15 November, 2020 – When Zophar insists on God’s legalistic treatment of his friend (book of Job 20-21), Job refutes the claim that God’s justice can always be observed in his punishment of the wicked and his blessing of the righteous. It is simply not true that the ungodly live a short and miserable life. God doesn’t discriminate and he shows his mercy and goodness to all. God is patient and overlooks our sins for a time, leading us to repentance with his kindness (Rom 2:4). Zophar’s view of God was very narrow, he never looked outside of his own limited experience and the wisdom of his ancestors. Job challenged him to ask the travelers and listen to their accounts, and examine and test his own observations and beliefs. But if the legalistic view of God’s love is wrong and God shows no partiality, if he indeed causes his sun to rise on both the evil and the good (Mat 5:45), and equally allows them to suffer, what advantage is there to live righteously? What advantage is there to believe in God and pray (Job 21:15)? As Christians, we must ask this question sooner or later, and we should be ready to give the reason for our faith that is often made or broken over this.
Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, looked at the prosperity of the wicked and he felt regret that he devoted his life to God. He was deeply troubled by this question – why do the ungodly prosper, why do they experience no struggle and illness, but the godly must suffer? Asaph saw how the wicked mock God and yet go on unpunished, while he had worked hard to keep his heart and hands pure before God just to suffer affliction every day. Asaph began to envy the ungodly, and he almost lost the foothold of his faith, but as he entered God’s sanctuary (Ps 73:16-17) to find answer to what troubled him so deeply, he repented that he had questioned God’s goodness. Asaph realized that in his bitterness, he was ignorant of God’s mercy towards him (vs 21-22). He realized that the Lord did not reject him when he doubted God’s love and when he questioned his goodness and wisdom, instead he held him by his hand and lead him through his struggle (vs 23). When we realize that there is no greater blessing than to be in God’s presence (vs 28) and that itself is an amazing gift of God’s grace, we are humbled immediately and our hearts go towards those who perish without knowing God’s love in Christ (vs 27). We will never envy those who don’t know God and we will never pity ourselves if we truly know the greatness of God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus, and we will never again be legalistic and uncompassionate as Zophar was to his neighbor, but we will simply love because He first loved us.