The Book of Job-Chapter Twenty-One:
Zophar was full of hogwash. And Job wants a chance to answer back. The old religious rules just aren't working and Job hopes to get his points across before his friends re-attack him:
Verses 1-3: "But Job answered and said, Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations. Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on."
Now to his first point:
Verse 4: "As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled? "
Job never really was appealing to his friends for help or answers. He's been taking all his complaints to a higher Judge. He's not afraid of his friends and all their (what we might call) dime-store theology and advice. No, he is focused on the Lord. "Why should not my spirit be troubled?" means he is in awe of God. And so should his fiends be. Just consider my life for a minute, Job says, doesn't it take your breath away to see a man who loves God suffer so:
Verses 5-6: "Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth. Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh."
In these last two verses I can't help but be reminded of Christ on the Cross.
Having found no immediate answers in his current condition, Job decides to put a searchlight on the lives of those who do not care about God:
Verse 7: "Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power?"
If the Lord's only function is to see to it that all the righteous are blessed and that all the wicked suffer here on earth, well, something is wrong somewhere:
Verses 8-12: "Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. "
His friends have pretty well said that Job's suffering proves him to be secretly wicked, but it's obvious that a person's happiness or calamities don't necessarily prove anything, for many wicked appear to get on very well in this life for long, long periods of time. Have you seen this in action during your lifetime or ever wondered about it? I think most of us have.
But their wickedness and Godlessness doesn't end well. Job says:
Verse 13: "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave."
If there was no grave, no afterlife to face, then why not just grab all you can all the time while living on this earth? Job must have seen this attitude in the unbelievers of his day. Why, I still see it creeping back into my life sometimes. It's as close to us all as the nearest remote control or power button. It is the ever-recurring theme of our world system:
Verses 14-15: "Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him? "
But Job, as a believer, was on guard against this kind of thinking:
Verse 16: "Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me."
Job still doesn't get Satan's existence and role in all this. But this much he does understand: a man that ends this life without faith in or love for his Creator is doomed to terrible suffering. And postponing that suffering during this life is, ultimately, an almost meaningless gesture:
Verses 17-20: "How oft is the candle of the wicked put out! and how oft cometh their destruction upon them! God distributeth sorrows in his anger. They are as stubble before the wind, and as chaff that the storm carrieth away. God layeth up his iniquity for his children: he rewardeth him, and he shall know it. His eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty."
There is a futility and emptiness to earthly pleasures, and even the most Godless sense it as the end nears. I guess that's what Job is thinking. He's searching for answers out in the graveyard now, or around a deathbed as many have:
Verse 21: "For what pleasure hath he in his house after him, when the number of his months is cut off in the midst? "
Job had lost mostly all his pleasures and treasures. All the things that brought pleasure to life. But he's seeing now that there's more to it. He's working on a new point of view about the Lord and about life. He can't quite get there. Maybe no man can see all of it. But somehow he knows that God can:
Verse 22: "Shall any teach God knowledge? seeing he judgeth those that are high."
From the Lord's vantage point earthly life must look different:
Verses 23-26: "One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet. His breasts are full of milk (I think this means the person has been well-fed and has love handles!), and his bones are moistened with marrow. And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure. They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them."
Absolute equality will be forced upon all men by their Creator, in the end.
Yet Job's friends insist upon judging and segregating him based solely on his calamities in this life:
Verse 27: "Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me."
Does all blessing and pleasure bind us closer to the Lord? Does all pain and sorrow only drive us away from Him? No, no, these old rules are wrong. These are the rules Satan insisted upon back at the beginning of this book (see chapter 2:4-5). They NEVER were God's rules for living.
Verses 28-29: "For ye say, Where is the house of the prince? and where are the dwelling places of the wicked? Have ye not asked them that go by the way? and do ye not know their tokens,"
To his friends Job has just said, "Open your eyes to this life. Look carefully around you as you live. The clues that reveal the Truth surround us." They were so obsessed with Job's troubles and fear for their own skin that they had overlooked the real governing law of this life:
Verse 30: "That the wicked is reserved to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath."
There is One Lawgiver. There is One Voice that matters in the end. Not mine, not yours, not the newspaper, not Satan's. One Voice only and only One Rule:
Verses 31-33: "Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him what he hath done? Yet shall he be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb. The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, and every man shall draw after him, as there are innumerable before him."
The Lord is speaking to Job and through Job. There are no false rules in the afterlife. No deception and no exceptions. No avoidance of truth or justice. No inequality. No excuse or false accusation. There, all know of God and all understand what really matters for all time. Surely the real pangs of Hell must be the knowledge that you were deceived. The knowledge of what could have been a life of faith lived in harmony with your Creator. Job is starting to see what his friends have refused to see. They still cling to the old and useless rules. The rules that enslave through doubt and fear.
Zophar and the others have all but excommunicated Job and pushed him away. With no measurable earthly pleasures left, they assume Job has nothing for which he could praise or worship the Lord. But they were dead wrong. A believer can ALWAYS praise God for what GOD WILL DO for him when the judgment comes. Let's NEVER forget that rule, beloved. No matter how down or out we seem to get here on this earth, worship is never all about the here and now. We can start praising Him now for what is to come. I think Job may have realized at this point that his deceased children, though lost to him now, would rise again and be reunited to him in the end. Perhaps that would have lifted his spirits. I'd like to think that was so.
With God's guidance Job is debunking those old rules of living and he wants his friends to know it:
Verse 34: "How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood? "