Today: [Job Twenty-One] Do Only the Good Die Young? In modern culture there is a deep fatalism that suggests that piety and godliness are generally rewarded with suffering and difficulty. In this chapter Job expresses this sentiment, claiming that it doesn’t make any difference whether you are good or evil because (in his view) God plagues both the wicked and the just with the arrows of His vengeance. Is this true?
[Job 21:1-34 KJV] 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.
In this chapter Job is answering Zophar’s stinging rebuke. He realizes that his friends really aren’t interested in anything he has to say and entreats them to listen to him just a moment before they continue mocking him. This reveals that Job understands that he is immersed in an unprofitable exchange but he can’t help himself. Some would suggest that God Himself provoked these men to carry on for the purpose of ultimately including their exchanges in the canon of scripture. It is profoundly impactful to me that after the conclusion of the book of Job the first verse following in Psa. 1:1 is:
[Psalm 1:1 KJV] 1 Blessed [is] the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Now the order in which the books of the bible are arranged is not accepted as inspired. For that matter there is no record in scripture that itemizes the books to be included in the canon for that matter but it is compelling that after a book including 32 chapters of railing, mockery and contention that the first verse addresses that very issue. Scholars believe that the entire duration of Job covers about 30 – 40 days. For all this time these 4 men sit facing each other in constant debate. Have you ever engaged in such fruitless activity? Have you ever argued and contended with someone to the point you were weary of hearing your own voice? The narrative of these men’s words is a cautionary example for us and not a pattern we are encouraged to repeat.
Job voices the fact that his complaint is not really against his friends but against God Himself. He considers himself righteous and suffering wrongfully therefore he complains bitterly that those who shake their fist in God’s face are blessed, prosperous and live long lives of affluence and security. He complains that the children of the godless live out their lives all the while their parents reject God saying “be gone from us…” He describes the wicked and the godless to be secure and in possession of all the things that he (in his view) has been deprived of by God Himself.
In our culture there is a saying “only the good die young…” This is actually a quote that originated with a Roman playwright by the name of Plautus 250 years before the birth of Jesus. Is this true? King David himself struggled with this and considered it one of the great temptations of his life. We will quote in part several verses from Psalm 73:
[Psalm 73:2-3, 5, 7, 12-13, 17, 28 KJV] 2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish, [when] I saw the prosperity of the wicked. … 5 They [are] not in trouble [as other] men; neither are they plagued like [other] men. … 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. … 12 Behold, these [are] the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase [in] riches. 13 Verily I have cleansed my heart [in] vain, and washed my hands in innocency. … 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; [then] understood I their end. … 28 But [it is] good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
Notice that David’s solution to this is reflected in the words “Until I went into the sanctuary of God …” For us where is that sanctuary? Is it a building or a religious infrastructure? The New Testament teaches we are the temple of God. The problem is that David was looking outwardly. His security was based upon the outward watermarks of wealth and affluence and he resented and was jealous of those who were in possession of these things. God wants us to anchor our sense of self and security not on outward things or outward metrics of prosperity but upon who He is in our hearts – from which all blessing and benefit for us originates.
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.
Job declares that ultimately both the young and old, the wicked and the righteous are all felled by God’s arrows. This is very close to the view of the agnostic and many fundamentalist Christians who believe that the only benefit of salvation is going to heaven when we die. They feel that there is little intervention of God in the every day affairs of men and that our primary hope is to struggle through the sorrows of life and hopefully have a reward at the end of our days.
Is this true? Does God deposit us in this earth and leave us to our fate? 3 John 2 says that God desires us to prosper and be in health even as our soul prospers. John 10:10 says that Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly. 2 Cor. 8:9 says that Jesus became poor so that we could be rich. 2 Peter 1:3 says that the knowledge of God gives us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. It isn’t possible to examine the claims of Christ and conclude with any intellectual honesty that God has no interest in this life or in the creature comforts of those that follow Him. That may not be your experience at different times of life but it is the clear promise of the Father. We have to decide where our beliefs are anchored – in experience or in the plain testimony of the scriptures?
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 considers the counsel of his friends to be false because they are suggesting that if he wasn’t a hypocrite he would be blessed. Job objects saying that it doesn’t matter whether or not he is a good person because God afflicts both the righteous and the wicked equally. Is this true? The prophet Isaiah speaking by inspiration said the following:
[Isaiah 1:18-20 KJV] 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].
Life is filled with contradictions. Every one of us at any point in our life will be living with a measure of contradiction in our circumstances to the clear promise of the word of God. We are sick and the scriptures promise healing. We are financially suffering when the scriptures promise provision. We go through many things that God promises deliverance from. Jesus Himself dealt with this issue and is our example:
[Hebrews 12:3 KJV] 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
There will be contradiction in our lives – the question is what will be our response? Jesus’ response was to commit Himself to the faithfulness of God. The result was resurrection. Likewise when we commit ourselves to the faithfulness of God our median, baseline experience over time will be benefit and blessing by His hand.
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