Wednesday, March 22, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 18, Job Answers Zophar, Part Three

Job's words of innocence have fallen on deaf ears. His friends have judged him guilty and he is unable to convince them otherwise. They have been no help so he wants to speak to God, the ultimate authority, who knows his heart.

"But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God. You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom." (Job 13:3-5) For the first seven days and nights of Job's grief, these three friends sat with him in silence. That was a comfort to Job, but the words that have come out of these men's mouths have done nothing but wound their friend. King Solomon had some things to say about unwise words, "Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." (Proverbs 10:19) "The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues." (Proverbs 17:27-28) Job says to his friends, "The best thing you could do right now is be quiet. You claim to be wise; prove your wisdom by being silent."

"Hear now my argument; listen to the pleas of my lips. Will you speak wickedly on God's behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for Him? Will you show Him partiality? Will you argue the case for God?" (Job 13:6-8) God does not need anyone to defend Him, especially those who lack spiritual understanding. These men have spoken lies against God in saying He is punishing Job for some sin that Job has yet to come clean about. They refuse to believe anything bad can happen to a good person, that there can be no purpose for this, and therefore they speak wickedly on God's behalf. We can only assume these men have never suffered calamity in their own lives. They view themselves as pretty good guys and the fact that their lives have been fairly comfortable is proof to them that they are approved by God.

Job intends to shatter their complacency with these words, "Would it turn out well if He examined you? Could you deceive Him as you might deceive a mortal? He would surely call you to account if you secretly showed partiality. Would not His splendor terrify you? Would not the dread of Him fall on you? Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay." (Job 13:9-12) Job asks, "What if God turned a spotlight on your own lives as you've turned a spotlight on mine? What might He find? Do you think you could hide sin from Him? Don't you think He will call you to account for feeling morally and spiritually superior to me? These platitudes and proverbs you've quoted to me have sustained me no more than eating ashes would sustain me. You've used God's word to hurt me, not help me. You've taken His word and twisted it to suit the point you're trying to make. If He called you into court, do you think you would be found innocent?"

I think Job's friends are outraged and start to make an angry reply, but he silences them, "Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may. Why do I put myself in jeopardy and take my life in my hands?" (Job 13:13-14) He intends to finish his speech and then they may say what they will. He intends to conclude his complaints and then God may judge him if he is wrong.

Now Job makes one of the most famous statements in the entire book, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; I will surely defend my ways to His face." (Job 13:15) He declares, "God may take my life, but still I trust Him. If He takes me out of this life, I will stand before Him and be judged not guilty of any of the things you suspect of me. He knows my heart and mind. He knows how I have lived my life. I will be vindicated by the only Judge who matters. It is God who has brought these troubles into my life, yet He is my only hope, my only defender, my only redeemer."

"Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless person would dare to come before Him! Listen carefully to what I say; let my words ring in your ears. Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated. Can anyone bring charges against me? If so, I will be silent and die." (Job 13:16-19) His friends have judged him guilty without any evidence. God will not be so unjust. Job believes when he stands before God, the Lord will pronounce him innocent because he has salvation through faith.

Now Job leaves off speaking to his friends and makes a direct appeal to God, "Only grant me these two things, God, and then I will not hide from You. Withdraw Your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with Your terrors. Then summon me and I will answer, or let me speak, and You reply to me." (Job 13:20-21) Job fears God in a new way. He has always maintained a proper and reverent awe of the Lord, but now he is so terrified of Him he thinks he won't be able to speak up if he stands in the Lord's court. Though he believes himself innocent of anything that caused the awful tragedies he's experienced, he worries that the mighty splendor of a holy God will render him silent.

"How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin. Why do You hide Your face and consider me Your enemy? Will You torment a windblown leaf? Will You chase after dry chaff? For You write down bitter things against me and make me reap the sins of my youth. You fasten my feet in shackles; You keep close watch on all my paths by putting marks on the soles of my feet. So man wastes away like something rotten, like a garment eaten by moths." (Job 13:23-28) Job has been insisting on his innocence, but not the innocence of the sinless. He knows he isn't perfect. The righteousness he has is the righteousness that comes by faith, the righteousness that trusts in God to supply what is lacking, the righteousness that depends on God to make a person clean. This is the same type of righteousness we claim as Christians. We aren't perfect but we trust the One who is perfect to make us clean. Christ supplies what we lack. This is why we will someday stand before God and be declared not guilty. Job, though he lived many centuries before Christ, understood his only hope of righteousness was in the Lord. He knew he had repented of the sins of his youth and that he continued to repent of anything wrong in his life that he became aware of. If there were sins he wasn't aware of, he trusted God to know he was sorry for those too. They were not intentional. Job's whole life revolved around his relationship with the Lord and he dealt with his sins and failures swiftly by repenting of them, not wanting anything to stand between him and the Lord.

Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him." I've known some very fine Christian men and women who, even on their deathbeds, refused to be angry with God. All their hope was still in Him, though He could have healed them and didn't. This is because there is no hope apart from God. He may allow troubles or illness or death, but who else is there who offers eternal life? What other hope do we have? We may not understand His ways, but who else can help us? Who else can save our souls? We may be angry with Him and offended by Him when He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want. But our true security doesn't lie in getting our prayers answered. Our security lies in our relationship with the Lord and in the salvation we receive through Him.

The psalmist Asaph, who once was very bitter when he looked around and saw how the wicked prospered, said after he repented of his attitude, "Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:25-26) There came a day when many of Jesus' followers were offended by His words and turned away from Him. He then asked the twelve disciples if they too were offended and planned to leave him. The Bible doesn't tell us whether they felt offended or not, but Simon Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Sometimes this is the only reason we are able to continue clinging to the Lord even when we don't understand Him: there is no place else to go. No one else speaks the words of truth and gives us eternal life. We may be angry and bitter and offended and heartbroken, but the very One who allowed these things to happen is the only One who can help us. I've been so angry and offended at God I might have gone someplace else if there was anyplace else to go. I've been so upset with Him I didn't even want to talk to Him. If He had come to my house and asked to sit down and speak with me, I might have refused to see Him. Sometimes the only thing that keeps us from turning away from God is that there is no one else to turn to. That's why Asaph didn't turn away when he was disgusted by the wicked and envious of their prosperity. That's why Simon Peter didn't turn away when Jesus spoke words difficult to accept and understand. That's why Job didn't turn away when God brought heartbreaking tragedies into his life. It may not seem like much of a reason to cling to God because there's nowhere else to go, but it's enough when it's all we have the strength to do. It's all God expects when we are too confused to make any sense out of anything. It was enough for Asaph and Simon Peter and Job. It will be enough for us too.

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