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Retributive Punishment
Retributive Punishment
Texts: Job 8:1–22; Job 11:1–20; Isaiah 40:12–14; Genesis 6:5–8; 2 Peter 3:5–7
November 12, 2016

“Uggghhh. When is this election going to be over?” groans Tara Shafer’s daughter. Her son says, “Kids hate the election because it’s all that parents are talking about.” Shafer, in her blog post “Election Fatigue Doesn’t Even Begin to Describe It” writes, “And so I sit in the spin room of my minivan. To my daughter I say that the election will be over in a week. To my son I say, okay. Let’s talk about something else. But let me just say that this is not normal. We are better. It gets better. We need to ride this out as engaged citizens.”

Shafer explains her concerns, “As a dyed-in-the wool political wonk, I never thought I’d be tempted to call uncle on an election. Democracy is hard and thorny. It requires a kind of tenacious hanging on that I learned when I worked with pro-democracy Chinese students after Tiananmen Square,” and from others “who were imprisoned and tortured for their beliefs.”

Shafer struggled to stay with the process during the debates. “I found myself having to explain extremely adult ideas manifestly inappropriate for children in one of the debates” she says. “In another, a long-held tradition of transition between presidents was called into question.”

Shafer confesses the depths of her election fatigue as she concludes, “So I live life for the next week feeling something like a hostage. On Tuesday you can likely find me curled in a fetal position hoping for a swift resolution.” [1]

We might well wonder if God ever suffers from human fatigue when we malign His character. Our lesson this week focuses on retributive punishment. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar presumed to heap pronouncements of retributive judgment onto Job. They may have even learned this tactic from their knowledge of the flood. God says in Genesis 6:7 “I will wipe mankind from the face of the earth… for I am grieved that I made them.” The flood reveals that God’s divine judgment is real. Looking at just one aspect of God’s judgment, however, misses the complete picture of God’s character: justice mingled with mercy.

God is the only one who has the wisdom and mercy to administer retributive judgment. Our human judgment is often clouded by our imperfect understanding of the world and the human condition. If we learned anything from the election, it’s that we never truly know the whole story. Job’s friends uttered some truths, but they also slandered him because of their imperfect judgments. Fortunately for Job and for us, Thursday’s lesson reassures us that “Whatever the reasons for the trials we face, we have the assurance of God’s love, a love revealed as so great that Jesus went to the cross for us, an act that alone promises to end all suffering.” We can truly trust God’s blend of mercy and judgment.


[1] http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/election-fatigue-doesnt-even-begin-to-describe-it/