Meditations in Job : 31 : An Unfair World
Job 12:6 The tents of marauders are undisturbed, and those who provoke God are secure– those who carry their god in their hands.
The third of the three ‘friends’ has just finished his first attack on Job – and it has been that, it was an attack! It sought to apply good spiritual principles into a wrong situation. He did not meet Job at his point of need. He misdiagnosed the problem! Before we start getting all negative about Job’s response, pause up and wonder again, how you would like to be treated in such a situation. You are in the agony of mourning for having lost your family, and to a measure for having lost your wealth. You are also in great physical pain and discomfort. You would like some understanding, I am sure, and certainly some care, compassion and comfort. But what do you get? Three friends who misdiagnose your situation and keep on focusing on your sin, as they see it, yet you are fairly certain you have been as righteous as you can be.
At this point, I would suggest, you would be feeling pretty down, so we should not be surprised at Job’s opening words: “Then Job replied: “Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you!” (12:1,2) That sounds a bit cynical or sarcastic. “Well you guys are obviously the experts and have got it all buttoned up! When you die who will be left with any wisdom?” OK, it is cynical and it is sarcastic and not what we would recommend to those who are vessels of the Holy Spirit – but Job wasn’t. He was on his own. Don’t be too hard on him. He continues, “But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?” (v.3) In other words, I can think for myself, I’m not an idiot, and I’m not inferior to you. I mean, after all, everyone knows these truths.
Then he reveals what he thinks about himself: he’s become a joke! “I have become a laughingstock to my friends,” (v.4) that’s what he feels. Why? “though I called upon God and he answered– a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!” They key here is “and he answered”. How did God apparently answer Job’s righteousness and blamelessness? He dumped him with suffering! What a joke! Here he was, living out his life the best he could, seeking to be godly and righteous and suddenly, wham, he’s dropped on! They must be laughing in heaven, because they certainly are on earth. He doesn’t say it, but no doubt he imagines, the unrighteous unbelievers, who had watched his godliness all through the years. Now they would be laughing at him, “So what did his being a believer do for him? Not a lot, obviously!” He looks at his three friends and concludes, “Men at ease have contempt for misfortune as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.” (v.5) In other words, when you are comfortable and at ease, it is easy for you to pontificate on sin and suffering, it is easy for you to put down my misfortunes as the outworking of my slipping away from God!
Then he arrives at our verse today, as he ponders on the unfairness of life: “The tents of marauders are undisturbed, and those who provoke God are secure– those who carry their god in their hands.” (v.6). What is he saying? He is saying that while he, a godly and righteous man, is suffering (implied in what went before), those who live by marauding and pillaging are sitting back, comfortable and undisturbed. They challenge God and say rude things about Him, they worship idols, and yet they seem to get away with it and seem to be at peace and secure in their evil ways. It really is an unfair world, is what he is saying. It’s all a bit of a joke.
I wonder if we sometimes feel like that. A prophet I know, prophesied a number of years ago that Christians would start struggling with the anger of frustration as they looked on the ungodliness and unrighteousness that was rising up in the Western world. We look at what is happening around us and feel helpless; we feel frustrated, and the natural expression of frustration is anger. We look on the world around us and wonder why God is not judging this growing unrighteousness. Of course when we do that, we forget four things.
First, God IS judging the Western world but mostly He is doing it not by disasters that we normally associate with judgment, but by lifting off His hand of restraint so that sin will have its effect. Paul understood this when, in Romans 1, he said, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts,” (Rom 1:24), and “God gave them over to shameful lusts.” (1:26) and “he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (1:28). This lifting of His hand of restraint, is a very real form of judgment and it is His slow way of bringing people to their senses as they slowly begin to realise the folly of their ways.
The second thing is that, as we’ve just indicated, God moves very slowly and there is a reason for that: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9). The Lord wants there to be as big a harvest as possible. The third thing, is that God still loves stupid people and that is what motivates Him, and should motivate us, to do all He can to draw as many as possible to Him. Remember, Jesus taught, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous,” (Mt 4:45) when he was teaching his disciples to love everyone. Yes, even the ungodly world is blessed by God’s provision but that is just a sign of God’s goodness and grace.
So, yes, the Lord does allow the ungodly and unrighteous to “get away with it” but perhaps the fourth thing we should remember is that one day they will ALL be held accountable and will have to appear before the Lord is heaven to receive their due. They may appear to get away with it for the time being, but that is only because the Lord is giving them space to come to their senses. If they refuse, there is an accounting in heaven! In the midst of suffering or injustice we may forget these things; that’s what intense pain does for you, but perhaps we therefore need gently reminding of the bigger picture.