1 ¶ But Job answered and said, 2 Hear diligently my speech, and let this be your consolations. 3 Suffer me that I may speak; and after that I have spoken, mock on. 4 As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled? 5 Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your mouth. 6 Even when I remember I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh.
Job’s reply to Zophar and his other friends begins with a plea to listen carefully to him as what he is about to say has value. If they have no other comfort to give him let that be it. After that, they are free to mock him. His complaint isn’t with man, but with God. He says to pay close attention to what he says and promises they will be amazed. Even when he thinks about the day he lost everything dear to him and of value in his life he is terrified.
7 ¶ Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? 8 Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. 9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. 10 Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. 11 They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. 12 They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. 13 They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. 14 Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him? 16 Lo, their good is not in their hand: the counsel of the wicked is far from me.
Job attempts to overthrow the idea that prosperity and happiness are proof of God’s approval and that the wicked always suffer in this life. Remember, this is before the Law given to the Jews wherein they were promised temporal success and abundance by following the civil and religious precepts contained in the Law given to Moses for them. We are not promised by our obedience that everything will be hunky-dory in this life on earth if we obey, as the Jews were promised. We have some conditions more in common with Job’s time than with the ancient Hebrews.
Keep in mind that when you are trying to understand the Bible, 1) it is written in Dispensational order but that significant points of Dispensations overlap. For instance, this is the Age of Grace but Grace is present all through the Bible. A Dispensation is not a period of time but a way of dealing with people, of managing people that God has implemented. 2) The Christian is a type of the people of Israel as a whole, not the individual Jew. 3) The promises to the Jew were physical promises for a physical people on a physical earth which they will have in eternity while the promises to the Christian, Jew or Gentile, are spiritual promises and we will reside in the New Jerusalem. The Jews as a whole were promised peace and prosperity if the people obeyed but with their disobedience wickedness flourished like weeds in a garden.
Psalm 12:8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
The Christian is promised eternal life with the Saviour but is not promised monetary success, physical health, or guaranteed peace at all times. The Jews were to draw all nations to them. The Christian goes out amongst the nations. God made the Jews a kingdom and a country, with an army, and weapons of war. The Christian belongs to Heaven and the weapons of his warfare are not carnal but spiritual. There was a Jewish kingdom but there are no Christian nations. Only a person can be a Christian. Christianity is NOT a political religion while Judaism and Hebraism were. 4) The faithful Jew was characterized by what he did and didn’t do; ritual, service, and physical obedience while the faithful Christian is characterized by what he is and his fruit are what Christ has written on his heart not on tables of stone. Both were expected to do right by God’s standard but the motivation and origin of their obedience is different. The Jew did not have the Holy Spirit living in him but the Christian does. For the Jew, God’s laws were the laws of the land. The Christian often finds himself in lands where the law of the land is in opposition to God and he must obey those laws as he is able.
Job asks why the wicked live, grow old, and often have great power if the wicked are always punished and suffer for their wickedness. We might ask the same thing. How could an evil dictator like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe still be alive in his 80’s? How could a mass murderer like Joseph Stalin live to his mid-70's? What about men of wealth and power who have no regard for God? There are many celebrities and political figures that some of you even admire who mock God, the followers of Christ, and display behaviors that are reprehensible. They exploit our fears or our pocketbooks or even blatantly steal from others by manipulation of stocks, markets, and land. Yet, these wicked people prosper and have a voice in the world.
Most of these people neither know the God of the Bible nor do they have any interest in God. They have sacrificed whatever humility and desire to know anything greater than themselves they might have had on the altar of the god, Self, because of the immense egotism required for success in their chosen fields of endeavor.
Hear David’s prayer.
Psalm 17:8 ¶ Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, 9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. 10 They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. 11 They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; 12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. 13 Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: 14 From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. 15 As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
And hear Jeremiah, even referring to people who pretend to be spiritual.
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? 2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.
Finally, let’s read a Psalm of Asaph, or at least the part that carries his complaint about the temporal success of wicked people.
Psalm 73:1 ¶ « A Psalm of Asaph. » Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. 2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. 13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.