The Bible teaches that God is impartial and doesn’t play favorites in any way, shape, or form. God is not a respecter of persons. This makes His work and purposes really hard to understand! The scriptures state that God brings rain on the just and the unjust. Traditionally people have interpreted this concept two ways: God brings favor for both the wicked and the righteous; and God brings calamity on both the wicked and the righteous. Both of these interpretations are true. The scriptures are filled with testimonies where God’s people enjoy incredible success and prosperity in this life. The Bible is also filled with testimonies where God’s people suffer greatly and can’t seem to catch a break in this life. On the other hand, the scriptures show the same principle is true for the wicked. There were plenty of generations of Israelites that didn’t seem to suffer for their selfishness and self-righteousness. The Bible shows that those who had no concern for God often lived long prosperous lives. Just the same, the Bible shows that the Lord often humbled the proud who boasted in their prosperity, and brought great misery, suffering, and judgment into their lives.
Since these issues are true of God’s people and those who rebel against God, it becomes impossible for anyone to truly know what God is doing. If a person suffers greatly, does it mean that God is angry and administrating judgments? According to the Bible, this isn’t always the case. Likewise, when someone is enjoying great success and prosperity, does it mean that God is blessing that person because He is pleased with them or tolerant to their conduct and attitudes? The Bible shows that this isn’t always true either. In the testimony of Job, Zophar tried to explain to Job that his suffering must have been on account of some sort of evil that Job refused to acknowledge. Zophar’s basis for his argument was that God judges the wicked. God brings calamity into the lives of the wicked. God causes the wicked to be empty, frustrated, and miserable because of their rejection of him. In the testimony of Job 21:1-16, Job explains that this isn’t always true. Job explained that there are many instances in which the wicked seem to go free, living it up in this life, continually increasing in comfort and prosperity, and God’s judgment doesn’t seem to affect them in any way.
In Job 21:1-16, Job sought to explain that his suffering was not absolute proof of his wickedness. Job wanted to point out and remind his friends that there are plenty of wicked people who don’t seem to suffer at all. Job first asked that his friends listen carefully to this point. Previously his friends had interrupted his points in order to make their false accusations. Job asked for just a moment to speak this simple truth, then his friends could go about their mocking, figuring that those who can’t see the truth will continue to speak foolishness. Job asked for his friends to just be quiet and listen. They originally went to see Job to provide comfort. They hadn’t provided any comfort at all. Therefore, Job asked that their silence be the means by which they provide comfort. Job was willing to accept all the mocking if his friends were to remain silent through this one point. After all, Job’s complaints were not directed against them or any other people. Job was venting to God. There was no reason for his points to be interrupted by people if Job was simply trying to reason things out with God.
Job first pointed out the severity of his circumstances to show the flaws in Zophar’s logic. Job explained that his circumstances were astonishing and incredible – in a bad sense. It was an amazing thing to see how quickly Job’s prosperity was turned into suffering, and also to the degree that it was. The speed at which Job’s life dramatically changed was an astonishing thing. Job admitted that even he was surprised by the radical change in his life and in how quickly it came. Within a day, likely just a few hours, Job’s life was completely opposite the prosperity he had grown to enjoy. He didn’t have time to prepare. He didn’t have time to accept a gradual change. He didn’t have time to mourn the loss of his children before having to endure the loss of his wealth, resources, and other normal habits of life. Job asked his friends to consider that his situation was startling and unique. It is one thing to know of someone suffering, but how many people know of others whose lives were changed as swiftly and radically as Job’s? Job’s testimony was exceptional. This means that understanding the cause of Job’s situation would have required exceptional wisdom, which mankind does not possess naturally.
This is where Zophar’s assumptions were faulty. The things that Zophar said of God’s dealings with the wicked in Job Chapter 20 were all true, but not true all of the time. God does deal harshly with the wicked sometimes. Job reminded his friends that sometimes God doesn’t seem to deal harshly, or at all, with the wicked. Job pointed out that the wicked don’t always die young and alone. They often times grow old and live full lives. They often grow in influence and power. There are many people who lead others, groups, and nations that are wicked, and seem to rule forever. God allows this to happen. God also allows the wicked to see their kids grow up and watch their prosperity thrive in future generations. God doesn’t always immediately cut the wicked off so that their kids grow up cursed or cut off. Often times, those who deny God have full families that go on to enjoy the prosperity of their parents, passing wealth down from generation to generation.
Job reminded his friends that God often allows the wicked to live safely in their homes. They live in good neighborhoods, having good jobs, affording the benefits of protections and pleasures of this life. Often times, the wicked live in such a manner that they have very little, if anything to be afraid of. It doesn’t appear that the weight of God’s hand is against them. Many times God’s people will look at the wicked in amazement and wonder, often concerned why God allows them to go on without any difficulty or signs of judgment. There were often Godly men in the scriptures that wondered when God’s judgments would come against the wicked because it appeared at that time that God might not judge. Often times, the wicked seem to increase in this life, not suffer the wages of their sin. Their prosperity grows. Their pride swells. They seem to have no trouble at all. Job explained that the wicked feel so good about themselves and their manner of living that they are afforded the opportunity to teach their kids to live in the same manner, constantly celebrating and gloating in their successes. Their lives become parties and celebrations for their self-indulgence and self-righteousness, and no consequence seems to affect them. Job even marveled how many times, the wicked will live in this manner, all the way up to their deaths, and die quickly and peacefully, seeming to escape all of the harshness of God’s anger and judgments.
Job explained that the wicked will even outwardly deny God, rejecting the knowledge of Him. They will often proudly proclaim that they don’t desire or want the knowledge of God. This is because the wicked don’t want to hear the righteousness of God and thereby become convicted of it and by it. They don’t want to hear about the judgments of God. They don’t want to hear about the glory and power of God, figuring that their manner of living is equal to His. The wicked will outwardly question God, His power, His authority, and His sovereignty. They will ask, “Who is the Almighty that we should serve Him?” Like Pharaoh during the days of Moses, they feel that their wealth and prosperity is equal to the power and influence of the Almighty. They find no value or profit in serving God, seeing that life has been just fine to them serving themselves. They question the value of praying and depending on God since they feel their increase was by the effects of their own hands. They don’t care about God, but their lives seem as if God has no care for their blasphemies.
Job was right – this kind of stuff happens all the time. There are plenty of wicked people that outwardly and proudly reject God and His righteousness, and never seem to suffer for it. They seem to have all of the blessings and comforts of this life that God’s people hope to have, but can’t seem to get. It is the absence of God’s judgment against the wicked in this way, that makes many of God’s children feel that this world is totally backwards! Since this sort of thinking is so common, it is proof that God doesn’t treat every wicked person the same way. The absence of apparent judgment of the wicked in this life doesn’t mean they won’t be judged. God’s odd treatment of the wicked as Job described simply shows the incomprehensive mercy, grace, and patience of God. Who but God can put up with a lifetime of proud rejection? More importantly, who but God can deal with the evil of this life in a perfect way in the realm of eternity? Just because the wicked appear to get by in this life doesn’t mean they will in the next. God is just and will render to each the wages that they earn. Since the wages of sin is death, those who deny the mercy and grace of God through self-righteousness and self-indulgence, will die twice.
After describing the common difficulties of the wicked, Job explained that he didn’t want to have anything to do with the sort of pompous thinking that the wicked live by. Job knew that, even though it appeared that their lives were great, God would eventually humble the proud. Job figured it was better to be humbled in this life and exalted in the next, than to be exalted in this life and be humbled unto destruction in the next. Job’s point proves that we cannot make determinations about what God is doing – who is guilty and who is not; who is condemned and who is not. Zophar’s statements about the wicked were true, as were Job’s. Who knows why God does what He does with each person. If God’s people suffer just like the wicked, and the wicked enjoy comforts just like God’s people, then only God is qualified to understand why. Thus, we should abstain from jumping to conclusions and making assumptions about things that cannot be known in this lifetime.