November 16, 2018: Troubled Land to Sunlit ValuesJosh Moody
Job’s rebuttal of the previous “comforters” prompts Eliphaz to come storming back to rebuke Job in even stronger terms.
“…you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty” (v. 4-5).
What Job had done so wrong, according to Eliphaz, is revealed in the words that he himself had spoken. He had convicted himself in his speaking.
Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.
Job has shown himself to be arrogant – to think too much of himself, to put much trust in his own insights, and to not be humble enough to listen to the counsel of others around him.
Do you listen in on God’s council?
Do you have a monopoly on wisdom?
What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have? (v. 8-9).
But not only is Job arrogant, he is also plainly sinful. This suffering that he is experiencing is (therefore) his own fault.
What are mortals, that they could be pure,
or those born of woman, that they could be righteous? (v. 14).
We are all liable to sin. The same must be true of Job. And therefore the suffering and trouble that Job is experiencing must be as a result of some sin of his.
The reasoning that Eliphaz brings out is spurious, however. If all are sinners, it is not true that all suffer the same. Why is it then that some suffer more than others, some less? Why is it that Job suffered so severely? Eliphaz’s answer does not bring resolution to Job’s questioning.
We have all probably had “Job’s comforters” in our lives from time to time. People who are eager to blame us, to try to convict us, of our sins when we are in difficulty or trouble. Surely we have done something wrong. But while it is true that some suffering is as a result of a specific moral failing, it is not true that all of an individual person’s experience of suffering is as a result of a specific moral failing. It can be hard to resist someone calling you a sinner when we have been well-schooled in the truth that we are all sinners. But while we are all sinners, not all our sufferings or difficulties come about as a result of our sin. In the case of Job, it was not his sin that caused him to suffer.
Let us not then be “Job’s comforters.” Let us, instead of offering harsh, religious, legalistic lectures that only aggravate the wound, use by contrast the gentle ministration of the ointment of grace that brings healing and peace to the trouble. Speak grace and mercy, not harshness and condemnation. “Job’s comforters” should have remembered that they too were sinners.
And if you are suffering, remember also this: Christ suffered and yet was without sin, and by trusting in Christ, calling out to him for help in your hour of difficulty, you can find the assistance you need to carry you through the hard and troubled land to the sunlit vales of joy and peace beyond.