|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
1-10 roughly cover Ch.1-4
11-20 roughly cover Ch.4-7
21-30 roughly cover Ch.8-11
31-40 roughly cover Ch.12-15
41-50 roughly cover Ch.16-21
51-60 cover Ch.22-33
61-68 cover Ch.34-42
Meditation No. 49
Meditation Title: The Wicked Punished
Job 20:4,5 Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since man was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.
It's Zophar's turn to come back again on Job. His message of this chapter can be summed up: “surely it's the wicked that God punishes” – and that has a logical conclusion in respect of Job, but he doesn't actually spell that out!
His opening is a justification for speaking: “My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed. I hear a rebuke that dishonours me, and my understanding inspires me to reply.”(v.2,3) This is disturbing, this is dishonouring, he says and needs a response. He then appeals to history as we see in our verse above and essentially declares, “The wicked don't get away with it; it will only be short lived,” and the rest of the chapter is an expansion of that.
Look, he goes on, he may esteem himself and look a big man (v.6) but he'll soon disappear (v.7) Like a dream in the night, he will soon be gone (v.8) and whoever looks for him won't be able to find him (v.9). God (implied) will make him give back his ill-gotten gains, or if not him, his children will have to do it (v.10) but all the energy he shows will soon be gone (v.11). He will enjoy evil like he enjoys tasty food (v.12,13) but it will turn sour in him (v.14a), indeed it will become like snake poison in him (v.14b,16) but will eventually kill him, and he'll have to give up all the riches he obtained (v.15).
He won't be able to enjoy any of this (v.17,18b) but will have to give it back (v.18a). Why because all his wealth came by oppressing the poor and leaving them poorer still (v.19). despite his yearnings, none of his riches will help him (v.20,21) for in the midst of his apparent prosperity calamity will come (v.22). it will be God bringing His judgment on him (v.23) and although he dodges about pain, fear and terror will overwhelm him (v.24,25), darkness will surround him and fire will consume him (v.26).
This will all be the combined work of the wrath of heaven and the reaction of the people on earth (v.27) and it will be like a flood carries off all he has on the day of God's anger (v.28) because this is what God does for the wicked. (v.29)
Now of course there is an implication behind all this. Look at the thrust of what he has been saying: the wicked will get their just deserts and that will be seen in the form of all their goods and possessions being taken from them. Now that, of course, is exactly what had just happened to Job. The implication is that what has happened has, therefore, been the work of God as an act of judgement on Job's wickedness.
When we hear this sort of thing, we think, yes that is so, for we can think of evil men to whom this happened. Yes, there are public names that we can think of that have been exposed for what they are and have lost everything, but it doesn't always work like that.
Jesus once told a parable that illustrated this: “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 13:47-50) In that simple little story, the fish were only separated out at the end and although there will be a sorting out of the good from the evil, it will happen only at the end of time. Sadly, from our point of view, the Lord allows wicked people to continue to live and carry on doing wrong. Peter tells us why: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) Jesus reiterated this principle in another parable, the parable of the weeds, which he concluded by saying, “Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” (Mt 13:30) i.e. we'll sort them at the end.
This isn't to say that people completely get away with their wrong doing for Paul taught, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.” (Gal 6:7,8). The other side of this coin, to be thought about, is that bad does come to good people sometimes. Again Jesus pointed this out when he was questioned: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem ? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Lk 13:1-5) No, we are all sinners living in a Fallen World and sometimes things go wrong and we get affected. The answer is simply to make sure that we have come into a right relationship with God and so we can trust Him to care for us and work for us, even when things appear to go wrong (see Rom 8:28 ). No Zophar, you have an incomplete picture here!