Job 21-23 Why do the wicked live?

From Job 21-23

18 Job three friends

In today’s reading Job’s own suffering has caused him to look around and notice the many injustices and the suffering in the world. Jesus likewise recognizes injustice in the world.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

18 Job 21-23

In today’s reading Job responds to Zophar’s earlier statements that the wicked will be judged and punished.

21 Then Job answered and said:

2 “Keep listening to my words,

and let this be your comfort.

3 Bear with me, and I will speak,

and after I have spoken, mock on. (Job 21.1-3)

The bible occasionally comes out with some classic statements. ‘After I have spoken, mock on’. Wow. Biblical sarcasm at its best. Job wants to have his say and he expects to have no effect on his friends. They will continue to mock him. It seems relations between Job and his friends are declining.

4 As for me, is my complaint against man?

Why should I not be impatient?

5 Look at me and be appalled,

and lay your hand over your mouth.

6 When I remember, I am dismayed,

and shuddering seizes my flesh. (Job 21.4-6)

Job calls attention once again to his current state and suffering. His constant reminders are an attempt to get them to sympathise with him. Something they have stopped doing.

Job has more questions about injustice in the world.

7 Why do the wicked live,

reach old age, and grow mighty in power?

8 Their offspring are established in their presence,

and their descendants before their eyes.

9 Their houses are safe from fear,

and no rod of God is upon them.

10 Their bull breeds without fail;

their cow calves and does not miscarry.

11 They send out their little boys like a flock,

and their children dance.

12 They sing to the tambourine and the lyre

and rejoice to the sound of the pipe.

13 They spend their days in prosperity,

and in peace they go down to Sheol.

14 They say to God, ‘Depart from us!

We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.

15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?

And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’

16 Behold, is not their prosperity in their hand?

The counsel of the wicked is far from me. (Job 21.7-16)

Contrary to the opinions of his friends, Job does not see justice playing itself out in the world. The wicked prosper.

This puts pressure on the righteousness of God. Does God punish wrongdoing? He will eventually. Is God just? Of course he is. Does he tolerate evil and wickedness? No, he will deal with it, in this age or the next.

Job’s own suffering has caused him to look beyond and see similar perceived injustices around him.

Have you seen injustice and suffering? Can you do anything about it?

Job finishes his speech saying their answers are nothing but falsehood (Job 21.34). Eliphaz will respond and in turn criticise Job. Eliphaz says that nothing people do can please or benefit God. He pushes their point that Job is wicked and that is why he has suffered. He says the wicked are cast away from God and the righteous are blessed. If only Job admits he has sinned and agrees with God they will be at peace (Job 22).

Job wants to know where God is so that he may question him. ‘There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge.’ (Job 23:7) Bold words. (‘Be careful of what you ask for …’) Job continues to protest his innocence. But then he changes tack recognising the unchangeable nature of God. Whatever God intends to happen will happen. Job is terrified at the prospect (Job 23).

Story of Jesus

Jesus is well aware there is injustice and suffering in the world. He knows for a time it will persist. But not forever.

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.

26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.

27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’

29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” (Mt 13:24–30)

The injustice and suffering in the world will continue for a time. Jesus doesn’t think of this lightly. When he comes back he will put an end to it.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.