Thursday, April 6, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 32, Job Asks Why God Doesn't Put A Stop To Wickedness

I would be willing to bet every one of my readers may have asked at one time or another, "Why doesn't God put a stop to wickedness? Why does He allow ungodly people to do evil things?" Job asks these same questions today. He looks around him and sees injustice in the land. He hears terrible stories of oppression and abuse and he wonders why God doesn't step in and put a stop to all the evil things that happen on the earth.

"Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know Him look in vain for such days?" (Job 24:1) Job says, "Why doesn't His wrath fall on the ungodly? Why hasn't He set a day to carry out their punishment? We who are godly keep expecting to see something bad happen to evil people, but so far all we've seen is that they continue to prosper."

"There are those who move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen. They drive away the orphan's donkey and take the widow's ox in pledge." (Job 24:2-3) It is against God's law to move a neighbor's boundary stone, "Do not move your neighbor's boundary stone...Cursed is anyone who removes his neighbor's boundary stone." (Deuteronomy 19:14a, 27:17a) It is the same as stealing when someone moves a neighbor's boundary stone in order to make his own pasture larger. Job says he knows people who wouldn't think twice about doing such a thing; they are always looking out only for themselves. In addition, he knows people who oppress the widow and the orphan, a thing that is also contrary to God's law, "Religion that God our Father accepts is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

"They thrust the needy from the path and force all the poor of the land into hiding. Like wild donkeys in the desert, the poor go about their labor of foraging food; the wasteland provides food for their children. They gather fodder in the fields and glean in the vineyards of the wicked. Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked; they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. They are drenched by mountain rains and hug the rocks for lack of shelter." (Job 24:4-8) The Lord urges us to have compassion on the poor, to be openhanded toward them and supply their needs. (Deuteronomy 15:11) The Lord Jesus condemned the attitude of turning a blind eye to the poor and needy. He warned that it will not go well for such cruel people in the judgment. "'For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.'" (Matthew 25:42-45)

"The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. Lacking clothes, they go about naked; they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry. They crush olives among the terraces; they tread the winepress, yet suffer thirst. The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no one with wrongdoing." (Job 24:9-12) Bible scholar Adam Clarke sums up verses 9 through 12 like this, "Job's object was to show, in opposition to the mistaken doctrine of his friends, that God did not hastily punish every evil work, nor reward every good one. That vice often went long unpunished, and virtue unrewarded, and that we must not judge of a man's state either by his prosperity or adversity. Therefore, there might be cases in which the innocent oppressed poor were crying to God for a redress of their grievances, and were not immediately heard, and in which their oppressors were faring sumptuously every day, without any apparent mark of the Divine displeasure."

We would like to see wicked deeds punished immediately. We long to see good deeds rewarded right away. To our human understanding this seems fair and reasonable. But God's thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) He is longsuffering toward the wicked, giving them time and opportunity to repent. The Lord has promised to judge the wicked and indeed He will if they do not repent, but He will do it in His own timing and in His own way. "The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

God builds the character of the godly by not patting believers on the head every time we do something right, which would likely lead to pride and arrogance on our part. God expects us to go about our work for His kingdom faithfully, whether we are rewarded during this lifetime or whether we wait to receive our reward in heaven. We are to be trustworthy servants like Joseph the son of Jacob, who endured a great deal of unfair hardship before he was raised to power in Egypt. We are to follow the example of Daniel, who faced down the lions in King Nebuchadnezzar's den before his value as a wise man in Babylon was recognized. We can mimic the patience of David, whose life was in peril every day for about fifteen years because of the wicked King Saul, who had to wait a long time before he received God's promise of being made king of Israel. There are many unnamed soldiers in the army of God whose chests are not covered in medals and whose heads are not adorned with crowns, but we can be certain God never overlooks what any of His faithful soldiers do for Him. "God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10)

Job, like all of us, wants to see wicked deeds punished. It satisfies his sense of justice. He wants to see this happen in the here and now, on this earth, because his faith is at a very low level right now due to his tragedies. He believes it would strengthen him in the Lord if he could look around him and see wrath fall on the ungodly.

Job wants to see the righteous rewarded with good things. He knows he's lived his whole life for the Lord. He isn't perfect but his heart is right with God. He repents when he messes up. He's sorry when he makes mistakes. It grieves his heart when he stumbles on the path of righteousness. This is all God asks of any of us because He knows He made us from the dust of the ground. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our righteousness is from Christ and not from ourselves. It's natural for those of us who follow the Lord to expect rewards for our good deeds, but those rewards don't always appear immediately any more than the judgment of the wicked appears immediately.

Can we make peace with being patient? Job will be able to do this by the end of the book. He still won't understand everything he wants to understand, but he will be willing to leave the timing of judgment and rewards up to God. Many things in this world seem unfair to us and sometimes we wonder whether the ungodly will ever be punished for their wickedness or whether the godly will ever be recognized for their good deeds. God has a day in store for both these things. It's all up to Him. Are we willing to trust Him with that?

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