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Why Doesn’t God Answer?

Around 2000 BC there was a man named Job who was healthy, wealthy, and wise, but then Satan destroyed everything Job owned, killed Job’s children, and ruined Job’s health. Three friends named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to visit Job and comfort him. They had a long discussion with Job about his misfortune. Job spoke first, then Eliphaz, then Job, then Bildad, then Job, then Zophar, then Job again, and this pattern kept repeating. Essentially, Job’s friends tried to convince Job he was suffering because he had sinned, but Job kept insisting he was innocent. Towards the end a man named Elihu offered his input, at the very end Yahweh spoke the final word on Job’s situation, and Job’s health, wealth, and family were restored. As this dialogue progressed, Job became increasingly frustrated with God because Job kept asking God why he was suffering, but God didn’t respond right away. In this episode we are going to read Job 16-17 where Job openly expressed his frustration over this question: “Why doesn’t God answer?”

Thanks for watching this episode of Bible Mountain dotcom. This episode is part of a series of studies on the book of Job called Why Do People Suffer? Job’s words are recorded in poetical form, so before we read the text, let’s review Hebrew poetry by contrasting it with English poetry. English poetry is all about rhyme.

Roses are red, Violets are blue,

Sugar is sweet, And so are you.

You rhymes with blue. This is typical English poetry. English poetry is all about rhyme.

Hebrew poetry is all about parallelism. There is synonymous parallelism in which the same idea is stated two or more times using different words. There is antithetic parallelism in which two or more thoughts are contrasted. And there is synthetic parallelism in which an idea is stated and then expanded. Because of all the repetition, a Hebrew poem can be summarized in just a few statements. Today’s passage can be summarized in three themes. One of the themes is Job’s criticism of his friends. For example,

Job 16:2 “I[Job] have heard many such things;

Sorry comforters are you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] all.

As we read the passage, we will see criticism like this several times. Another theme was Job blaming God for his troubles as we see in Job 16:11.

Job 16:11 “God hands me[Job] over to ruffians

And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.

This verse is an example of synonymous parallelism. Both of these lines essentially say the same thing.

A third theme was Job’s description of his misery. For example,

Job 16:16 “My[Job] face is flushed from weeping,

And deep darkness is on my eyelids,

Job 16:17 Although there is no violence in my[Job] hands,

And my prayer is pure.

  • The Suicide of American ChristianityThe Suicide of American Christianity
This is an example of synthetic parallelism: Job made a statement in verse 16 and then added to that thought in verse 17. These are the three themes we will see throughout this passage, let’s start reading at Job 16:1.

Job 16:1 Then Job answered,

Job 16:2 “I[Job] have heard many such things;

Sorry comforters are you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] all.

Job 16:3 “Is there no limit to windy words?

Or what plagues you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] that you answer?

Job 16:4 “I[Job] too could speak like you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar],

If I were in your place.

I could compose words against you

And shake my head at you.

Job 16:5 “I[Job] could strengthen you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] with my mouth,

And the solace of my lips could lessen your pain.

Job 16:6 “If I[Job] speak, my pain is not lessened,

And if I hold back, what has left me?

Job 16:7 “But now He[Yahweh] has exhausted me[Job];

You[Yahweh] have laid waste all my company.

Job 16:8 “You[Yahweh] have shriveled me[Job] up,

It[My shriveling] has become a witness;

And my leanness rises up against me,

It testifies to my face.

Job 16:9 “His[Yahweh’s] anger has torn me[Job] and hunted me down,

He has gnashed at me with His teeth;

My adversary[Yahweh] glares at me.

Job 16:10 “They[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] have gaped at me[Job] with their mouth,

They have slapped me on the cheek with contempt;

They have massed themselves against me.

Job 16:11 “God hands me[Job] over to ruffians

And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.

Job 16:12 “I[Job] was at ease, but He[Yahweh] shattered me,

And He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces;

He has also set me up as His target.

Job 16:13 “His[Yahweh’s] arrows surround me[Job].

Without mercy He splits my kidneys open;

He pours out my gall on the ground.

Job 16:14 “He[Yahweh] breaks through me[Job] with breach after breach;

He runs at me like a warrior.

Job 16:15 “I[Job] have sewed sackcloth over my skin

And thrust my horn in the dust.

Job 16:16 “My[Job] face is flushed from weeping,

And deep darkness is on my eyelids,

Job 16:17 Although there is no violence in my[Job] hands,

And my prayer is pure.

Job 16:18 “O earth, do not cover my[Job’s] blood,

And let there be no resting place for my cry.

Job 16:19 “Even now, behold, my[Job’s] witness is in heaven,

And my advocate is on high.

Job 16:20 “My[Job’s] friends[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] are my scoffers;

My eye weeps to God.

Job 16:21 “O that a man might plead with God

As a man with his neighbor!

Pay attention to Job 16:21 because I’m going to come back to it later.

Job 16:22 “For when a few years are past,

I[Job] shall go the way of no return[death].

Job 17:1 “My[Job’s] spirit is broken, my days are extinguished,

The grave is ready for me.

Job 17:2 “Surely mockers[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] are with me[Job],

And my eye gazes on their[the mocker’s] provocation.

Job 17:3 “Lay down, now, a pledge for me[Job] with Yourself[Yahweh];

Who is there that will be my guarantor?

Job 17:4 “For You[Yahweh] have kept their[mocker’s] heart from understanding,

Therefore You will not exalt them.

Job 17:5 “He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil,

The eyes of his children also will languish.

Job 17:6 “But He[Yahweh] has made me[Job] a byword of the people,

And I am one at whom men spit.

Job 17:7 “My[Job’s] eye has also grown dim because of grief,

And all my members are as a shadow.

Job 17:8 “The upright will be appalled at this[Job’s suffering],

And the innocent will stir up himself against the godless.

Job 17:9 “Nevertheless the righteous will hold to his way,

And he who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger.

Job 17:10 “But come again all of you[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] now,

For I[Job] do not find a wise man among you.

Job 17:11 “My[Job’s] days are past, my plans are torn apart,

Even the wishes of my heart.

Job 17:12 “They[Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar] make night into day, saying,

‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.

Job 17:13 “If I[Job] look for Sheol as my home,

I make my bed in the darkness;

Job 17:14 If I[Job] call to the pit, ‘You are my father’;

To the worm, ‘my mother and my sister’;

Job 17:15 Where now is my[Job] hope?

And who regards my hope?

Job 17:16 “Will it[hope] go down with me[Job] to Sheol?

Shall we together go down into the dust?”

That is the end of Job’s speech. Notice Job’s lack of hope at the end. The last two verses are stated as questions, but they are rhetorical questions, intended to communicate Job’s lack of hope.

I want to go back to Job 16:21, but first let’s review some of Job’s earlier speeches. In his early speeches, Job articulated his suffering and agony. In his next two speeches Job started to demand answers from God. For example,

Job 7:20 “Have I sinned? What have I done to You,

O watcher of men?

Why have You set me as Your target,

So that I am a burden to myself?

Job 10:17 ‘You renew Your witnesses against me

And increase Your anger toward me;

Hardship after hardship is with me.

Job 10:18 ‘Why then have You brought me out of the womb?

Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!

Job kept asking these questions, but God didn’t answer him. In today’s passage, in Job 16:21, Job said the following:

Job 16:21 “O that a man might plead with God

As a man with his neighbor!

Job said this because he was starting to get frustrated with God’s silence. That brings us back to this question:

Why doesn’t God answer?

Why didn’t God answer Job? Why doesn’t God answer us when we are suffering and we ask why?

As a teaser for future episodes, God answered this question at the end of Job’s story and we’ll cover that in a future episode. For now, let me give you a few things to think about.

First of all, think about the military. Generals do not have to explain themselves to the enlisted soldiers and Yahweh did not have to explain Himself to Job.  Likewise, God does not have to explain Himself to us. God does not have to answer our questions.

Second, think about sin. There are consequences to sin. Perhaps part of the reason God doesn’t always answer is because people need to learn that suffering is part of being a sinful human being.

Third, consider Isaiah 55:9.

Is. 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways

And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Job was suffering because he was a casualty of a battle between Yahweh and Satan. Perhaps God didn’t answer Job because there was more to the story than even we know and Yahweh knew Job wouldn’t understand. Perhaps part of the reason God doesn’t explain to us why we are suffering is because He knows we simply wouldn’t understand anyway.

 

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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