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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Did God Abandon Job? (Part II-B)

Job’s friends waited to speak. Breaking the weeklong silence, Job voiced his feelings and confusion; thus, opening the floodgate of opinions and advice from his visitors. Their words rushed like a torrent through the too-narrow channel. I found the change in Eliphaz’s attitude towards Job interesting as the back-and-forth discourse progressed. It’s a true reflection of just how the words of others can affect our own beliefs and thinking. Perhaps, the Biblical proverb, “in many words, sin is not absent” (Proverbs 10:19) would also apply.

Job’s friend Eliphaz is the first to speak and, in fact, when God does address the visitors, it is on Eliphaz God focuses His attention. Perhaps, that signals his position of authority or power within the group, or it might be that the visit was his idea. We’ll develop this more in the next segment of the article. For now, let’s take a look at the attitude change we can see if the discourses of Eliphaz are singled out, considering them in uninterrupted sequence.


In Chapter Four, Eliphaz, most definitely, offered comfort and encouragement to Job. He lifted Job up by a reminder of all that he has done for everyone and how much he is regarded as a good guy. He shouldn’t worry about what’s happening to him right at the moment, because God will take care of it and things will work out okay; just wait and see.

“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. Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?" (Job 4:3-6)


Eliphaz gives Job a bit of advice on his current situation, as the chapter continues.

“But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” (Job 4:8,9)

And, if this calamity is not from the schemes of the wicked, maybe God is trying to discipline you, Job? If that’s the case, take heart, dear friend, God’s ready to carry you through and bring you out the other side…as soon as you respond to his correction.

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.” (Job 4:17,18)


Eliphaz finishes up his speech to Job with a lovely list of all that Job can expect, including dying of old age in full vigor and with a lot more stuff than he had before this happened to him. He will even have numerous descendents, if only Job will respond to God.


To this encouragement and advice, and with each and every response of the first round of speeches from the three, Job agreed that he does desire to bring his case before God, just as Eliphaz has suggested. Then, he would be declared innocent of wrong-doing. He has not sinned; he has not disobeyed God.


In fact, there is absolutely no explanation, from Job’s side of things, that accounts for the calamities. Nada, nothing, zip. If only God would tell him something, he’d repent and be done with the trial, but God is totally silent. He knows of nothing of which to repent. He’s innocent.


Okay now Eliphaz has heard enough. The other two men with him have tried to convince Job that he needs to repent; that the demise of his kids was completely their own fault, as surely they had sinned in their feasting somehow; and that job simply must listen to them and repent of his evil ways. Obviously, Job wasn’t the blameless man they had all thought him to be.


After listening to a full round of the opening remarks and Job’s response, Eliphaz’s attitude towards Job changes. No more is he encouraging a suffering brother. He’s set to put the point on the i’s, and cross all the t’s. Job just has to repent!


“But you even undermine piety and hinder devotion to God. Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you.” (Job 15:4-6)


Somehow, Eliphaz is blinded to the possibility that Job could actually be telling the truth and all of the accusations Eliphaz and the others are making against him are false. Eliphaz actually thinks that the things being said to Job should be comforting to him. How comforted are we when folks say things that are not true about us?


“Are God’s consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? 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 15:11-13)


Duh, this fellow really is missing the point here. It’s not God that Job is angry with, but the friends. The whole discourse is one flowery exposition of all the horrible things that have happened to job, right down to the fire withering his shoots (children.) The reasoning behind the entire list of tragedies is that these things happen to a man who is wicked, not to a righteous man.


Job tried to tell Eliphaz, and the other men in the process of Round Two of their speeches, that this is what he has always believed, too. It’s the wicked who suffer such things, not the blameless. However, he is neither wicked nor practicing evil. He is innocent; he has done nothing at all to bring this upon himself. Nothing!


Next, we flip to Chapter Twenty-Two and get the next round of remarks from Eliphaz. Remember, this is the man who first encouraged Job, because he was a pious man and he was known to have helped everyone? How the many words of the visitors and Job have changed Eliphaz’s mind!


“What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? What would he gain if your ways were blameless? 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 22:3-5)


Well, the answers to these questions will be addressed more in the next post; but it is fair to say that it is precisely because of Job’s piety that all of this has come upon him. It is God, Himself, Who said that Job was blameless, remember?


Then all reason and memory seemed to have failed Eliphaz. The gloves came off and he really blasted Job with a ton of untruth.

“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)


Wow, what a painful thing this must have been to hear from Job’s friend! Lies, lies and more lies! Where were they coming from? And, as before, he offered the same advice to turn things around for Job. All Job had to do was submit to the discipline of the Lord.


The only problem is that Job had not a thing for which to repent and he already was totally surrendered to God. Eliphaz and his cronies just would not listen to the truth of Job’s responses; Job must agree with them and that was that. To the men, Job’s continued suffering was all his own fault. It was proof that Job had unconfessed sin in his life.


“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. 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.” (Job 22:21-28)


Well, that was all Eliphaz had to say on the matter. Job’s decision would determine the outcome. Eliphaz just didn’t get it. Neither did the other two of Job’s comforters. Eliphaz had quickly gone from encouraging his pious friend to condemning him. What a blow for the suffering Job!


In Job’s final, lengthy discourse, he reminds the men just what wisdom and understanding are in God’s eyes. The men all think that Job needs a good dose of both, yet Job has known all along what God has to say on the matter.


And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)


Does this sound at all familiar? It is exactly what God said about Job when this whole story began—that Job fears God and shuns evil.


In the final chapter of Job’s defense of himself before his friends, Job enumerates the proof that he has feared God and shunned evil. Aware that Job could easily produce witnesses to validate his claims, the men don’t argue. The following is found in Chapter Thirty-One:


  • Guarded his eyes and never looked lustfully on any woman.
  • Never lied or practiced deceit.
  • Not let his eyes lead his heart nor left the right path.
  • Not denied justice to his servants, either male or female, when they brought a grievance against him. He’s dealt with them fairly.
  • Helped the poor and relieved the burden of the widows
  • Fed the orphans from his table and not denied food to anyone in need
  • Provided clothing to anyone in need. In fact, their hearts blessed Job “for warming them with the fleece from my sheep” (verse 20)
  • Never used his influence against the fatherless in court
  • Never put his trust in gold or his wealth but only God
  • Never worshipped the sun and moon but remained faithful to worship only the one True God
  • Never rejoiced over his enemies’ misfortune or spoke a curse against them.
  • Never neglected to take care of his household
  • Never denied a stranger food or a traveler lodging at his house.
  • Never hid guilt in his heart
  • Never let what people might think of him lead him to sin.
  • Never dealt unfairly with those tending the crops, eating the produce alone, without sharing fairly with them.
Intermingled within Job’s list, are Scriptures that explain his reasoning. Here are just a few.


“Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” (Job 31:4)


“Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless…” (Job 31:6)

“For I dreaded destruction from God, and for fear of his splendor I could not do such things.” (Job 31:23)


Following Job’s plea to present his case before God, his defense concluded. “The words of Job are ended.” (Job 31:40)


All speeches ended. Finished; no more to say on the matter. Job’s friends couldn’t get through to him; he just wouldn’t repent.


Well, as it turned out, some young whipper-snapper had tagged along with Job’s three friends.


So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.  But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. (Job 32:1-3)


Since no mention had been made of this young man in the previous thirty-one chapters, his appearance came as a surprise. Obviously, he traveled with Job’s friends and listened-in on the men’s discussion, but it is a puzzle to me why he was there with them. His introduction of himself as a younger man, who kept his silence to let the old guys have their discussion, was peppered with self-aggrandizing praise. He entreated the men to give him their attention because of his wisdom. Just reading his own description prior to sharing his thoughts, set off some warning bells.


"Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.” (Job 32:19-20)

Well, one wonders where the young fellow was for all of the previous long speeches, because he didn’t have anything new to add. His great wisdom concluded that there is never a time when the righteous suffer. Bad things just don’t happen to good people. If something has happened to a righteous man, it is clear evidence that he isn’t righteous, after all. He has been deceiving everyone and God has exposed his sin by way of the great affliction. If Job just repents, he will find his life of wealth and prosperity returned to him. Period, end of discussion.


Elihu took six chapters to rehash what everyone else had already said before finishing, however, and probably expected Job to respond. Ha, not going to happen, young feller. It was God, Himself, Who was the next to speak, silencing everyone.


****Did God Abandon Job?( Part III)… Next Post

2 comments:

  1. God's timing continues to amaze me! We are doing a Bible study of the book of Job in Sunday School. Your Job 28:1 teaching is a WOW!

    Keep Winging His Words,
    Pam

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well said and described, keep it up!
    God Bless All...

    ReplyDelete