A Bible Lesson on Job 24

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is the second of three lessons from the book of Job, and frankly it’s an uncomfortable chapter to consider, in that it doesn’t wrap everything up into a complete statement about the full nature of divine justice (that Job can’t in any case know). We see Job struggling to understand life in this broken world, repudiating the wrong mechanistic view of his friends, but not at this point completely articulating the whole picture. Essentially what he says very passionately and effectively is “The fact that the wicked are NOT always judged in this life is convincing evidence that your theory of how God’s moral justice works is just wrong. It is wrong in the case of many of the obviously wicked. (And it is wrong in mine too!)”

The claim that evil behavior always results in unpleasant life outcomes and good behavior always results in pleasant ones has been the explanation of Job’s friends for his suffering. That is shallow, obviously untrue, and completely unhelpful/unkind in Job’s situation. It would again have been far wiser if the friends has treaded more carefully and humbly as they spoke with Job.

Here is part of what Job says to them about their theory.

Job 24:1 “Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty, and why do those who know him never see his days?

Job (and every other thinking believing person) longs to see the fullness God’s righteous rule. He wonders why it is not constantly evident in his experience. He looks and sees terrible social injustices.

2 Some move landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them.

3 They drive away the donkey of the fatherless; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

4 They thrust the poor off the road; the poor of the earth all hide themselves.

5 Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert the poor go out to their toil, seeking game; the wasteland yields food for their children.

6 They gather their fodder in the field, and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.

7 They lie all night naked, without clothing, and have no covering in the cold.

8 They are wet with the rain of the mountains and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.

Job (and the God he serves) cares especially for the downtrodden and helpless. That the powerful and wealthy abuse them is an outrage. It breaks Job’s heart (and that of his God) to see the misery that the powerful think nothing of inflicting upon the fatherless and poor. Sometimes what is done is just outright violent. They make slaves of the helpless.

9 (There are those who snatch the fatherless child from the breast, and they take a pledge against the poor.)

10 They go about naked, without clothing; hungry, they carry the sheaves;

11 among the olive rows of the wicked they make oil; they tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst.

12 From out of the city the dying groan, and the soul of the wounded cries for help; yet God charges no one with wrong.

In this broken and fallen world, wrongs aren’t always made right. Evildoers aren’t always punished and the weak don’t always or even often have an advocate. In His providence, God doesn’t always balance the books in this life.

13 “There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.

14 The murderer rises before it is light, that he may kill the poor and needy, and in the night he is like a thief.

15 The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight, saying, ‘No eye will see me’; and he veils his face.

16 In the dark they dig through houses; by day they shut themselves up; they do not know the light.

17 For deep darkness is morning to all of them; for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.

Murders, adulterers, house-breakers get away with their stuff under the cover of night. What they do is awful, genuinely and deeply evil. But God doesn’t always bring retribution to them in this life.

The next few verses are apparently hard to render. The ESV makes them to be the words of the friends spoken back to them by Job, words indicating there is some measure of visible justice coming to evildoers. It seems that it’s also possible to render them as Job’s thoughts, and make them descriptions of the more or less ordinary non-violent passing and forgetting of evildoers. That understanding would again indicate that there is no sure retribution for serious evil in this life.

18 “You say, ‘Swift are they on the face of the waters; their portion is cursed in the land; no treader turns toward their vineyards.

19 Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters; so does Sheol those who have sinned.

20 The womb forgets them; the worm finds them sweet; they are no longer remembered, so wickedness is broken like a tree.’

21 “They wrong the barren, childless woman, and do no good to the widow.

22 Yet God prolongs the life of the mighty by his power; they rise up when they despair of life.

23 He gives them security, and they are supported, and his eyes are upon their ways.

24 They are exalted a little while, and then are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like the heads of grain.

25 If it is not so, who will prove me a liar and show that there is nothing in what I say?”

We would like, but don’t get a clear statement from Job that though he is speaking here of this life only, he’s sure that in eternity, an all-powerful, holy and just God will set all things right. That we know to be true. But this chapter is more limited in its argument and intent, simply repudiating the “life outcomes will of necessity be pleasant exactly in proportion to the moral behavior of a person” theory of his friends.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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