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Job 21-23 Listen
Job: The wicked DO SO prosper! (Job 21)
1 But Job answered and said,
2 Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations.
3 Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on.
4 As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?
5 Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth.
6 Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.
7 Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?
8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.
10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf.
11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.
12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ.
13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.
14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.
15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?
16 Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
17 How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger.
18 They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away.
19 God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it.
20 His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst?
22 Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high.
23 One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet.
24 His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow.
25 And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure.
26 They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.
27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me.
28 For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked?
29 Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,
30 That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.
31 Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done?
32 Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.
33 The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him.
34 How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood?
Job's audience must not be paying very much attention - maybe busy writing their own rebuttals. He seems to be referring to their inattentiveness in verses 1-3. Job's so-called friends had spent considerable time in the last round outlining the fate of the wicked (Eliphaz in Job 15:20-35, see notes; Bildad in Job 18:5-21, see notes) while Job claims that the wicked do, in fact, often prosper. Job makes his points about the wicked. Those who flatly reject Gods ways, even regarding prayer as a useless exercise (verses 14-15), seem to do well in all aspects of their lives anyway. Not only do they not die prematurely, as Zophar had indicated in Job 20:11 (see notes), they live long and increase in strength (verse 7). Bildads notion that the wicked have no offspring to remember them (Job 18:19-21, see notes) is rejected by Job (verse 8). In verses 7-13 Job illustrates the enjoyment of life and prosperity often experienced by godless people who dare to completely defy God (verse 15). Job seems to struggle with this concept in the next few verses. Why are they not punished right now? Perhaps their children are held accountable for their wickedness? NOT! From Job's perspective, they simply get away with it. His current argument does not seem to include the notion that the overtly wicked are punished in an afterlife. Since we have seen Job's intense belief in a Redeemer previously in Job 19:25 (see notes), Job must have felt that these wicked folks really do get their just due after death; he's just not in the mood to acknowledge that fact right now. Beginning in verse 27, Job anticipates the replies of his friends to these assertions. Job seems to solicit more verbal abuse in verse 34 - he'll get his wish.
Let's make an application here. You may want to read the article entitled "Trial versus Chastisement." Here's what we know about the subject of trial and chastisement in the New Testament Believer's life. Since God is our father, he is in control of everything that takes place in our lives. The rule of chastisement from God scripturally asserts that rebelling Believers will not prosper; God chastens them. However, those who have defied God in the very act of receiving Jesus Christ as their savior are not children of God. Therefore, just as Job observes, these people may very well seem to prosper in this life. What Job does not point out here is that those God-rejecting people will end up in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15, see notes). God is not their father.
Eliphaz takes some cheap shots at Job (Job 22)
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,
2 Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?
3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?
4 Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?
5 Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?
6 For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing.
7 Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.
8 But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it.
9 Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken.
10 Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee;
11 Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee.
12 Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
13 And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud?
14 Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.
15 Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden?
16 Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood:
17 Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?
18 Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
19 The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn.
20 Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.
21 Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.
22 Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart.
23 If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.
24 Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks.
25 Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver.
26 For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
27 Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.
28 Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
29 When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.
30 He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.
Eliphaz says in Job 22:5, "Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?" That sort of sets the stage for the comments of Eliphaz regarding Job in this chapter. He takes some cheap shots at Job in verses 6-9 - accuses him of abuse and neglect of his fellow man. He does not know these accusations to be necessarily true, but he's looking for some type of wickedness to pin on Job; this will do. Eliphazs tone had been more positive and sympathetic than the others (Job 4-5, see notes and Job 15, see notes), but here he seems to turn a little vicious. So then he spends the balance of his monologue challenging Job to turn to God through repentance. Take a look at Job 22:23, "If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles." It's the conclusion of Eliphaz that Job is absolutely guilty of wickedness and needs to "return to the Almighty."
Many people, as they read the Book of Job, make the same recommendations as did Job's friends. Since we all have some area in our Christian living that needs improvement, why not just confess that, ask for forgiveness and gain restoration? I know that seems to make sense, but let's go back to Job 1 (see notes) for some perspective here. God himself described Job to Satan by saying, "...there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?" Based upon that, an admission to guilt where no guilt exists would be what? ...an attempt to fool God? The Book of Job shows us that conventional wisdom about God's nature failed - miserably failed! No one, including Job himself, could cite a substantive example of sin in Job's life or character. And...that's why Job did not feel it would be appropriate to confess sin that simply didn't exist.
Let's talk a moment about scripture abuse. Many Christians quote scripture way out of context and think nothing of it. I have often heard people quote Job 22:28 as a promise for Believers, "Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways." It's one of those name-it-and-claim-it verses that goes with the prosperity-giving message that is often taught by preachers and teachers trying to bolster the financial giving of their audience. In fact, this verse does say, in essence, "Declare it, and it will happen just as you claim it." Here's the catch to this verse: Eliphaz is the one who said it, and he was wrong about nearly everything; he lacked a knowledge of the nature of God. He and his friends were rebuked by God himself for their bad counsel in Job 42-7-9 (see notes). So...when Christians quote scripture out of context as they do this verse, one might very well come away with a very skewed impression of the nature of God.
Job: If only I could get a hearing before God (Job 23)
1 Then Job answered and said,
2 Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
4 I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
6 Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.
7 There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.
8 Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
9 On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:
10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
13 But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
14 For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.
15 Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
16 For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:
17 Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.
Job still longs for the opportunity to make his case before God for his righteousness as we see in verses 4-5. You will notice that Job never doubts God, he just wants an understanding of what all of this means. As far as defending his personal righteousness before God, look at what Job says in verses 11-12, "My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." I'm not sure how exactly Job and his generation derived the commandments of God, but we'll see in Job 38 (see notes) that God literally speaks to Job out of a whirlwind. It very well could be that God's law had been revealed through these kinds of supernatural manifestations. One thing is certain, Job acknowledges knowing and adhering to God's commandments. This monologue continues into Job 24 (see notes).