Saturday, March 25, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 21, Eliphaz Rebukes Job, Part Two

Eliphaz is still going strong in his argument against Job. He accuses him of having turned against the Lord. "Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash, so that you vent your rage against God and pour out such words from your mouth?" (Job 15:12-13)

"What are mortals, that they could be pure, or those born of women, that they could be righteous? If God places no trust in His holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in His eyes, how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt, who drink up evil like water!" (Job 15:14-16) King David once said that God had made humans "a little lower than the angels". (Psalm 8:5) Eliphaz is asking, "How can you claim to be innocent, Job, when even some of the angels sinned? God made us lower than the angels; if some of the angels weren't innocent, how can you be?"

Eliphaz has missed the point. Job has never claimed to be sinless. What Job has been trying to explain is that he has thoroughly searched his heart and has spent time in prayer and knows that his current circumstances are not a result of disobedience. That's the reason he keeps asking God why these tragedies have come into his life. He's not perfect but he's been living as close to the Lord as he knows how, trusting not in his own righteousness but in the Lord's righteousness. Job is justified not by being perfect but by walking in faith, which is the only way any of us can be justified.

Job's friend has asked how a mortal man can be pure or how one born of woman can be righteous. The answer is he cannot, not apart from the grace of God. We must trust the Lord to do for us what we can't do for ourselves. Eliphaz lived many centuries before Christ and so we can forgive him for not knowing a mortal Man would be born of woman, a Man who would be completely pure and wholly righteous. But here in the year of our Lord 2017 "we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone". (Hebrews 2:9) Eliphaz asked how a human, made lower than the angels, can be perfect when even the angels sinned. The answer is he cannot, not apart from the grace of God. And the grace of God is that He sent His one and only Son, perfect and spotless Lamb, into the world to do for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. It is Christ who makes us righteous. It is faith in Him that justifies us. We can be declared innocent by the holy Judge only because Christ took our penalty on Himself.

Eliphaz wants Job to know he isn't just speaking his own opinion but has observed with his own eyes that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked. He still doesn't believe God allows hardship for any purpose except punishment. "Listen to me and I will explain to you; let me tell you what I have seen, what the wise have declared, hiding nothing received from their ancestors (to whom alone the land was given when no foreigners moved among them): All his days the wicked man suffers torment, the ruthless man through all the years stored up for him. Terrifying sounds fill his ears; when all seems well, marauders attack him. He despairs of escaping the realm of darkness; he is marked for the sword. He wanders about for food like a vulture; he knows the day of darkness is at hand. Distress and anguish fill him with terror; troubles overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack, because he shakes his fist at God and vaunts himself against the Almighty, defiantly charging against Him with a thick, strong shield." (Job 15:17-26) Again Eliphaz states some basic principles but uses them in the wrong way. It's true that we reap the consequences of sin. When we make poor decisions we find ourselves in a mess. God disciplines those He loves, as a father disciplines a wayward child, and we can expect hardship when we stubbornly keep going down the wrong path. But Eliphaz's theology allows no room for God to use hardship for any purpose other than punishment. He can't accept the idea that God might use it for training, for strengthening faith, and for helping the believer to grow in his knowledge of God.

"Though his face is covered with fat and his waist bulges with flesh, he will inhabit ruined towns and houses where no one lives, houses crumbling to rubble. He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the land. He will not escape the darkness; a flame will wither his shoots, and the breath of God's mouth will carry him away. Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return. Before his time he will wither, and his branches will not flourish. He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes, like an olive tree shedding its blossoms. For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil; their womb fashions deceit." (Job 15:27-35) Eliphaz says, "A wicked man may enjoy wealth for a time, until his sins catch up with him. But you can be certain his sins will catch up with him just as they have caught up with you, Job."

Did these men not know Job any better than this? I think that until his troubles came they looked up to Job as the most godly man they had ever met. I believe they had probably been his close friends for many years and that they admired him a great deal. His sudden tragedies have shocked them to the core. They didn't know a thing like this could happen to a godly man. This has shaken the foundations of everything they believed in. Surely a good God would not allow trouble in the life of a good man! Since God is good, and since they don't believe He would let anything bad happen to a good man, they have concluded Job must be a bad man despite all the evidence to the contrary. To believe otherwise would cause them to have to expand their theology to include a good God who sometimes allows bad things to happen to good people. And if they accept that, they are forced to confront the question of why God allows bad things to happen. They would find themselves in the same position as Job, crying out to the Lord for answers. These friends can't stand the thought of not having all the answers. In order to maintain their sense of security, they must fit Job's circumstances into their own narrow-minded doctrine. Bad things have happened to him, therefore he must be bad. This makes sense to them. This seems fair to them. They are unwilling to learn anything new about God or about how He works in the lives of those who love Him. They want a comfortable faith, one easy to explain, one that never challenges their minds or spirits, one that never allows them to grow. They have put God in a box and they want Him to stay there. This is why, by the end of the book, we find that Job is the only one of these men whose faith has grown.

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