Saturday, April 1, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 28, Job's Answer To Zophar, Part One

Job's friends have given him no consolation with their words. Now he asks them to at least provide him with some consolation by their silence. "Then Job replied: 'Listen carefully to my words; let this be the consolation you give me. Bear with me while I speak, and after I have spoken, mock on.'" (Job 21:1-3)

"Is my complaint directed to a human being? Why should I not be impatient?" (Job 21: 4) Why do these men keep trying to answer in God's place? It's God Job appeals to for answers, not man. And since God could easily answer all his questions in the blink of an eye, of course Job is impatient. He knows God is able to do all things, so he can't help wondering why God doesn't do something.

Don't we often feel the same way? We know God could speak one word and turn all our circumstances around. We can't help wondering why He doesn't always work that way. I wish I could tell you the answer to that but I don't know the answer. The best I can say is that I think it's somehow connected with the growth of our faith and with our trust in our God. We are meant to learn to trust Him in the way a little child trusts his father. We might not understand what He's doing, but maybe we can learn to feel confident He has our best interests at heart.

Job doesn't see how these men can look at him and not understand his impatience. "Look at me and be appalled; clap your hand over your mouth." (Job 21:5) He asks, "How can you keep judging me for the way I feel? Don't you see what's happened to me? Just the very sight of my grief and torment ought to take the words right out of your mouths."

Job is right. None of us can judge the feelings of another person, especially if we have never been in their place. It's natural for us, as Christians, to want to say or do something to diminish a person's impatience or anger toward God, but sometimes the best thing we can do is what Job wants his friends to do. He just wants them to sit beside him and mourn with him. Sometimes that's the most Christlike thing we can do. There will be time later on, when the person has a better grip on their feelings, to gently encourage them in the faith. During the worst part of their grief it's far better to provide a friend with a listening ear than a talking mouth.

"When I think about this, I am terrified; trembling seizes my body. Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not on them. Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry. They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre; they make merry to the sound of the pipe. They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace." (Job 21:7-13) Job asks a question we have all asked. Why do some of the very best people die young while some of the most evil people live to be old? Why do bad things sometimes happen to good people and good things sometimes happen to bad people?

Job's statement is in sharp contrast to the statements his friends have previously made. They have confidently (in error) proclaimed that if Job had been doing everything right he could have had whatever he wanted. His children would be alive, his flocks would be multiplying, his money would be piling up in the bank, and he would never be sick a day in his life. You and I both know it doesn't always work that way. These men have been basing their "facts" on their own observations and all I can say is they must not have been very bright fellows. If they had truly taken the time to look around them and consider their friends and neighbors, they would have clearly seen that sometimes bad things happen even when a person is doing his or her best. We live in a world where the fall of man ushered in the death of the body. The entire creation has been affected by the pollution of our sins. If what we have done to ourselves isn't bad enough, Satan roams the earth trying to see which of us is weak enough for him to cull from the herd. Of course bad things sometimes happen to good people and we would have to be willfully blind, like Job's friends, not to see this.

Even in his dreadful circumstances, Job possesses far more spiritual maturity than his companions. He doesn't understand the mind of God, but he understands the mind of man. He knows that peace and prosperity often take us farther away from God instead of leading us to Him, for he says of those who are wicked but live in comfort and luxury, "Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone! We have no desire to know Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? What would we gain by praying to Him?" (Job 21:14-15)

Wickedness may lead to fame and fortune in this world. This doesn't seem fair to us. But Job says there is a downside to their prosperity. Instead of being thankful for their blessings they say to God, "We don't need You! Didn't we do all these things on our own? Where were You when we worked our fingers to the bone and took our money to the bank? We did all these things by ourselves; what would we gain by bowing to You?" The one who says to God, "I don't need You," is even more lacking in wisdom than Job's three pals. "But their prosperity is not in their own hands, so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked." (Job 21:16) Not a single human being could take the next breath unless it was God's will for them to remain in this world. God could wipe out the fortunes of the wicked in an instant. Then we would see who is in charge. Then we would see who has power over all things...and it's God, not man.

Job sees the downside to the prosperity of the wicked and this leads him to conclude there must be an upside to the troubles of the godly. He will not join in with the schemes of wicked men. He will remain faithful to God, the God who has allowed affliction in his life, because he believes God has a reason for it. He believes that the godly man or woman can prosper spiritually in troubled times.

When we look back on our own lives, when did we learn more about Christ? Was it when we felt like we were on top of the world? Or was it when we needed His help the most? I've been through some things I would never want to go through again, but I can promise you with all my heart that I wouldn't love Jesus as much as I love Him today if there hadn't been bad times in my life. And I'm sure there will be circumstances in my future that will be difficult, if the Lord lets me live long enough, but all I can do is trust that I will grow in the Lord and love Him even more than I do today. In Job's pain he caught a shadowy glimpse of a higher purpose in his suffering. He knows God is working on something. Just what that something is isn't clear yet. But when he emerges from this long dark valley he will know his Redeemer like never before. He will have prospered in ways the wicked can never imagine.

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