Job 20:5-8 (NIV) 5 …the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. 6 Though his pride reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, 7 he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ 8 Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night.
On verses 1-29: Here Zophar echoes the same message that Eliphaz and Bildad have spoken in Job 15 and Job 18 respectively: that terror, calamity and disaster are the fate of the wicked. Zophar, in particular, emphasizes how the wicked die young – how they prosper briefly only to be cut down in the prime of their youth and at the height of their power. For example, in verse 5 Zophar says, “the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts only a moment”. About the wicked man Zophar says “the youthful vigor that fills his bones will lie with him in the dust” (v11).
In other words, whereas Billy Joel once sung, “Only the good die young”, Zophar seems to think that only the wicked die young. Zophar reasons that since Job has been cut down in his prime, Job must be wicked.
Yet Zophar’s reasoning falls apart when you consider that some of the greatest God-fearing men and women who ever lived also died young:
Perpetua, a young mother in ancient North Africa, refused to recant her faith as a Christian and was martyred in her early 20s.
Missionary Jim Elliot was martyred for his faith at the age of 24, killed by the very people he went to serve.
German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung by the Nazis at the age of 39.
Even Jesus Christ himself died at the age of approximately 33.
The fact is: you can find faithless people who died young and you can find faithful people who died young. You can find faithless people who lived to a very old age, and you can also find faithful people who lived to a very old age. What matters most is not how many years you get to live; what matters most is what you did with the years you have been given.
Let me put it this way: Whenever you see a gravestone at a cemetery, beneath the deceased person’s name you will see two dates separated by a hyphen: the date of that person’s birth and the date of that person’s death. We have no control over our birth date and we have very little control over the date of our death, but where we do have a say is in how we live our lives in that little hyphen in between. So leave the book ends of your life up to God. If you simply make it your goal to live for Jesus in that hyphen in between, yours will be a life well lived, regardless of how short or long that hyphen may be.
Heavenly Father, thank You that a life well lived is not measured in the number of years a person lives, but in how that person lives the years they are given. All my days, may I live well by living for You, and whether that ends up being a long time or a short time, I can rest assured that I gave my all to You. Thank You Father that my life is in Your hands and You will maximize the impact that this life of mine can make. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!