Monday, March 27, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 23, Job Talks Back To Eliphaz, Part Two

Job laments the uselessness of his friends and his pain at the hands of God.

"People open their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me." (Job 16:10) The words of his friends have been as harsh as if they had slapped him in the face. He expected comfort from these men but has instead been assaulted with accusations of sin. Not only that, but it's likely everyone in the community was talking about him and speculating about what he might have done that could have brought the heavy hand of punishment down on him.

"God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked." (Job 16:11) In the first chapter we found the Sabeans and Chaldeans raiding Job's livestock, killing his servants and carrying away his animals. These pagan people may be who he refers to when he mentions "the ungodly". Or he may still be talking about his unfaithful friends. The words these men have spoken have not been strictly ungodly, because many of the principles they've preached to Job are true, but they've used them in the wrong way and have wounded him.

"All was well with me, but He shattered me; He seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me His target; His archers surround me. Without pity, He pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. Again and again He bursts upon me; He rushes at me like a warrior." (Job 16:12-14) Job uses the metaphor of a battle scene. He says he is surrounded and struck by arrows from every side until he is mortally wounded and perishes on the ground. The heat of this battle never lets up and he believes it will kill him if it doesn't stop.

Yesterday we made some comparisons between Job's struggle and Christ's struggle. We find a great deal of similarity between Job's words today and the words of the Messiah in David's prophetic Psalm 69. Job's friends have let him down. Christ also knew the pain of having friends desert Him, "I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none." (Psalm 69:20b) Job has been crying out to God day and night for help but so far his grief has not abated. The Lord Jesus knows what it feels like to have God say no to His request, "I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God." (Psalm 69:3) Job has lost all his children, his wife is so angry at God she can't lend him her support, his friends accuse him of sins he hasn't committed, and when we get to the end of the book we will find that even Job's brothers had distanced themselves from him in his suffering. The Lord Jesus knew what it was like not to be able to depend on His family. At one point His brothers thought He was insane and they came to drag him home to Nazareth. His other family of disciples fled when He was arrested, with Simon Peter denying three times that he even knew Him. Jesus knows what it's like not to be able to depend on those closest to you, "I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother's children." (Psalm 69:8) There is nothing Job is going through that Jesus doesn't understand. There is nothing any of us will go through that Jesus doesn't understand.

Job again brings up his innocence. He is not sinless, but he does not wallow in sin. When he falls he repents and gets back up. He has not turned away from God. He has not been living in opposition to His laws. He hasn't been harboring a rebellious spirit. He now wails against what appears to be the unfairness of his situation, "I have sewed sackcloth over my skin and buried my brow in the dust. My face is red with weeping, dark shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure." (Job 16:15-17) Job reasserts the claim he has been making all along, "I've kept my heart right with God. There is no one's blood on my hands. I love the Lord and I love my fellow man. I've kept God's laws as well as I could. When I make mistakes I go immediately to the Lord and confess my sins and ask His forgiveness. He graciously grants me forgiveness and helps me to do better. There is nothing I've tried to hide from Him."

"Earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest! Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend." (Job 16:18-21) Job says, "If I lose my life due to my hard circumstances, may my innocent blood cry out from the ground as Abel's innocent blood cried out from the ground. If I die because those I considered friends keep gnashing on me with their sharp words, may my cries of pain never fade away. I cannot fully understand this, but I know in my spirit that I have an advocate, a defender, an attorney who will stand up for me in the court of God. There is One who pleads my case before the Judge. This One is the mediator I long for, who will make peace between me and God. My earthly friends have let me down, but somehow I know I have a Friend in heaven who will not let me down."

Job lived many centuries before Christ, yet the Holy Spirit revealed to him the "friend who sticks closer than a brother". (Proverbs 18:24) He saw the Messiah far off, as the prophet Balaam did, who said, "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel." (Numbers 24:17) Job did not live to see the advent of Christ, but he believed in Him. He believed in the One who is worthy to intercede on behalf of mankind. Understanding God's plan of salvation far more thoroughly than Job did, we have access to even more consolation in the Christ than Job had. We know what our Lord suffered for our sake. We realize that there's nothing we will ever go through that He can't sympathize with. And because He is able to sympathize, He is able to comfort us like no one else can. If Job was able to find hope in his tragedies because he knew Christ was coming someday, how much more hope should we have who live in the church age? Christ has come! He has paid our debt! He has washed us clean! He is our friend who sticks closer than a brother, who pleads our innocence before the Judge, who makes us the sons and daughters of the living God. When we hurt, He hurts along with us. When we need help, He prays for us. When we need a defender, He stands up for us.

Troubles are guaranteed in this fallen world, but the comfort of Christ is also guaranteed to those who love Him.

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