I recently went over to the home of a friend who was in distress. This person was in a place in life that I have never been. The troubles that they were experiencing I have never had to deal with, at least not yet. I have to admit that as I drove out to my friend’s home, I was scared. This book of Job is getting to me. During my trek I became keenly aware of how easy I could become Eliphaz, Bildad or Zophar. When I arrived one of the first things out of my mouth was to tell my friend how terrified I was of saying the wrong thing. I did not want to presume that I knew what God was doing in my friend’s life. I have to admit that until I had this talk with my friend I was angry and indignant towards Job’s companions. But I now realize how easy it is to presume to know motives.
The harsh speech that comes out of Eliphaz’s mouth in chapter 15 is rooted in the toxic soil of presumption. Eliphaz presumes to know the heart of Job and the mind of God. He presumes that Job’s heart doesn’t fear God. “Fearing God” is what got Job noticed in the first place!!! Eliphaz asks why Job’s spirit is against God? Job’s spirit has most likely never been more “with God” that it was at that moment. Job is the child asking, “why Daddy, why” over and over again. Job doesn’t yet have an answer but he is sure that he is crying out to the only one who does have real knowledge.
Eliphaz makes a statement that, in life, wicked people writhe in pain. Wrong-o!!! A lot of wicked people have the top job, live in the biggest house, and seem to have their finger on the button. This is a fallen world. It is no longer the garden. Sometimes wicked people prosper. Often time’s good people suffer. While at my friend’s house they made the statement that they did not understand why God was being silent towards them; after all they had spent their life helping others. To be honest I didn’t have an answer. To be painfully honest it was probably best that I didn’t try to fabricate an answer.
I really think that Job would have appreciated friends who would be willing to say that they didn’t understand what was going on anymore than he did. If only they could’ve said, “Job… the only thing I know is that God is always trying to shape, mold and refine his loved ones and I know he loves you.” Maybe Job would’ve had some comfort. Instead part of Job’s affliction is that he has to defend himself against bad theology. Let’s all pause for a minute and pray that no one ever has to suffer or receive false comfort because of our poor understanding of who God is.
I think in chapter 16 that Job actually tries to minister to his friends!! He tells them that they stink as counselors. I believe that he is actually being somewhat tender to them by pointing out what could happen if roles were reversed. “I could put you guys under a blurry microscope and say the same things to you”. “Or… I could just love and encourage you with my words.” (Hint, hint, hint.)
The end of chapter 16 actually bridges in chapter 17 with Job waxing poetic about his pain. Again he ascribes his pain directly to God!! Not the absence of God but to God Himself!! I believe that within Job there is a wrestling match with two sides that are probably familiar to most of us. It goes like this; on one side God is a cruel master or… His ways may actually be higher than my ways. In the midst of your pain… which side wins? I pray that we all deal with pain understanding that His ways are higher than our ways.