Read Exodus 4, Job 21, and Hebrews 10. This devotional is about Job 21.
Job’s complaint here in chapter 21 is a familiar one. It is something many believers in God throughout the ages have felt and said, namely that the wicked seem to live pretty great lives. According to Job, wicked people:
- Live to a ripe old age (v. 7)
- Get more powerful and wealthy with each passing year (v 7).
- Watch their kids grow up and do well in life, too (v. 8).
- Live in safety under no condemnation from God (v. 9).
- Have business success year after year (v. 10).
- Enjoy happy times with their families when they are not working (vv. 11-12).
- Retire inspired and die happy (v. 13).
Despite all these blessings, they resist God their whole lives and want nothing to do with him (vv. 14-15).
In verse 16a Job recognized that God was the source of their prosperity: “their prosperity is not in their own hands.” Job’s reason for saying all this, then, was not, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He was not about to ditch his faith in God and join the ways of wickedness because the wicked had better lives. He knew that God existed and that anything unbelievers enjoy in this life is by the [common] grace of God. For these reasons Job said, “so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.”
Rather, Job brought up the topic of the prosperity of the wicked because he wanted to point out how unjust it all seems. In verses 17-18 Job complained that the wicked never seem to get what they deserve in this life.
In verse 19 Job quoted a common saying, “God stores up the punishment of the wicked for their children.” People who said this were comforting themselves that the children of the wicked would suffer for their parents’ sins. Job wanted none of that. He said, “Let their own eyes see their destruction; let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty” (v. 20). In other words, God should punish the wicked now because when they are dead, they won’t care if their kids have to pay the pricetag for their parents’ sins (v. 21).
In fact, Job thought, everyone dies no matter what. The wicked and the righteous, those who suffer and those who enjoy a great life lie side by side in the cemetery (vv. 23-33). So what difference does it make if people live a godly or a wicked life?
The answer is not stated in this chapter but it is important to understand. The logic of Job in this chapter is hard to argue with. Lots of unbelievers live long, prosperous, and seemingly happy lives. Lots of believers suffer sorrow and even persecution. Both unbelievers and believers die. We all meet the same fate, so why should anyone do anything except for what they want to do?
Again, the logic of Job’s position in this chapter is hard to argue with if this life is all there is. Job had, in previous chapters, affirmed his belief in the resurrection but now here in chapter 21, he’s wavering a bit. “What if God exists but there is no afterlife? he thinks. Then it makes no sense to be godly because plenty of ungodly people seem to sin and get away with it.
Well…, things probably aren’t as rosy for the unbeliever in this life as Job thinks. But, even if he’s right, there is more to life than this life. God does allow many unbelievers to skate through life without getting what they deserve for their sins. If this life is all that exists, then God would be unjust to let unbelievers get away with their sin.
But God is just; therefore, we know that justice will be done in eternity even if it doesn’t happen in this life.
So let’s be faithful to our just God even when life seems unfair and ungodliness seems like a better, happier path. As the author of Hebrews put it in Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him….”
Trust in that truth even when life seems unfair. God will do what is right when this life is over.