Friday, March 10, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 6, Eliphaz Criticizes Job

Job's friends have kept silent for seven days and seven nights, but after hearing him mournfully cursing the day he was born, one of the friends decides to speak up. What he says is not going to be helpful.

"Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: 'If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking?'" (Job 4:1-2) This man is from Teman, a city of Edom, renowned for its wise men. Jeremiah the prophet would later refer to Teman by asking, "Is there no longer wisdom in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom decayed?" (Jeremiah 49:7b)

Eliphaz places a great value on wisdom and he now reminds Job of the words of wisdom he has spoken in times past to others who have been grieved. "Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed." (Job 4:3-5) Eliphaz says, "Get a grip, Job. Remember all the advice and godly counsel you've given to others in their time of need? Well, now it's time to start taking your own advice."

This is a cruel way to speak to a man who has lost ten children, his health, and his livelihood. I can easily picture Job being the type of person who rushes to comfort his friends and neighbors, who prays with them, who speaks the word of God to them and promises them that God still loves them and is going to help them. But we all know it's a lot harder to remain strong when trouble knocks on our own door. That's when we see what we are made of. And so far Job has proven to be made of pretty honorable stuff. He has not cursed God, as Satan said he would, and he has not blamed God in any way. Instead he's simply been raising a mournful cry of grief in which he expresses the wish to have never been born than to have lost all his children. Any parent could sympathize with that.

Eliphaz now attacks Job's character, insinuating that if his faith and his obedience are real, he should rely on them. If he truly is the man of God he appears to be, surely things will turn out alright. "Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?" (Job 4:6)

Now this friend, who might as well be an enemy at this point, insinuates Job has sin in his life and is reaping the consequences of it. "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of His anger they are no more. The lions may roar and growl, yet the teeth of the great lions are broken. The lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered." (Job 4:7-11) Eliphaz doesn't believe bad things sometimes happen to good people. It's true that there's a Biblical principle of reaping what we sow, but we also find the Biblical principle that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". (2 Timothy 3:12) Being a godly Old Testament believer didn't exempt people from the troubles of this fallen world. Being a Christian doesn't automatically divert all disaster from us. Many times we do bring our problems on ourselves, but those consequences are easier to bear because we know we deserve them. The hardest troubles to bear are those which come upon us while we are living as wholeheartedly for the Lord as we can. It's especially hard to bear our troubles when we have "frenemies" like Eliphaz who suspect us of harboring sin.

I think people like to believe we've somehow caused all our problems because it gives them a sense of security. If they can find some way to blame us for our circumstances, it makes them feel safe from the same type of circumstances. Eliphaz doesn't believe bad things sometimes happen to good people because he doesn't want to believe it. Up til now Job has been the most godly man he's ever known, so if a man like Job can suffer without having done anything wrong, Eliphaz knows he himself is in danger, for he's a less godly man than Job. The only way he can comfort himself is by saying things that fail to comfort Job. He insists Job is somehow at fault.

Eliphaz now relates to Job and the other two men the tale of a vision he claims to have had. He uses this vision to back up the authority of his words. "A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on people, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice: 'Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker. If God places no trust in His servants, if He charges His angels with error, how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces; unnoticed, they perish forever. Are not the cords of their tent pulled up, so that they die without wisdom?'" (Job 4:12-21)

This friend dismisses Job's claims to possess the righteousness which is by faith. He says, "Even some of the angels sinned and God is going to judge them. Who are you, who are lower than the angels, who were made from the dust of the earth? If the angels sinned, then you have sinned even more. There has to be something wrong in your life. You might as well get it out in the open and deal with it." I believe when Job testified that his troubles weren't a result of punishment for wrongdoing, he was certain of it. When tragedy strikes it's natural for the believer to examine his heart to ascertain whether or not he has brought the tragedy on himself. Job was not a perfect man, but he wasn't living an unrepentant lifestyle. He knows in his heart that he isn't reaping the ugly fruits of sin. He doesn't understand his circumstances, but he knows he didn't cause the deaths of his children or the deaths of some of his servants or the loss of all his livestock or the illness that now wracks his body. During the seven days and nights when Job didn't speak a word, I believe he had settled the matter. He found nothing standing between himself and God, nothing that would have caused such disaster to enter his life.

Job was able to make the bold and sincere statement that he was righteous before God because his faith made him righteous. This is the same statement the imperfect David made when he affirmed that God had delivered him from his enemies because "the Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has rewarded me". (Psalm 18:20) Both these men could claim righteousness not because they were perfect and sinless, but because they trusted in the One who is perfect and sinless. Their righteousness was not their own, but the righteousness imputed to them by the Lord. This is the same righteousness we who are in Christ claim for ourselves. We are still weak and mortal beings, prone to sin and capable of mistakes, but we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When God looks at us, He sees the Son. When Satan stands before God and brings up our sins, God can no longer see them because they are under the blood of Christ. He cannot refuse this righteousness to anyone who has accepted the Son because to do so would be to reject the sacrifice the Son made. If Satan chooses to appear before God today and accuse us of sin and unrighteousness, if he starts bringing up all the ugly things in our past, God is able to say, "I don't find those sins written in My book. My Son has blotted them out. When I look at these believers, I see My precious children, the children Christ purchased with the high price of His own life. See, can't you tell they belong to Me? Every day they look more and more like My Son."

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