Faith, God

Do we let the ironies of life undermine our piety and hinder our devotion to God?

Like Job, we sometimes blame God for not rewarding and punishing people strictly according to what they deserve (Job 9:22-24, 10:3). In Job 15:4 Eliphaz (a friend of Job who believed that Job must have sinned to incite God’s punishment) argued that if Job was right then it would be impossible to honour God and religion and worship would come to an end. According to Eliphaz, the views which Job maintained “sap the very foundations of religion” for if God treated the righteous and the wicked alike, then one would have nothing to hope and the other nothing to fear.

There could be no ground of encouragement, to pray to Him. Why should people pray, if all are to be treated alike at death? How can people worship and honour a Being who will treat the good and the bad alike? How can we have confidence in a being who makes no distinction with regard to character? And what inducement can there be to be pious, when all people shall be made as happy as they can be forever whether they are pious or not?

Let us take a look at God’s response to Job’s accusations in chapter 40. In verse 8 God asked Job: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” When a man complains against God, it is implied that he supposes he knows better than God. Job considered himself to be punished far beyond what he deserved, and his suffering in a manner which justice did not demand. All this implied that Job thought he was more righteous than what God perceives of him, for when a man allows himself to vent such complaints, it indicates that he esteems himself to be more just than his Maker.

In chapter 40 and 41, God emphasised his sovereignty in creation. He is king of the universe and is not subject to questions from his creatures, including men. The point of these speeches is to proclaim the absolute power of God over His creation. He is not in need of approval from His creation. Job 40:11-13 tells us how God deals with proud and wicked people, and after Job repented (see chapter 42) God restored him to health, doubled the riches he possessed before and blessed him with seven sons and three daughters. His three daughters (Jemima, Keziah and Keren-Happuch) were the most beautiful in the land, and were given inheritance along with their brothers. Job is blessed once again and lives on another 140 years after the ordeal, living to see his children to the fourth generation and dying peacefully of old age. Hence, God proved to Job that He is indeed righteous and just after all.

Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who berated him for refusing to confess his sins, assumed that God always rewards good and punishes evil, with no exceptions. There seems to be no room in their understanding of God for divine discretion and mystery in allowing and arranging suffering for purposes other than retribution. In the epilogue, God condemns them for their ignorance and lack of understanding while commending Job for his righteous words, God commands them to prepare burnt offerings and reassures them that Job will pray for their forgiveness (Job 42:7-8). In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus also taught that people who come to a sudden and violent death is not proof that they are especially wicked.

We should therefore not let the ironies of life undermine our piety and hinder our devotion to God. Who are we to judge our Maker? May we strive to love God with all our heart, mind and soul in all situations for we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Roma 8:28).

Let me end with a quotation from Isaiah 55:6-11 which complements the teachings of the book of Job and proclaims the effectiveness of the Word of God in accomplishing His will: “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”


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