Talking Through Your Hat

Job 21-24

Job’s friends have told him that the evil he is suffering has come on account of his own wickedness. He proceeds to refute that by reminding them that there are plenty of wicked men who prosper and never suffer, not even once, during their lifetimes. So absence of prosperity, good health, or whatever, is not necessarily a sign of God’s judgment. The presence of these things is not a sign of his pleasure either.

That argument doesn’t seem to impress Eliphaz: “Is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you? Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless” —Job 22:4, 5. He then goes on to list all the nasty things Job has done. Since we have already been told that Job was a righteous man (1:8), we can only imagine that Eliphaz is “talking through his hat” as my father used to say.

He is in error when he assumes: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: If you remove wickedness far from your tent and assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you. Surely then you will delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows. What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways…” —Job 22:21-28.

That God will bless those who submit to him and walk in his ways is true. But that blessing isn’t necessarily a material one, nor does it preclude suffering and loss. Joseph hadn’t apparently done anything wrong to offend God, but his sufferings over many years were, like Job’s, all part of God’s great plan. The latter part of Hebrews 11 tells us that even the most faithful suffered without ever seeing that blessing, but that didn’t mean God wasn’t pleased with them.

A little later Job will return to Eliphaz’s argument about his suffering being God’s judgment on him. Job lists every evil that continues to haunt society today, and finishes by reminding his listeners that God does indeed judge, and though that justice may take a while, it is sure: “…God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life. He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways. For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone…” —Job 24:22-24.

But Job is half convinced by what his friends say. He is beginning to believe that if he could only defend himself before God he could prove his righteousness and show God that the Almighty had made a mistake in bringing all this disaster upon him. He feels the absence of God because he can’t get an answer to the “why’s” behind his suffering. In the midst of this comes a jewel of truth. Job touches on the idea that all this is a test—which it is—when he says: “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” —Job 23:10.

In the end, while all the “whys” hang unanswered in our minds, faith comes into play. God DOES know our way—he planned that way—and whatever the reasons behind that plan, for those who follow him the end result will be golden.

Comments

  1. It is so encouraging to remember that God is in the midst of all our struggles, and that, as you say, "the result will be golden."

    Thanks, dear Lynda!

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