I am (generally) a rule follower. I love a good list of rules so I know exactly what I can and cannot do – and exactly what YOU can and cannot do. I vividly remember having a long fuzzy imitation lion tail pinned to my rear end as punishment from my 2nd grade teacher for being a classic “Tattle Tail”. For some reason she didn’t think she needed my help in sorting out who broke what rule when. For some reason she thought the whole class would function smoother if everyone focused on their own behavior and sins – rather than rushing to point out and wait for punishment on everyone else’s sins. For some reason I was the person suffering when my classmate got away with murder – well, I don’t even remember what he or she got away with, but I know it didn’t include the loss of life. I would have made a pretty good police officer, but I am not that brave, so I run a home daycare instead. Even better – I make the rules AND I police them.
While Job is suffering from his huge losses he is also tormented by his questions for God regarding why am I the one suffering when I have worked hard to be righteous and follow your rules? Why do the wicked get away with anything and everything – sometimes even murder. Does God need me to point out to Him who broke what rule when? Job and I echo the psalmist who wrote one of my favorites – Psalm 119 – “It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken” (vs 126) & “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” (vs. 136). Get THEM God! Not me.
In today’s reading we begin a second round of “counsel” from Job’s friends. In the first round Eliphaz was a bit sympathetic with Job, but he has become edgier and less patient with Job and his questions. However, rather than answer why the righteous suffer while the wicked get away with evil, Eliphaz spends his whole chapter arguing (quite incorrectly) that indeed, “All his days the wicked man suffers torment” (Job 15:20). He would like to believe that the wicked never prosper – when in fact, we all know better. Eliphaz began with some truth: “Let him (the wicked) not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return.” (Job 15:31). There will indeed be judgment and payback for those who do evil, but not on our time schedule – on God’s. He is insinuating that since God pays back the wicked (now), and Job is suffering, Job must have been wicked and deserving of the trials.
Job’s rebuttal begins in painful chapter 16. He starts by saying “Miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:1). And then he shares several nightmare images of how he feels God has attacked him: “God tears me in his anger and gnashes his teeth at me” (Job 16:9), “He has made me his target; his archers surround me” (Job 16:12,13), “Again and again he bursts upon me, he rushes at me like a warrior.” (Job 16:14). And, Job goes on. The only encouraging tidbit is at the end of the chapter when he alludes again to an intercessor who could plead with God on behalf of man and he also realizes that at least at death his suffering will end. Not too cheery.
It’s really a depressing few chapters as we fail to see the big picture, but just get a snippet of the erroneous arguments, poor examples of comforters and a picture of a man deeply struggling with loss, grief, evil and his vision of God. If only Psalm 73 had already been written – it would have been a perfect interlude for Job that offers real truth and hope. It’s like a mini book of Job, all in one Psalm. I encourage you, even though it is not part of today’s reading – turn there and read the Psalm. The writer, Asaph, begins with similar questions as Job – after all, who hasn’t asked them? Why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer (sometimes with a tattle tail pinned to their behind, pointing finger still in the air)? Take special note of verse 16 & 17. What made the difference in Asaph’s understanding? How, where, when can we do what Asaph did? Does verse 21 & 22 remind you of Job, or maybe even yourself at some point? What did Asaph gain from his new perspective and understanding? How can we put ourselves in a position that is near God? (verse 28).
Today I will leave you with just one more final question. This one comes from the NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups which is chock full of great discussion questions. In a reflection section relating to Psalm 73 they ask, “How would you explain to a child why God does not knock down bullies and troublemakers at school?”
God Bless Your Seeking with Growth & Love,
Recovering Tattle Tail Seeking God’s Sanctuary
Here’s today’s passage to read or listen to – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+14-16&version=NIV
And – here’s Psalm 73, your bonus chapter for the day https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+73&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Job 17-20 as we follow the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan