Zophar describes the life and death of the wicked, and his words are true. He goes wrong, however, when he assumes that Job must be wicked or he wouldn't suffer so. Job responds by asking the age-old question, "Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?" (Job 21:7). Job has lost his great house, his great possessions, and his great family. In his heart of hearts, he knows that he trusts in the substitutional death of the innocent one who atones for the sin of sinners, yet he struggles with why God would allow the righteous to suffer.
Job looks at the wicked in their prosperity and comes to a conclusion: Rather have suffering and know God than prosper, as if this life is all that there is, and not know God at all: "Yet they say to God, 'Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?'" (21:14-15).
Prosperity is over-estimated. To live one's entire life collecting things and never know God is more than sad; it is tragic. Prosperity is a cushion whose comfort prevents many from feeling the pain of sin and the need for redemption. Religion often lays its head on that cushion. Both prosperity and religion prevent men from recognizing alienation from God and trap men into living for now and ignoring eternity.
Job looks at both ends of the spectrum. He describes the one who dies "in his full strength, being wholly at ease and secure" (21:23) and the one who dies "in the bitterness of his soul, never having eaten with pleasure" (21:25) and concludes that they are no different from one another. Both lie 'side by side" in death (21:26). Both miss knowing God. Impoverishment of soul comes to both. It is a terrible shame to live and die in prosperity and not know God, or to live and die in poverty and not know Him either.
Wicked men do prosper, but prosperity, in and of itself, is not a reliable gauge of whether a man is righteous before God. Righteous men do suffer, but suffering, in and of itself, is not a reliable gauge of whether a man is righteous before God.
Job's friends warn us that man cannot assess accurately a man's spiritual state by his possession of health and wealth, his religion, or his lack thereof.
What does Bildad say that reveals his irritation with Job?
How does Job respond to Bildad's insults?
Zophar jumps back into the conversation defensively, "I have heard the rebuke that reproaches me" (20:3). How does he view man's tenure on earth? In his defense Zophar flings one final statement, "This is the portion from God for a wicked man, the heritage appointed to him by God" (20:29). What is he implying?
What age-old question does Job address in chapter 21?
Job highlights the lives of two men and compares them in chapter 21. Who are they and what does he establish about them both?
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