Scripture Reading: Job 17 - 18 ...
Have you ever gotten involved in a conversation that starts in one place and ends up in another? That's much of the book of Job. What began as a visit by some friends who had heard about Job's tragedy in losing his children and his possessions became a theological debate that had little if anything to do with what was going on in Job's life. We, of course, have the advantage of the first chapter, so we know that God was not punishing Job for some sin, but rather, using him as a testimony for God's glory. Here we are, probably nearly 4,000 years later, still talking about Job and learning lessons from his sufferings. Satan was defeated, the Savior has come and God wins ... and so does Job! But arriving at that place was more of a struggle than it needed to be, thanks to Job's friends.
Having been "backed into a corner" by their lack of comfort and counsel, and their incorrect assumption that God was punishing Job for his sin, Job defended himself repeatedly. It is true that Job and his friends make some true statements. Most theological debates contain some truth (not all, but most). As with this one, however, the saying is often true that "there is more heat than light." Job and his friends say some things that are true ... but they are so far off track in understanding what Job is going through and why, that even though they say some true things, their argument is pointless. They should have focused on the character of God ... on what they KNEW rather than what they didn’t know.
This has been a problem for sinful people for thousands of years and continues to be today. In the days of Moses, centuries after Job lived, God had brought judgment on the people of Israel for their refusal to go into the promised land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Shortly before Moses died and the people finally entered the land, Moses addressed the people and warned them to trust God and to obey Him and God would bless them. If they failed to do that God’s judgment would come and the nations around them would ask, “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?” (Deuteronomy 29:24). And then he says the answer will be, “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers” (Deuteronomy 29:25).
God then reveals to them an unchanging principle that applies in Job’s situation and in every situation you and I may find ourselves in today: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Simply put, you and I don’t know everything, and we don’t NEED to know everything. What we need to do is know GOD and listen to His voice and obey His commands.
Following Jesus Christ today is not a matter of getting a free pass to heaven, but rather, to be transformed into new creations; into people with a new heart, a new mind and a new will ... into a people who will love God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. Trying to “figure out” life and why things happen as they do is the recipe for despair and many follow that path. Faith and obedience lead to God’s blessing as we follow Jesus Christ, seeking to be like Him, knowing that because He paid our debt our sins are forgiven and we are God’s beloved children. Only those who believe in Jesus have that assurance and that peace.
Returning to Job, in Chapter 17, Job's attention is on the grave. He is feeling compelled to give up, yet he holds on ... no thanks to his friends! Verse 3 is an interesting verse: "Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else will put up security for me?" What is Job saying? It appears that Job is asking God to "pay his debt," realizing that IF God is punishing him, Job cannot pay what he owes ... and neither can anyone else. Job declares that in spite of how it looks, "the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger" (17:9).
Job continues to try to look beyond his present circumstances. "If the only home I hope for is the grave ... (17:13) ... where then is my hope?" (17:15). It is as though Job is saying, "There MUST be something more to hope in!!" And we will discover already in the Chapter 19 what that hope is!
Then comes Bildad ... again. He goes on what can only be described as a tirade against those who are evil. What he says is true enough: "The lamp of the wicked is snuffed out ..." (18:5). "The memory of him perishes from the earth ... He is driven from light into darkness and is banished from the world" (18:17-18). He concludes by saying, "Surely such is the dwelling of an evil man; such is the place of one who knows not God" (18:21).
Don't you want to say, "WHAT'S YOUR POINT, BILDAD??!!!" Job knew that ... but Job also knew God! People who know God need encouragement to hold on to the truth of God's love and grace and to find strength through trusting in Him. People who know God, but who are going through trials and suffering, need to hear of God's faithfulness and the comfort that He gives to those who wait on Him, who trust in Him, even though they may FEEL as though God is far away. They DON'T need to be "bashed" time after time with accusations that they are getting what they deserve and that God's punishment is just.
We ALL deserve God's judgment, but His compassions are new every morning and His faithfulness to those who know Him and who love Him is endless and sure. THAT's what Job needed to hear ... but his friends didn't get it. They didn't help Job ... at all! I pray that we will do better as we encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through suffering and trials. Truth is truth, but there is a time and place to share it, and we need to pray for wisdom to know when and where and how to use God's Word to build one another up and to point each other to Christ!
"Father, we confess that we do not always understand the 'why' of things that happen in our lives and the lives of those around us. But we trust in You and thank You for Your love and grace through Your Son Jesus Christ. Give us wisdom to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and fill us with Your Spirit so that we may offer hope to those who are facing suffering and trials. In Jesus' name, Amen"