Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
April 2, 2017
Central Passage
Job 2:11
Attached Document
Open Document
Description

Job 2:11 tells us, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of this evil that was come upon him, they came everyone from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite; for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.

 

It's one thing to experience a sudden tragedy…like the loss of a child or the discovery of some dreaded disease in your body. It's quite another thing to experience the relentless misery of that loss for months…or even years.

 

In the stunned moment of a tragedy…many Christians have been given the grace to sustain the burden with a genuine word of faith…like “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” But later…under the relentless sequence of memories…those same Christians collapse in sobs of baffled dismay.

 

In one afternoon Job lost his ten children and all his wealth. Shortly afterward he was afflicted with a horrid skin disease. In both these tragedies he kept his faith and revered the sovereign hand of God. In 1:21 he said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

 

And in chapter two, verse 10 he said, “Shall we receive good at the hand of the God and shall we not receive evil?” In other words, he affirmed the absoluteness of God's control over all things…and he bowed in submission to these heavy blows.

 

Job's faith and reverence were not rewarded by a quick healing of his disease. He said in 7:2–3, “Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me.”

 

We have to ask…why? Hadn’t Job shown that God was his most precious treasure…even more precious than his health? God's honor had certainly been upheld by Job. So by this time why hadn’t God restored Job’s fortune to him?

 

The answer…I believe…is that God wanted Job to learn a lot more about suffering and a lot more about Him…which…I also believe…is the message from this book to all of us.

 

In chapter two and verse 11, we three of Job’s friends show up to console and comfort him. But Job’s in such bad shape that when they saw him from afar they didn’t recognize him. So they did what people did back then. They raised their voices and wept…tore their robes…and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. And they sat with Job on the ground for seven days and seven nights…and no one spoke a word to him…because they saw that his suffering was very great.

 

For the next 29 chapters Job responded to what these three friends had to say about his suffering. Take into account that none of these guys had any theological or psychological training. So our primary concern should be about what we’re supposed to learn from what they said to Job…and from his responses to them.

 

Spending seven days of silence with these guys…and probably weeks of suffering before they arrived on the scene…was probably what prompted Job to open his mouth and curse the day in which he was born. Regardless, that’s what got the conversation started.

 

Job questioned, “Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? Why did the knees receive me? Or why the breasts, that I should suck…Why is light given to him that is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not?"

 

Without just coming right out and saying so…Job’s protest was against God. When Job’s friends heard this…they broke their silence. Eliphaz shared a theological principle shared by the other two. “Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8).

 

In other words, trouble comes to those who sin, but the innocent do not perish. Suffering is the result of sin, and prosperity is the result of righteousness. That must have made Job feel all better.

 

Of course, in chapter four, verse 17, Eliphaz does note that all men are sinners. “Can mortal man be righteous before God?” he asked. “Can a man be pure before his Maker?” And he also admits with these words in chapter five, verse 17 that some suffering is the loving chastening of God: “Behold, happy is the man whom God reproves; therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.”

 

Unfortunately, the application Eliphaz makes of this theology is insensitive and superficial. He began by rebuking a man who was in agony…and he insinuated that Job had not sought God in the way that he should.

 

In chapter five, verses 18 and 19, he told Job, “For He (God) wounds, but He binds up; He smites, but His hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven there shall no evil touch you.” Eliphaz was being simplistic and superficial…telling Job that if he simply committed to the Lord his fortune and health would be restored.

 

But Eliphaz wasn’t providing any answers to the hard questions of why some Godly and upright people suffer in extraordinary ways…even if they have not sinned in extraordinary ways…and why some extraordinary sinners prosper in extraordinary ways.

 

In chapter six, verse 10, Job protested this accusation saying, “I have not denied the words of the Holy One.” Then he tells Eliphaz in verse 24, “Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have erred.”

 

This is where Bildad entered the conversation…and with much less finesse than Eliphaz. In Job 8:3–4, we find him saying, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right? If your children have sinned against Him, He has delivered them into the power of their transgression.”

 

So Bildad told Job that his children were guilty of some unknown sin…which is why they were crushed in their house. And he followed that up saying, “If you will seek God and make supplication to the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, surely then He will rouse Himself for you and reward you with a rightful habitation” (Job 8:6-7).

 

Bildad was simply spouting the party line of those who purported to be religious…which was utterly out of sync with the way things had unfolded for Job. So in chapter nine, verses 22–24 Job responded, “It is all one; therefore I say, [God] destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the faces of its judges - if it is not he, who then is it?

 

Job refused to surrender his belief in the sovereignty of God…and understood that that it was too simple to say that things go better on this earth for all the righteous. In chapter 10, verses 6-7 he said, “You seek out my iniquity and search for my sin, although you know that I am not guilty.”

 

Zophar then rebuked Job for claiming to be innocent…and told him to put away his sin so that God might restore him.

 

In chapters 12–14 Job responded to this trio of naysayers with sarcasm. Convinced of his innocence…Job said he preferred to argue his case before God…because God was just and because he was innocent. So he said, “I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God” (13:3).

 

This was the first of three cycles of conversation with these friends…but the next two don’t reveal any new arguments. They simply show that the three friends become harsher and less credible in the face of Job's integrity and realism.

 

Again and again they insist that suffering is the result of wickedness. Eliphaz said the wicked man writhes in pain…Bildad said the light of the wicked is put out…and Zophar said the joy of the wicked is short.

 

The theology of Job’s friends is impotent. In chapter 22 Eliphaz led off with “Is not your wickedness great? There is no end to your iniquities. For you have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing and stripped the naked of their clothing. You have given no water to the weary to drink, and you have withheld bread from the hungry…You have sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless were crushed.”

 

There’s nothing factual about Eliphaz’s accusation. It’s what he imagines in order to compensate for the inadequacy of his theology to deal with reality. Many Christians react in the same way when bad things happen to them…or to someone else. Imagination and speculation replace scripture and good theology.

 

When Bildad makes his last speech in chapter 25…he can only manage six little verses about the general sinfulness of man. And when it is finally Zophar's turn to round out the third cycle…he has nothing to say at all.

 

The symmetry of the book is broken because the theology of Job's friends cannot sustain itself to the end. Their simple principle of justice is not able to stand. Job is a good man…yet he suffers far worse than many wicked people. So the correlation between wickedness and suffering in this world simply doesn’t hold.

 

Early on in this long conversation with these friends…Job cried out against the wisdom of God in giving him birth. The duration of his disease almost defeated his initial stand of faith. But little by little his faith regained its strength as he fought against the superficial theology of these friends. His faith finally broke out into victory in chapter 19.

 

Up until then Job had expressed the conviction that he would die and in misery go to Sheol. But then there was a gradual change in the way he talked about dying. At first he is sure that death is the end of everything, saying, “As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up.”

 

In chapter 10 he also said, “Let me alone, that I may find a little comfort before I go whence I shall not return to the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is as darkness."

 

But in chapter 14 he asked this question: “If a man die, shall he live again?"

 

And in chapter 19, verses 25-27, Job answers that question himself: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh (or: apart from) I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”

 

Job's confidence doesn’t answer all his questions…or solve all his theological problems. He is perplexed as to why he has suffer as he has…and why that suffering continues. To him God seems completely arbitrary in the way he parcels out suffering and comfort in this life.

 

But Job's confidence of new life after death enabled him to hold fast to three cherished convictions: the sovereign power of God…the goodness and justice of God…and the faithfulness of his own heart. With those convictions he held out against the simplistic doctrine of justice coming from the mouths of his three friends until he silenced them.

 

In chapters 26-31, we’re left with the voice of Job magnifying the mysterious power of God. In chapter 26, verse 14 he said, “Lo these are but the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?

 

And in chapter 28, verses 12, 13 and 23, he magnifies the unsearchable wisdom of God with these words: “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living…God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.”

 

In chapter 26 and verse six…Job also relentlessly affirmed his integrity: “I hold fast my righteousness, and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.”

 

If you take most statements made by Job's friends separately…they sound like good theology…but their application is shallow and insensitive. Proverbs 26:9 tells us, “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.”

 

So drink deep at the fountain of God's truth…and let love stand as a watchman at the gate of your mouth. Suffering and prosperity are not distributed in the world in proportion to the evil or good that a person does.

 

Job tells us the wicked are spared in the day of calamity…but the just and blameless man is a laughing stock. Those who suffer most may be the best among us…and those who prosper most may be the worst.

 

People today think they’ve solved the mystery of suffering by limiting God's sovereign control over all things. But Job 12:13-16 tells us, “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open. If he withholds the waters, they dry up; if he sends them out, they overwhelm the land. With him are strength and wisdom; the deceived and the deceiver are his.”

 

There is a wisdom behind the apparent arbitrariness of the world…but it is hidden from man. We see through a glass darkly…but faith always affirms that no matter how chaotic and absurd things may seem to our limited view…they are in fact the tactics of infinite wisdom.

 

I’m learning so much from the book of Job…and I hope you are, too. I hope you’ll bear with me as we together continue to discover meaning to many of the things in life that don’t make sense to us…but can only be explained in heaven by a sovereign God.

 

Some years ago Rod Stewart wrote a song titled “That’s What Friends Are For.” A few of the lyrics go like this: “Keep smiling and keep shining…knowing you can always count on me…for sure…that’s what friends are for. In good times and bad times…I’ll be at your side forevermore…that’s what friends are for.”

 

Job’s friends never heard the lyrics to that song…and if they had I doubt that it would have made any difference. They had fully embraced a prosperity theology that flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches. And friends don’t allow friends to believe in bad theology.

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