If rotten things happen to you, is it payback from God? Does He see what no one else does, and kick you accordingly?
And…. mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy. Eccles 7:7 (NW)
Can you think of any examples?
These were among the questions discussed in last week’s Watchtower study, which has to be the most spiritual forum going. You get the whole congregation considering material in Q & A format. Whoever wants to comment can….you can do it yourself if you like. And you get insights from members of your spiritual family - persons from every conceivable background. Some have been around forever. Some are brand new. All have unique perspectives.
Job is the wise one acting crazy. And who can blame him? As the Book of Job’s opening chapters explain, Job takes a hit that few people have ever taken. He suffers personal and financial ruin. His good health morphs into the worst of disease, and he exiles himself from the city so as to die. But he doesn’t die. He just suffers in agony. Physical agony….and mental agony, as he reflects on how far he has fallen and what did he do to deserve his fate? And emotional agony, seeing that his former chums all turn against him.
Job has three pals that come calling. Their goal is to comfort, but they more closely act as hit men. They conclude in a hurry that Job brought upon himself all his own trouble.
Says Eliphaz: Think [earnestly], I beg of you: who, being innocent, ever perished? Or where were those upright and in right standing with God cut off? As I myself have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble and mischief reap the same. Job 4:7-8 [all quotations from the book of Job, Amplified Bible version]
God sees through Job’s veneer of goodness, they point out. If he were not so morally bankrupt, God might leave him be. Even now, were Job to clean up his act, God would heal him.
Then, if you are pure and upright, surely He will bestir Himself for you and make your righteous dwelling prosperous again, says Bildad Job 8:6
But Job is innocent. He’s always been a decent person. His goodness is genuine. He resist his buddies’ counsel.
And…..you know how guys can get when you put down their pet ideas? …His chums get madder and madder that Job should defend himself, and not bow to their opinion.
Eliphaz: What do you know that we know not? What do you understand that is not equally clear to us? Among us are both the gray-haired and the aged, older than your father by far. Are God's consolations [as we have interpreted them to you] too trivial for you? Is there any secret thing (any bosom sin) which you have not given up? [Or] were we too gentle [in our first speech] toward you to be effective? 15:9-12
And Zophar: Why are we counted as beasts [as if we had no sense]? Why are we unclean in your sight? 18:3
Are they moved by Job’s torment?
Job: Have pity on me! Have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, as if you were God, pursue and persecute me? [Acting like wild beasts] why are you not satisfied with my flesh? 19:21-22
Toward the visit’s end, they’re practically throwing knives. Zophar, positively reveling in Job’s disaster, lets fly with these words:
Do you not know from of old, since the time that man was placed on the earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless and defiled is but for a moment?…..God will cast the fierceness of His wrath upon him … He will flee from the iron weapon, but the bow of bronze shall strike him through. The arrow] is drawn forth and it comes out after passing through his body; yes, the glittering point comes out of his gall. Terrors march in upon him; Every misfortune is laid up for his treasures. A fire not blown by man shall devour him…The heavens shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. …This is the wicked man's portion from God, and the heritage appointed to him by God. Job 20:4-29
So…can you see why Job “acts crazy?” He becomes convinced that God is the source of his torment.
Behold, I cry out, Violence! but I am not heard; I cry aloud for help, but there is no justice. He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and He has set darkness upon my paths. He has stripped me of my glory and taken the crown from my head. He has broken me down on every side, and I am gone; my hope has He pulled up like a tree. He has also kindled His wrath against me, and He counts me as one of His adversaries. Job 19:7-11
God is a bully and he’s hiding behind…..well…his Godship. If Job could confront him face to face, he’d argue his case. He’s make God back down, and pick on someone his own size.
Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat! I would lay my cause before Him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what He would answer me, and understand what He would say to me. Would He plead against me with His great power? No, He would give heed to me. There the righteous [one who is upright and in right standing with God] could reason with Him; so I should be acquitted by my Judge forever. 23:3-7
Then, when it seems that Job must be at his breaking point, if not beyond, he gets some counsel from a much younger man, counsel which completely restores his balance. Counsel from Elihu, who’s been listening for a long time but hasn’t yet uttered a word.
He actually listens before he shoots his mouth off!
And Job proves to be like a compass which, when you shake it violently, you get that needle spinning crazily. But stop shaking, and the needle aligns the same way it was originally. Such is the case with a loyal person.
Barely bothering to address Job’s fathead comforters, Elihu directs his words to Job. Even while seeking to readjust the man, he acknowledges Job’s decency. Do you think that adds weight to what he says?
Elihu: Give heed, O Job, listen to me; hold your peace, and I will speak. If you have anything to say, answer me; speak, for I desire to justify you. If [you do] not [have anything to say], listen to me; hold your peace, and I will teach you wisdom. Job 33:31-33
Elihu spoke further [to Job] and said, Do you think this is your right, or are you saying, My righteousness is more than God's, That you ask, What advantage have you? How am I profited more than if I had sinned?…Look to the heavens and see; and behold the skies which are higher than you. Job 35:2-5
[Job, you’re out of your depth. You’re speaking of things you don’t understand.]
Elihu: But now because God has not [speedily] punished in His anger and seems to be unaware of the wrong and oppression [of which a person is guilty], Job uselessly opens his mouth and multiplies words without knowledge [drawing the worthless conclusion that the righteous have no more advantage than the wicked]. 34:15-16
Bear with me and wait a little longer, and I will show you, for I have something still to say on God's behalf. ….Behold, God exalts and does loftily in His power; who is a ruler or a teacher like Him? Who has appointed God His way? Or who can say, You have done unrighteousness? ….Behold, God is great, and we know Him not! The number of His years is unsearchable For He draws up the drops of water, which distil as rain from His vapor, Which the skies pour down and drop abundantly upon [the multitudes of ] mankind. Not only that, but can anyone understand the spreadings of the clouds or the thunderings of His pavilion? Job 36
Hear this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know how God lays His command upon them and causes the lightning of His [storm] cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced [and poised in the heavens], the wonderful works of Him Who is perfect in knowledge? [Or] why your garments are hot when He quiets the earth [in sultry summer] with the [oppressive] south wind? Can you along with Him spread out the sky, [which is] strong as a molten mirror? Tell us [Job] with what words of man we may address such a Being; we cannot state our case because we are in the dark [in the presence of the unsearchable God]. Job 37:14-19
This counsel appears to have instantly readjusted Job. Such is the power of wise words from a person of empathy, even if those words amount to: we don’t really know what God is up to. But He’s not unjust. Is it really our place to accuse him? Wait on him, Job, if you can. It will turn out.
God Himself speaks in the remaining chapters of the book! Job’s readjustment is complete! Issues have been at play, it turns out, that Job was completely unaware of. Backing up a bit to see those issues, we read:
And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who [reverently] fears God and abstains from and shuns all evil [because it is wrong]? And still he holds fast his integrity, although you moved Me against him to destroy him without cause. Then Satan answered the Lord, Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has will he give for his life. But put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse and renounce You to Your face. Job 2:3-5
As we have seen, Job wavers, bends, accuses, and complains. But he keeps integrity throughout. And he snaps back instantly upon hearing Elihu’s counsel.
The final years of Job go well:
And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He had also seven sons and three daughters….And in all the land there were no women so fair as the daughters of Job, and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. After this, Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons and his sons' sons, even to four generations. So Job died, an old man and full of days. Job 42:12-17
You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the Lord's [purpose and how He richly blessed him in the] end, inasmuch as the Lord is full of pity and compassion and tenderness and mercy. James 5:11