yes. Would a God who doesn't love us provide the Mediator who brings man and God together? Would a God who doesn't love us turn His back on His own Son as He hung on the cross enduring the penalty for our sins? Would a God who doesn't love us make a way for us to someday stand before His throne and, as Job says, "speak up without fear of Him"? If God didn't love us and take pity on us, why would He bother to craft the plan of salvation? Why would God the Son be known as "the Lamb slain from the creation of the world"? (Revelation 13:8) As soon as God the Father purposed in His heart to create man, God the Son was a dead man walking. He was condemned. He was on His way to the cross before God ever scooped up a mound of dust in His hands to create Adam. Christ, who is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being (Hebrews 1:3) loved us so much more than His own life that He was willing to do anything it took to save us. Jesus told His disciples that anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father (John 14:9) and we know by this that the love and compassion Jesus felt for mankind is the same love and compassion God feels. Yes, God loves us! Sorrows may come, but God still loves us. Reversals of fortune may spring up, but God still loves us. Illness may strike us or a loved one, but God still loves us. He proved this love through Christ.

We don't know why bad things happen to good people. We don't know why the wicked prosper while the godly are cheated. We don't know why evil people often live long lives but sometimes godly people are cut down in their prime. While we live in these mortal bodies in this fallen world, we won't receive the answers to all our questions. But when trouble comes, with a childlike faith we can be certain of this one thing and can comfort ourselves with this sure knowledge: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

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