Thursday, April 27, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 53, Conclusion

Today we come to the conclusion of the book of Job. In our introduction I warned that this was a book of questions, not answers. We know that God allowed Satan to attack Job, but we don't fully understand why. We have not unraveled the mystery of why God sometimes allows bad things to happen to good people. He never answered Job's questions of "why" but He did answer Job's questions of, "Are You really in control of everything, God? Is there a reason for my troubles, even if I never understand them? Are You still with me? Do You still love me? Are You a good God?"

When hardships come, most of us are in no danger of renouncing our belief in God and becoming atheists. We are unlikely to doubt He exists, but the danger is that we will find ourselves in Job's shoes, wondering whether God is good. We believe He's there, but doubt creeps in about His character. Does He really care about us? Is He in charge of our lives or not? Does He have our best interests at heart? These are the thoughts that have plagued Job the most. During the many sleepless nights he spoke of, the fear that clutched his heart wasn't that there may not be a God but that God may not be good. He now repents of such doubts, "Then Job replied to the Lord: 'I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures My plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know." (Job 42:1-3) He still doesn't know the reason for his suffering, but he admits that he spoke hastily when he accused God of being unrighteous toward him. Throughout the book he kept asking for a hearing before God the Judge, but what he had really done in his mind was call God into the courtroom and find Him guilty of unrighteousness. He had judged God's character based on his circumstances, not based on knowledge. He reached a verdict without knowing the whole story. He still doesn't know the whole story, but he knows enough now about the infinite intelligence of God to realize He must have a reason for everything that happens and, though those reasons may be incomprehensible to humans, those reasons are good.

"You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.' My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:4-6) In the original Hebrew he is saying he retracts everything he's said about God. He doesn't despise himself in the sense of having no self-esteem, but in the sense of being sorry for speaking hastily. He feels regret. Job has not literally seen God with his eyes, but the image he received of God simply by hearing His voice has brought him to his knees. He is overwhelmed by God's majesty. He is bowled over by His genius and power. This reaction is what always makes me feel so bad for those who live in rejection of God and believe they will stand before Him someday and put on a defense about their good deeds. No one in the Bible literally sees God face to face, but the mighty revelations they receive of Him often render them awestruck and speechless. Just the sight of God's messenger angels sometimes causes men of the Bible to shake with fear or faint; how much more would a person be shocked into silence when looking upon the living God? No one is going to put on a defense before this Judge. Either we have Christ as our defender in court or we stand before God on our own with our sins still clinging to us, but either way I don't think we are going to say a word on our behalf. If we did, it would be something like what Job says today, "I had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself."

"After the Lord had said these things to Job, He said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has.'" (Job 42:7) The Lord graciously passes over all the doubtful statements Job made about Him. He concentrates only the correct things Job has said about Him. Why does He do this? I think it's because Job just repented of the parts he got wrong. As far as God is concerned, those mistakes don't exist anymore. He has cast them behind His back, forgotten. Isn't this a beautiful picture of how God restores us when we repent? Look how quickly He moves on from Job's mistakes and praises him for the things he got right! Sometimes in our minds we feel like God might still be holding something against us, but we have the proof right here in these few verses of how quickly God leaves our mistakes behind. He's not holding a grudge against Job for the things he's repented of and He's not holding a grudge against us for the things we've repented of.

Job's friends need to do some repenting of their own. God goes on, "'So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to My servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has.' So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job's prayer." (Job 42:8-9) Job is not the only man the Lord humbles in this book. The Lord humbled Job for doubting that He is good; now He humbles Job's friends for doubting Job is good. The Lord had provided much evidence of His goodness and life-giving power; anyone could see the proof by viewing the marvelous creation, yet in his troubles Job doubted God's goodness. By the same token Job had provided much evidence of being a godly man by the way he lived, something his friends had viewed firsthand during the years they had known him, yet because of his troubles they doubted Job's goodness. God would have been righteous to harshly judge Job and his friends for their attitudes, but He accepted Job's prayer of repentance and now intends to accept Job's prayer on behalf of his friends. Job is to act as a mediator, to engage in intercessory prayer for these men who have wronged him. And here we find a wonderful example of how God, through Christ the Lord, acts as a mediator for those who have wronged Him. Job must now pray for the very men who have hurt him, but this is what Christ does for us! We have sinned against God, but God the Son acts as a mediator between us and God. In addition, when praying for us Christ is praying for those who have hurt Him personally, because it was our sins that nailed Him to the cross, our sins that put the bloody stripes on His back, and our sins that mashed the cruel crown of thorns on His head.

"After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and are with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land was there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers." (Job 42:10-15) The Lord not only restored Job's relationship with Himself, but He restored Job's relationship with his friends. Elihu, who spoke against Job for about five chapters, is not mentioned. For one thing, I don't think he was ever a friend of Job, but just a brash young man hanging around these elders waiting for a chance to show his smarts. For another thing, he may not have felt repentant about his wrong words as Job and his friends feel repentant about theirs. We don't know whether Elihu is even still standing there or whether he fled the scene when he heard the Lord's voice in the whirlwind. We can only assume that if he were still there, and if he possessed a sorrowful spirit over all his mistakes, the Lord would have offered him restoration. The fact that He does not mention him indicates that Elihu is either no longer there or that he maintains a prideful attitude.

"After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man and full of years." (Job 42:16-17) This verse reminds me of a saying attributed to Grandma Moses, "I look back on my life like a good day's work; it was done and I am satisfied with it." As Job looked back on his life, on the good times and the bad times, he was satisfied with it. He had experienced ecstatic highs and unbelievable lows, but he knew he had really lived. Have you ever known anyone who seemed to want to go through life feeling numb, who wanted to completely avoid anything that makes them uncomfortable or anything that will cause them to feel too much emotion? Isn't that kind of sad? When they are old and full of years and look back on their lives, can they say they really lived? I've experienced ecstatic highs and unbelievable lows and everything in between, but when I get to the end of my days I can say I really lived my life. I've run the entire gamut of every emotion there is. I've cried bitter tears and I've cried tears of joy. I've been through days that were so beautiful I couldn't imagine anything better. I've been through days so bad it was hard just to keep taking the next breath. But I've lived. And when I am old and full of years I hope I can look back on my life and say, "It was a good day's work. I've felt it all. I've been through it all. I am satisfied with it."

When we talk about bad things happening to good people, maybe it all comes down to a matter of perspective. From our human perspective, a good life would be one full of sunshine and clear skies with smooth sailing all the way. God is gracious enough to give us days like that, days when things couldn't be more perfect, days when we feel like we're on top of the world. But from God's perspective, smooth sailing isn't always what's best for us. Instead of shielding us from the storm, sometimes He takes us right through it. He lets the clouds come. He lets the rain pour down. He causes us to have to hold on to Him for dear life. To God even our bad times are good times if they bring us closer to Him. And it's not as if He sends us into the storm alone. He's standing on the boat with us as the rain pelts us and as the wind whips our hair and as we rise and fall on the mighty waves. He invites us to enjoy the exhilaration of the storm, to surrender to its wildness, and to trust Him to bring us through. Then, as we look back on our lives, we can say, "It was a bumpy ride, but my God was with me all the way, and it was good!"

Below is a link to a lovely worship song I heard on the radio yesterday. It speaks of God's goodness and I think it goes perfectly with our study of the book of Job. I thank you for making this journey with me. I hope our study time has been a blessing to you.
King Of My Heart

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