google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Job - Why God? - Part 5

Study 5 : Job 20-23

Job begins to see his way forward.

In chapter 20 Zophar is clearly convinced that Job is a sinner and is suffering as a direct consequence. He doesn’t say so directly but it is the obvious implication of what he says. In the Bible sin is almost always a result of how somebody has failed to live well in relationship to other people. It is seldom about a failure to live well directly towards God by failing to worship correctly or failing to follow the correct prescribed religious observances. So Zophar criticizes Job in his actions towards other people. Zophar raises another and more difficult question. He seems to suggest that there is a major difference between good and evil in how long they last. He says that evil is inherently short lived, unlike good that lasts. Well, he doesn’t actually say that good lasts longer but that, again, would seem to be strongly implied by what he says. Listen out for those two implications as I read the chapter.


Question:       what do you think? Is it true that those who delight in evil things know that they do not last? Are they always looking over their shoulders wondering whether they will be found out? Are good things always more enjoyable than those that are not good?

Answer:        that is a really difficult one, but it is worth thinking about. Think of the things that you do. Is it true that the enjoyment of the good lasts longer than the enjoyment of the not so good? I think it is because I am happy to remember the good things I have done but always try to forget the bad things. But that is a personal opinion with which not everone would agree. Have you got a friend you could argue it out with?


In the next chapter, 21, Job vigorously repudiates the implied accusation against him. He points out that some people behave very badly but God does not punish them. He reckons that we all, good and bad alike, have to live in the middle of the NCL, the Normal Chaos of Life. Here is chapter 21.


I introduced the idea of the NCL early in these studies, which may have surprised or even shocked you! My justification for doing so is here in this chapter and will be confirmed in chapter 23. Very often preachers and teachers will take a very simplistic line: good things happen to good people, bad things to bad people. This may be very subtly done. When we were teaching in a school in Pakistan many of the staff would tell the kids: your parents are doing good things so no harm will come to them. They had a difficult time explaining what had happened when one of the parents was killed by a falling rock on a straightforward local walk. The NCL exists, as Job says.


In the next chapter Eliphaz  accuses Job of wrongdoing, particularly to the defenceless – widows and orphans. I will read that now. READ.  I find that accusation interesting because we have been watching a TV drama series, Downton Abbey. It tells the story of a large household belonging to a senior nobleman, the Earl of Grantham. He is portrayed as having to take the decisions for a great many people, family, friends and servants. It is apparent that in many things, because he is the controlling boss man, he takes views that are strikingly different from those of just about everybody else around him. Perhaps this is what Eliphaz is highlighting here. Job had a huge household, before the disasters hit him, and had to make many decisions, being the controlling boss to an even greater extent than the Earl of Grantham. So, for instance, we read in v6 that he took clothes from the poor to guarantee payment of a debt. Faced with conflicting demands on his resources Job has opted for the rich man’s solution. He has been taking a rich man’s view of what is right and what is wrong and needs to revise his thinking. So we read in v13 – 14, “Do you think the deep darkness hides you from God? / Do thick clouds cover his eyes , as he walks around heaven’s dome high above the earth.” And in 23 – 26 “If you return to God and turn from sin, all will go well for you. / So get rid of your finest gold, as though it were sand. / Let God all powerful be your silver and gold, and you will find happiness by worshipping him.”


That all makes good sense. The trouble is that it is all wrong; it is not a true picture of Job. Job’s self portrait in chapters 29 and 32 is very different and fits much better the view we get from all the rest of the story. He was an essentially good and righteous man.


To return to what Eliphaz said: the NT equivalent is when Jesus said to the rich young man “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”


Are you rich? Am I rich? Our probable reaction is to say – of course not! But by the standards of the ages we are rich. You are using a computer or a tablet to hear or read this. That is an item of enormously sophisticated luxury, unknown to the vast majority of those who have ever lived on this planet. We are rich.


Question:       in what ways do you mistreat the poor? Who suffers so that you can eat cheap food, wear cheap clothes and so on? Are there subtle ways that we, like Job according to Eliphaz, live well because we are rich?

Answer:        up to you of course. But these are difficult things to confront if you, like me, live in the affluent west!


Job continues to struggle with his problem – what is called the problem of Theodicy, that is ‘how can we reconcile so much evil in the world with our understanding that God is a good God?’ First he struggles with his inability to get close enough to God to challenge him over what has happened. Here is chapter 23.


Job has a problem but he is also close to, if not exactly a solution, at least to the best way forward for him, and indeed for us. He wants contact and fellowship with God, not a solution to the academic riddle of Theodicy. He is very right to do so and will eventually achieve that contact and fellowship in the last few chapters of the book.


We have the same problem as Job – how can we understand the world in which we live where so much can go wrong and there is so much evil. And our solution is the same as his – we need to be close to God; we need fellowship with God. But we are much better off than poor old Job because we know about a broken, suffering God-man hanging on a cross, dying, sharing in all the worst that this world has. We are part of his people, Jesus’ people. ‘We have been united with him in a death like his’ therefore ‘we will be united with him in a resurrection like his’ as Paul says in Romans 6. And, as he tells the Colossian Christians (3: 1 – 4) ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Wow! Rejoice in whatever of this world’s difficulties, troubles and agonies may come your way because you have a glorious future with the Risen Jesus.


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