Comforting words? Or deadening ones? How many of us have felt a zeal to help a struggling believer, and we’ve dived in with our apparent wisdom? We’ve waved our sword of truth, only maybe later to discover that it was our truth, not the balanced, grace-infused truth of God’s Word. And far from building them up, we’ve actually cut that poor Christian down. These wounds last for a long, long time.
Eliphaz’s diagnosis for why Job is suffering is as severe as his proposed remedy. Job has had everything stripped from him, and Eliphaz has seen it all before – in the lives of fools (v.3)! Do you see his point, in 5.3-6? Yes, we all suffer, but the godless man (which is what ‘fool’ implies) will suffer most of all: suffering is his just reward. Job isn’t named, but Eliphaz is reasoning that this cap fits Job.
And the remedy? If Job wants his great life back, he most go to God and fall down before Him: He is the mighty Saviour, the sovereign Lord (vv.8-16). Good advice? Undoubtedly. But why is it given? Because, Eliphaz reasons, Job is being corrected and disciplined (v.17). No, Eliphaz doesn’t mention particular sins which Job is being disciplined for – maybe he’s waiting for Job to confess them – but he’s settled in his own view that Job is getting what he deserves. Confess them, and Eliphaz is sure that the good times will come rolling back (vv.17-26). And don’t he and his friends know it (v.27)?
So, Eliphaz weighs out his wisdom, and Job is left wondering at the weight of his own anguish (6.1). He feels wretched, pierced by God’s arrows (v.4), unable to eat (v.7), longing for death (vv.8-9), and fantasising that he might die with his integrity intact (v.10). His despair is deepened by his so-called friends and their advice (vv.14-21). He wants their wisdom, but defies them to name the sin which has brought this misery on him from God (vv.22-30).
We must be more careful, then. We live in a strange, complicated world, where horrible things happen for no apparent reason. Be slow to speak, even when you’re sure of your counsel. You know but the tiniest fraction of the Almighty, and can only guess at the best of times as to how He is fulfilling His purposes. Please, fear bringing discouragement to another believer because of your neat answers and ready advice. Listen, think, pray, and pray some more. In many words there is always sin, and even in the most carefully chosen ones, there is often little wisdom. Please, be careful.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, I need to cover my mouth. How quick I am to think that I understand, and that I have something worthwhile to say when others suffer. Please forgive me for overbearing and arrogant words. Teach me humility, reverence and awe in Your presence. Teach me to make my words few, and my concern deep. Like Jesus. Amen.