Monday, March 13, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 9, Job Answers Eliphaz, Part 2

Job's three friends have been no help. They came to comfort him but have managed to do the very opposite. Eliphaz so far has been the only one speaking but according to Job's words today they are all in agreement with each other. They believe Job is somehow to blame for his misfortune.

Job points out that, even if they had been right and he had been living in sin, their attitude toward him is wrong. If he had truly been responsible for all his troubles, their job would have been to help restore him to the faith in a spirit of love and gentleness. He says, "Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty." (Job 6:14) If Job had lived in our times he would be saying something like, "You aren't behaving like Jesus would. If you feared the Lord and wanted to be like Him you would treat me with compassion."

He expected encouragement and support but instead has found nothing but wrongful judgment. "But my brothers are as undependable as intermittent streams, as the streams that overflow when darkened by thawing ice and swollen with melting snow, but that stop flowing in the dry season, and in the heat vanish from their channels." (Job 6:15-17) These friends are fair weather friends. They were fine companions during the good times but they've been as unreliable as a temporary stream during the bad times.

The support of these friends is as fleeting as a flash flood in the desert. Job cannot find anything in their words that satisfies his thirsty soul, so he compares them to sources of water that dry up and disappoint the weary traveler. "Caravans turn aside from their routes; they go off into the wasteland and perish. The caravans of Tema look for water, the traveling merchants of Sheba look in hope. They are distressed, because they had been confident; they arrive there, only to be disappointed." (Job 6:18-20)

I believe Job sees straight to the root cause of his friends' failure when he says, "Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid." (Job 6:21) Job's calamity has shaken them. He has always appeared to be the real deal. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. As far as they can tell, he's been the most godly man they've ever known. They can't accept the fact that sometimes bad things happen to good people. They won't accept it because that would mean tragedies could also happen to them. They only way they can feel secure is to attack Job and accuse him of sin. And it has to be a hidden sin, something no one suspected, because as they examine his life they can find no evidence of wrongdoing. They conclude that this sin is something known only to God and that God, who saw this secret sin, is punishing Job publicly and making an example of him.

"Have I ever said, 'Give something on my behalf, pay a ransom for me from your wealth, deliver me from the hand of the enemy, rescue me from the clutches of the ruthless?'" (Job 6:22-23) He says, "What have I ever asked you for? I've never once called upon you in need. But now when all I truly need is your love and support, you withhold it from me. I ask you for something that will cost you nothing, yet you refuse."

"Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat my desperate words as wind? You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend." (Job 6:24-27) Job challenges them to prove he has been living wrong and that he is in error when he complains about his troubles. Though such words would hurt (how painful are honest words) he is willing to accept them if they are true. King Solomon once pointed out that the wounds from a friend can be trusted (Proverbs 27:6) but he was speaking of true friends, not the type of friends Job has. True friends might hurt us with the truth, but they will do so in love. A true friend will feel compelled to come privately to us and express concern that we are going down the wrong path. These wounds hurt, but they are faithful wounds which lead to healing and restoration. The wounds Job's companions are inflicting on him do not have the power to help. They are not faithful wounds. They are cruel words coming from men who are so frightened by Job's calamities that they must either find fault with him or else face the fact that bad things sometimes happen even to the godly.

Job says, "Men like you who would wound a friend without cause are as bad as those who mistreat the orphan and the needy. You are willing to kick the one who is already down. You had one job, and that was to come here and mourn with me and to lend me the comfort of your presence. Instead you've made me feel worse than I did before."

"But now be so kind as to look at me. Would I lie to your face? Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake. Is there any wickedness on my lips? Can my mouth not discern malice?" (Job 6:28-30) I think these men have been unable to look Job in the eye while Eliphaz accused him of sin and while they maintained judgmental attitudes. They can't look him in the eye because they can't back up their belief that he deserves his troubles. So now he demands that they look him in the face and see that he is being honest with them. He knows of nothing standing between him and God. Of course he makes mistakes from time to time just like any other human being, but he is a man quick to repent when he realizes he has stumbled. He has not been living with some secret sin, cherishing wickedness in his heart. His relationship with the Lord has always been the most important thing in his life and he has never allowed anything to hinder it. He pleads with his friends, "Don't you know me well enough to realize that I can tell good from evil? Can I not recognize sin in my life? Do I not understand the word of God? Would I not be able to tell if there was something so wicked in my life that I deserved the loss of everything I had?"

Something that struck me during this study of Job is that his situation is not as unique as I had always believed. Since the beginning of time many men and women have lost everyone and everything they had. They've lost most or all of their family members due to wars, natural disasters, plane crashes, train derailments, and terrorist attacks. Just think of the atrocities of the Holocaust when entire families and fortunes were wiped out. Consider the massive loss of life that occurred in New York when the Twin Towers were attacked. It's possible to lose an entire family and an entire fortune in a single day, just as Job did. Does this mean these people were such terrible sinners they deserved their fate? No, no more than the eighteen people upon whom the tower of Siloam fell were worse than any other people, according to the Lord Jesus. (Luke 13:4) Bad things sometimes happen to good people. There is nothing you or I possess that we cannot lose except our relationship with the Lord. If that happens, is He going to be enough for us? This is where Job finds himself. He has lost his children and his fortune, his wife is in a crisis of faith and unable to help him, and his friends are behaving like enemies. He has nothing left but the Lord. Is He going to be enough? Will His grace be sufficient for Job as it was for the Apostle Paul? (2 Corinthians 12:9) Will his love be more important to Job than life itself, as David declared? (Psalm 63:3) Will he be able to trust the Lord even when he doesn't understand?

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