“It was not an enemy insulting me…
But it was you … my companion, my close friend.”
Now the Friends are Ready to Talk
As we saw earlier, the three friends had come together to comfort Job, and as they journeyed together they, just like any of us, probably talked about what they were going to say and how they were going to go about his situation.
Each one addresses Job a little differently, each according to his own personality and probably age and position. Yet, their words contain pretty much the same message, just wrapped a little differently.
The first one to speak is Eliphaz. I would describe him as the most candid friend. I am sure you would recognize this person: he is the one in your life who always feels it incumbent upon himself to say whatever is on his mind.
He figures the only way to help Job is to speak to him directly, and plainly. So he begins by saying: “If I try to speak to you Job, are you going to be impatient with me? Do I have to walk on eggshells with you? Are you going to bite my head off, Job? But who could help speaking after listening to all the junk you have said?” So without holding any punches, he goes on to put into plain, bald language the bitterest thought of all, a thought that Job had probably been wrestling with already.
“Job, you have taught others, helped them with your words, strengthened and upheld those that were falling, and now, when you are put into some of the same circumstances, we see you discouraged and troubled.”
Boy that ought to comfort Job! Don’t you think that Job knew all this already? When he is sitting there talking about death and the grave as a place of rest, don’t you think he knew he was fainting? Don’t you think that the memory of how he had instructed others add to his despair? Nevertheless, it must have been hard to have his friend say it in cold, unadorned words.
Think of it, here Job sits in front of him stripped of everything, his heart torn and exposed, his words desperate, his eyes wild and probing and pleading for comfort, and what does the gentle Eliphaz have to offer? The gist of his entire argument can be summed up with the stinging comment he makes. “It seems to me, those who sow trouble reap trouble.”
I have found myself in the exact the same position. I touched on this earlier, but when Patrice and I moved to Ann Arbor, I left a position of church leadership where I taught, counseled, and encouraged others in their times of trial. Then came to Ann Arbor to be, as one brother called it, “just another ‘cog in the wheel.’”
I never realized how important that place of recognition was to me until it was taken away from me—in fact, I discovered I had my entire identity and self-worth tied up into that identity. When a brother was trying to help me deal with it, I was constantly reminding myself how I used to give the same counsel to others. It was almost as if I was hearing my own words being played back to me. That was a greater sting than the problem he was trying to help me with!
“Job, you of all men should know how to trust God in the hour of trial,” Eliphaz continued. “Isn’t your knowledge of Him sufficient to give you confidence now?”
Those of you who are in a fiery furnace right now recognize those words. They are the words of many who are trying to comfort you. They talk to your grief and try to comfort you by saying, “You encouraged others to be strong, and now you are fainting yourself. Where is your faith now?” Ouch!
Then Eliphaz goes on to say, “Think of it, what person ever perished that was innocent? As I see it, if a person plows iniquity or sows trouble, he will reap the same.”
Now that is comfort from a candid friend! It reminds me of what David said in Psalm 55:12-13: “It wasn’t an enemy that reproached me. But it was you, my companion and friend.”
Very simply, Eliphaz feels that Job must be reaping the consequences of sin because, based on his long experience, men simply reap what they sow and no one could be as bad off as Job if they were innocent. Hence, God must be angry with him. I think Phaz just proved what Proverbs 26:7 says: “Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp, is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” Whatever comfort he intended to convey was lost and could be summed up in the words of another proverb: “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day . . . is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”
One problem with Phaz’s argument is that, yes, many innocent people perish every day, and many evil people prosper every day. We live in an unjust, evil world. As long as Satan remains the god of this world, it will remain that way. As the bumper sticker says, “Stuff happens!” (Yeah, I cleaned it up some).
If you are interested, you can download the whole study of Job.
Other Bible Studies and Commentary are available at Doulos Studies.