Here Job gets it right – a little bit. He acknowledges that it is not true that the wicked are blessed while the righteous suffer – a departure from his earlier insistence that his suffering was an injustice by an unjust God. But his turn around still hinges on the actions of people and the swift punishment by an angry God.
I often wish that the wicked were punished swiftly for their actions. I’m quite a calm and easy-going person, not easily rattled, and I get along with everybody – well, almost everybody. It is so rare that I dislike a person that each and every one burns hot within my soul. My disdain for them sits uncomfortably within me. It is not a familiar feeling, this indulgent hatred. These dysfunctional relationships have caused me to ask the hard questions about God’s role in my life and in this world. Why would a loving God put in my path people that are so clearly unhealthy for me? Why won’t God punish them for their wickedness?
Winning the answer to these questions has been a long, hard battle. It has come with a lot of self-searching that has led to painful self-awareness. In ALL of my broken relationships there has been one constant – me. Never was I the blameless victim. Always there were elements of the brokenness that were my own contribution. Realizing my own brokenness – my own wickedness – was a terrible dawning. In fact, it brought me to a very low place – among the lowest in my life. But at rock bottom, there is only one way to go – up. After a brutal self-annihilation, I began slowly to let a loving God rebuild me. I became far more patient and tolerant of myself, of God, and, yes, of those I had once hated. The rebuilding has been slow, sometimes painful, sometimes joyful. I now have peace about those I once sought for God to destroy. And the person I hated the most – myself – has been restored, nurtured, and loved.
Then Job answered: “How you have helped one who has no power! How you have assisted the arm that has no strength! How you have counseled one who has no wisdom, and given much good advice! With whose help have you uttered words, and whose spirit has come forth from you?
“The shades below tremble, the waters and their inhabitants. Sheol is naked before God, and Abaddon has no covering. He stretches out Zaphon over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing. He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not torn open by them. He covers the face of the full moon, and spreads over it his cloud. He has described a circle on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astounded at his rebuke. By his power he stilled the Sea; by his understanding he struck down Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. These are indeed but the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Job again took up his discourse and said: “As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me and the spirit of God is in my nostrils, my lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you are right; until I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
“May my enemy be like the wicked, and may my opponent be like the unrighteous. For what is the hope of the godless when God cuts them off, when God takes away their lives? Will God hear their cry when trouble comes upon them? Will they take delight in the Almighty? Will they call upon God at all times? I will teach you concerning the hand of God; that which is with the Almighty I will not conceal. All of you have seen it yourselves; why then have you become altogether vain?
“This is the portion of the wicked with God, and the heritage that oppressors receive from the Almighty: If their children are multiplied, it is for the sword; and their offspring have not enough to eat. Those who survive them the pestilence buries, and their widows make no lamentation. Though they heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay— they may pile it up, but the just will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver. They build their houses like nests, like booths made by sentinels of the vineyard. They go to bed with wealth, but will do so no more; they open their eyes, and it is gone. Terrors overtake them like a flood; in the night a whirlwind carries them off. The east wind lifts them up and they are gone; it sweeps them out of their place. It hurls at them without pity; they flee from its power in headlong flight. It claps its hands at them, and hisses at them from its place.”