I know, I’m slightly off the assigned readings again. But again, I can’t justify splitting Job’s response.
Job begins with a common question of frustration. Why do wicked men prosper, and seem to enjoy life, and have such happy families? Why do they continue to see success and peace? Why is this allowed when they are the ones who ignore and deny God? How often have you had the same questions? How often has it seemed to us that the dishonest, uncaring, and ungodly are rewarded in this life? But then Job notes that their success is not theirs; it all belongs to and comes from God. And so Job still avoids the counsel and model of the wicked. Notes Job, does it really matter since in the end all their success in life is of no use to them? They lay in the ground just the righteous, just as the less fortunate. All the riches and plush living of this world ultimately matter none. He would rather be right with God, and know his righteousness, than be wealthy with the wicked.
Eliphaz goes further into his accusation now. He displays Job as an evil and uncaring man who has deprived the needy, taken advantage of less powerful and even abused widows. This is not the picture of Job we were given in the first chapters. He was known as a generous, kind, devout person. But he does have some good counsel. “Submit to God and be at peace with him.” They all err in assuming Job’s misfortunes come directly from God, as some sort of punishment. But Job is not at peace and is struggling to accept this lot, to remain faithful, even, to God. Oh that we can learn from Job and remember to trust and follow God even in our darkest hours.
Job’s response seems to go the other way. Perhaps he does push things a little far. For him, God seems distant. Job cannot find God; he cannot find an answer to his complaint and plea for justice. But he pushes even farther saying that it seems God is distant, uncaring, and unjust. He seems to allow the truly evil – thieves, murders, adulterers… - to go unthwarted and unpunished. He seems to tolerate suffering and poverty, the miserable plight of impoverished children. Job sounds like a Deist here, believing God has removed himself from his creation and merely watches what will come of it all. But then he comes back around, “He may let them [the wicked] rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways.” He may seem distant and uncaring at times, he may seem separated from us and unresponsive. But God never leaves his chosen and faithful people; he is here with us and we will soon know his presence again.