Job 19-22

Job 19-22…Why is this world broken?

Why is there evil in the world? Related to this is the question of why the wicked seem to get away with their wrongdoing. There’s no easy answer to this problem, and this fact forms the basis of Job’s reply to round two of his friends’ speeches. In this speech, for the first time, Job does not address the Lord, but instead counters his friends’ claims. This speech is also much less emotional.

The biggest problem with retribution theology, Job begins, is that it doesn’t really explain the ways of the world. As he looks around, he finds numerous examples of the wicked prospering. They grow old, they are safe, and they are successful. What’s more, they die happy, even though they deny God. The picture that Job paints here is similar to the one that Eliphaz drew of the good man, so it may be that Job intends a deliberate contrast. Ironically, Job’s friends have accused him of opposing God by challenging His ways, but it is they themselves who have been, in essence, telling God how the world should be run.

The book of Job doesn’t answer the problem of evil. We need to look elsewhere in Scripture to consider various aspects of this difficult question. Psalm 73 is a good place to start. Here the psalmist considers the apparent success of the wicked and wonders if he has been faithful in vain. The turning point comes in v. 17, where the psalmist begins to understand the final destiny of the wicked beyond this life. Then his heart is encouraged, as he considers his own eternal destiny with the Lord.

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Job 19-21

Job 19-21…Why is this world broken?

Why is there evil in the world? Related to this is the question of why the wicked seem to get away with their wrongdoing. There’s no easy answer to this problem, and this fact forms the basis of Job’s reply to round two of his friends’ speeches. In this speech, for the first time, Job does not address the Lord, but instead counters his friends’ claims. This speech is also much less emotional.

The biggest problem with retribution theology, Job begins, is that it doesn’t really explain the ways of the world. As he looks around, he finds numerous examples of the wicked prospering. They grow old, they are safe, and they are successful. What’s more, they die happy, even though they deny God. The picture that Job paints here is similar to the one that Eliphaz drew of the good man, so it may be that Job intends a deliberate contrast. Ironically, Job’s friends have accused him of opposing God by challenging His ways, but it is they themselves who have been, in essence, telling God how the world should be run.

The book of Job doesn’t answer the problem of evil. We need to look elsewhere in Scripture to consider various aspects of this difficult question. Psalm 73 is a good place to start. Here the psalmist considers the apparent success of the wicked and wonders if he has been faithful in vain. The turning point comes in v. 17, where the psalmist begins to understand the final destiny of the wicked beyond this life. Then his heart is encouraged, as he considers his own eternal destiny with the Lord.

Job 16-18

Job 16-18…Turning to God

Today’s passage contains part of Job’s fifth speech. In the opening section (16:1–17), Job expresses his exasperation with his friends. He questions what kind of comforters they really are (16:4–6). We also find another honest expression of Job’s anger with God when he falsely accuses the Lord of turning him over to wicked men (16:11).

In the first part of today’s passage (16:18–17:2), Job implores the earth to avenge his suffering. In the cosmic courtroom, Job recognizes that creation bears witness to human actions. More importantly, Job realizes that the only one who can defend his case is to be found in heaven. The Hebrew word that translates as witness (v. 19) refers to one who knows the innocence of the accused and who will see that justice is done.

There is considerable debate concerning the Hebrew text in verse 20, which could either refer positively to God or negatively to Job’s friends. Either way, we see Job’s confidence that he would ultimately find justice, if not in this life, then beyond it. Despite the fact that his friends misunderstand him (17:3–12), implicit in Job’s words is his understanding that God is the One to whom he must turn.

Job 13-15

Job 13-15…God is sovereign over losses.

Sometimes even well-intentioned Christians can hold simplistic views of God. For example, we might hear a sports star claim after an upset victory that he had prayed and knew that the Lord would give him victory. Now it’s entirely right to give God the glory, but the implication here is that God’s answer could only have been victory. What if defeat had been part of the divine plan?

This is an important point to ponder. Job’s friends were no doubt well-intentioned, but they had a rather simplistic theology. For them, it wasn’t possible both to be in God’s will and experience suffering. Consequently, they ended up being judgmental of those who suffered.

Today’s passage is actually the middle section of a long speech by Job. In the first part (Job 12), he replies to Zophar, in essence, saying, “Tell me something that I don’t already know!” Job knew that God’s wisdom was beyond comprehension. And he knew that repentance was the answer to sin. But he also knew that life was much more complicated than his friends were willing to admit. Their heartless response to his suffering provokes some rather sharp accusations (Job 13:4–12). If they were experiencing what he was, how would they fare?

Despite his friends’ claims, Job knows that he is not sinless (v. 23), but he doesn’t believe that his sin merits his suffering. Job realizes that a truly godless man would have no confidence to come before God (v. 16). Yet, though God may slay him, Job realizes that he has nowhere else to turn.

So again, Job comes before the Lord and asks for a fair hearing (vv. 20–28). These verses reveal how isolated Job feels from God. Whereas he once enjoyed fellowship, he now feels as if God has become his enemy.

In his current state, Job once again laments the frailty of his humanity. But for the first time, we find a glimmer of hope (Job 14:15–17). Job is beginning to envision a time when he will be restored to God. This is his first glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Job 7-12

Job 7-12…Zophar

Job gets advice from a number of friends, but Zophar is the most critical in his approach. He tries to lock Job into the same system as his friends, namely that suffering comes from sin, so the solution must be repentance. We see this logic three times: from Eliphaz (5:17), from Bildad (8:20), and from Zophar (11:14).

In the first part of his speech, Zophar dismisses Job’s words as idle chatter. He can’t hear Job’s anguished cries in the context of despair, but rather focuses only on Job’s bold outbursts and questions. He accuses Job of being self-righteous and mistakenly charges Job of claiming to be flawless and pure before God. Yet neither of these claims can be found in Job’s earlier speeches. Zophar prays that God would rebuke Job. At the end of Job, this is exactly what happens, but Zophar and his two companions are also roundly rebuked as well!

Much of what Zophar says is doctrinally correct, but he lacks compassion. He has heard Job’s words, but not his heart. Part of what may be motivating Job’s friends is their own fears: if suffering comes from sin, then maybe they can avoid suffering if they avoid sin. But Job’s situation is much deeper than that, and the logic that suffering in this life comes directly as a result of specific sins we’ve committed is simply false.

Job 1-6

Job 1-6…The problem of evil.

At the heart of the message of the book of Job is the wisdom with respect to answering the question as to how God is involved in the problem of human suffering. In every generation protests arise saying that if God is good, then there should be no pain, no suffering or death in this world. Along with this protest against bad things happening to good people, have also been attempts to create a calculus of pain, by which it is assumed that an individual’s threshold of suffering is in direct proportion to the degree of their guilt or the sin they have committed. A quick response to this is found in the ninth chapter of John, where Jesus responds to the disciples’ question regarding the source of the suffering of the man born blind.

In the first few chapters of the book of Job, the character is described as a righteous man. In fact, the most righteous man to be found on the earth, but one whom Satan claims is righteous only to receive blessings from the hand of God. God has put a hedge around him and has blessed him beyond all mortals, and as a result the Devil accuses Job of serving God only because of the generous payoff he receives from his Maker. The challenge comes from the evil one for God to remove the hedge of protection and see whether Job will then begin to curse God. As the story unfolds, Job’s suffering goes in rapid progression from bad to worse. His suffering is so intense that he finds himself sitting on a dung heap, cursing the day he was born, and crying out in relentless pain. His suffering is so great that even his wife counsels him to curse God, that he might die and be relieved of his agony. What unfolds further in the story is the counsel given to Job from Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Their testimony shows how hollow and shallow is their loyalty to Job, and how presumptive they are in assuming that Job’s untold misery must be grounded in a radical degeneracy in Job’s character.

The answer that comes clearly from the wisdom of the book of Job that agrees with the other premises of the wisdom literature is this: the fear of the Lord, awe and reverence before God, is the beginning of wisdom. And when we are befuddled and confused by things that we cannot understand in this world, we look not for specific answers always to specific questions, but we look to know God in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His justice, and in His mercy. Therein is the wisdom that is found in the book of Job.

Esther 8-10

Esther 8-10…Spiritual warfare.

Esther achieved Haman’s defeat (Est. 4–7), but something had to be done about the royal decree to destroy the Jews in Persia. Since this edict cannot be revoked, Ahasuerus gives Esther permission to make another decree in the king’s name allowing the Jews to “annihilate” any who might attack them (8:1–14). Esther even gets permission for a second day of fighting, and tens of thousands of her Persian enemies end up dead (8:15–9:19).

Such violence seems excessive to us, especially since Christ’s plan for His church does not include the right to conquer with the sword. But this does not mean the Jews sinned in this case. We read that the Jews laid “no hands on the plunder” that could have been theirs after they slaughtered the Persians (9:4–10, 15–16). This tells us the Jews engaged in holy battle against the Lord’s enemies since His servants were not allowed to profit from such conflicts (Josh. 6–7).

All sorts of wild theories about spiritual warfare abound in the church today. Nevertheless, there is a real war going on every time the Gospel is preached. All people are inclined from birth to reject Jesus and will only trust Him if the Holy Spirit conquers their hearts and enables them to trust in the Lord. One of our chief weapons in this battle is prayer, and we must fight for God’s kingdom by loving our enemies and praying for the conversion of others.

Esther 5-7

Esther 5-7…God is faithful.

The book of Esther shows again that God keeps His word even when His people do not. Even in the exile, our Father sovereignly orchestrated history to give His people a second chance to destroy their foes. Saul failed, but another Benjaminite named Mordecai, with the help of his cousin Esther, accomplished God’s purpose against Agag and the Amalekites. And by the Lord’s grace, Mordecai and Esther did so without being exemplary saints.

God is not named explicitly in the book of Esther, but He is present nonetheless. Mordecai “happened” to hear of the plot to kill Ahasuerus (2:19–23). His warning to Ahasuerus made the king favor him when the ruler “happened” to have a sleepless night (6:1–11). These events all “happened” to converge and put Mordecai and Esther in place as agents through which God was again faithful to His sinful people to save them from annihilation.

When we look back over our lives, we often find that the Lord was conspicuously present during those times when we thought He was absent. During the times when we suffer from doubts about God’s love for us, we should not focus on whether or not we “feel” His presence. The Lord may choose to hide Himself for a time, but He never leaves us. Those with persevering faith trust that God is present and directing their lives even if He seems to be a million miles away.

Esther 1-4

Esther 1-4

We read the story of Esther in the book that bears her name. Esther 1 gives us the story of a grand banquet that the king of Persia held. In the midst of the celebration, the king decided to call forth his beautiful queen, Vashti, to come and dance before his friends at the feast. When Vashti refused, King Ahasuerus banished her from the court.

In chapter 2, we learn that after Vashti was sent away, the king embarked on a search for a new queen. After searching high and low in his realm, the king’s advisors found a Jewess named Hadassah, who was being raised under the name Esther by her cousin Mordecai. After many months of preparation, Esther won the king’s favor and became queen.

Esther 3 describes the plot of Haman, one of the king’s important advisors, to annihilate the Jews in Persia because of Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman. Truly, this was a key turning point in the history of redemption. If Haman had succeeded, the Jews would have been wiped out, and there would be no Messiah and no salvation for the world.

Great mourning broke out among the Jews, culminating in Mordecai’s plea for Esther to intervene in her people’s behalf. Fearing for her own life, Esther initially refused (4:1–11). But Mordecai warned her that if she did not involve herself, the Jews would be rescued by the hand of another. However, Esther herself would not escape death if she thought she could preserve her life by doing nothing (vv. 12–14). Upon hearing that, Esther vowed to go before the king upon threat of death (vv. 15–17).

Her courage is even more remarkable when we consider that the name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther. This is the author’s way of depicting the hidden hand of providence, the Lord’s working in ways that are not immediately discernible to us. Esther trusted this providence even when she had no idea how things would turn out for her.

Nehemiah 11-13

Nehemiah 11-13…Heart change.

Having rebuilt the wall, Nehemiah recognized that a physical defense for the city would be no good without a change in the hearts of the people. So he gathered the people together to hear Ezra read the law of God and express repentance for the sins that had put them into exile in the first place. There was also a great celebration at the dedication of the wall around Jerusalem, for the Lord had been faithful to grant the people success in their important endeavor (Neh. 12:27–47).

Consistent preaching of the gospel both to ourselves and to the world around us is necessary if reformation is to endure. We need to be reminded of the gravity of our sin and the greatness of our Savior in order to live in grateful obedience to His Word. Others must realize their lack of trust in Christ, so that they might become converted and their lives transformed. There will never be a point in this life when the gospel is unnecessary.