By Sam E. Stone
Last week’s study focused on Job 19. After that section, more attacks followed by Job’s friends, Zophar (chapter 20) and Eliphaz (chapter 22). They continued to insist that Job was guilty of serious sin. To them, all that happened to him was obviously God’s punishment for wrongdoing. Job, however, declared his wish to have access to God’s presence so that he could plead his case and then be acquitted (Job 23:3-7). Today’s lesson focuses on Job’s reaction to all of the injustices that he saw in the world about him.
Job 24:1, 9-12
Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Job asked. Sam Balentine observed, “When there are no visible signs of either God or God’s justice, the wicked are free to pursue their objectives with impunity. The result, Job argues, is the collapse of the moral order that sustains society (24:2-12).”
The fact that God is both all-knowing and all-powerful left Job bewildered as he waited for evidence of divine judgment. Why didn’t God intervene? James Moffatt translated verse 1 as, “Why has not the Almighty sessions of set justice? Why do his followers never see him intervening?”
The scene pictures heartless opp-ressors of the poor. The wicked violate the spirit of the law of God (Deuteronomy 25:4). They deny those who tread the winepresses even a taste of the juice. They forbid those who carry the sheaves of the wicked to even taste the grain (Job 24:10, 11).
Life is unfair. That is obvious to any impartial observer. The child who has no father is completely vulnerable. How could one take an infant from his mother and use that baby to make a payment on a debt? That’s not right! The wicked, however, don’t care. Jesus rebuked such sins in no uncertain terms (Mark 12:40). James also condemned the rich as they often exploited the poor (James 2:6). Despite all these terrible sins, still God does not step in and bring immediate judgment and punishment for these sinners. What upset Job most is that God charges no one with wrongdoing.
Job acknowledged that ultimately God would judge the wicked. That is as certain as the fact that snow will melt in the spring. It will happen! No one can escape. In his heart Job saw a time when God would punish the wicked. That judgment did not come immediately, however, as Job preferred to see it happen. But eventually the womb forgets them, the worm feasts on them.
James E. Smith noted, “Because commentators see a contradiction here, many try to circumvent what the patriarch plainly declares. Job, however, never said that the wicked do not suffer. Instead he argued that both the righteous and the wicked suffer, and both prosper. The friends, on the other hand argued that only the wicked suffered and only the righteous prospered.”
Barren and childless women need protection and assistance. Helping them was commanded in Old Testament law. Though the wicked are temporarily exalted for a little while, they are brought low and gathered up like all others. Job wished, however, that God would give the righteous the satisfaction of seeing such judgment when it was rendered (Job 24:1). Job objected to the theology of Eliphaz that the wicked are punished at once. He acknowledged that their crimes would bring misery to these evil people. The problem is that God doesn’t cause immediate retribution for sins. What happens is that God may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways. For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone.
James Smith explained, “The friends had argued that the wicked were cut off immediately. Job argued that they were ‘exalted for a time.’ For this patriarch, even a temporary exaltation of such people was an injustice. Job concludes his speech with a challenge to the three friends to prove him wrong.”
The psalmist identified with Job’s reaction when he saw evil people continue to prosper in his day, in spite of their wickedness (Psalm 55:12-23). David concluded his psalm, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. But you, O God, will bring down the wicked. . . .
As for me, I trust in you.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.