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Continuing our study of the Book of Job, we have noted it served as a record of one man’s righteous response to sorrows and troubles. It is a story of a heavenly drama between Satan and the LORD, concerning a godly upright man named Job (Job 1). Unbeknownst to Job, the trials that came upon him were a test and proof of the confidence the LORD had in him as a man of faith and integrity (1:8; 2:3).
Job proved to be worthy of the LORD’s confidence, even when his sons and daughters perished, his possessions were lost, and his body was afflicted with sores. When his wife looked upon him with disdain (2:9), Job rebuked her and placed his trust in the sovereignty of God (2:10).
Surely the arrival of “three friends” (2:11-13), renewed Job’s long for encouragement in the midst of sorrows. Nevertheless, as we will see in today’s Scripture reading, the opposite would be true. Shaken by his troubles, and overcome with sorrow, Job shared with his “friends” his longing for death to deliver him from his suffering (Job 3).
Job 4 – The Counsel of Eliphaz the Temanite
Eliphaz was the first of Job’s friends to respond to his desire to escape suffering by death (note, this does not imply suicide, but a natural course of life that inevitably ends in death). Job 4-5 records the first of three speeches given by Eliphaz to Job. The second and third discourses are recorded in Job 15 and Job 22.
Breaking his silence, and holding his tongue no longer, “Eliphaz the Temanite” (4:1), perhaps the eldest of the friends, questioned Job. Would he, a man who had counseled others, accept counsel himself? (Job 4:2-6) Eliphaz began with a conciliatory tone (4:1-4), but soon became accusatory, and suggested Job’s troubles were those of the wicked, and not a righteous man (4:5-8).
Rather than comfort, Eliphaz proposed a question that haunts some who have the privilege of ministering to others: “7Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?” (4:7)
It is difficult to accept, but sadly true: There are some who come on the pretense of offering sympathy, who take pleasure in a man’s troubles. Eliphaz’s words were biting, and implied Job’s pretense of faith was “fair-weathered,” for now that storms touched his life he was viewed as having fainted (4:7-11). He indicted Job’s character (4:6), and asserted, “They that plow iniquity, And sow wickedness, reap the same” (4:8). (In other words, he was reaping what he had sown.) Wrongly judging his friend, Eliphaz implied the losses and sorrows Job suffered were indicative of a man who lacked piety and was guilty of sin (4:12-21).
Eliphaz then claimed he had received a vision, and heard a voice (4:12-16). He asked Job, “17Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (4:17). The implication was, Job’s troubles were because he failed to confess his sins (4:18-21).
Job 5 – Eliphaz Proclaims the Greatness of God
Eliphaz continued to contend Job’s trials were a consequence of his sins, and questioned, “To which of the saints wilt thou turn?” (5:1) In other words, “Job, to whom will you turn, if you don’t turn to the LORD for help?”
Eliphaz then accused Job of failing to respond to God with humility. He warned him, “2For wrath killeth the foolish man, And envy slayeth the silly one” (5:2). Increasing his assault on Job’s character, Eliphaz seemed to imply the deaths of his children were a result of his sin (5:4; 1:18-19). He encouraged Job to accept his troubles as a sign of God’s chastening, and urged him, “despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17; 5:18, Hebrews 12:5; Proverbs 3:11-12).
Eliphaz urged Job to accept his troubles as God’s loving discipline, and then enumerated seven troubles from which the LORD delivers His people (seven being the number of perfection and wholeness). The seven troubles were: famine (5:20a), war (5:20b), a slanderous tongue (5:21a), natural calamities (5:21b), destitution (fear of famine or poverty, 5:22a), wild beasts (5:22b), and early death (5:26). The implication of Eliphaz’s observation was: “If the LORD delivers His people out of trouble, why are you (Job) left to suffer so much?”
Eliphaz’s reasoning reflects some truth; however, his argument that Job’s losses were God’s judgment was a false presumption. The wicked do suffer loss as a result of God’s punitive judgment; however, God chastens the righteous with the love of a Father (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). There are times He also allows trials and suffering, not because of sin, but as a means of deepening our walk of grace and dependence on Him (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 5:11).
A Closing Word of Caution – Lest some believers accept Eliphaz’s counsel as truth, and apply his statements to themselves, remember: Job’s trials were not caused by sinful failures or unconfessed sins. The LORD allowed him to suffer as a means of testing, that would eventually yield blessings. You and I cannot grasp all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept He is Sovereign. When trials and sorrows come (and they will), remember they are temporal, and you can be confident in this:
The way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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