Selected by reader, Sam, Texas
Too often I find myself feeling like Job’s friends, believing God owes good to the righteous and suffering to the wicked. Thankfully, as this devotional explores, God is not indebted to us, but faithful in His endless and sacrificial love.
Originally published, February 20, 2020, based on readings from Job 20 & 1 Corinthians 7.
Scripture Focus: Job 20.2-3
My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer
because I am greatly disturbed.
I hear a rebuke that dishonors me,
and my understanding inspires me to reply.
“Is my complaint directed to a human being?
Why should I not be impatient?
Reflection: God is Faithful, not Indebted—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman
Chapter 20 begins with Zophar speaking up because he is offended: “I hear a rebuke that dishonors me…” Then as now, when making arguments, people get emotional, tend toward exaggeration and aggression, and take personal offense at the other person’s comments. It is notable that in chapter 19, Job was not responding to Zophar, but to Bildad. The last we heard from Zophar was in chapter 11.
How often have we (have I) taken offense at an argument or comment not directed at me on Facebook and lashed out? Probably more often than it is comfortable to admit.
Zophar spends this speech defending the idea that the wicked succeed only momentarily before being destroyed. Something Job easily demonstrates as false in the next chapter. Most of Zophar’s speech is gleeful descriptions of what he believes will happen to the wicked. It reads a bit like revenge fantasy.
Zophar and the rest of Job’s friends have a deep, fear-based need to show that Job’s sin caused his suffering. If they can convince Job and themselves that Job messed up and brought this on himself, then they are safe because God owes them protection.
Prior to these events, Job and his friends believed in an indebted God who owed good to the righteous, owed suffering to the wicked, and never made late payments.
The God Job begs audience with, whom he desires to stand before, is a different God.
He is an un-indebted God. It is we who are the debtors.
If God does owe us anything, it is wrath—wrath which he is forestalling payment of, holding that debt in arrears until such time as Christ would pay it.
God proves more faithful than Job’s friends, and as he came to Job, he also comes to us. God comes to sit in the dust with us when we suffer. God does not attempt to make himself look good in comparison to us, as Job’s friends did, instead he comes to trade places with us, taking our suffering, experiencing it as his own.
Rather than an indebted God, we serve a faithful God. He does not treat us as we deserve. He has laid on Christ the iniquity and punishment owed to us. He has imputed to us the righteousness won and proved by Christ. By his poverty we are enriched. By his stripes, we are healed.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly; hear my voice when I cry to you.
Let my prayer be set forth in your sight as incense. — Psalm 141.1-2
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle
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Read more about Christ, Our Undeserved Friend :: A Guided Prayer
That I might swap with him my place,
That I might be changed by his grace,
That I might be healed through his wounds,
That I might live, he be entombed.