Job 24:1-17 (NIV) 1 “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days? 2 Men move boundary stones; they pasture flocks they have stolen. 3 They drive away the orphan’s donkey and take the widow’s ox in pledge. 4 They thrust the needy from the path and force all the poor of the land into hiding. 5 Like wild donkeys in the desert, the poor go about their labor of foraging food; the wasteland provides food for their children. 6 They gather fodder in the fields and glean in the vineyards of the wicked. 7 Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked; they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. 8 They are drenched by mountain rains and hug the rocks for lack of shelter. 9 The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. 10 Lacking clothes, they go about naked; they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry. 11 They crush olives among the terraces; they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst. 12 The groans of the dying rise from the city, and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no one with wrongdoing. 13 “There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths. 14 When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up and kills the poor and needy; in the night he steals forth like a thief. 15 The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ and he keeps his face concealed. 16 In the dark, men break into houses, but by day they shut themselves in; they want nothing to do with the light. 17 For all of them, deep darkness is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.
On verses 1-17: Job sees so much injustice around him – people stealing others’ property (v2), taking advantage of the weak and poor (v3-8), and causing the most vulnerable in society to suffer the most (v9-12). Job sees murder (v14), adultery (v15), robberies (v16), people reveling in the darkness and avoiding the light (v16-17). In the face of all this injustice, Job questions why “God charges no one with wrongdoing” (v12) and “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment?” (v1)
I know they never met on earth, but if Job ever met Peter, I imagine this is how their conversation might go:
Job: “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?” (Job 24:1)
Peter: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
In other words, sometimes we might be confused, disillusioned and even angry to see so much evil going on in this world and seemingly so little judgment from God on those who perpetrate it. But remember this: God has promised that one day there will be a day of judgment when God will bring all evildoers to account. As Peter would put it, “the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7).
But here’s the thing: if God were to judge and destroy everyone who does evil, that would mean He would need to judge and destroy every person in this world, save for those who are covered by the blood of His Son Jesus. But because God’s heart is not to destroy but to give life, because He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), He patiently waits for “everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, 2 Peter 3:9 puts it this way: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” I find it interesting that when Peter writes, “He is patient with you”, he is addressing Christians everywhere.
It’s as if Peter is saying: Christian, remember how patient God is with you. First, God could easily have decided to bring about judgment day at any time before you knew His Son Jesus, but because He did not want you to perish, He chose to patiently wait for you to know Jesus first. Second, God is patient with you in that He wants to use you to reach others who do not know His Son Jesus Christ. He has chosen you to be His instrument to let them know about the mercy and salvation that are in Jesus Christ, and so He patiently waits for you to go out there and tell others about Him. He’s patient with you.
So before we accuse God of not doing anything to judge evildoers, let’s remember why God’s judgment day has not yet come. It’s not because God is slow, lazy, negligent, indifferent or irresponsible. It’s because God is patient with us.
Job 24:18-25 (NIV) 18 “Yet they are foam on the surface of the water; their portion of the land is cursed, so that no one goes to the vineyards. 19 As heat and drought snatch away the melted snow, so the grave snatches away those who have sinned. 20 The womb forgets them, the worm feasts on them; evil men are no longer remembered but are broken like a tree. 21 They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow show no kindness. 22 But God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life. 23 He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways. 24 For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all others; they are cut off like heads of grain. 25 “If this is not so, who can prove me false and reduce my words to nothing?”
On verses 18-25: It’s a strange transition, isn’t it? In verses 1-17 Job is questioning why God seems slow to judge evildoers. Yet here in verses 18-25 Job seems to contradict himself by talking about how evil doers are cursed (v18), snatched away suddenly (v19), forgotten (v20), dragged away by God (v22) and “cut off like heads of grain” (v24). What is going on with Job? All of a sudden Job is sounding a lot like his companions Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Is Job finally agreeing with his friends? Is Job admitting that he is one of those wicked people that God has cut down in his prime? No. This is not Job admitting his own wrongdoing. At this point Job still thinks of himself as blameless. That is why throughout this chapter Job refers to evildoers in the third person, saying they steal, theymurder, and they mistreat the poor.
So what is going on? Scholars differ in their interpretation of verses 18-25. Some scholars believe that Job is actually pronouncing a curse on evildoers, such that, for example, verse 20 should read like a prayer: “May the womb forget them, may the worm feast on them, may evil men no longer be remembered but be broken like a tree.” Others believe that in verses 18-20 Job is paraphrasing his friends’ earlier arguments about how God cuts off the wicked and then in verses 21 to 25 he is rebutting those arguments (see the ESV translation of verses 18-25).
This is a difficult passage to interpret. When we take the Scriptures here at face value without reading additional language into the passage, it would seem that Job is a conflicted man. On one hand, he wonders why God is not quick to judge evildoers; on the other hand, he is still confident that somehow, some way and some day, evildoers will get the punishment they deserve. You and I can be the same sometimes. We may question God’s methods and timing, but in the end we believe somehow God will work it all out for good. That kind of internal conflict is natural, normal and part of working out one’s faith. It’s trusting that we may not have all the answers now, but one day it will all make sense in the end (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are patient with all of us, not wanting any of us to come to perish, but all of us to be saved. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!