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What on earth is God doing when there is injustice?


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Bible passage: Job 4:1–21


Job 4

Eliphaz
 1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

 2 “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
   But who can keep from speaking?
3 Think how you have instructed many,
   how you have strengthened feeble hands.
4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
   you have strengthened faltering knees.
5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
   it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
6 Should not your piety be your confidence
   and your blameless ways your hope?

 7 “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
   Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plow evil
   and those who sow trouble reap it.
9 At the breath of God they perish;
   at the blast of his anger they are no more.
10 The lions may roar and growl,
   yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.
11 The lion perishes for lack of prey,
   and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

 12 “A word was secretly brought to me,
   my ears caught a whisper of it.
13 Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
   when deep sleep falls on people,
14 fear and trembling seized me
   and made all my bones shake.
15 A spirit glided past my face,
   and the hair on my body stood on end.
16 It stopped,
   but I could not tell what it was.
A form stood before my eyes,
   and I heard a hushed voice:
17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
   Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?
18 If God places no trust in his servants,
   if he charges his angels with error,
19 how much more those who live in houses of clay,
   whose foundations are in the dust,
   who are crushed more readily than a moth!
20 Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces;
   unnoticed, they perish forever.
21 Are not the cords of their tent pulled up,
   so that they die without wisdom?’

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Tags: Hope, Trust

Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).
Tags: Hope, Trust

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God is in control
And so the debate begins.

I’ve got something to say, begins Eliphaz. Look Job, you need to be consistent. You’ve given good advice to others (see vs 3,4), but you can’t seem to take it yourself (see v 5). Let me teach you. And he does, though not with much sympathy.

And what Eliphaz and his friends will spell out for the rest of the book is that: God is in control; God is just; God punishes sin and rewards righteousness; therefore, if you’re suffering, you must be sinful. This is hard to argue with. Yes, God is in control – Job 1 and 2 has shown us that. Yes, God is just. Yes, he does punish sin and rejoices in righteousness.

God's timeline
But as we saw in Job 2, there may be other reasons for suffering. The psalms and the prophets and the histories of God’s people are full of the innocent who suffer, and the wicked who prosper. Eliphaz is too simplistic. He doesn’t consider God’s timeline. Yes, God will punish all evil and raise up the righteous, but not necessarily in their lifetimes. In eternity the judge of all the earth will do right.

And if Eliphaz can’t imagine the innocent perishing (v 7), how can he imagine God himself dying on a cross, the righteous for the unrighteous?

Mark Ellis
Tags: Hope, Trust

Respond


Praise God that he is just. But praise him that he is also merciful, and made us righteous through his Son, the innocent one who suffered for the guilty.


Deeper Bible study


Opening the first round of dialogue with Job, Eliphaz’s tone seems to be respectful (v 2), praising Job’s ministry of counselling the needy (vs 3,4). Verse 5 reads, ‘But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed’ (italics added). ‘But now’ implies that Job should apply to himself the instruction he has given to others. All positive comments only lead to a rebuke. Thereafter Eliphaz brings out the principles of retribution (vs 7–11) and human depravity (vs 17–21). This constitutes a theodicy – a way of vindicating God in the light of the existence of evil.

Regarding retribution, Eliphaz’s focus seems to lack balance. By using the metaphor of preying lions to symbolise the wicked, Eliphaz puts more weight on their punishment (vs 8–11) than on the vindication of the righteous (v 7). Despite affirming Job’s piety and integrity at the outset (v 6), Eliphaz eventually switches to casting doubt on Job. He then applies the theology of human depravity to Job (vs 17–21): no mortal is righteous from God’s perspective (v 17). Even the heavenly beings are fallible and untrustworthy – so how much more are humans (vs 18,19), which implies Job’s sinful human nature. Eliphaz points out that mortals will die ‘without wisdom’ (v 21, italics added). These final words demonstrate that wisdom is Eliphaz’s issue.

There is nothing wrong with Eliphaz’s attempt to find meaning for human misfortune. However, it would be cruel for someone who is not suffering to stop a person who is suffering from speaking offensive words. Chapter 3 reveals how Job is struggling to come to terms with his faith. Eliphaz’s theodicy aims to quench the uneasiness caused by Job’s self-curse and lament. However, he overlooks and misjudges his friend’s real need.

Alison Lo

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Sweet surrender
Andy & Wendy Green
Copyright © 2009 Cornerhouse Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com



Beyond these present sufferings
(Beautiful in my sight) Nick Herbert & John Peters
Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music


Comments
  • Rachael Hampton | Wednesday, 11 July 2018

    A WL book of wisdom; indeed Roger. Thank you so much everyone for your helpful ideas and honest sharing. As we listen to Job’s friends and weigh them up against what you have said, I think we will find them sadly lacking. Perhaps the worst thing about depression is that it cuts off the supply lines that strengthen and nourish our faith. Lack of motivation, exhaustion and mental fatigue keep us from fellowship and activities that feed faith. David and others, I feel for you very much, and honour you for persevering so faithfully with Word Live. You are valued, wanted and loved, each one, by this community and by your Father. We continue to pray with Angela that His brightness will shine in your gloom.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    What a beautiful, spirit filled comment RACHAEL. I'll not spoil it by adding anything.

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    God has been examining the depth of Job’s faith as he innocently faced many trials and difficulties. God was looking intently to see if He, Himself was to be seen in Job’s life......”so that God’s power might be seen at work in Him.” (John 9:3) Jesus continued this as He went on to say “I am the light for the world.” Job’s friends needed to remain silent as their condemning words did not offer the help needed. We come alongside suffering and support a reactive fight as we trust in God for some good to emerge. We know that God will always be goodness and light; we can depend on this fact........Remember in the darkness what you have learned in the light.” (Joseph Bayly) Thank you God for answers to our prayers and trust in You as we wait. Amen.

  • Gill Glass | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Thank you for this helpful quote Angela. I hadn’t heard about Joseph Bayly but just read this about him: Joseph Bayly and his wife lost three of their children – one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident plus hemophilia).  Each time the wave of grief pounded their shore – tears flowed. Joe Bayly wrote the following: “I was sitting, torn by grief.  Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave.  He talked constantly; he said things I knew were true.  I was moved except to wish he’d go away.  He finally did.  Another came and sat beside me.  He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, and left.  I was moved, I was comforted.  I hated to see him go.”

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    I have two brothers who lost their nearest and dearest. One didn't want to hear anything from anybody. The other craved for his siblings conversation. Sensitivity, consideration,diplomacy and thoughtfulness come to mind.

  • Anne Slack | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Amen to your prayer; Thank you God for answers to our prayers and trust in You as we wait. Amen Angela,

  • Jack Russell | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Eliphaz says "those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it" and chastens Job for being discouraged in his own troubles when he has helped others in theirs. Talk about kicking a man when he is down! I think you are right Rachel that we will find Job's friends sadly lacking.

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    The only words which came from my mouth when our son died were 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away .' It was final and I realised it. Living without him has been hard but God has been with us all the way, not some of the way not part of the way but all the way. Our Doctor gave us wonderful words of wisdom when he told us that people who would come and cry with us were no good to us, he said we needed people who would come and share good memories who would support us and encourage us. He was right. He also advised us to read Christina Rossetti's poems. The biggest support we got was from our Son's Military Band in which he was a Musician they came and marched in front of us they played beautiful music in Church especially 'A Gaelic Blessing' they accompanied us singing chosen hymns, they marched before us to the grave and played 'The Last Post and Reveille ' They shared afterwards in refreshments indeed a sacrament. God was with us. God is still with us. The book of Job is such a help to me personally. What a fiend we have in Jesus all our sins and grief's to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer, Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Gracious what a misprint it should read FRIEND of course. Sorry friends.

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Job is named in Eziekil along with Noah and Daniel as a faithful interfered.

  • David Chipchase | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Very valuable and intense comments over the last couple of days. Thank you.

  • Peter Moore | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    God bless you Barbara. Precious memories. What would Job have gone through. So many funerals. And such physical misery. What he had lost. But somewhere in the middle of it all he could say ' I know that my redeemer lives. And though worms destroy this body yet shall I see God. That gives hope. I'm sorely tested as a much loved carer returns to Poland. Another from the Philippines reduces hours. And another from Colombia is in Cuba. But even though it's been at the last minute God has always provided me with wonderful carers. Please God do it again. And keep me calmly trusting. I couldn't tear my robes or cover myself with ash. Even if I wanted to.

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Thank,you RACHAEL for your very understanding & perceptive comment. God is still on the throne !

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 12 July 2018

    Sorry- tried to add link to the chorus but can never manage it on here - think many of us will remember it from years ago.

  • Helen Pedley | Friday, 13 July 2018

    Hi Eileen - here is a link to the chorus you were looking for https://gospelchoruses.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/god-is-still-on-the-throne/ Brings back memories of a CSSM beach mission in the 1970s for me.

  • Eileen Smith | Friday, 13 July 2018

    Thank you Helen— beach missions— takes me back! used to look for them for several years when on holiday so that our daughter could join in . They did a great work. We met up with quite a few people from our past- either on the team or there on holiday with their children- one a CU college friend from the late 1950s & not seen since - one team member turned out to be the daughter of another Christian from college ! We used CSSM choruses in Sunday school . Think we’ll meet a lot of people in heaven who are there because of beach missions

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