Lord of the ups and downs of life, God for all seasons, challenge me today as I read your Word.
Read Job 4
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.
‘Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.’1
Having listened to Job’s opening statement, Eliphaz is the first of Job’s friends to respond. His words begin in sympathy as he asks Job to put a mirror up to himself. Eliphaz notes in verses 2–6 that Job has been an encouragement to others in the past. Sometimes it is hard to have a well-rounded perspective when we are going through difficult times, and it can be really helpful to shine a mirror on to your own situation. What is in the reflection? How would you encourage one of your friends when they are struggling?
Tucked away at the end of our passage today is a little word which is the key to unlocking the major theme of the book. In verse 21, Eliphaz claims that those who are guilty will die without wisdom. He has spent the preceding verses exhorting Job to trust in his righteousness, that things will get better because bad things do not happen to good people. This was the conventional wisdom of the time. For Eliphaz, this is a fundamental principle of the universe. Surely God must bring blessing to the good and punishment to the wicked. Therefore, Job needs to trust in his innocence: then his fortunes will change.
Throughout the rest of the book this conventional wisdom is challenged. Life is more complicated than reducing prosperity and misfortune to the morality of human beings. The life of Jesus offers a different picture of unconventional wisdom. He lived a good life and chose the path of suffering rather than the blessing to which, according to conventional wisdom, he was entitled. Then, on the cross, he meets all of us in suffering which transcends words. Jesus sits with us, walks with us, and brings us through our suffering to a place in his kingdom.
Remind yourself of a time of hardship and try to see how God walked with you. Pray that you may have this perspective in current or future times of difficulty.
Merciful Father, grant me a loving heart, a supportive word, and a gracious disposition. When others are down, may I lift them up.
1 Prov 4:6
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