Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 38, Job Says God Does Not Answer Him

We are in the portion of the book of Job known as "Job's Final Defense". Today he continues to mourn the fact that those who once respected him now laugh at him. He says that even God no longer answers him.

"People listened to me expectantly, waiting in silence for my counsel. After I had spoken, they spoke no more; my words fell gently on their ears. They waited for me as for showers and drank in my words as the spring rain. When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them. I chose the way for them and sat as their chief; I dwelt as a king among his troops; I was like one who comforts mourners." (Job 29:21-25) When Job stood up to speak in the assembly, people listened. A hush fell over the crowd and they gave him all their attention.

But now he has lost his good name through no fault of his own. "But now they mock me, men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs." (Job 30:1) Young men, who should have respected their elders, laugh at him. And these are not men from godly and reverent families either; these are men whose fathers Job wouldn't have trusted to watch the dogs that guard the sheep. Now these men are able to look down on Job. They were probably jealous of him to begin with because of his wonderful reputation and his wealth. His troubles have given them an opportunity to make fun of him. They can feel better about themselves now that they believe Job is just as much a sinner as they are.

"Of what use was the strength of their hands to me, since their vigor had gone from them?" (Job 30:2) Job asks, "Why should I have employed their fathers? They were of unfaithful character. There was no strength of the Lord in them. They could not be trusted."

Because these young men's fathers had proven themselves poor workers, they ended up destitute and unemployed. But that isn't Job's fault; he says they brought it on themselves. "Haggard from want and hunger, they roamed the parched land in desolate wastelands at night. In the brush they gathered salt herbs, and their food was the root of the broom bush. They were banished from human society, shouted at as if they were thieves. They were forced to live in the dry stream beds, among the rocks and in holes in the ground. They brayed among the bushes and huddled in the undergrowth. A base and nameless brood, they were driven out of the land." (Job 30:3-8)

How humiliating it must have been for Job to find himself treated like these outcasts of society, like these men whom no one would want working in their house or on their farm. "And now those young men mock me in song; I have become a byword among them. They detest me and keep their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face." (Job 30:9-10) Imagine how galling it would be to have ungodly and profane men spit in your face, to know you were the subject of the crude songs they sang in the taverns. Job probably never wanted to show his face outside his house again. But he could not have known in the times of the patriarchs that the same type of mistreatment would later befall the Son of God. He views himself as afflicted more than any other man on earth, and perhaps he was in his day, but the Son of God would be afflicted in the same way. The prophet Isaiah foresaw the Messiah's ill treatment and spoke for Christ when he said, "I offered my back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting." (Isaiah 50:6) King David, moved by the Holy Spirit, predicted that Christ would become the subject of the drunkard's songs just like Job, "Those who sit at the gate mock Me, and I am the song of the drunkards." (Psalm 69:12) Job is in misery because of the pain and itching of his skin condition, but when God came in the flesh He was going to know exactly how it felt to suffer in body. Isaiah predicted that when the Messiah was presented to the people they would reject Him, they would be appalled by how terrible He looked after being beaten, because "His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness". (Isaiah 52:14) Job looks and feels awful, but Isaiah says that Christ won't even look human once the Roman soldiers have finished with Him. So many times we feel alone in our troubles, as if no one could possibly understand our suffering, but we have a Redeemer who feels our pain. As the Apostle Paul said, "We do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses." (Hebrews 4:15)

"Now that God has unstrung my bow and afflicted me, they throw off restraint in my presence. On my right the tribe attacks; they lay snares for my feet, they build their siege ramps against me. They break up my road; they succeed in destroying me. 'No one can help him,' they say. They advance as through a gaping breach; amid the ruins they come rolling in. Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud." (Job 30:11-15) Don't these sound like words Christ could have spoken about His own predicament? Like Job, He knew His suffering was ordained by God. Job says, "God has unstrung my bow". Christ was stricken and afflicted by God (Isaiah 53:4) and it was the Lord's will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer. (Isaiah 53:10) Job feels surrounded like a city under siege; Christ felt the same way, "Many bulls surround Me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle Me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against Me...Dogs surround Me, a pack of villains encircles Me." (Psalm 22:12,13,16a) Job's community mocked him and said, "No one can help him." The people of Jesus' community joked sarcastically, "Let the Lord rescue Him. Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him." (Psalm 22:8b)

Job believes he is going to die. "And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest. In His great power God becomes like clothing to me; He binds me like the neck of my garment. He throws me into the mud, and I am reduced to dust and ashes." (Job 30:16-19) Sometimes it might be possible to run away and escape our problems and responsibilities, but we can't run away from illness in our own bodies. Job says, "God has caught me fast, just as if He grabbed me by the neck of my robe. I cannot escape! I am pierced by this pain." Another was also caught, though willingly, and could not escape His pain, "They pierce My hands and My feet," (Psalm 22:16b) and, "He was pierced for our transgressions." (Isaiah 53:5)

And now Job expresses his most painful complaint of all: in his troubles he can't feel the presence of God. He doesn't feel like God hears him. He thinks God has abandoned him. "I cry out to You, God, but You do not answer." (Job 30:20a) This is the same feeling that bothered Jesus the most as He hung on the cross and cried out these words from Psalm 22, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15;34) No wonder the Lord Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother! (Proverbs 18:24) He draws especially close to us when we are hurting because He knows how we feel. He knows what it's like to be made fun of, or betrayed, or to be in physical and mental anguish. He understands how easy it is for us to believe God has forsaken us. He has experienced such pain that it seemed like God was very far away. No one else can comfort us as Jesus can. I think Job sensed that, although God allowed his suffering, God was also the One who could help him. And so he clings to the Lord even in his pain, just as Christ did, and maintains the hope of the reward for a godly life, just as Christ did, who "for the joy set before Him endured the cross" because after His suffering and resurrection He "sat down at the right hand of the throne of God". (Hebrews 12:2) The Apostle Paul urges us to look to Christ for an example of how to endure suffering. He says that if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we will be able to run the race, that if we use Him as our example we will not lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3) I don't know what you might be going through today, but there's nothing that can happen to any of us that Jesus isn't able to understand. We can lean on Him and trust Him to see us through. Because He has suffered, He is able to comfort all who are suffering.

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