Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.
-C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Man oh man. What has become of my life? Overall, my life is fabulous. Twenty-four hours a day, every day, I feel so full of happiness and sunshine and hope and faith and life that my heart could very well burst with it. The blessings poured out by my Father are so overwhelming in quantity and in quality that I cannot begin to comprehend how it’s even possible that my life turned out this way. Even as I write this, my heart feels like it’s just bursting with the Christlife in me.
But things happen. “In this world [we] will have trouble” and all that jazz. Things happen to make me feel frustrated, lonely, sad, confused, persecuted, and so on. They don’t shake my foundation or anything – they don’t even really scratch the surface. But they make me remember the fallen nature of this world; they remind me that there is work to be done and eternity to reach. I like to believe that I’ve gotten to be pretty good about handing these things over to God, seeking His counsel and support in all my difficulties, but no two responses are ever quite the same. And last night I began to wonder why something in particular wasn’t getting tidily resolved. I asked God to help me understand why things have been happening the way they are, and He pointed me to Elihu’s speech in the Book of Job.
“He is wooing you from the jaws of distress
to a spacious place free from restriction,
to the comfort of your table laden with choice food.
But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked;
judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
Be careful that no one entices you by riches;
do not let a large bribe turn you aside.
Would your wealth or even all your mighty efforts
sustain you so you would not be in distress?
Now let’s get Biblical. Quick summary of the traditional lessons on Job: Job’s a righteous, prosperous guy. God takes away his prosperity and makes him suffer. Job’s friends say that he must have done something sinful because God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Job insists on his own righteousness and demands an explanation from God. In the end, God provides Job with no explanation but affirms Job’s righteousness and rewards him for being faithful despite tribulation.
Alright. Here’s my take. I am a firm believer that we are created beings and have neither right nor need nor ability to understand why God does everything that He does. Even so, based both on the repeated assertions of Scripture and my own daily experience, I am a firm believer that God does generally reward the righteous and punish the wicked. Since coming to Christ, I have been absolutely dazzled by the blessings poured out on me. In light of that fact, God drew my attention to one particular passage from the Book of Job this morning.
After Job and all his friends are finished going back and forth, and right before God Himself steps on scene, Elihu (son of Barakel the Buzite) speaks. He puts forth the possibility that God may sometimes preempt the sins of the righteous, rather than just inflicting punishment after the fact. I can’t speak for Job, but I know that I needed God’s preemption in my life these past few days. It’s great that I rejoice in God’s blessings and that I’ve grown to trust Him so readily with everything, but I’ve let my guard down towards the enemy. By God’s recent intervention, I’ve been directly rescued from temptation, my attention’s been drawn to my weaknesses, and my courage to protect my virtues has been strengthened. If that’s not preemption, I don’t know what is. I ought to remember that God does everything for one reason or another and is always looking to my best interest.