Sunday, March 26, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 22, Job Talks Back To Eliphaz, Part One

Eliphaz has been a little hot under the collar in our study the past couple of days. He's frustrated with Job for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that he expected Job to buckle under the pressure and admit to some sort of scandalous sin. The other reason is that he thinks Job speaks foolishly when he speaks against God. Eliphaz doesn't believe he has the right to question God. Job himself begins to get a little hot under the collar today as he says some harsh words to these friends who are worse than enemies.

"Then Job replied: 'I have heard many things like these; you are miserable comforters, all of you! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.'" (Job 16:1-5) I can't help but cheer Job on as he rebukes these men who have been so unkind to him in his sorrows. They have been miserable comforters. He says, "It's easy for you to talk the way you do. You aren't walking in my shoes. You aren't feeling my grief. If our positions were reversed it would be easy for me to talk to you the same way you've been talking to me....except I wouldn't. I would say words of comfort. I might not be able to change your circumstances, but I would show you sympathy instead of criticism. I would lend you my support and love."

"Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away." (Job 16:6) These men don't like Job's complaints. His pain is so great that he can't keep silent; he's compelled to cry out. But whether speaking or silent he doesn't feel any better.

"Surely, God, You have worn me out; You have devastated my entire household. You have shriveled me up---and it has become a witness; my gauntness rises up and testifies against me. God assails me and tears me in His anger and gnashes His teeth at me; my opponent fastens on me His piercing eyes." (Job 16:7-9) Job's struggle with the Lord is the same struggle we all experience in hard times. Even though Satan is the one who actually attacked Job, he couldn't have done it if God hadn't allowed it. Therefore, since God is the ultimate authority and could have prevented Job's calamities, he places the blame directly on God. Whether a spiritual or a mortal enemy attacks us, deep down we wonder why God didn't prevent it. Why didn't He keep our loved one from getting sick? Why did He let us get laid off from our job? Why did He allow our spouse to leave us for someone else? Why didn't He stop our child from going astray? We know that nothing is too hard for God, we think He is good, we believe He loves why doesn't He prevent our troubles? This is the problem we wrestle with as human beings.

Bible scholar David Guzik says, "It seems that Job here wrestled with God just as intensely as Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord. The similarity of the struggle is instructive, given the difference in their character. Jacob wrestled with God as a carnal man who needed to be conquered. Job struggled with God as a godly man who also needed to be conquered, or at least more conquered." He makes a very insightful point, for God wrestles with the ungodly to subdue them and bring them to repentance, but God also wrestles with the godly to make them more godly.

Even the Lord Jesus Christ, in a sense, wrestled with God on the night before the crucifixion in the Garden of Gethsemane. He stated He felt depressed enough to die. (Mark 14:34) He wept so hard that tiny blood vessels burst in His face and caused Him to sweat drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) The anguish of His soul, the dread of the agony of the cross, and the bitterness of the cup of wrath He would drink in our place were so great that He cried out, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me." (Matthew 26:39) God said no to His own Son. God said no to Job. God sometimes says no to us. Did Christ trust Him anyway? He certainly did, for we find Him saying to God the Father, "Not My will, but Yours be done." Did Job trust Him anyway? He says he did, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him." Do we trust Him anyway? Oh, it's so hard sometimes! We are weak and fragile, made of nothing but the dust from the ground, and the world is big and scary, and we have an enemy who prowls the earth trying to devour us. Things happen in this fallen world that make us feel as overwhelmed as Job, who wished the Lord would either make things better or take him on home to heaven.

It's hard to trust God when we don't understand the purpose of our troubles, but as I've said before, I have a strong feeling we wouldn't be any better off if we did understand. I'm not sure our griefs would be any easier to bear. Christ Jesus understood the purpose for His suffering, yet if there had been any other way to save mankind He would have preferred to bypass the cross. This doesn't make me think any less of Jesus; on the contrary, it causes me to love Him even more because it makes Him seem more like us. In His humanity, Jesus naturally wanted to draw back from pain and suffering. It was normal to want to avoid having the heavy burden of our sins laid upon Him and to endure God's wrath in our place. It makes me love Him more because I know He understands exactly how we feel. He understands our pain, our grief, our confusion. He knows the struggle we undertake when we try our best to reconcile our circumstances with our belief in a good and loving God. Jesus Christ knows that sometimes bad things happen to good people and that we wrestle with trusting God in the tough times. He knows what we're going through when we wish there was some other way than suffering to accomplish God's purpose in our lives. Jesus endured the same struggles and this makes Him seem more like us. And maybe that's meant to make us want to be more like Him, to be willing even through our tears and heartbreak to say to our Father, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

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