Synopsis Job 20:17-21:20 6/18/2021
As the conversation continued, Zophar persisted in rebuking Job. Specifically, he claimed that evil people may indeed have great wealth. But he countered Job by claiming that their eventual downfall comes quickly and violently.
Yet, Job dismissed Zophar’s claim. As an alternative, he challenged Zophar by observing that not only do evil people often thrive, they also overtly reject God. And yet, God does not punish them.
Job found this perplexing and frustrating.
Job was exasperated by the conversation with his friends. Neither his nor their effort to persuade was having any effect. No one changed their position.
Talk and Revelation
In the end, evangelization is never a matter of persuasion. Instead, the issue rests on my willingness to accept revelation.
For a believer this is obvious. So much so, it is easy to forget how rare the gift really is.
“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’” Matt 16:17
Synopsis Job 19:14-20:16 6/17/2021
In his anguish, Job responded to Bildad. In what has become typical, Job laments his feelings of abandonment. And he begged that his friends would pity him rather than accuse him of wrongdoing.
Even so, Job anticipated his eventual vindication. In a rare moment of clarity, he believed that God still planned to rescue him. And then he predicted that his friends would be forced to repent from their simpleminded understanding of God.
In response, Zophar proclaimed a variation on his past theme. Namely, he argued that evil people are suddenly destroyed in a way that prevents them from enjoying their illicit gains.
Somehow, in the midst of his agony, Job still believed.
To be redeemed is the ultimate vindication. Not that this should cause envy in those who have shamed me. But instead, my anticipation is to experience the fulfillment of the thing I have set my heart upon.
It won’t be done with money, because it is no mere transaction. But it is the very working or God.
“For thus says the LORD: For nothing you were sold,without money you shall be redeemed.” Isa 52:3
Synopsis Job 18:2-19:13 6/16/2021
Undeterred by Job’s arguments, Bildad once again attempted to reason with Job. However, for the most part he merely restated his own argument. Once again, he attempted to persuade Job to believe that his misfortune was the result of some secret evil.
But Job remained steadfast. As a result, he dismissed Bildad’s simpleminded explanation. And once again, he proclaimed that God had not been fair with him.
Job Learns a Distinction
Job wanted to appeal to God because of the injustice of his circumstances. But he came to make a distinction between injustice and unfairness.
Unfairness vs Injustice
Fairness is a matter of comparison. One person compares their circumstances to those of another. And if the first person perceives they have less, the situation seems unfair.
But if God is working in me and through me in order to accomplish some great goal, there is no injustice. The resources I have are those necessary to accomplish the goal.
Despite the pain of unfairness which often provokes my natural tendency to envy, God has obviously done no wrong. In fact, if I can’t let go of my emphasis on fairness, I could be blocked from receiving the graces that are uniquely intended for me for the purposes of serving Him.
LORD, my allotted portion and my cup, you have made my destiny secure.” Psa 16:5
Synopsis Job 16:7-18:1 6/15/2021
After Eliphaz spoke, Job responded. In this speech, he castigated his friends. Not only had they not comforted him, but they also spoke simpleminded untruths about God.
The pain of his suffering combined with the pain of his useless friends overwhelmed Job. And so, he looked forward to death as his only relief from the suffering.
Job asked rhetorically, “Where then is my hope?” He no longer looked forward to anything in life except the relief of death.
Suffering in the absence of meaning is humanly unacceptable.
Perhaps for this reason, Jesus told his disciples to expect trouble. But He also encouraged them by pointing out that He had overcome the world. Their suffering was not arbitrary.
Our suffering is not arbitrary. It is filled with meaning.
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Matt 10:28
Synopsis Job 15:11-16:6 6/4/2021
Job rebuked Zophar. And afterward, he addressed God directly.
But Eliphaz was offended by Job’s speech. And so, he responded once again. Specifically, he challenged Job’s claim that evil people prosper. He countered Job’s argument by observing that evil people suffer in their conscience even while enjoying material wealth.
And then, Job began a second response to Eliphaz’s rebuke. He opened by suggesting that if the situation was reversed, Zophar wouldn’t be so quick to condemn.
Job’s Golden Rule
Job said, “I could talk as you do, were you in my place.”
Suffering and Empathy
It is the strangest of all rules in life. There is, it seems, no empathy without suffering. Suffering is a watershed. It breaks the natural solipsist. Or, it hardens him forever.
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged” Matt 7:1
Synopsis Job 14:4-15:10 6/3/2021
In this midst of his suffering, Job cried out to God. In his desperate questioning, he asked if any man remained undefiled. So, he answered his own question. He observed that all humans sinned.
So, he questioned God. Specifically, he asked God why he cares about sin. He wanted to understand. If everyone is sinful, why punish sin? Why not, he wondered, just leave people alone until they die.
Job’s friend Eliphaz decided to speak in reply to Job’s questions. Almost immediately, he rebuked Job for impiety because of the way he spoke. And he suggested that Job thought too much of his own intelligence, which deceived him into thinking his impiety was appropriate.
Job’s Big Question
In effect, Job wondered why God concerned himself about sin. If everyone sins, he reasoned, isn’t this just a part of human nature?
Fallen Human Nature
Does God punish my sins in order to get retribution?
The idea of sin is not the idea of karma. With karma, I do something bad, I get something bad back. Or, I do something good, and good things will come my way.
Sin literally means absence – the absence of good. My sin is the absence of the good that should be in me.
So, I can see correction as a double negative – correction removes the absence of the good that should be in me. But, this is awkward and a little confusing.
Or, I can see correction as a positive – correction completes that which is lacking in me.
“At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” Heb 12:11
Synopsis Job 12:18-14:3 6/2/2021
In responding to Zophar, Job claimed that there is no necessary connection between virtuous behavior and outcomes. In other words, even though he had not sinned, he still suffered. Neither his sin nor his lack of sin caused his suffering. Instead, the cause was God and it was not a matter of justice.
At this point, Job pointedly criticized his friends. All three had argued that God only rewards virtue. Furthermore, they claimed that God never allows righteous people to experience suffering.
Job’s friends failed to convince him. So much so, that he questioned their motives. Specifically, he asked them why they glossed over the fact that evil people very often have comfortable lives. Accordingly, he questioned whether they thought they were doing God a favor by defending his justness.
And then, Job addressed God with his lament. He asked God the reason that he felt cut off and abandoned.
Job was a man in pain. As such, he was looking for real answers that could help him cope.
People say, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. When nothing is on the line, then we are all free to speculate. And one answer is, more or less, as good as another.
However, when my need is so acute and so painful that I can’t cope, speculation is meaningless. At this point of need, I look for something proven to fix my problem.
Interestingly, just today the Holy Father encouraged Catholics to recite the “Jesus Prayer” throughout the day as a means of devotion.
So, here goes: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
“There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” Acts 4:12
Synopsis Job 11:4-12:18 6/1/2021
Zophar accused Job. Although he didn’t identify Job’s sin, he concluded Job had sinned. In fact, Zophar reckoned Job a sinner because of his misfortune.
As he saw it, every man was a sinner. As a result, he concluded that Job’s suffering was because of his own sin. Accordingly, he advised Job to repent. Furthermore, Zophar promised that God would restore his fortunes if he simply admitted his sin.
Job refused Zophar’s advice. And he mocked Zophar’s intelligence.
Job observed it is easy to offer pontificate when everything is going well. At the same time, he pointed out that sophisticated thieves often have very nice homes. As a result, he rebuked Zophar naivety.
Zophar was a successful man. Most likely he recognized the link between virtues like hard work and success in life.
But Job’s point was that no amount of virtue guarantees an undisturbed life. Everyone experiences some pain and suffering regardless how virtuous. Curiously, on the other hand, people who lack virtue very often live relatively undisturbed lives.
And so, Job rejected Zophar’s reasoning and his advice.
It would be convenient if the meaning of life followed simple lines. And it would be nicer still if virtue came guaranteed to produce a life free from pain and suffering.
But my life is messy. And in my case, it has been filled with failure. Oddly, the correlation between my sins and my successes has never been obvious in the moment. And even in hindsight, I’m often confused by what moral cause led to which circumstantial outcome.
And yet, virtue is always worthy – always good.
“The naive believe everything, but the shrewd watch their steps.” Prov 14:15
Synopsis Job 7:9-8:17 5/26/2021
In his despair, Job decided that he would no longer be silent. He especially refused to be silenced by the arguments of his friends.
And so, he began to address God directly. In this way, he cried out to God with questions. He wanted to know why God had attacked him without provocation. And he asked God why he even pays attention to insignificant, individual men in the first place.
Furthermore, Job despaired at the condition of all men. Specifically, he observed how, even if he were innocent, God could make him condemn himself. What’s more, God is so powerful, that he could make it so Job was unaware of his own innocence. Finally, Job asked a final question. He wanted to know why, even if he had sinned, God refused to pardon him.
So, Job’s friend Bildad felt the need to respond. In this way, he attempted to comfort Job while also defending God. In the end, Bildad urged Job to trust that God would restore his fortunes.
In the midst of his misery, Job contemplated his situation. And from that, he reflected on the condition of all men. He wondered at the awesome magnitude of God’s power. But he also wrestled with two competing ideas.
First, God is all powerful – omnipotent. Second, God is essentially just – righteous.
But does the magnitude of God’s awesome power obscure His sense of justice? Job wanted an answer.
Wrestling with God
Suffering entered the world because a man and a woman sinned. But now there are seven or eight billion people on the planet. Why should God focus on me?
So, as God considers me, does it do it from afar? Or, is God aware of how the circumstances of my life look to me? And if He is, does He care? Should He care?
Curiously, these questions don’t occur to me when everything seems to be going my way. I only wonder such things when I’m suffering. And yet, these questions go to the very essence of the nature of God. So, strangely enough, there is something about unavoidable suffering that has the potential to bring me closer to God.
“to know him [Jesus] and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death” Phil 3:10
Synopsis Job 6:5-7:8 5/25/2021
Despite Bildad’s efforts, Job rejected his friend’s encouragement.
Basically, Job refuted Bildad’s belief that God would eventually restore Job. Instead, Job expressed his singular desire that God would simply end his life of suffering with death. He knew that he did not have the strength to endure much more.
Furthermore, Job observed that the advice of his old friend was worthless. Even though Bildad’s encouragements seemed like something Job could hold to, they were empty words. The false hope was worse than no hope.
And then, Job challenged his friends to explain the situation. Specifically, he argued that they could not refute his claim that life was nothing but a drudgery. And he concluded by explaining his belief that he would never see happiness again.
Bildad and the False Hope
Bildad wanted to give Job some hope. But Job recognized that Bildad had no good reason to believe that God would restore him. Since Job had not sinned, his suffering wasn’t a matter of justice. Job’s suffering was the result of God simply doing whatever He wanted.
Job realized that he couldn’t change God. As a result, he felt hopeless. Ironically, his only hope was that his suffering might end in death.
Jesus solves the basic problem of broken relationship with God. And, every other problem or challenge in life is subordinate to this.
This is our hope.
“Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.” 1Tim 6:17