DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job
THE LIFE OF JOB – LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY
Eliphaz and Bildad add to Job's suffering
Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute
Job's three friends had journeyed a distance to bring comfort and counsel to their friend. No doubt, they came with the best of intentions. However, they were so taken aback on seeing Job seated on a dung heap, scarping his putrid sores that they had no idea where to begin.
A full week passed and they shared in his anguish with the cultural affirmations; then they heard Job's lament: "Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, who longs for death, but it does not come, and search for it more than hidden treasures." His last words sealed their dilemma. "For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes" (Job 3:20, 21, 25, 26).
Eliphaz, probably the appointed spokesman, ventures to begin with his cold comfort. In essence, he says to Job: "You have counseled others and given them the "medicine," but now you won't takes yours when it is your turn" Hardly a positive beginning! (1:1-6). Since Eliphaz' only vision of God is to punish the sinner or exact retribution for wrong, it must be evident to all that Job had sinned grievously. "Remember now, whoever perished being innocent? or where were the upright ever cut off? (v.7) He elaborates his statement with graphic poetic parallelism, Hebrew poetry at its best. But something far more sinister is now revealed.
Eliphaz Encounters Another Spirit Job 4:12-21
The writer of Job summarizes the encounter that has all the hallmarks of a mysterious, if not demonic, messenger and hence a demonic message. Paul reminds us that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). While in this section of the book Satan covers his tracks, he is not idle in order to present his case. "Now a word was secretly brought to me . . . then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up . . . there was silence; then I heard a voice saying: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?' If He puts no trust in His servants, if He charges His angels with error; how much more those who dwell in houses of clay . . . ." (vs.12-19).
This demonic suggestion which only inspires fear and includes no corresponding message of hope and forgiveness adds a new dimension to the "scourge of the tongue" [compare Job. 5:21]. Any appeal to visions and voices carries a subtle and hidden danger when such counsel is not corroborated fully by God's Word.
In Elipaz' first performance that follows, he makes a snide remark that must have torn apart Job's heart. "His sons are far from safety. They are crushed in the gate and there is no deliverer" (5:4). Job knew that he had been a faithful priest in his household; he had daily offered sacrifices just in case his sons crossed the line of sinning. How this must have hurt Job's fragile condition and poured salt into his wound!
Eliphaz and His Theoretical Appeal - Truth but not Relevant to Job
Then Eliphaz rather piously gives his own "counsel." "But as for me, I would seek God and to God I would commit my cause - who does great things, and unsearchable marvelous things without number" (v.8, 9). The indirect inference is that Job is rebelling against God and not doing what Eliphaz has always done in the past. He goes on to describe the wonders of God's providence. After all, counsel is easily given to others who suffer when given from a vantage point of self-righteousness and the ignorance of God's work of grace which God had done in Job.
Eliphaz' concluding remarks sound a slightly different tone. "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty; for He bruises, but He builds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole, He shall deliver you in six troubles, yes, in seven no evil shall touch you" (vs.17-19). Here Eliphaz does indeed speak the truth clearly.
One immediately hears the echo of James' counsel to the Jewish Diaspora "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing." But Job's friend had no concept of what God's work of grace through faith would ultimately produce. James' wisdom is filled with the triumph of faith. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:2-5).
A small section of the Eliphaz' counsel indeed does reappear as inspired Scripture in Hebrews but in a totally different context of divine love and triumphant faith. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him." Hebrews adds the full context which Eliphaz could not include. "For whom the LORD loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12: 5, 6). God's motive is His genuine love for His own in sending suffering, not to punish but to purify and make a more Christ-like character and hence bring an increase in His blessings.
The full reading of Eliphaz' counsel seems to be a rather superficial understanding of God's chastening. He concludes by painting a very "rosy" picture of acceptance and then "everyone one lives happy ever after." "You shall know your tent is in peace; you shall visit your habitation and find nothing amiss. You shall know that your descendants shall be many, and your offspring like the grass of the earth. You shall come to the grave at a full age, as a sheaf of grain ripens in its season" (v. 24-27). God's purposes in suffering that He sends have a deeper and a more on-going transformation of heart and life. The New Testament will reveal that encouraging truth.
Job's Deep Anguish and Verbose Response Job 6:1 -7:21
Eliphaz makes a rather direct accusation of an overt sin that had called for God's retribution in kind. (4: 7-11), Job is now even more perplexed and ventilates his grief. Eliphaz' counsel consisted in 27 verses [NKJ Version]; Job's response comes in 51 verses. This disparity will be an on-going reality in the dialogues and monologues that follow.
Job in his sorrow and self–pity will defend himself and, in one sense, God did not condemn him of any overt sin (2:3). We will learn later that God had other worthy reasons for His allowing Job such sufferings. The subsequent end will bring to light the heart of grace, love and mercy of God toward his believing saint. But before we judge Job too self-righteously, we too offer our own feeble defense before God. Job is just more forthright his defense. He will double his rash words until God silences him.
"Oh that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it in the balances! For then it
would be heavier than the sand of the sea--therefore my words have been rash. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me; my spirit drinks in their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed
against me" (6: 2- 4). These are strong words of complaint and sorrow. Let him, however, who
has never suffered, be the first one to condemn Job. One of God's great virtues is that He
remembers that we are dust. He often will discount what is spoken but will rather evaluate the
heart in His mercy.
Remember well that God has included an entire book on suffering and His judgment in the Sacred Canon - Lamentations. "For the Lord will not cast off forever, though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (3:31-33). Here is where the role of pure faith takes over and waits on His purposes to be fulfilled.
I recall a dedicated young couple engaged in foreign ministry with real personal sacrifice who were overjoyed to learn of the coming of their first child. They waited and prepared everything in full expectation of the joy that would be theirs. The baby came full term and died in their arms. Can you imagine a greater disappointment? How easy to respond with rash thoughts and words!
Job returns to his brothers with a request for sympathy: "To him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers have dealt deceitfully like a brook, like streams of the brook s that pass away" (vv.14,15) . Do you note the subtle questioning of Job?
In his dialogue with his friends he reverts time and again to plead for understanding. "Teach me and I will hold my tongue . . . Do you intend to reprove my words, and the speeches of a desperate one, which are as wind, Yes, you overwhelm the fatherless, and you undermine your friend . . . Turn now, again, my righteousness still stands" (vv.24, 26, 27 29). Job is still unbowed but God is at work!
Job's Complaint Turns to a Soliloquy Job 7:1-21
Webster's define soliloquy: "act of speaking one's thoughts aloud in solitude or of revealing to the audience his thoughts." Job, even in the presence of his friends, turns in on himself and muses on life. He compares himself to a laborer with hard service, a hired man, to a sick man who tosses and turns on his bed whose flesh is caked with worms and dust and skin that is cracked and breaks out-- not doubt a reference to his own sores. He compares his life to a weaver's shuttle and the silent approach of death when he will never return home or be known any more. (vv.1-10).
Job in his personal musings now turns to more dangerous thoughts. His suffering is surfacing his most inner self. God is probing it with Job's friends and His own delicate touch. Note a touch of defiance in Job mixed with confusion: "Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul" (v.11).
Addressing God somewhat indirectly, he adds: "Am I a sea, or a sea serpent, that You set a guard over me? . . . What is man, that You should magnify him, that You should set Your heart on him, that You should visit him every morning, and test him every moment? How long? . . . 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? Why then do You not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust, and You will me seek me diligently and I will no longer be" (vv. 12, 17-21).
Job's words are rash and his spirit bitter by his own confession but bear in mind his critical condition; his faith has relatively little anchor truth, as yet not revealed in the Old Testament – hence silence and his fears arise. We may relate to that response that comes to the sufferer who sees himself as being a victim in the presence of the Almighty.
Bildad's Harsh Re-hashing of the Wisdom of the Past Job 8:1-22
In the midst of Job's deep dilemma, Bildad's counsel is shorter and sourer. He returns with the searing words of: "How long will you speak these things," subverting the Almighty's counsel? He re-opens the wound of Job's children having been taken in a sudden world-wind of God's righteous judgment. Any father would indeed be wounded knowing that the exact opposite was the truth. Job had been a true priest for his family (vv.2-4).
Bildad much more caustically states the lot of the hypocrite. Job must, rather, earnestly seek God. If he were so pure, ipso facto, God would immediately respond with prosperity and his latter end would increase abundantly.
Bildad builds his case on the wisdom of the ages. With graphic comparisons from nature he underscores his "wisdom." "Can the papyrus grow up without the marsh? Can the reeds flourish without water? While it is yet green and not cut down, it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God; and the hope of the hypocrite shall perish," namely Job. (vv. 8-18).
He concludes by painting for Job the unrealistic scenario of such a repentant hypocrite: "Behold, God will not cast way the blameless . . . He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing" (vv.20, 21). Such cold comfort by two of his friends can only immerse Job in further anguish. But God is the one who "heats the furnace of affliction" for His own.
Job will respond in chapters 9 and 10 with more deep anguish, almost approaching his blaming of God. In so doing, he must face God more directly than ever. Many believe that these two chapters are the very nadir or lowest point where Job is most prone to turn back. But again Job does not know that Satan is tempting him and that God is holding Satan to His divine restraint.
Job will not fail, but he has yet much more to "unlearn" about himself and learn about God's love and grace. There will slowly arise out of such sufferings some of the most profound truths to be revealed in the New Testament.
We will soon see these truths emerge:
1) "Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both?" (9:33-35);
2) "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him . . ." (13:15);
3) "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service, I will wait, till my change comes" (14:14);
4) "Surely even now my witness is in heaven, and my evidence is on high" (16:19);
5) The crown jewel of Job's sufferings. "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold and not another" (19:25-27).
Hope and understanding are on the horizon but deeper sorrows must come first, a true breaking before the healing touch.