Job Chapter Twenty-One
This is Job’s reply to Zophar’s second discourse. Here he complains less of his own miseries than he has done in our past study and comes closer to answering the basic dispute between them. Their contention, of course, was that outward prosperity, and the fact that it continues, was a mark of the true child of God. In contrast; they claimed that the ruin of a man’s prosperity was sufficient to prove him a hypocrite that got away with appearing to be a child of God, a wicked man, a false follower, who was now being justly punished. Job denies these allegations; especially as they applied to him. For, as you remember, Job was an upright and perfect man in God sight and is enduring these afflictions only by God’s permission.
Read Job 21:1-6
v1-2. “BUT JOB ANSWERED AND SAID, HEAR DILIGENTLY MY SPEECH, AND LET THIS BE YOUR CONSOLATIONS.”
Job entreats them, begs them even that he should hear diligently his speech. Listen carefully; listen with a willingness to understand; really hear him rather than ignoring what he saying with mind’s blinded by their preconceptions of the source of his misery. Let this be your consolation, he says. If you can’t bring me comfort in my misery as least give me a patient hearing.
v3. “SUFFER ME THAT I MAY SPEAK; AND AFTER THAT I HAVE SPOKEN, MOCK ON.”
What Job asks of his friends is very fair isn’t it? Let me speak, he says, not break in on him as Zophar apparently had done just previously. When those that are accused are not allowed to speak for themselves then we wrong them. Just as you might see in a court of law today; the person on trial gets his opportunity to speak or have someone else speak for him, in a civil dispute all parties get the opportunity to have their case heard completely and fairly. Then, he says, if you must; then mock on; continue to mock me and my afflictions.
v4. “AS FOR ME, is MY COMPLAINT TO MAN? AND IF it were so, WHY SHOULD NOT MY SPIRIT BE TROUBLED? “
Is my complaint to man? No, man is not Job’s judge; God is, just as God ultimately is ours as well. Let God be the Judge between you and me. Before Him we stand on even terms, therefore I have just as much right to be heard as you do. It would be sad if God dealt with us the same way some of those around us deal with us wouldn’t it?
v5. “MARK ME, AND BE ASTONISHED, AND LAY your HAND UPON your MOUTH.”
Instead of berating me and adding to my troubles you should wonder why the unsearchable mysteries of Providence has afflicted one who has committed no great evil. Cover your mouth in astonishment, hold your tongue, give a gasp of surprise, silently wait to see the ultimate outcome and judge nothing before it’s time.
v6. “EVEN WHEN I REMEMBER I AM AFRAID, AND TREMBLING TAKETH HOLD ON MY FLESH.”
Job here admits that he is afraid; his flesh trembles because he doesn’t understand why all these troubles are his. When he remembers that day that this all started and how sudden it came about, when he hears the hard speeches that these, his supposed friends have made, he confesses that he’s afraid and trembles. Especially when he sees the wicked of the world, those that deserve perhaps what he’s enduring going about their business scott free with very few, if any, troubles.
Read Job 21:7-16
DO THE WICKED LIVE, BECOME OLD, YEA, ARE MIGHTY IN POWER? THEIR SEED IS ESTABLISHED IN THEIR SIGHT WITH
THEM, AND THEIR OFFSPRING BEFORE THEIR EYES.
THEIR HOUSES are SAFE FROM FEAR, NEITHER is THE ROD OF GOD UPON
THEM. THEIR BULL GENDERETH, AND FAILETH
NOT; THEIR COW CALVETH, AND CASTETH NOT HER CALF. THEY SEND
All three of Job’s friends, in their last discourses, have described how miserable the condition of a wicked man can be in this world. And Job agrees with them. Yes, it is true that judgments are sometimes brought upon gross sinners who deserve every bad thing that happens to them but this is not always the case.
Most of them live in prosperity and we take it for granted for we see it every day. They live and they’re not cut off by a divine vengeance. In one of the psalms, a prayer of Asaph we read:
Psalm 73:3 “FOR I WAS ENVIOUS AT THE FOOLISH, when I SAW THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED.” v12. BEHOLD, THESE are THE UNGODLY, WHO PROSPER IN THE WORLD; THEY INCREASE in RICHES.
Jeremiah prays to God:
Jeremiah 12:1 “RIGHTEOUS art THOU, O LORD, WHEN I PLEAD WITH THEE: YET LET ME TALK WITH THEE OF thy JUDGMENTS: WHEREFORE DOTH THE WAY OF THE WICKED PROSPER? wherefore ARE ALL THEY HAPPY THAT DEAL VERY TREACHEROUSLY?”
These wicked people are multiplied, their family is built up and they have the satisfaction and joy of seeing this. Their houses are safe, they have no fear of danger, and the “ROD OF GOD” doesn’t visit them, He invokes no punishment against them in this life. Their wealth, here represented by cattle, grows and continues to grow; there is no disappointment in their level of prosperity. Their children know nothing but joy; they are merry and live a lighthearted life without care. And even the old folks who may not dance with the joy of living any more take their musical instruments and play, knowing no grief or trouble that would cause them not to do so.
They spend their days, all their days, in wealth, and never know what it is to want – in mirth, and never know what sadness means; and at last, without any previous agony, in a moment or suddenly their life ends and they go to the grave with no suffering.
Their prosperity, their wealth, their abundance of good things and good times make them insolent or imprudent to God. They make light of sin and religion, it seems that they have so much of this world that they have no need to look toward another. They make fun of those who profess to be religious; they never concern themselves with being under God’s eye. If you try to get them to talk about their soul they will probably even tell you to go away, they have no need of what you want to tell them.
In the last verse Job shows us the foolishness of this kind of an attitude. It was not their might or the power of their hands that gained them their wealth but the providence of God. Nor can they keep it without God. Therefore the conclusion to this section of Job’s discourse reminds us that the wealthy wicked are foolish to lose their interest in God and to tell Him to go away they don’t need Him.
Read Job 21:17-26
v17. “HOW OFT IS THE CANDLE OF THE WICKED PUT OUT! AND how oft COMETH THEIR DESTRUCTION UPON THEM! God DISTRIBUTETH SORROWS IN HIS ANGER.”
Here Job begins his argument against his friends’ contention that the wicked suffer as he has. Tell me how often do you see the candle of the wicked put out? How often do you see destruction come upon them? How often do you see God bringing them sorrow, affliction, and recompense for their sins? His argument is that there is no certain judgment that can be made of men’s character by whether they prosper or not.
v18. “THEY ARE AS STUBBLE BEFORE THE WIND, AND AS CHAFF THAT THE STORM CARRIETH AWAY.”
Though wicked people prosper in this life, yet we are not to think that God will let their wickedness go unpunished. Even while they prosper they are light and worthless like the chaff winnowed out of the grain, of no account to God or good men.
v19. “GOD LAYETH UP HIS INIQUITY FOR HIS CHILDREN: HE REWARDETH HIM, AND HE SHALL KNOW it.”
Though these people prosper in this world they will be reckoned with in the next world. God will reward them according to their deeds in the end. They may not be judged right away but when they are, the sentence will be for eternity.
v20. “HIS EYES SHALL SEE HIS DESTRUCTION, AND HE SHALL DRINK OF THE WRATH OF THE ALMIGHTY.”
The eyes that have been closed deliberately to the grace of God will be opened to see their destruction. Again a psalm of Asaph:
Psalms 75:8 “FOR IN THE HAND OF THE LORD there is A CUP, AND THE WINE IS RED; IT IS FULL OF MIXTURE; AND HE POURETH OUT OF THE SAME: BUT THE DREGS THEREOF, ALL THE WICKED OF THE EARTH SHALL WRING them OUT, and DRINK them.”
v21. “FOR WHAT PLEASURE hath HE IN HIS HOUSE AFTER HIM, WHEN THE NUMBER OF HIS MONTHS IS CUT OFF IN THE MIDST?”
Remember the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16? Our Saviour let us know how little pleasure this man had in the place he went at death, even before the judgment. He didn’t even remember the good things that he had enjoyed in his life of wealth, Abraham has to remind him. He only worried about a drop of water to cool his tongue and that he did not want his brothers to come where he was.
v22. “SHALL any TEACH GOD KNOWLEDGE? SEEING HE JUDGETH THOSE THAT ARE HIGH.”
Job here leaves the difference between how one wicked man is treated verses another to the providence of God in his wisdom. Dare we argue with God’s decisions? Should we take it upon ourselves to tell God how to judge the world? He has total sovereignty, total control, and total authority to do as he chooses.
v23-25. “ONE DIETH IN HIS FULL STRENGTH, BEING WHOLLY AT EASE AND QUIET. HIS BREASTS ARE FULL OF MILK, AND HIS BONES ARE MOISTENED WITH MARROW. AND ANOTHER DIETH IN THE BITTERNESS OF HIS SOUL, AND NEVER EATETH WITH PLEASURE.”
Those that are wicked are just like every other man. One dies when it seems that he’s just reached his full strength, when he’s young, healthy and vigorous, before his bones begin to creak and groan and pop like most of us. Another dies slowly, with great pain, agony and misery. He has no appetite for his food nor does he gain any real pleasure from it because of sickness, or age, or state of mind.
v26. “THEY SHALL LIE DOWN ALIKE IN THE DUST, AND
And it doesn’t matter whether they are rich or poor, it doesn’t matter whether they die young or old, it doesn’t matter whether they live in a palace or a hovel. When it’s all over one lies in the dust just like the other, the shell of clay they left behind soon becomes food for the earthworms regardless of what circumstances it enjoyed before decay.
Read Job 21:27-34
v27. “BEHOLD, I KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS, AND THE DEVICES which YE WRONGFULLY IMAGINE AGAINST ME.”
Job continues to explain why he cannot accept the conclusion that his friends has reached about him. He says; I know that you don’t agree with me because your judgments are colored, they’re biased by your resentment and prejudice against me.
v28-29. “FOR YE SAY, WHERE is THE HOUSE OF THE PRINCE? AND WHERE are THE DWELLING PLACES OF THE WICKED? HAVE YE NOT ASKED THEM THAT GO BY THE WAY? AND DO YE NOT KNOW THEIR TOKENS,”
Job lays down his own judgment to the contrary of that rendered by his friends. For proof of it, he appeals to the sentiments and observations of all mankind. So confident is he in his position that he’s willing to put it to the test with the next man that comes by. Turn to whoever you will, and you will find them all of the same mind, that the punishment of sinners is designed more for the other world than it for the world in which we live. We know this don’t we?
Jude 14-16 “AND ENOCH ALSO, THE SEVENTH FROM ADAM, PROPHESIED OF THESE, SAYING, BEHOLD, THE LORD COMETH WITH TEN THOUSANDS OF HIS SAINTS, TO EXECUTE JUDGMENT UPON ALL, AND TO CONVINCE ALL THAT ARE UNGODLY AMONG THEM OF ALL THEIR UNGODLY DEEDS WHICH THEY HAVE UNGODLY COMMITTED, AND OF ALL THEIR HARD speeches WHICH UNGODLY SINNERS HAVE SPOKEN AGAINST HIM. THESE ARE MURMURERS, COMPLAINERS, WALKING AFTER THEIR OWN LUSTS; AND THEIR MOUTH SPEAKETH GREAT SWELLING words, HAVING MEN'S PERSONS IN ADMIRATION BECAUSE OF ADVANTAGE.”
v30. “THAT THE WICKED IS RESERVED TO THE DAY OF DESTRUCTION? THEY SHALL BE BROUGHT FORTH TO THE DAY OF WRATH.”
The wicked, sinners who have not and will not repent will certainly be punished in the other world, and, usually their punishment is put off until then. That therefore we in this world should not think it strange if they prosper greatly in this world and fall under no visible measure of God’s wrath.
v31. “WHO SHALL DECLARE HIS WAY TO HIS FACE? AND WHO SHALL REPAY HIM what HE HATH DONE?”
Nobody will take the liberty to reprove the wicked man on this earth, to tell him the wickedness of his ways, and what will be his end. So he sins securely, with no harm to his conscience and knows neither fear nor shame.
Ezekiel 32:27 “AND THEY SHALL NOT LIE WITH THE MIGHTY that are FALLEN OF THE UNCIRCUMCISED, WHICH ARE GONE DOWN TO HELL WITH THEIR WEAPONS OF WAR: AND THEY HAVE LAID THEIR SWORDS UNDER THEIR HEADS, BUT THEIR INIQUITIES SHALL BE UPON THEIR BONES, THOUGH they were THE TERROR OF THE MIGHTY IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING.”
v32-33. “YET SHALL HE BE BROUGHT TO THE GRAVE, AND SHALL REMAIN IN THE TOMB. THE CLODS OF THE VALLEY SHALL BE SWEET UNTO HIM, AND EVERY MAN SHALL DRAW AFTER HIM, AS there are INNUMERABLE BEFORE HIM.”
The wicked will be buried in a great deal of pomp and ceremony. But there is no remedy; he must still die; that is the lot of all men. But everything you can think of will be used to remove the reproach of his death. He will have a splendid funeral, he will have a stately monument, there will be as much done as is possible to prevent the decay of the grave, and it will be alleged that it is indeed the lot common to all to remove the disgrace of death.
v34. “HOW THEN COMFORT YE ME IN VAIN, SEEING IN YOUR ANSWERS THERE REMAINETH FALSEHOOD?”
Now Job in his closing gets pretty straightforward with his words doesn’t he? The foundation of their argument is faulted, their supposition is grounded in falsehood, what they have said not only stands unproven but disproved. All that they had said brought him no comfort; gave him no relief; they told him that he will prosper if he turns again to God but he hadn’t turned away from God in the first place.