Scripture to meditate on:
Then Job replied:
“Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.
Bear with me while I speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.
“Is my complaint directed to a human being?
Why should I not be impatient?
Look at me and be appalled;
clap your hand over your mouth.
When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?
They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not on them.
Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.
They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre;
they make merry to the sound of the pipe.
They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.
Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?’
But their prosperity is not in their own hands,
so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.
“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?
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?
“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.
“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?
Who denounces their conduct to their face?
Who repays them for what they have done?
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.
“So how can you console me with your nonsense?
Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!” – Job 21
In today’s reading Job takes a direct run at his friend’s faulty reasoning about sin and punishment. Despite their claim that the wicked will always experience punishment, Job uses his personal experience to argue the opposite: The wicked thrive and are contemptuous toward God (vv. 6-17).
Job’s conclusions here are harsh. While his friend’s conclusions maybe wrong, surely Job’s aren’t much better. He tells his friends that God is out of the loop and that the wicked are successful apart from him. Job says he wishes God would punish the wicked immediately. He even goes so far as to claim that God does not differentiate between the righteous and the wicked in his treatment of people. Job has reached the conclusion that people die or thrive independent of moral considerations. That is the way God works, and no one can do anything about it.
Let’s be frank, there is little in Job’s attitude here to commend itself to us – except this: Job is engaged in the battle. Despite his anger and his misery, he has steadfastly refused to abandon God. He continues to shake his fist in the face of God, but he continues to seek God’s face. It’s not the best thing, but it is something.
“How will you console me with emptiness? Your responses are the remnants of disloyalty.” – Job 21:34
Questions to ponder:
- What do you think God thinks of this debate between Job and his friends?
- What does it mean to wrestle with God?
- What do you think it would mean for Job to find himself in submission to God?