Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 24, Job Talks Back To Eliphaz, Day Three

Job concludes his reply to Eliphaz's irritable words today. He feels so hopeless he welcomes death if it will release him from his troubles.

"Only a few years will pass before I take the path of no return. My spirit is broken, my days are cut short, the grave awaits me. Surely mockers surround me; my eyes must dwell in their hostility." (Job 16:22-17:1-2) He believes he is soon to die and that he will do so while enduring the unfair scorn of his friends.

"Give me, O God, the pledge You demand. Who else will put up security for me? You have closed their minds to understanding; therefore You will not let them triumph. If anyone denounces their friends for reward, the eyes of their children will fail." (Job 17:3-5) Job recognizes that God alone can justify him. The Lord has allowed his friends to show him who they really are: men who lack compassion and understanding. But they will not be found guiltless for this. When Job is proven innocent, they will have to face the fact that they've been wrong.

"God has made me a byword to everyone, a man in whose face people spit. My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow. The upright are appalled at this; the innocent are aroused against the ungodly. Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger." (Job 17:6-9) Job knows people are whispering about him. The upright are shocked, just as his friends are shocked, because they don't believe God would let bad things happen to a good man. Though they suspect him of sin, Job doesn't intend to give up on living in the right way. He doesn't have the attitude of, "Fine, if you think I'm such a sinner, I'll show you just how bad a sinner I can be!" He intends to keep on putting one foot after another, following in the footsteps of the Lord, even though he doesn't understand what the Lord is doing.

He challenges Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to give another shot at providing good advice. "But come on, all of you, try again! I will not find a wise man among you." (Job 17:10) The worst advice I've ever received has come during hard times. When we are down and out, that's when people step up to offer ungodly opinions, saying things like, "Here's what you ought to do....", or "This is what I would do if I were you...." If the bad advice were just coming from enemies we could ignore it. But it usually comes from those close to us. They give us bad advice not because they mean us harm but because they think they are helping, just like Job's friends think they are helping. A close friend might become angry on our behalf at the way someone has treated us and tell us how we should get back at them. A co-worker might notice how miserable we are because of problems at home and tell us we should file for divorce or cut our wayward children off. The givers of bad advice quite often have good intentions toward us, and that's where the danger lies. Satan knows that when we are weak and depressed we are more likely to fall for bad ideas. He knows we will pay more attention to the words of a friend than to the words of an enemy. So he entices those close to us who lack spiritual wisdom to plant unwise ideas in our heads.

"My days have passed, my plans are shattered. Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near." (Job 17:11-12) If all he has to look forward to is death, Job welcomes it, for at least then he will be at rest. His troubles will be over. No one can take anything else away from him. No one can accuse him of sins he didn't commit. He can leave all his hardships behind. Job is not suicidal, as we've noted before, but he feels the same way the Lord Jesus would later feel in His extreme distress, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38a) And all Job has asked, as the Lord Jesus asked, is that his friends would, "Stay here and keep watch with me." (Matthew 26:38b) But they've let him down, just as the disciples let Jesus down.

"If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness, if I say to corruption, 'You are my father,' and to the worm, 'My mother' or 'My sister,' where then is my hope---who can see any hope for me? Will it go down to the gates of death? Will we descend together into the dust?" (Job 17:13-16) This isn't the first time Job has worried that this life might be all there is. His faith tells him there must be something else, but his sorrows plague him with doubts. He asks, "What if the grave is the end? What if my hope dies with me? What if there is nothing after this short and troublesome life? I have always believed in eternal life with the Lord, but I also believed bad things didn't happen to good people and I was wrong about that. What if I've been wrong about everything?"

Such honesty is what I love about the Bible! The characters in the Scriptures don't try to put on a pretty face and hide their doubts and struggles. The Bible is about real people with real experiences who know what it's like to toss and turn in the night as they wrestle with fears. They know what it's like to trudge through the long hours of the day while dealing with anxiety. The Bible puts it all out there, the good side of people and the bad side of people, helping us not to feel so alone. Do you ever have doubts? So did Job. Have you ever been severely depressed? So were people like Job, the prophets Jonah and Jeremiah and Elijah, and the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Have you ever committed sins that were so bad you could never have imagined yourself committing them? So did King David. I thank the Lord that He didn't leave any of these things out of the Bible, because then we might be tempted to think the people in the Bible didn't share our struggles. But they were ordinary men and women just like us. The Lord did great things in the lives of those ordinary men and women; this means He will do great things for us.

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