Thursday, March 30, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 26, Job Laments His Unfaithful Friends

Job's friends become more cruel with every word they speak. Of all the people he knew, Job expected these three men to stand by him. But they've made him feel worse than ever.

"Then Job replied: 'How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Ten times now you have reproached me; shamelessly you attack me. If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone. If indeed you would exalt yourselves above me and use my humiliation against me, then know that God has wronged me and drawn His net around me." (Job 19:1-6) If Job had sinned against God, the matter would be between himself and God. If Job deserved punishment, it would be God's job to pass sentence. These men are trying to stand in place of God, to speak for Him and to act on His behalf by heaping hurtful words on an already broken man.

"Though I cry, 'Violence!' I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; He has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side til I am gone; He uproots my hope like a tree. His anger burns against me; He counts me among His enemies. His troops advance in force; they build a siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent." (Job 19:7-12) Job feels like he's under attack, but he expected his friends to rush to his side when he cried out. Instead they joined the assault.

"He has alienated my family from me; my acquaintances are estranged from me. My relatives have gone away; my closest friends have forgotten me. My guests and my female servants count me as a foreigner; they look on me as a stranger. I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family. Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth." (Job 19:13-20) Job says, "No one I counted on has been faithful to me. My family and most of my friends haven't even come to see me. My servants have stopped respecting me and don't bother to answer when I call. My wife has turned away from me in her bitterness toward God. If I go into town, even the little children giggle behind my back and whisper about me. There's nothing left of me but skin and bones; I'm barely alive."

How can these men look on Job's afflictions and not feel compassion? "Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?" (Job 19:21-22) Even if Job's problems had come because of sin, it wouldn't be right for Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar to say, "So there! You got exactly what you deserved!" This isn't how the Good Shepherd tends His flock. If a lamb goes astray, He seeks it, not to condemn it but to bring it back into the fold. "And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'" (Luke 15:5-6) Job's friends have a judgmental attitude that makes them want to add to his distress, as if God would need their help to discipline one of His flock. If they believe Job is a sinner, they ought to be showing him the love and mercy of the Lord. We sometimes meet Christians with the same attitude as Job's friends, who want to forever hold someone's past against them and refuse them entry back into the fold. This is not what Jesus would do. Jesus would put that wayward lamb on His shoulders and carry it home, rejoicing all the way that the one who was lost is now found.

"Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in a rock forever!" (Job 19:23-24) The Lord answered this prayer in a mighty way. Thousands of years later we are still studying Job's words.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we now find Job making a very clear declaration of his hope in the resurrection, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes---I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27) Job professes, "No matter what sorrows assail me now, I believe a brighter day is coming. My goel, my kinsman redeemer, will stand up to defend my honor. He will vindicate me. He forever lives to make intercession for me. (Hebrews 7:25) And someday, after this body of mine has decayed in the grave, He will raise me to newness of life. I will see Him with my own eyes in my own flesh. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' (1 Corinthians 15:53-54) How I long for that day!"

We've seen Job struggle with doubts and fears about the future and about life after death, but we see he has not let go of the most important hope of all. He may be hanging on to it by only the skin of his teeth, but he's still hanging on. In our troubles we have a hope that cannot be taken away from us. Our Redeemer lives. Because He lives forever, we who belong to Him will live forever in His presence. This life is not all there is. The grave is not the end. The grave wasn't the end for the Lord Jesus and it won't be the end for us. Let's celebrate Easter a little early: our Redeemer lives!

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