Read Job 21
21 Then Job replied:
2 “Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.
3 Bear with me while I speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.
4 “Is my complaint directed to a human being?
Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled;
clap your hand over your mouth.
6 When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
7 Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?
8 They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not on them.
10 Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
11 They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.
12 They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre;
they make merry to the sound of the pipe.
13 They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.
14 Yet they say to God, ‘Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?’
16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands,
so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.
17 “Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out?
How often does calamity come upon them,
the fate God allots in his anger?
18 How often are they like straw before the wind,
like chaff swept away by a gale?
19 It is said, ‘God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.’
Let him repay the wicked, so that they themselves will experience it!
20 Let their own eyes see their destruction;
let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what do they care about the families they leave behind
when their allotted months come to an end?
22 “Can anyone teach knowledge to God,
since he judges even the highest?
23 One person dies in full vigor,
completely secure and at ease,
24 well nourished in body,
bones rich with marrow.
25 Another dies in bitterness of soul,
never having enjoyed anything good.
26 Side by side they lie in the dust,
and worms cover them both.
27 “I know full well what you are thinking,
the schemes by which you would wrong me.
28 You say, ‘Where now is the house of the great,
the tents where the wicked lived?’
29 Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts—
30 that the wicked are spared from the day of calamity,
that they are delivered from the day of wrath?
31 Who denounces their conduct to their face?
Who repays them for what they have done?
32 They are carried to the grave,
and watch is kept over their tombs.
33 The soil in the valley is sweet to them;
everyone follows after them,
and a countless throng goes before them.
34 “So how can you console me with your nonsense?
Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!”
Job 20 ends another round of discussions that Job has with his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. The final conversation with Zophar left Job conflicted with God’s wrath and judgment on wicked people. In Job 21, Job responds to Zophar’s futile perspective of Job’s suffering. Zophar’s unsettled words are born of an incorrect and partial view of God as an impatient and harsh judge. According to his friends, Job’s suffering was a natural result of sin. Their conversations with Job did not offer any comfort or peace because they lacked wisdom and truth. If Job was a righteous man, why did God allow him to suffer, if He claims to be sovereign and good?
In the first three verses, Job clarifies to his friends that he was listening to them, while both alluding to and refuting their words. Job hardened his heart toward them because of their inability to comprehend the depth of his pain and suffering. What would it have looked like for the three men to listen to Job instead of providing false truth?
A common theme for this chapter of Job is questioning why the wicked often prosper while the righteous suffer. Job finds himself in conflict with God, wondering where God had gone in his time of darkness. In verses 17-26, Job recognizes the wisdom of God but stands confused at the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering that the godly endure. Job responds with the knowledge that he has about God and His will. He understands that God is the ultimate Judge and has the power to judge the wicked, but he does not know the final judgment on the evil that God promises in the end.
Job’s friends tried to make him repent of his sins, but they did not realize that suffering is not always connected to sin. Sometimes God allows us to experience suffering in order to be reminded of His power and sovereignty in every season of life. Job 21 creates a space for us to sit with Job in his suffering and questioning. We can learn from Job’s discernment in his trial, as he handled his grief by questioning his circumstances, instead of God’s wisdom and character.
- What is the biggest trial you are currently facing? What is the biggest trial you have ever faced?
- What do you believe about God’s character in every season of life?
- How have the sufferings you have endured encouraged those around you? If you cannot recall a moment, what is one way that your faith could change how you walk through trials?
By the Way
The prosperity of the wicked that Job is conflicted with is further addressed in Psalm 73. Read this passage to see how Asaph struggled with the prosperity of the wicked but instead chose to remember God’s goodness to Israel.
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