Who Can Comfort Me?

Job 21

If you come to prayer meeting Thursday evening, week after week hear prayer requests for God to deal with evil. Evil can take many forms: photojournalists document – ravages of war, devastation of drug use, consequences of immorality; tyrants, megalomaniacs, cult figures, pimps, gang leaders, bullies. Then there are evils whose perpetrator doesn’t have a face or identifiable form: ebola, cancer, depression, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

According to Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, it’s pretty much one-for-one payback – evil-doer practices his wickedness, God soon sends judgment. Any reprieve from consequences is only temporary, short-term; their evil deeds will soon catch up with them, then BAM! Means if we’re praying to God, pleading with him to address specific evils, shouldn’t have to wait long to see results. Experience tells us something – each week for weeks and months on end, pray for God to act in particular situation. Why doesn’t God deal with that evil? And,…if it’s an evil I have to endure personally, who will comfort me until God decides to act?

Job has figured out his self-appointed comforters cannot help him, they don’t have the answers. Has also figured out something else – even though they may not acknowledge it, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar need help to sort out their worldview, beginning with their understanding of God. Before three friends would be open to considering different view, would have to understand how their present beliefs failed to reflect true reality.

Missionary working with Kaingang people of Brazil for 30+ years said this:

“We need to prepare “soil” in the minds of the listeners so the “weeds” of doubt, the “stumps” of confusion, the “rocks” of false ideas, and the “trees and brushes” of a wrong worldview will not hinder the seed of the Gospel, God’s Word, to grow and bring forth much fruit.”

True whether referring to initial work of evangelism or later work of discipling – must address issues of doubt, confusion, false ideas and incorrect worldview. For Job’s friends (and ours), needed to tear down wrong view and build up the right understanding of God and his ways.

Friends relying on tripod to steady their worldview camera; had additional problem – the lens cap was still on! Perhaps you’ve known photographer who got one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots only to find out cap was over the lens, not in his pocket. In efffort to bring frineds to understanding of truth, Job first took lens cap off, then dealt with legs on their tripod.

A. Lens cap – Look at me v.5

you have such a neat, orderly view of the world and everything in it… time for a reality check – do your claims of understanding match experience, real life

Clintons’ view of financial circumstances – “We came out of the White House (2001) not only dead broke, but in debt”

friends had their image of God, how he exercised his justice; does it universally hold true in life like they claimed

their theology made two claims: God not only punishes the wicked, he also blesses the righteous…according to the rules….without any exceptions

what friends had in their sights was picture painted on inside of lens cap – was a manufactured picture, not one drawn from either God’s revelation or general experience

same thing happens when someone stays inside their comfort zone, comes up with their idea of how things work based on their own experience

seems experience of Job’s friends had been quite one-sided – life had been a bed of roses with most of thorns removed

their experience and preconceived ideas of God what they projected onto lens cap; that picture the basis on which they tried to comfort Job in his suffering

Job’s first action – tear off lens cap, point their camera toward something that should shake their confidence

Job realized his strategy might not work, friends might continue set in their view in spite of his effort to help them (3)

plows ahead anyway: v.5-6 “Look at me and be astonished” – “be appalled” – “shudder” – “be shocked”

Just looking at me is enough to make you sick,and the very thought of myself fills me with disgust. CEV

as if he stuck his face right in front of the lens, challenged his friends to continue looking through the camera and then answer a question: do my ideas match what I see? does my solution fit this guy’s situation?

when you are called on to give comfort, good question to answer – does what you plan to say truly apply and will it provide genuine comfort?

B. Leg #1 – Why do the wicked live long and prosper? v.7

right from beginning, friends had declared: Job 4:8-9“…those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.”

Job says: wait a minute, I’ve known wicked people who died of old age and enjoyed lots of good things along the way

have big, healthy families – lots of kids and grandkids (8); live in nice houses – safe neighborhoods, low maintenance, no worries (9); they prosper in all they do – have large secure portfolios, no worries (10); really do enjoy themselves (11-12); an easy life and painless death (13)

ok, so first leg of tripod has just collapsed – real life experience doesn’t fit picture friends painted

let’s go further here, get beyond appearances – dig down below surface: is life of the wicked really all they make it out to be? (14-15)

truth is, their well-being encourages them to reject God by word and deed; yeah, yeah, I’m good, maybe when I’m old I’ll think about God, meanwhile got places to go and people to see and life to live

Job’s assessment: I want no part of their counsel, their way of doing life (16)

all anyone has whether righteous or wicked is from hand of God; God deserves praise and thanks and worship for his goodness regardless of anything else

Job can’t figure God’s ways out but…understands enough to know he wants the real deal – God’s favor

C. Leg #2 – How often is the lamp of the wicked extinguished? v.17

friends had maintained that prosperity, even life, of persistently wicked had to be brief; God must take it away: Job 18:5-6“Indeed, the light of the wicked is put out, and the flame of his fire does not shine.The light is dark in his tent, and his lamp above him is put out.”

Job says “Ok, is that really true? how often does God really act that way toward evil-doers? would be nice if it worked that way, but are you sure?” (17-18)

to say God will take it out on their kids is a cop-out! real justice requires the perp gets busted and does his own time; otherwise he figures he thumbed his nose at God and got away with it

Job challenges his friends who claim to speak for God: since their opinion of how things ought to be and God’s version of how things are differ, do they need to teach God about justice? RIGHT! (22)

and…while they’re at it, explain this: wickedness often is not judged during life, apparently not at death either; no one gets out of here alive!

apparently lamp of the wicked and lamp of righteous both get extinguished, one about as often as the other

the wicked man goes through without a single bad day, the righteous man never has a good day, how do you explain that? there goes the second leg of the tripod

D. Leg #3 – Where is the tent of the wicked? v.28

finally, here is their trump card (27), the one that Job can’t answer or refute: Job 8:22“…the tent of the wicked will be no more.”

just because it’s outside your experience doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; check around, others have seen it (29)

important caution here: don’t base your worldview on your experience alone, especially the really important parts

no one individual’s first-hand knowledge is comprehensive, only God has that; we can tap into it through his self-revelation: the Bible and the Lord Jesus

obviously, all it takes is one example to break the rule, one or ten or a hundred tents of wicked people, and there goes the third leg

clearly, Job’s friends are living in dream world, out of touch with Job’s reality; colossal failure as comforters – their counsel is empty of both meaning and value besides not being the truth

Job’s friends left standing there holding the camera, lens cap on the ground, tripod in a heap, and they’re trying not to look at Job; not looking good for Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar and their understanding of God

if there are any answers, and Job believes there are, friends don’t have them; probably no one other than God has answers and right now he’s not telling

E. Where is God in all this?

Truth for ever on the scaffold, / Wrong for ever on the throne, / And, behind the dim unknown, / Standeth God within the shadow, / Keeping watch above His own. James Russell Lowell, The Present Crisis

God is good and longsuffering

every last individual in all of human history has experienced God’s goodness – his providential care of his creatures, even the wicked and ungrateful

every day given to the wicked is another opportunity for repentance and salvation; God patiently keeps giving time and opportunities to experience his goodness and respond properly

God dealt with Job in a unique way

Job a unique man in the world: Job 1:8 There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.”

God permitted Job to experience what he did in part for benefit of later saints – See, even as bad as it got for Job, God kept Job faithful, enabled him to prevail over Satan and his onslaughts; God can do same for you

God is kind and loving

God is good Father, always doing what is right and best for his children, even when he seems to be silent and far away

God is committed to providing everything his children need to glorify him and enjoy him forever

book of Job is about God, more than anything else

Job wanted answers, he wanted to be vindicated – declared righteous – but he wanted God more

Job’s story reveals God’s character to us, reassuring us of God’s goodness and faithfulness

Answer to our question (Who Can Comfort Me?) same for Job as for us: God. The One who comes alongside and provides relief and strength: God. He comes to us with skin on: friends who have already received comfort from God and are passing it along. He comes to us in person of Lord Jesus, the one who cares about us more than anyone else.

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