Job's getting just a little bit whinny. Then again, with all the things his "friends" are saying to him, who can blame him? I can't help but notice, though, that Job is ascribing attributes to God that are less about Who God is than about how hopeless Job is feeling. For instance:
When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the faces of its judges—if it is not he, who then is it? Job 9:23-24
Sound familiar? How many times have you heard people in grief "blame" God for the failings of this fallen world? After 9/11, how many people accused God of not caring, of "allowing" it to happen when He could have stopped it? When we're facing tragedies that are so great they overwhelm us, we often want someone to blame and the larger the scope of the tragedy, the higher up the ladder we go when looking for a culprit. In mind-boggling tragedies like 9/11, or hurricane Katrina, or the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, we can't seem to help looking to God and questioning why He would let so many suffer and die. But we need to remember that God isn't sitting up there plotting ways to cause us pain. Tragedies happen because this world is fallen. Sin exists and pain and suffering and grief are direct results of that fact. All tragedies are not the result of personal sin, but merely a byproduct of the fallen state of this world. God cannot be blamed for that.
Here's another verse that jumped out at me.For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Job 9:32-33
The KJV uses the word, "daysman" for arbiter. Another translation I read uses mediator. Immediately the first thought that popped into my head was 1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Job's complaining that there is no mediator to stand between him and God and reconcile whatever problem God has with him. Wow. Praise God that we have a Mediator, that Jesus Christ makes intercession for us with God!
You just have to love Zophar the Naamathite. He is the very picture of a good Christian today! What's his response to Job's troubles and grief and hopelessness?
For you say, 'My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.' But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. Job 11:4-6
Boy, if that doesn't sound like a "good" Christian, I don't know what does. You know, obviously Job deserved what he was getting. In fact, ol' Zophar is quick to let Job know that he undoubtedly deserved a lot worse than what he was getting!
How many times have you found yourself sitting in judgment over someone else's misfortune? Not that God doesn't punish. He most certainly does. He corrects His children when they need it. But I find myself consistently amazed by how many Christians claim to know the mind and purpose of God. They look at tragedy and declare, like Zophar, that it must be "deserved" or it wouldn't be happening. Sticking with my earlier theme of major disasters, I know plenty of people who said 9/11, Katrina, and even the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were God's judgment on those affected. I saw some make the same claim about the tornado that ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri.
Amazing how many Christians seem to have a direct line into the heart and mind of God. They know these tragic events were His judgment, not merely evidence of the fallen state of this universe. Same thing with disease. I've lost count of how many times I've heard a fellow Christian say, usually with more than a hint of haughtiness, that the reason someone is sick is because they just weren't living their life right before God.
My point here isn't that global, national, local or personal tragedies are never God's judgment. Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped of the face of the planet in spectacular fashion as a direct warning to the fact that God can, will, and does exact judgement upon people and places that deliberately turn their backs on Him. Yet, even in that instance, God said that He would have spared the cities if there had been just 10 righteous men left within them. It speaks volumes that even that small number could not be found. But I have to ask, do you seriously believe that of all the people who died, or who lost loved ones or their homes in tragedies like 9/11 or Katrina or Japan or Joplin, not even 10 of them could be called righteous in God's eyes. Or maybe we're just assuming that 10 was an arbitrary number and God really wouldn't have stood by it? Or maybe it's changed somewhere along the way? Or just maybe, like what Job is going through, it is meant as a test for the righteous, an opportunity for them to bring glory and honor to God by remaining true to Him in the midst of their tragedy.
In short, I can't help but feel that while the Bible tells us that we will judge all things, it also warns us not to be judgmental of others. It warns us to have compassion on those who are suffering. And if there's one thing I think gets in the way of a vast number of Christians both growing in the Lord and being effective in serving Him, as well as in witnessing to others about Him, it's pride and arrogance. Every single time a Christian points a finger at those suffering in some tragedy and says, "yep, that's God's judgment right there," it hardens one more heart against God. It leads one more person to say, "If that's what it means to be a Christian, then I don't want any part of that 'Holier than thou' attitude." We really need to be careful how we not only treat others, but how we speak to and about them. The Bible says very plainly that we are recognized as Christians by our love; love for each other, and love for all men. First: Love God. Second: Love others as you love yourself. It's very simple. Yet we seem to have a lot of trouble being as kind-hearted, forgiving, encouraging, and loving to others as we are with ourselves. That's a real shame.
On a somewhat lighter note, I absolutely adore Job's sarcasm in Job 12:2-3: No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
Basically, "well aren't you just a pack of know-it-alls? I guess when you die, all wisdom will die with you! Well, I know a few things, too - and you're no better than I am! Who doesn't know the things you've been saying?" Priceless. I love that the Bible isn't just staid words, but that it's alive with feeling and emotion, just like we are.
The rest of today's reading is more tit for tat between Job and his 3 "friends," Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. I couldn't help but notice that keep calling each other windbags. Funny how typical that is. One uses an insult and their opponent promptly turns it around and uses it on them in return. Don't we all do the same thing when we let our tongues get away from us?
This trio of men keep talking about how the wicked will fall, how they will be judged by God, implying not so subtly that Job is being judged and must therefore be wicked. And poor Job just keeps on asserting his innocence and asking them why they're so determined to tear him down even further when he's already at rock bottom. He wants to know why they aren't there to lift him up, to encourage him, to offer their support as he wades through this nightmare of grief.
One thing I started wondering was what Job would have done if they hadn't shown up, though. He starts off feeling pretty doggone sorry for himself. That's still there and it's completely understandable given his circumstances. But he's talking about how much he just wants to die, how God's out to get him for no reason at all and he'd have been better of if he'd died in his mother's womb. As a person who's battled clinical depression my entire adult life, I can certainly sympathize with his feelings. I've been there myself. And while Job's pals aren't doing anything at all to support him, they are making him focus a little less on feeling sorry for himself.
Job winds up chapter 19 with this: (verse 25) For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And verses 28-29: If you say, 'How we will pursue him!' and, 'The root of the matter is found in him,' be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.
An indictment against them for blaming Job for all the troubles that had befallen him and a warning that they are the ones who ought to be worried about being judged for their self-righteous attitudes.
I guess my biggest take away from these chapters is a reminder to stay humble when faced with the tragedy or troubles of others. While it is our job to represent God, to spread His Word and to lead others to His salvation, it would benefit us all to remember that, though not a Biblical verse, this old adage is still very true and pertinent: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. If we want to draw others to God, to be the kinds of Christians that make non-believers stand up and say, "I want what they've got," we have to be loving people. Not condoners of sin, or so afraid of being disliked or misunderstood that we refuse to confront sin no matter how heinous it might be, but people who are wise enough to seek God's guidance in every word we speak. We can confront sin without being confrontational. We just have to be willing to swallow our personal pride and our need to "one-up" whomever we are confronting, and let God guide us in how we speak and act. Because it isn't our actions or words that will lead anyone to Christ, it is His love shining through us that will draw them in.
Lord, please help me to bind my wayward tongue, to rein it in when it would speak rashly or with anything less than Your great love. Remind me to be humble, to seek Your will and Your guidance before jumping into any conversation, especially when it involves another person's grief or pain. Remind me that no matter how long I have known You or served You, I do not know Your holy mind or the breadth or scope of Your great plan for anyone's life, including my own. Forgive me for being arrogant and thinking that I can "shame" others into being who and what I believe they ought to be. Please let me be a beacon for the immeasurable depth of Your love, demonstrated by the death of Christ on the cross for all mankind. Amen.