Sunday, April 2, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 29, Job's Answer To Zophar, Part Two

Job has been pointing out to his friends that doing good does not guarantee an easy life, nor does living wickedly guarantee a hard life.

"Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in His anger? How often are they like straw before the wind, like chaff swept away by a gale?" (Job 21:17-18) He asks, "How often do we see the wicked getting what they deserve? Isn't it more likely they will continue to prosper in their crooked ways?"

"It is said, 'God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.' Let Him repay the wicked, so that they themselves will experience it! Let their own eyes see their destruction; let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty. For what do they care about the families they leave behind when their allotted months come to an end?" (Job 21:19-21) Men like Job's friends, who watched eagerly for calamity to come upon the wicked, must have been puzzled when it didn't look to them as if God's wrath was falling very heavily on the ungodly. To explain this problem, they comforted themselves by saying, "Well, God is waiting to pour out His wrath in the days of their descendants. That's why we haven't seen anything bad happen to our sinful neighbors yet."

Earlier in our study of Job we looked at Psalm 73. The psalmist Asaph had many of the same questions as Job, but after going to the temple and spending time with the Lord he realized that rewards for good living or evil living are not necessarily given out in this lifetime. Asaph was a believer and he said this would happen upon his death, "You will take me into glory". (Psalm 73:24b) But he said of the ungodly, "Those who are far from You will perish." (Psalm 73:27a) The perishing he speaks of is not the annihilation of the soul but the same type of destruction the Lord Jesus spoke of when He used the word gehenna (destruction) for the word we translate as hell. Gehenna referred to the Valley of Ben Hinnom where the pagan Canaanite tribes, and even some of the Jews, sacrificed children to a false god. It was considered a valley of destruction, unclean forever because of the things that happened there. So we find that, even though we might not see the wicked reaping the full punishment of their behavior while they live on this earth, there is a destination prepared for their unrepentant souls. They will remain in their state of uncleanness forever. And God perhaps lets them live long on the earth so that in the judgment they will never be able to say, "You didn't give me a chance! You weren't good to me! I never had an opportunity to repent!"

"Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since He judges even the highest? One person dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, well nourished in body, bones rich with marrow. Another dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both." (Job 21:22-26) King Solomon, in his depression over the prosperity of the wicked, said something very similar to what Job says, "The wise have eyes in their heads, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I said to myself, 'The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?' I said to myself, 'This too is meaningless.' For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!" (Ecclesiastes 2:14-16) Both Job and Solomon agree that if we consider only this life, it does indeed seem unfair at times. We see evil people getting ahead by trampling on the righteous. Both the good and the bad meet the same fate; both go to the grave. If it ended there we would have no hope at all. But Christ, like all other humans, also went to the grave. Christ, like many other godly people, received ill treatment instead of rewards on this earth. But Christ, unlike all other men, rose from the dead under His own power, to forever live and make intercession for all who will believe on Him. Whether or not we receive rewards for righteous living on the earth, we have rewards stored up for us in heaven. And no one will ever be able to take those away from us.

Job says to his friends, "I know full well what you are thinking, the schemes by which you would wrong me. You say, 'Where now is the house of the great, the tents where the wicked lived?' Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts---that the wicked are spared from the day of calamity, that they are delivered from the day of wrath?" (Job 21:27-30) He asks, "How can you cling to your belief that good things never happen to bad people and bad things never happen to good people? Even if you have never seen with your own eyes any examples that the wicked continue to prosper, haven't you ever chatted with a traveling man? Haven't you ever heard of people who make their fortunes by defrauding the godly?"

"Who denounces their conduct to their face? Who repays them for what they have done?" (Job 21:31) Job has observed that the ungodly are rarely called to account for their wickedness. They are more likely to be congratulated for their cleverness. The sons of Korah said in Psalm 49:18b, "people praise you when you prosper". Isn't that the truth? Doesn't the world heap adulation on the rich and famous even if that wealth was gained by sin?

"They are carried to the grave, and watch is kept over their tombs. The soil in the valley is sweet to them; everyone follows after them, and a countless throng goes before them." (Job 21:32-33) Have you noticed how the world tends to mourn the death of celebrities, no matter how sinful their lifestyles may have been? I've seen a few people shed more tears over a celebrity they never even met than they shed over the deaths of those they actually knew. Even in death Job notices that the prosperous wicked receive honor. Processions of mourners follow their coffins to the tomb. Women weep and wail at the graveside. Guards are set so no tomb robbers are able to come and steal the fine jewelry and other accessories buried with the body. Yet the faithful saint lies nearby in a humble tomb, with no large funeral procession, with no flags flying at half mast, with no day of mourning declared to observe his passing.

Job concludes that everything his three companions have said is meaningless. They have no idea what they are talking about when they pompously state that only bad things happen to bad people and only good things happen to good people. "So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!" (Job 21:34) There is no consolation in falsehood. These men are wrong but they are too stubborn to consider this possibility. The only words that will ever console us are words of truth, the words found in the holy Bible, the words that promise us eternity with Christ and the rewards of having lived a faithful life.

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