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Job 22-24 – Is all suffering the result of personal sin?

During a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing,1 Rep. Steve Cohen told Special Counsel John Durham that his reputation was damaged because his report supported former president Donald Trump. When the representative’s time was up, Durham was given time to respond. His response was golden. “My concern about my reputation is with the people I respect, and my family, and my Lord. And I’m perfectly comfortable with my reputation with them, sir.”

In today’s study (Job 22-24), Job could have responded the same way. Eliphaz once again accused him of suffering because of sin and called on him to repent. Job’s response takes two chapters, but he brings up some good points in his rebuttal.

  1. Eliphaz confronts Job (Job 22).

    His arguments can be summed up with two questions:

    Is God impressed by your righteousness? (Job 22:2-3)

    Eliphaz was still not convinced about Job being a righteous person. He asked Job if he thought God was impressed with his “righteousness.” Do you really think that God notices the supposed good things you have done? God is not impressed.

    While it is true that even our best is tainted by sin, is it true that God doesn’t notice what people are being faithful to Him? No, God noticed Noah (Gen. 6:8-9) and also Job (Job 2:3-4). While we shouldn’t place ourselves on a pedestal, it is good to know that our work for the Lord is noticed and appreciated by God. So, does God notice our righteousness? The answer for unbelievers is no. The answer for believers is yes.

    Is God judging your wickedness? (Job 22:4-7)

    Eliphaz quickly asked another question that he already “knew” the answer to. In his mind, there was no way that Job was righteous in God’s eyes. He asked if God was judging Job for his fear of God? Eliphaz was convinced God was judging Job for wickedness. In the following verses, he points out a variety of ways that Job had sinned. How he knew this, I don’t know. But he was wrong.

    Eliphaz believed that if Job were to repent of his wickedness, that God would make everything good for him. Once again, he was under the impression that Job was wrong and deserved all that he had received. This was poor reasoning that assumed suffering is always the result of sin. But is it?

  2. Job responds to Eliphaz (Job 23-24).

    His arguments can be summed up in two questions:

    Is there a way to bring my case before God? (Job 23:3-7)

    No matter what the others said, Job wanted to speak with God about his suffering. If he could stand before God, he would have the opportunity to argue his case. And he would listen to God’s response. But he could not find God to do this. And yet, he was convinced that if God tested him, he would be found as pure as gold (Job 23:10-11). But the lack of response and the severity of his suffering caused Job to be terrified of God probably because he believed that God was causing the suffering. It just didn’t make sense.

    If suffering is always a result of sin, why do poor people suffer? (Job 24:1-25)

    Job had hear the argument of Eliphaz. He had used a simplistic argument that Job’s suffering was evidence that God was judging him for sin. But Job asked why upright people don’t always see God judging the wicked (24:1). He listed off a variety of sinful actions that seemed to be overlooked by God: moving landmarks (24:2), cattle rustling (24:2b-3a), abusing widows (24:3b), bullying the poor and needy (24:4-11), murder (24:14), and adultery (24:15). Were those affected by the wicked deserving of God’s judgment?

    The upright curse those who are wicked (24:18-20) but until their death, these people would continue preying on the barren and widows (24:21). Thankfully, God will eventually square up with the wicked. After a time of “success” they would eventually be brought low (24:24). This was apparent to anyone who had lived in their society.

    Job’s argument is that suffering is not always the result of sin. There are many examples of people who have been harmed by wicked people. But how did that square with what Eliphaz had argued. Were those who suffered abuse at the hands of wicked people actually being judged by God? Nobody would ever believe that. The poor and needy who are abused by the wicked are victims not those who are deserving judgment.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things to think through in these three chapters. Eliphaz’s argument that suffering is always due to sin is obviously wrong. But sometimes it is true. When someone sins, his son must be addressed by God. In Christ, all of our sins have been paid for, but for unbelievers, those sins will ultimately be addressed at the Great White Throne. Job’s points about the suffering of the poor and needy is powerful. Do we really believe that every person suffering is under God’s judgment. No, but we can see how sin often affects many people. Bad choices can lead to bad results. But the fact that someone is poor, or has been murdered, or robbed doesn’t immediately indicate why it happened.

In the end, each of us must stand before the Lord and give a report. For Christians, we will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ to have our service examined (Rom. 14:10). At that time, what anyone else thinks about us will not matter. Our own record will speak for us. While it may be easy to point at others and judge their motives, words, or actions, perhaps it would be better to get ourselves ready for that future meeting. In the end, only what God thinks will matter.

Footnotes

1 “Applause Breaks Out After Durham’s Response To Steve Cohen Telling Him ‘You Had A Good Reputation'” as viewed at https://youtu.be/UZcBQ1KAFP4 on 6/28/2023.