Thursday, April 13, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 39, Job Describes His Godly Life

Job is in the midst of making his final defense. His three friends have stopped talking altogether. They can't refute his logic but they refuse to believe God would let bad things happen to a good man, so they sit in silence. Job says God isn't answering his prayers even though he has done his best to live a godly life.

He accuses the Lord, "You turn on me ruthlessly; with the might of Your hand You attack me. You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; You toss me about in the storm. I know You will bring me down to death, to the place appointed for all the living." (Job 30:20-23) Job feels certain God won't let up until he dies. We will learn in the last chapter that he makes a full recovery and lives on for another 140 years, but in his distress of mind and body he believes death is not far away.

Job has been a comforter to those in trouble and he can't understand why God isn't comforting him in his trouble. "Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help in his distress. Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me. I go about blackened, but not by the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry for help. I have become a brother of jackals, a companion of owls. My skin grows black and peels; my body burns with fever. My lyre is tuned to mourning, and my pipe to the sound of wailing." (Job 30:24-31) He says, "Who would kick a man who is already down? Yet God, my friends, and those in my community keep adding to my sorrows. This was never my attitude toward those who are hurting. I wept with those who were weeping. My heart broke for the brokenhearted. I have been good to people and faithful to God; why did bad things happen to me? I'm an outcast because of my illness and the rumors of my secret sins. I'm lonely. I can't even enjoy my music anymore or sing any praise and worship songs. All I can do is sing the blues."

Next Job goes on to declare himself innocent of several specific sins. I tend to believe these are the sins he is rumored to have committed. No doubt he's heard the whispers behind his back. He's aware of the songs the drunkards sing about him in the taverns. If you've ever been the victim of malicious gossip, you know how humiliating and unfair it is. Several times in my life I've been the victim of outrageous slander and I thought it would have been much easier to bear the gossip if any of it were true. It's one thing to suffer for wrongdoing. That makes sense to us. But it's quite another thing to be accused of things we haven't done, especially when we can't find any way to prove our innocence. In those cases there's not much we can do but depend on God to vindicate us, but it's hard to wait for Him when we know people are whispering behind our backs.

"I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is is not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does He not see my ways and count my every step?" (Job 31:1-4) I want to take a moment to applaud Job's resolve. In our own day, when we are bombarded by sexual images even while driving past some of the billboards or standing in the grocery store checkout line, how refreshing it is to hear a man say, "I refuse to look with lust on a young woman. I'm going to be faithful to my wife not only with my body, but also with my eyes and my mind." This goes for women too, because the world has begun to market sex to women in the same way it has always marketed it to men. Job says, "I know I might have been able to commit sexual sins and kept them secret for a while. But God would have known. I refuse to sin against Him in this way."

"If I have walked with falsehood or my foot has hurried after deceit---let God weigh me in honest scales and He will know that I am blameless---if my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled, then may others eat what I have sown, and may my crops be uprooted." (Job 31:5-8) Job's friends have accused him of being dishonest in business and defrauding people. Here he insists he has done no such thing and calls upon God to prove his honesty. Bible scholar Adam Clarke points out that the Hebrew word shau is used verse 5 when Job says his foot has not hurried after deceit, indicating that idolatry is referenced in this passage along with dishonesty. Shau means vanity and it is used elsewhere in the Scriptures in relation to the idolatrous practices of Israel and Judah. Job has not turned aside from the one true God to worship false gods.

"If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or if I have lurked at my neighbor's door, then may my wife grind another man's grain, and may other men sleep with her. For that would have been wicked, a sin to be judged. It is a fire that burns to Destruction; it would have uprooted my harvest." (Job 31:9-12) Job moves back to the subject of sexual sins, possibly because his accusers are obsessed with this idea in particular. Earlier in Chapter 31 he mentioned he made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully on a young woman, and in that case he may have meant an unmarried woman. In verses 9-12 he asserts he has never lusted after a married woman either. He may have lived before the ten commandments were given, but he has kept the one that says, "Do not commit adultery." He has obeyed God's instruction, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife." (Deuteronomy 5:21a) Job realizes if he had been unfaithful to his wife he would have broken his covenant with her, so he says, "If I have committed adultery, then may my wife become the wife of someone else, may she cook meals for another man. If I have been running around after other women, then may my wife repay me by running around after other men."

Job has compared adultery to a fire that burns until it destroys. Solomon said something similar about the man who lusts for his neighbor's wife, "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished." (Proverbs 6:27-29) Job asks, "If I were a sinner such as this, wouldn't God have punished me long before now? Wouldn't He have allowed the woman's husband to find out so he could come and take out his wrath on me? Would I have been able to hide such sins for so long?"

In tomorrow's section Job will conclude his list of specific sins he did not commit, and then a new accuser will speak up, a man we weren't previously told was listening to the conversation between Job and his friends. He is going to be just as much of a trial to Job as his three unfaithful friends have been. But relief is coming, although it may not feel like it now. God Himself will eventually speak up and He won't have anything nice to say about Job's accusers.

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