Tuesday, April 11, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 37, Job Wishes He Could Go Back In Time

"Job continued his discourse: 'How I long for the months gone by, for the days when God watched over me, when His lamp shone on my head and by His light I walked through darkness!'" (Job 29:1-3) I think this is one of the saddest verses in the book of Job. He wishes he could go back in time and even more fully enjoy all the blessings he had before trouble came into his life. He once spent every day feeling like his whole life was bathed in the rich glow of God's love, but now he thinks God has abandoned him. He feels orphaned and alone. God seems so far away from him because the blessings seem to have stopped flowing. In his confusion and bitterness he thinks God has become his enemy.

"Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil." (Job 29:4-6) He misses the days of youth and good health, he misses his children, but most of all he misses the feeling of closeness with God. If he could just get that back, Job believes he could make it through.

He's lost the respect of his acquaintances because they, like the three friends who have been sitting with him, have judged him a secret sinner. But He would probably consider this bearable if he felt like God was still on his side. Here we learn how much the townspeople once revered Job and his wisdom. "When I went to the gate of the city and took my seat in the public square, the young men saw me and stepped aside and the old men rose to their feet; the chief men refrained from speaking and covered their mouths with their hands; the voices of the nobles were hushed, and their tongues stuck to the roof of their mouths." (Job 29:7-10) Having a seat in the public square likely means Job was a judge. Knowing what a godly man he was, we can be certain he judged fairly all the cases brought before him. But now he finds himself unfairly judged by those who know him. The elders no longer stand in respect when they see him; the young men feel no need to move aside and let him through. They believe he's been fooling them all along, that he is a terrible sinner who is now getting the punishment he deserves from the Lord.

"Whoever heard me spoke well of me, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist them. The one who was dying blessed me; I made the widow's heart sing. I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth." (Job 29:11-17) Job's friends have accused him of defrauding the widow and the orphan, of oppressing the poor, of taking advantage of the needy. But this is not true. He has lived his life openly, doing good deeds from a good heart, and no one can be found who has any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. There is suspicion and gossip, but there is no proof because it doesn't exist.

Now we get to the root of why Job feels so deeply offended by God. Because of his good deeds and his faithfulness to the Lord, he expected nothing but good to happen to him. "I thought, 'I will die in my own house, my days as numerous as the grains of sand. My roots will reach to the water, and the dew will lie all night on my branches. My glory will not fade; the bow will be ever new in my hand.'" (Job 29:18-20) Job says, "I thought I would someday die in peace in my own bed, old and full of years, with my children gathered around me. I expected to flourish like a tree planted by streams of water. I believed everything I did would prosper. I thought I would retain my health and strength til the end." Job, in his Old Testament thinking, saw his relationship with the Lord as a contract in which he was expected to perform certain duties and the Lord was required to provide certain rewards. I don't know about you, but I've indulged in this type of thinking myself. I thought that as long as my family and I were faithful to the Lord, doing what was right as best we could, no troubles would come into our lives. I thought God owed me a life of comfort and ease because I had not denied His name. The Bible doesn't promise me a life filled with nothing but good times, but I still somehow expected that from the Lord, and I was offended when things didn't work out according to my plans. The root of Job's problem is this: he feels he has kept his end of the bargain but God isn't keeping His. Job is wrong, but I can sympathize with him, having been in the same frame of mind myself.

Job may have lived long before the unnamed author of the first poem of the book of psalms, but he had the same expectations, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither---whatever they do prospers." (Psalm 1:1-3) So does this mean God doesn't keep His word? Does He not bless the one who doesn't conspire with the wicked? Does He not bring abundant fruit from the life of the one who delights in Him? God's promise in Psalm 1 still stands. He does indeed bless the one who loves Him, though that blessing may be more spiritual than material. The Lord takes delight in the one who takes delight in Him. He will bring forth fruit from the life of the one who trusts in Him, but that fruit may be encouraged to grow only by constantly working the soil and pruning any branch that doesn't produce. The Lord Jesus Christ said that God the Father worked with Him in the same way He works with us, "He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:2)

Job lived a fruitful life in his prosperity, but I think it's safe to say he was probably even more fruitful after his time of trouble and pruning. If nothing else, his compassion for others had to be deeper, his sympathy even more genuine, his tears even more plentiful as he consoled a grieving father and mother, his help even more generous when he visited those in financial hardship, his understanding more complete as he comforted those who had been betrayed by friends, his encouragement more effective as he built the faith of others who felt like turning their backs on God in disappointment. If even the Lord Jesus Christ endured pruning at the Father's hands, Job couldn't expect to escape it and we can't expect to escape it. The fruitfulness that is promised in Psalm 1 is guaranteed; it's just that fruitfulness is not always achieved in times of prosperity. God's idea of what a blessing consists of may not line up with our idea of what a blessing consists of. I think, in God's eyes, a blessing may be anything that causes us to grow spiritually, to seek Him more urgently, and to lean on Him more fully. Anything that's painful seems bad to us. But maybe our heavenly Gardener simply noticed we needed a little bit of pruning, and with loving hands He removed some dead and dying branches, allowing us to more fully flourish and produce even more beautiful fruit.

No comments:

Post a Comment