Scripture to meditate on:
Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
“My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.
I hear a rebuke that dishonors me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.
“Surely you know how it has been from of old,
ever since mankind was placed on the earth,
that the mirth of the wicked is brief,
the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,
he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.
The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.
His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.
The youthful vigor that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.
“Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
though he cannot bear to let it go
and lets it linger in his mouth,
yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.
He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.
He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him.
He will not enjoy the streams,
the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build.
“Surely he will have no respite from his craving;
he cannot save himself by his treasure.
Nothing is left for him to devour;
his prosperity will not endure.
In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
the full force of misery will come upon him.
When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
and rain down his blows on him.
Though he flees from an iron weapon,
a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
He pulls it out of his back,
the gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;
total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
and devour what is left in his tent.
The heavens will expose his guilt;
the earth will rise up against him.
A flood will carry off his house,
rushing waters on the day of God’s wrath.
Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God.” – Job 20
If the motto of our culture could be summed up in a bumper sticker it might read something like this: Life is short. Get what you want now.
This attitude is not new, it is part of the human psyche and can be traced throughout human existence. In fact, it is the attitude Job’s friends have seen in their own time, and the selfishness they are now accusing their friend of harboring. Scripture makes clear Zophar’s assessment of Job is incorrect, still it might be worthwhile for us to examine our own attitudes in this matter.
Throughout this book, Job’s friends assume that his former prosperity has come about though wickedness and that his current suffering is retribution for that evil. Time and again as they wag their fingers in Job’s face they remind him the prosperity of the wicked is short lived. Job’s suffering, they believe, is deserved.
Job’s friends are wrapped up in the idea that a person’s sin always results in earthly suffering and that earthly suffering is always symptom of personal sin. But even a casual observation tells us this is not always the case. Proverbs notes time and again that the wicked prosper without punishment, (Proverbs 11:18, 13:11, 21:6) and we don’t have to travel far into our personal experience to know that is true. So what then are we to make of this discouraging story of Job?
Once again, the suffering of Job, points us clearly to the suffering of the cross. Without the redemption of Christ, there can be no hope of justice for the wicked or mercy for the oppressed.
“The luxuriance of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless is momentary.” – Job 20:5
Questions to ponder:
- Have you been guilty of assuming that someone in trouble must somehow “deserve” the hardship they are suffering?
- Do you believe that God is waiting to punish us for our wrongdoing?