Monday, April 3, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 30, Eliphaz Says Job Is Afflicted For His Own Good

Job has been protesting his innocence all along and now Eliphaz says, "So what?" Even if Job were perfect, Eliphaz tells him he would be of no benefit to God.

"Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: 'Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise person benefit Him? What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would He gain if you were righteous?" (Job 22:1-3) This reminds me of Jesus saying, "So also you, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" (Luke 17:10) The problem is that Jesus and Eliphaz were making two different points, and Jesus was right and Eliphaz was wrong. Jesus was telling us we need a Redeemer and that this Redeemer was able to love us even when we were no use to Him at all. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) God loved us even when we didn't love Him. (1 John 4:19) Of course we can't add anything to who God is, and He certainly doesn't need us, but Eliphaz has once again missed the entire point. He is leaving out love and mercy and grace. He's stuck on the fact that God is all sufficient and needs nothing from anyone, but he has forgotten that God interacts with us because He loves us even in our imperfection.

"Is it for your piety that He rebukes you and brings charges against you? Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?" (Job 22:4-5) Eliphaz has already told Job he'd be no use to God even if he were a perfect man, but it's clear Eliphaz no longer believes his friend is a godly man. He says, "Does God rebuke a man for his righteousness? Is He not instead rebuking you for your sins?"

I would have thought Eliphaz was waxing philosophical here about the fallen state of man, perhaps declaring the truth that we are all sinners, except that now he accuses Job of very specific sins that we know Job didn't commit, "You demanded security from your relatives for no reason; you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked. You gave no water to the weary and you withheld food from the hungry. though you were a powerful man, owning land---an honored man, living on it. And you sent widows away empty-handed and broke the strength of the fatherless. That is why snares are all around you, why sudden peril terrifies you, why it is so dark you cannot see, and why a flood of water covers you." (Job 22:6-11) This man has lost all perspective and common sense. Would he not have noticed if Job were living his life this way? Would he ever have associated with Job if he had observed such behaviors? Eliphaz would have stayed as far away from a man like that as possible. He would have considered himself too good to speak to Job if he were truly doing any of these awful things.

This "frenemy" now makes the statement that Job may have managed to fool his friends and neighbors for a long time, but he wasn't able to fool God. "Is not God in the heights of heaven? And see how lofty are the highest stars! Yet you say, 'What does God know? Does He judge through such darkness? Thick clouds veil Him, so He does not see us as He goes about in the vaulted heavens.'" (Job 22:12-14)

"Will you keep to the old path that the wicked have trod? They were carried off before their time, their foundations washed away by a flood." (Job 22:16) Eliphaz compares Job's character to that of those who lived before the flood, about whom the Bible says, "The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled." (Genesis 6:6)

"They said to God, 'Leave us alone! What can the Almighty do to us?' Yet it was He who filled their houses with good things, so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked. The righteous see their ruin and rejoice; the innocent mock them, saying, 'Surely our foes are destroyed, and fire devours their wealth.'" (Job 22:17-20) Job said similar words in Chapter 21 about the prosperous wicked who have no room in their lives for God, but now Eliphaz accuses Job of being just like them.

"Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from His mouth and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: If you remove wickedness far from your tent and assign your nuggets to the dust, your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, then the Almighty will be your gold, the choicest silver for you." (Job 22:21-25) Eliphaz believes Job was once wealthy because he was a dishonest man and that he spent his life running after riches instead of running after God.

"Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty and will lift up your face to God. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows. What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways. When people are brought low and you say, 'Lift them up!' then He will save the downcast. He will deliver even one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands." (Job 22:26-30) Again we find this man using spiritual truths in the wrong way. The one who delights himself in the Lord does indeed enjoy the blessings of His presence. The Lord does hear the prayers of the godly. The Lord does honor prayers of intercession that a righteous man makes for his friends and neighbors. But Job has not been living in opposition to God in the first place. The Lord already loves Job and hears his prayers. God is not withholding relief from Job because he is a wicked man and He is not refusing to answer his question of "why" as a form of punishment. God is working out a higher purpose in Job's life and the day will come when Job's three friends are going to be pitifully grateful that he is a man who can pray an intercessory prayer on their behalf.

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