Friday, November 24, 2023

Rejecting False Doctrine (Job 21)

“The counsel of the wicked is far from me” (Job 21:16).

Job’s reply to Zophar is highly instructive for anyone who believes that sorrow and destruction only come upon those who have rejected God and live wickedly. Despite Job’s arguments to the contrary, this is his friends’ reasoning: God always judges the wicked in this life by bringing sorrow and calamity upon them and their households. Such destruction and affliction does not fall upon the righteous; therefore, if you are suffering a severe trial, if you have lost your worldly possessions and if your family has been destroyed, then you are under God’s judgment because you are wicked and a hypocrite. Job argues in chapter 21 that the problem with such reasoning is that it is contrary to the evidence of everyday life. Job tells his friends to consider those who live among them. Many people who are wicked and reject God’s authority live a full and prosperous life. At the same time, many people who worship the one, true God in sincerity and obedience suffer terrible trials.

David affirms Job’s doctrine in the psalms when he cries out, “Why do the wicked prosper?” You cannot judge a man’s heart by whether or not he is facing severe trials. But Job’s friends wrongly believed that affliction proves one’s hypocrisy. They did not grasp the sorrowful condition of living in a fallen world: suffering falls upon the righteous as well as the unrighteous. For the former, it is beneficial for instruction and produces humility and reliance on God. For the latter, it hardens them in their sin and bitterness against God.

We must not think that such erroneous doctrine as that held by Job’s counselors is a thing of the past. Many in today’s churches believe that sickness, affliction, loss of wealth and worldly comforts do not occur in the lives of true believers. They maintain that if someone is truly born again, they are guaranteed health and prosperity. If someone becomes sick then they must not have true faith. Such ideas go against the clear teaching of Scripture which tells us that we must expect to suffer even as Christ suffered.

Job stood firm against his accuser because he knew the truth. He knew that the wicked and the righteous prosper and suffer in this life. Both die, and will one day face God’s judgment, the one to eternal punishment and the other to eternal life.

According to today’s study, why is it important to know Scripture? Is there something you are struggling with now that you do not know whether it is true? Search the Scriptures, study books that have been written on the topic, ask for help from knowledgeable teachers. Compare everything to God’s Word.