OT: Job 20:1-22:30
OH MY GOODNESS! I am getting so tired of the broken record that is Job's friends. First of all, they are being so selfish. Zophar complains, "I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply" (20:3). Dishonors me? Zophar, look around. Of the four of you, who has lost everything he has, including his children and his health? Who is racked by overwhelming physical and emotional pain? I don't think your first concern here should be whether his words "dishonor" you!
We then must hear again about the wicked getting their due. As far as I can tell, the only distinctive aspect of Zophar's speech is his, um, colorful, gastrointestinal imagery. Here is a sample:
"[The wicked man] 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" (15-16).
In short, Zophar himself regurgitates all the earlier arguments in a more dramatic form.
In response, Job tries a new tack. Instead of focusing on his innocent suffering, which is clearly getting nowhere, he tries to highlight the flip side. Namely, Job elaborates on the prosperity of the wicked (21:7-21). What's funny is that these men apparently have very limited social circles, and so none of them can give specific examples of what are apparently theoretical concepts to them. Job himself admits that he doesn't specifically know any prospering wicked, although he has certainly heard of them:
"I know full well what you are thinking...
You say, 'Where now is the great man's house,
the tents where wicked men lived?'
Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts--
that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity,
that he is delivered from the day of wrath?" (27-30).
Not the strongest piece of evidence, but oh well. I did think Job made a good point when he questioned God's apparent policy of punishing descendants for the sins of the father:
"It is said, 'God stores up a man's punishment for his sons.'
Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it!
Let his own eyes see his destruction;
let him drink the wrath of the Almighty.
For what does he care about the family he leaves behind
when his allotted months come to an end?" (19-21).
Seems like a valid question.
After Job stops, Eliphaz responds dramatically to Job's implied challenge to name a wicked person who is suffering:
"Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?" (5).
He then goes on to fabricate a lengthy list of Job's wrongdoings (6-15). In essence, he plugs Job's name into all the same trite formulations that he and his friends have been offering. Nice.
NT: 2 Cor. 1:1-11
I love the idea that God brings good out of our troubles by teaching us how to reach out to and comfort others during their trouble. As Job has found out, trouble is a part of life. It comes on us all, regardless of our personal righteousness. Thus, it is a blessing that, not only does God bring us through our troubles, but He gives us the resources to bring His comfort to others, as well.
Paul then tells the Corinthians about the "hardships we suffered in the province of Asia," to the point where he and his companions were sure they were going to die (8,9). Two phrases have always captured my attention here. The first is, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure" (8). And the second is, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God" (9). Clearly, Paul and his friends have had a harrowing, death-defying experience. Now, to take that very extreme and deadly situation and apply to to something totally mundane, let me say that I often feel these concepts in my own life. Now, keep in mind that I am blessed beyond belief and that I have absolutely nothing to complain about. That said, there are many times when I get to the early evening and am just exhausted. I am so tired from the busyness of my day, and I am overwhelmed by all that still has to be done. Now, I can do it, no problem. It's not rocket science. But to do it as a person full of love and joy and peace and patience? No way! For me, fatigue equals snappiness and impatience. And it is times like those when I realize oh-so-well that Kim is not so great at this Christian thing on her own. I am a fairly disciplined person, relatively speaking, but I simply cannot manufacture the fruits of the Spirit in my life on anything like a consistent basis. And at least once a day, I tend to arrive at the end of my own strength and run into a wall of selfishness, where I just want to do what I want to do. And in those times, my weakness reminds me not to rely on myself, but on God. When I pray in those times and ask God's Spirit to fill me, it is amazing how I usually can then proceed as a Spirit-filled person, something that I was totally not five minutes ago.
Again, I know that I am totally ripping Paul's words from the context of his situation, but that basic idea of relying on God when I am past my ability to endure is something to which I can definitely relate.
David continues to beg God to come to his rescue.
God is the maker of both rich and poor; prudent men can avoid trouble; and humility and fear of God are rewarding.