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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Facing Trials: Job [8]

Job's friends have come to help him. He has lost everything, including his children. The "A" team of friends sit and weep until Job curses his own existence. Now they speak.

Eliphaz has told him that he must have done something terrible to deserve this trouble and torment.

Bildad tells him that his children must have been wicked, and its time for Job to "pull those big girl panties up, go back and pray like our forefathers did, and get on with it."

Now the youngest member of the trio speaks... ZOPHAR

Zophar is thee youngest and most vehement of the three. He appeals neither to visions nor to tradition. He simply knows Job is a terrible sinner! "Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you...Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin...Yet...if you put away the sin that is in your hand...then you will lift up your face without shame" (Job 11:5- 6, Job 13-15).

Zophar declares that God is actually being easy on Job. Job, he says, deserves much worse! If only Job would let go of his pet sin, whatever sin that might be, then everything would be fine again.

Job answers with sarcasm (Job 2:2, 3). He states that he is just as smart as his friends who, though once strangely silent, now suddenly claim to have all the answers. And he sums up his feelings, “You are worthless physicians, all of you!” (Job 13:4). Oh snap! 

Any former friendship between Job and the three has been destroyed. Though they have come to help, they cannot find the way to do it.

Certainly Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have said many things that are true. They recognize man's sinfulness and God's justified anger with sin. Eliphaz has correctly asked, "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (Job 4:17) They also understand that Job, like everyone else, is a sinner. They also realize the greatness of God and know that deliverance can come only if God wills it.

Mixed in with their correct ideas, the friends unfortunately share some dangerous misconceptions about God, sin and punishment. Many people still hold to these ideas. Chief among mis-thoughts is that suffering is always a punishment for specific sins. They associate health and prosperity with righteousness, poverty and illness with sinfulness.

The disciples even had issues with this concept. Recall how the disciples were amazed when he told them it was harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:23-26). The rich were thought to be especially close to God and favored by him.

It has some grain of truth to it, as we can see from our own life experiences. The book of Proverbs emphasizes some of this, as well. Which person is more likely to succeed in his work: the one who is lazy, has a chaotic family life and is a drunkard or the man who uses his God-given talents, governs his household well, and leads an upright life?

But there is a false deduction is drawn from this, namely, the deduction Job's friends make. They cannot even comprehend the possibility of a righteous man suffering.

The "friends'' of Job are misdirected in another area too. Their whole approach to Job is wrong. After Job's initial outburst, they assume a loveless, judging and condemning attitude. It is possible to say all the right things, but in the wrong way.

Nowhere in their speeches do Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar exhibit any love for Job. The Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal'' (1 Corinthians 13:1)

The discussions between Job and the three friends will continue, and Job will continue to struggle with the issues at hand. Yet Job's friends won't move beyond the attitudes we have already seen. This is the tragedy of the "worthless physicians.”

Have you had occasions where you have spoken the truth, but at an inappropriate time?

What should always be our motivation, even when we tell the truth? 


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