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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Facing Trials: Job [7]

Recap: Job has lost almost all he had and owned. He is sitting on a mound. His friends come to see him. They sit in silence, staring and weeping for seven days. Job breaks the silence by cursing the day he was born.

We have been in the place that Job finds himself. Nothing is going right. All of the glorious plans we have laid and systems we have put in place are crumbling. We think it would have been better if we had never been born.

Let's get real...we have all been there at least once.

With all that has happened, Job begins to question God's goodness. He wishes the Almighty had never created him.

Scripture declares, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12:34) Obviously Job's heart has started breeding bitterness and self-pity.

Through this outburst Job shows that his heart is sinful like every other man's. In the words of Martin Luther, the human heart is "turned in upon itself.” We naturally tend to make more of our own misfortunes than those of others.

But this is still a little strange. These words, cursing his birth, come from the same man who said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken a way; may the name of the Lord be praised?” (Job 1:21)

Here we see the complexity of human nature. Each of us is at the same time a saint and a sinner. The Apostle Paul describes the dual nature of the believer in this way: "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)

Throughout Scripture, many of the great saints showed weaknesses as well as strengths. The sins of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter and John are portrayed alongside their faith. They were human, just like us. Well, maybe not just like us, but very similar. :)

This principle, of the believer's dual nature, is important to remember as we continue to look at the book of Job. Through these great heights of faith, and moments of near despair, Job will grow stronger.

He does not know it yet but his sufferings will bring him closer to God.

Job just cannot see anything positive coming out of his current situation. He sees only empty darkness, the abyss. All he can do for now is cry out in anguish again and again, "Why?...Why?...Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11)

Though Job has been a believer all along, he struggled with these issues more than ever as he and his friends tried to answer that one simple question: Why?

Why does God allow evil to strike his people?

TextJob 4 - 14

Job speaks to break the silence. Now his friends have something to reply to. In their responses to Job they not only reveal their individual personalities, but also their common religious outlook.

The discussions between Job and the three friends take up most of the book of Job. One by one the friends speak, and Job responds to each of them. Except for Zophar, each friend speaks to Job three times.


Eliphaz is the oldest of the three, since he speaks first. He is polite and begins talking in a kindly manner, "If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?” (Job 4:2)

It doesn’t take long, though, for Eliphaz to get to the heart of his speech: "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (Job 4:7) What he is saying and what he feels is that, destruction has come to Job's household because of some sin Job committed.

Eliphaz claims to have gotten this insight from a mystical vision he had. 

Eliphaz goes on to say that Job should view his suffering as a loving correction from the Lord:

"Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty" (Job 5:17)

Job doesn't find this advice helpful, or satisfying. He can see that Eliphaz is speaking out of fear. And, he doesn't hesitate to say so. "Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid" (Job 6:21).

We often feel afraid or guilty or uncomfortable when they we try to comfort others. We wonder, "Why did this happen to him and not to me?" We know we are not any better than the sufferer, yet we have been spared. Why? Eliphaz has no answer for this either. Almost in a state of panic, he stabs in the dark for some rhyme or reason to this mystery. And, all he can come up with is: Job must have done something wrong!

What good is this to Job? Eliphaz has not been able to turn Job's thoughts away from his misery. "The night drags on, and I toss till dawn. My body is clothed with worms and scabs, my skin is broken and festering'' (Job 7:4-5)

Then his next friend, Bildad takes a shot at it.


Since Job has not gratefully received Eliphaz' advice, Bildad decides to skip over the courtesy. He begins, "How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind'' (Job 8:2).

Bildad doesn't beat around the bush. He comes right out with accusations, "Does God pervert justice?...When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin" (Job 8:3-4). Imagine how such remarks must have hurt Job deeply; the loving, concerned, and praying father!

But, Bildad presses on...

"But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place. (8:5-6)

Unlike Eliphaz, Bildad does not appeal to dreams for his advice. No, he is a scholar, so he directs Job to look to ancient traditions: "Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing" (Job 8:8-9)

In response, Job does not claim to be perfect. But he also knows that Bildad's statements are untrue. Alas, he has no answers either. And so, like his friends, he begins to grasp for some other explanation.

Perhaps God is arbitrary: "He would crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason'' (Job 9:17)

Can that be right? God is arbitrary?


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