BE GENTLE TO JOB’S WOUND
Lord, give me friends who genuinely care about me.
Read JOB 4:1–21
4 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
But who can keep from speaking?
3 Think how you have instructed many,
how you have strengthened feeble hands.
4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
you have strengthened faltering knees.
5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
6 Should not your piety be your confidence
and your blameless ways your hope?
7 “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.
9 At the breath of God they perish;
at the blast of his anger they are no more.
10 The lions may roar and growl,
yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.
11 The lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
12 “A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it.
13 Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on people,
14 fear and trembling seized me
and made all my bones shake.
15 A spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.
16 It stopped,
but I could not tell what it was.
A form stood before my eyes,
and I heard a hushed voice:
17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?
18 If God places no trust in his servants,
if he charges his angels with error,
19 how much more those who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!
20 Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces;
unnoticed, they perish forever.
21 Are not the cords of their tent pulled up,
so that they die without wisdom?’
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”
Opening the first round of dialogue with Job, Eliphaz’s tone seems to be respectful (2), praising Job’s ministry of counseling the needy (3,4). Verse 5 reads, “But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed.” The words “but now” imply that Job should apply to himself the instruction he has given to others. All positive comments lead only to a rebuke. Thereafter, Eliphaz emphasizes the principles of retribution (7–11) and human depravity (17–21). This constitutes a theodicy—a way of vindicating God in the light of the existence of evil.
Regarding retribution, Eliphaz’s focus seems to lack balance. By using the metaphor of preying lions to symbolize the wicked, Eliphaz puts more weight on their punishment (8–11) than on the vindication of the righteous (7). Despite affirming Job’s piety and integrity at the outset (6), Eliphaz eventually switches to casting doubt on Job. He then applies the theology of human depravity to Job (17–21): no mortal is righteous from God’s perspective (17). Even the heavenly beings are fallible and untrustworthy—so how much more are humans (18,19), which implies Job’s sinful human nature. Eliphaz points out that mortals will die “without wisdom” (21). These final words demonstrate that wisdom is this friend’s emphasis.
There is nothing wrong with Eliphaz’s attempt to find meaning in human misfortune. However, it would be insensitive for someone who is not suffering to stop a person who is suffering from speaking objectionable words. Chapter 3 reveals Job’s struggle to come to terms with his faith. Eliphaz’s theodicy aims to quench the uneasiness caused by Job’s self-curse and lament. However, he overlooks his friend’s real need.
Consider your relationships. How do you respond to others who are suffering from loneliness and heartache, weariness and want, fear and anxiety? How do others respond to you when you suffer?
Lord, give me the willingness to listen to advice and the wisdom to know when to reject it.