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Job 4-14 some wisdom and comfort ? March 18, 2013

Posted by frewon9 in Inspirational.
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Job 4-14

 

            After Job’s terrible lament in chapter three, his friends propose to speak and offer their wisdom and comfort to their suffering friend. It is important to realize that their theology is very conventional and fits in line with God’s statements in Deuteronomy 28. In that chapter, God promises blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. These three friends have experienced and observed that truth over the years and have made an understandable, but unwarranted, leap to a conclusion: blessing is a mark of God’s acceptance while suffering is an indication of God’s judgment.

That attitude is still heard today in several ways. We assume that people who live in harmony with God’s will should not suffer. Often, great catastrophe is associated with judgment for sin. Many religious leaders were quick to label the 2001 terrorist attacks as a deserved judgment on the U.S. for its cultural depravity. However, God did not promise blessings and/or curses on the U.S. and its people.

Job’s friends take turns speaking their minds. Job is quite free to respond to them. In the first speech cycle, Eliphaz’ words are answered by Job in about the same length. When Bildad takes up the task, he has less to say-but Job has more to say! When Zophar speaks, he has less yet to say-but Job is even wordier! Clearly, Job is ready to pour out his heart in rebuttal to the conventional ideas his friends offer.

 

Eliphaz speaks:

Eliphaz’ first speech is a rather gentle summary of the conventional position on suffering and difficulty. He chides Job for being unable to endure the pain he’s counseled others about. He restates his basic idea that only the wicked are punished (4:7-9), subtly indicting Job as an evildoer. He urges Job to swallow his pride and submit to God, asking for forgiveness (5:8). He finishes with a persuasive argument: once you do that, God in His gracious kindness will restore you to wealth and happiness (5:17-27). To that point, Eliphaz is speaking out of a short-sighted, but understandable, misinterpretation. But when he suggested that God would restore Job’s fortunes, he actually took the side of the devil. He implied that the only reason for serving God is for personal gain. Job responded without altering his insistence on his innocence.

 

Job replies:

Job’s reply continues his lament. He would prefer to die since he would at least have the satisfaction of knowing that he had never turned his back on God (6:8-10). He declared that there was no future for him (6:13). He also spent a good amount of time complaining that his friends were of no comfort at all! Job maintained his innocence and declared that he had done nothing to deserve this suffering (6:28-30). Then Job asks a question that is painful to hear, but brutal in its honesty: Why does God care about what a man does? Job asks why God makes so much of man, testing him and tormenting him. For that matter, why does God care about the man’s sin? How does a man’s sin hurt God (when it seems self-evident that sin rebounds to wound the sinner)? He finishes by addressing his question directly to God (7:17-20).

Bildad speaks:

Bildad took up where Eliphaz left off. While Eliphaz had been somewhat gentle and oblique in his indictment of Job, Bildad declared plainly that Job’s children got what they deserved (8:3-4). He declared that all received wisdom aims in the same direction. All the ancients understood exactly why these things happen, and Job must be in the same situation. He flatly stated that God does not reject the innocent (8:20), implying that Job must be guilty. He also implies that service to God is only for the reward of such a life (8:21-22).

 

Job replies:

Job began his rebuttal to Bildad by stating the obvious: nobody can argue with God (9:3). Even if God should favor Job with an appearance, Job is convinced he would be destroyed in an instant (9:16-19). Then Job makes an astonishing statement that must have left his hearers gasping: God is responsible for evil (9:22-24). He goes even further to ask the follow-up question: if it is not God who is responsible, who is? He acknowledged God’s omnipotence, but that opens a whole new set of problems. Now God is the cause of Job’s suffering.

Job then makes another penetrating insight into the spiritual problem facing humanity. We need an arbitrator who will work out our conflict with God (9:32-35). In this, he anticipates Jesus, who serves in precisely that function. Job pressed on by boldly declaring that he was not afraid to speak plainly to God (10:1-3). He wailed against God and pleaded for a few good days before death (10:20-22).

 

Zophar speaks:

Zophar’s speech is the shortest of the three friends. It is also the harshest. Job seems to have offended him in his earlier replies and now Zophar must speak out to defend God against Job! He stated to the group that somebody has to respond to what Job has suggested (11:1-3). Then he made an amazing assertion: Job is such an incorrigible sinner that God has forgotten some of his sins! (11:6) Then he made the same mistake the other two did: he urged Job to repent so that God would grant him a good life (11:13-15). Again, this takes the same position that Satan took before the throne of God, asserting that Job only served God for the material rewards it returned to him.

 

Job replies:

Finally, Job begins to turn his attention directly toward his “comforters.” Zophar seems to have struck a nerve with Job. He began by pointing out that those without pain certainly seem to have all the answers (12:1-5). He continued by pointing out that God has greater wisdom than all the ancients and He does exactly as He pleases. Job showed that he knew full well that God had power over all (13:1-2).

Job asked whether his friends would serve as God’s advocates (13:8). That would imply that they knew all the facts and were well acquainted with all truth and knowledge. Job then made a simple, but wrenching demand: he wanted God to tell him plainly where he had sinned (13:23). If it is in Job’s life, he can’t find it. Job finished his rebuttal of Zophar by declaring that life is short (14:5-6) and he would rather be dead and awaiting the judgment of God (14:11-15). His final words turn the indictment back upon his friends. They have offered him no comfort or peace at all.

 

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