When Life Seems Unfair
A daily devotion for December 14th
1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
2 "My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.
3 I hear a rebuke that dishonors me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.
4 "Surely you know how it has been from of old,
ever since man was placed on the earth,
5 that the mirth of the wicked is brief,
the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
6 Though his pride reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,
7 he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?'
8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.
9 The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.
10 His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.
11 The youthful vigor that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.
12 "Though evil is sweet in his mouth
and he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he cannot bear to let it go
and keeps it in his mouth,
14 yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
it will become the venom of serpents within him.
15 He will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.
16 He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him.
17 He will not enjoy the streams,
the rivers flowing with honey and cream.
18 What he toiled for he must give back uneaten;
he will not enjoy the profit from his trading.
19 For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute;
he has seized houses he did not build.
20 "Surely he will have no respite from his craving;
he cannot save himself by his treasure.
21 Nothing is left for him to devour;
his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
the full force of misery will come upon him.
23 When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
and rain down his blows upon him.
24 Though he flees from an iron weapon,
a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
25 He pulls it out of his back,
the gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;
26 total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
and devour what is left in his tent.
27 The heavens will expose his guilt;
the earth will rise up against him.
28 A flood will carry off his house,
rushing waters on the day of God's wrath.
29 Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God."
1 Then Job replied:
2 "Listen carefully to my words;
let this be the consolation you give me.
3 Bear with me while I speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.
4 "Is my complaint directed to man?
Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be astonished;
clap your hand over your mouth.
6 When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
7 Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?
8 They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
9 Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not upon them.
10 Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
11 They send forth their children as a flock;
their little ones dance about.
12 They sing to the music of tambourine and harp;
they make merry to the sound of the flute.
13 They spend their years in prosperity
and go down to the grave in peace.
14 Yet they say to God, 'Leave us alone!
We have no desire to know your ways.
15 Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him?
What would we gain by praying to him?'
16 But their prosperity is not in their own hands,
so I stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked.
17 "Yet how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out?
How often does calamity come upon them,
the fate God allots in his anger?
18 How often are they like straw before the wind,
like chaff swept away by a gale?
19 It is said, 'God stores up a man's punishment for his sons.'
Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it!
20 Let his own eyes see his destruction;
let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.
21 For what does he care about the family he leaves behind
when his allotted months come to an end?
22 "Can anyone teach knowledge to God,
since he judges even the highest?
23 One man dies in full vigor,
completely secure and at ease,
24 his body well nourished,
his bones rich with marrow.
25 Another man dies in bitterness of soul,
never having enjoyed anything good.
26 Side by side they lie in the dust,
and worms cover them both.
27 "I know full well what you are thinking,
the schemes by which you would wrong me.
28 You say, 'Where now is the great man's house,
the tents where wicked men lived?'
29 Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts-
30 that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity,
that he is delivered from the day of wrath?
31 Who denounces his conduct to his face?
Who repays him for what he has done?
32 He is carried to the grave,
and watch is kept over his tomb.
33 The soil in the valley is sweet to him;
all men follow after him,
and a countless throng goes before him.
34 "So how can you console me with your nonsense?
Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!"
Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts — that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity, that he is delivered from the day of wrath? (Job 21:29-30)
Life seems to be unfair. There appears to be a basic unfairness at the root of things, and this is what causes many people to be troubled by Christians' claims about a loving, faithful, just, and holy God. You often hear the question raised,
If there is a good God, why does He let this kind of thing happen? Job is raising the same question. He says to these pious, respectable friends,
Your arguments do not square with the facts. You say God always visits wrath upon the wicked. What about these wicked people who live without a touch? God never does a thing to them. What about the fact that He seems to treat people very unfairly? Folks who seem to deserve nothing but the grace of God, who are a loving, gentle, kind people, have endless problems and die forsaken. And some who are selfish and cruel and self-centered are the ones who seem to be able to live without struggle. What about this?
Job tells his friends,
If you'll just inquire among those who travel, the people who get around and see life, you'll find that they support what I'm saying. The wicked often escape the day of calamity. It's not just true around here; this is true everywhere. The wicked live above the law, and nobody tells them that they're doing wrong. They get by with it. They die highly honored in their death, their graves are adorned and guarded, and God does nothing about that. So he says at last in verse 34:
So how can you console me with your nonsense? Nothing is left of your answers but falsehood!
If you intend to argue with Job, you had better get your arguments well in hand. This man is able to see through the error of logic in these people's position. They have a theology that does not square with experience, and that is where the problem lies.
These friends represent people—and there are many around today—who have placed God in a box. They have what they think is a clear understanding of all the ways of God, and they can predict how He is going to act, but when He acts in a way that they do not understand and do not expect, they have no way of handling it because it is their creed they have faith in, and not in God Himself.
This is what Job is learning. His creed has been demolished by his experiences. He has had to file his theology in the wastebasket because it did not fit what he was going through. Someone has well said that a person with a true experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. Job's friends are unable to answer him because his experience rings true.
Lord, expand my understanding of who You are. I don't want to simply know about You; I want to know You intimately and personally in my experience.
Life Application: There is no room for phoniness in authentic Christianity. Rationalizing is feckless, so are we seeking genuine heart knowledge and intimacy with Christ our Lord?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.