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Job 21-23   Listen Podcast


Job: The wicked DO SO prosper! (Job 21)

1 Then Job answered and said:
2 “Listen carefully to my speech,
And let this be your consolation.
3 Bear with me that I may speak,
And after I have spoken, keep mocking.
4 “As for me, is my complaint against man?
And if it were, why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be astonished;
Put your hand over your mouth.
6 Even when I remember I am terrified,
And trembling takes hold of my flesh.
7 Why do the wicked live and become old,
Yes, become mighty in power?
8 Their descendants are established with them in their sight,
And their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their houses are safe from fear,
Neither is the rod of God upon them.
10 Their bull breeds without failure;
Their cow calves without miscarriage.
11 They send forth their little ones like a flock,
And their children dance.
12 They sing to the tambourine and harp,
And rejoice to the sound of the flute.
13 They spend their days in wealth,
And in a moment go down to the grave.
14 Yet they say to God, “Depart from us,
For we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?
And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?’
16 Indeed their prosperity is not in their hand;
The counsel of the wicked is far from me.
17 “How often is the lamp of the wicked put out?
How often does their destruction come upon them,
The sorrows God distributes in His anger?
18 They are like straw before the wind,
And like chaff that a storm carries away.
19 They say, “God lays up one’s iniquity for his children’;
Let Him recompense him, that he may know it.
20 Let his eyes see his destruction,
And let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what does he care about his household after him,
When the number of his months is cut in half?
22 “Can anyone teach God knowledge,
Since He judges those on high?
23 One dies in his full strength,
Being wholly at ease and secure;
24 His pails are full of milk,
And the marrow of his bones is moist.
25 Another man dies in the bitterness of his soul,
Never having eaten with pleasure.
26 They lie down alike in the dust,
And worms cover them.
27 “Look, I know your thoughts,
And the schemes with which you would wrong me.
28 For you say,
“Where is the house of the prince?
And where is the tent,
The dwelling place of the wicked?’
29 Have you not asked those who travel the road?
And do you not know their signs?
30 For the wicked are reserved for the day of doom;
They shall be brought out on the day of wrath.
31 Who condemns his way to his face?
And who repays him for what he has done?
32 Yet he shall be brought to the grave,
And a vigil kept over the tomb.
33 The clods of the valley shall be sweet to him;
Everyone shall follow him,
As countless have gone before him.
34 How then can you comfort me with empty words,
Since falsehood remains in your answers?”

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 God’s 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). Bildad’s 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 to God,
Though he who is wise may be profitable to himself?
3 Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous?
Or is it gain to Him that you make your ways blameless?
4 “Is it because of your fear of Him that He corrects you,
And enters into judgment with you?
5 Is not your wickedness great,
And your iniquity without end?
6 For you have taken pledges from your brother for no reason,
And stripped the naked of their clothing.
7 You have not given the weary water to drink,
And you have withheld bread from the hungry.
8 But the mighty man possessed the land,
And the honorable man dwelt in it.
9 You have sent widows away empty,
And the strength of the fatherless was crushed.
10 Therefore snares are all around you,
And sudden fear troubles you,
11 Or darkness so that you cannot see;
And an abundance of water covers you.
12 “Is not God in the height of heaven?
And see the highest stars, how lofty they are!
13 And you say, “What does God know?
Can He judge through the deep darkness?
14 Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see,
And He walks above the circle of heaven.’
15 Will you keep to the old way
Which wicked men have trod,
16 Who were cut down before their time,
Whose foundations were swept away by a flood?
17 They said to God, “Depart from us!
What can the Almighty do to 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 at them:
20 “Surely our adversaries are cut down,
And the fire consumes their remnant.’
21 “Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace;
Thereby good will come to you.
22 Receive, please, instruction from His mouth,
And lay up His words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up;
You will remove iniquity far from your tents.
24 Then you will lay your gold in the dust,
And the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks.
25 Yes, the Almighty will be your gold
And your precious silver;
26 For then you will have your delight in the Almighty,
And lift up your face to God.
27 You will make your prayer to Him,
He will hear you,
And you will pay your vows.
28 You will also declare a thing,
And it will be established for you;
So light will shine on your ways.
29 When they cast you down, and you say, “Exaltation will come!’
Then He will save the humble person.
30 He will even deliver one who is not innocent;
Yes, he will be delivered by the purity of your hands.”

Eliphaz says in Job 22:5, "Is not your wickedness great, And your iniquity without end?" 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. Eliphaz’s 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 you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; You will remove iniquity far from your tents." 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, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" Based upon that, an admission to guilt where no guilt exists would be what? 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, "You will also declare a thing, And it will be established for you; So light will shine on your 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 today my complaint is bitter;
My hand is listless because of my groaning.
3 Oh, that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come to His seat!
4 I would present my case 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 to me.
6 Would He contend with me in His great power?
No! But He would take note of me.
7 There the upright could reason with Him,
And I would be delivered forever from my Judge.
8 “Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
9 When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
10 But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to His steps;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food.
13 “But He is unique, and who can make Him change?
And whatever His soul desires, that He does.
14 For He performs what is appointed for me,
And many such things are with Him.
15 Therefore I am terrified at His presence;
When I consider this, I am afraid of Him.
16 For God made my heart weak,
And the Almighty terrifies me;
17 Because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness,
And He did not hide deep 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 has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured 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).