Here Come the Friends
It is amazing how fast bad news travels. Three of Job’s intimate friends hear about his troubles and out of the kindness of their hearts and their deep concern for him, agree to go together and comfort Job.
Think about that. It would be great to have just one friend that would drop everything at a moment’s notice, travel any distance, and stick by our bedside night and day for an entire week! Wow! Job apparently didn’t just have one friend-in-need, he had three.
What a moving scene it must have been. Three friends graciously come to visit Job in simple and quiet dignity, expressing their heartfelt compassion and solidarity.
Well, at least it would be, if that was the way it happened.
Along the way, these three friends do what we would probably do in a similar situation: they discuss the whole affair from every point of view. Then, before they even see the stricken man, come to their conclusions as to the cause of the evil, and settle best how to deal with him.
Now I assume their overall intentions were good. But Isaiah 50:4 says that the Lord “has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary.” Another translation puts it this way: “that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” Did you catch that? It says they know how to speak a word “in season . . .” Maybe they shouldn’t have been talking to each other so much and instead consulted the Lord. What you are going to see is that they are never able to sustain the weary in this story. Proverbs 15:28 says the mind of the righteous studies how to answer. I suggest that more study should have accompanied their counsel.
I remember hearing one person say that God has not called us to be gap-finders but rather gap-fillers. In other words, it is easy to point out all the areas where someone has screwed-up instead of helping them to overcome or deal the problems. As the story continues to unfold the only thing these friends do is point out where Job may have missed it, instead of coming alongside and comforting him.
This idea of strengthening the weak, or even correcting those in error, is a fine and delicate art. One we must learn if we are to be Christ’s ambassadors. We need to learn to minister the true comfort of the Lord and strengthen the grieving person’s hand in God. They need to learn to believe their way through their paths of trials, and learn what God’s purpose is in their struggles. You won’t learn that by listening to your own reasoning.
Most of us know or understand very little about the inwardness of things. We only judge by what we see and hear. Then we end up coming to biased conclusions based on our own limited experience and understanding.
We don’t give the counsel of the Lord, but rather the philosophy of men. If you are called on to give counsel or comfort, do not waste your time consulting with flesh and blood, going to the psychology books and recent programs from Oprah Winfrey. No! Draw your help from the counsel and immense wisdom of the Lord.
Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the three friends, approach the village. “When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him.” Is that Job lying there? It was worse than they had imagined! The greatest man of all the people of the East? Can this pitiful object be the Job they had known? “They began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads” as a token of their sorrow.
At last, they reached the ash mound, “then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him.” What could they say? How could they speak? “Because they saw how great his suffering was.” They were dumb in the presence of such unparalleled suffering.
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
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