Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Job 6 comments: Job's reply to Eliphaz, part 1

1 ¶  But Job answered and said, 2  Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! 3  For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. 4  For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. 5  Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? or loweth the ox over his fodder? 6  Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg? 7  The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.

Job replies to Eliphaz, wishing that his pain and the circumstances he has suffered were looked at fairly. He is overwhelmed with grief. He feels that God has singled him out for punishment, comparing it to a poisoned tipped arrow shot into him, or as the terrors that God can cause lined up in battle array against him. He insists that the very thing he tried to avoid by his expression of religion has befallen him, comparing it to unclean food he avoided but was forced to eat.

Maybe, Job is asserting, Eliphaz does not understand just how much he is hurting or how awful  this thing is. Job wonders if maybe he has not described his pain well enough or if he even has the words to describe it. Have you ever felt that way when you suffered a loss so enormous and so feared that you were, as we say, consumed with grief?

    8 ¶  Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for! 9  Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off! 10  Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One. 11  What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? 12  Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass? 13  Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?

The emotional intensity of Job’s anguish is made all the more violent by Eliphaz’s unfair rebuke. Again, he pleads to have his agony ended by God in death. He uses the phrase, cut off, again with the word, destroy, referencing his desire to die.

It is not that we are to imitate Job in his lamentations but to learn from the despair he is expressing and perhaps to gain more compassion for those who are suffering. Notice that at no time does Job offer to take his own life. It is a request that he makes of God. We are not justified in any torment we suffer to relieve ourselves of this earthly existence. Yes, Christians commit suicide and yes, none of the characters in the Bible who do kill themselves either directly like Samson or through a proxy like Saul, are condemned for that act. Judas’ condemnation is for his betrayal of Christ not for his self-murder. But, it is never in God’s will that you end your own life. It is certainly not an unforgiveable sin but it is a sin nevertheless. Job doesn’t seek that solution, although we would not be shocked if he did speak of it.

If Job did not have a clear conscience, though, he would not have spoken of his expectation of death as being a comfort and a release. He declares that he has been faithful to God’s revelation of Himself to Job and pleads for God’s mercy in securing Job’s death almost as a medicine applied to his suffering.

Why should I go on, he says. I can’t do anything to help myself. Am I insane, have I lost my mind? Just kill me. Anyone who has entered that dark night that descends on you when your child dies, or the wife or husband you loved dearly, the parent you depended on for so much, or the human or animal friend that was your constant companion through many years may know something of Job’s despair, particularly when they leave suddenly, unexpectedly, and even violently.

We don’t want to think of our children dying before us. It makes the universe seem out of order, as if all that is right is turned upside down and nothing will ever be right again. Don’t even imagine it if you’ve never had it happen. It’s too terrible to even contemplate. Job has lost all of his children whom he loved dearly. He believes that God has given him something harder than he can handle. I don’t know of anyone who could handle it.

    14 ¶  To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty. 15  My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; 16  Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: 17  What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place. 18  The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish. 19  The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them. 20  They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thither, and were ashamed. 21  For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid.

Job states that someone who is suffering like he is suffering should expect pity from his friend and that Eliphaz has turned away from the fear of God by his unfair and unreasonable rebuke. Here, Job is foretelling in a way what God Himself will say later to Eliphaz and his friends.

Job 42:7  And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.

Eliphaz has not only been unfair but he has also been dishonest. He has promised like a brook that dries up comfort and consolation but has given nothing but rebuke and accusation. Like  armies or merchant caravans from Tema and Sheba with expectations of fresh and abundant water from brooks that dry up instead, Job expected kindness from Eliphaz but, in the end, has been offered nothing but more pain.

Shall you go to your friend who is hurting from the loss of their child and make their plight worse by giving them advice? By suggesting that it was theirs or their child’s sin that caused their death? We are guilty of such ignorant musings all the time. How many times have you heard of a young person dying in a car accident late at night or early in the morning and just assumed that they were drunk or on drugs before you knew anything of the sort. We don’t normally consider that a person might have been coming home from a late shift or from a trip or even an emergency. Before we even know any facts we assume.

But, Eliphaz and his friends have done worse. They have talked this out and come to this conclusion. This is planned. It is agreed upon with the three to confront Job. As the next verse makes clear, verse 22, tying it in with verse 21, when Job was doing okay these men’s friendship was important, but now that he is broken they have nothing to offer him. In fact, he accuses them of being afraid that he will ask something from them now that he has nothing.

    22 ¶  Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance? 23  Or, Deliver me from the enemy’s hand? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty? 24  Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred. 25  How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove? 26  Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind? 27  Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend. 28  Now therefore be content, look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie. 29  Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it. 30  Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things?

Job didn’t ask them for anything, not for money, not for physical help against an enemy, and not for sacrifices to redeem him from an angry God. He dares them to tell him how he has wronged them? He admits that the right words can convict and rebuke but denies that their argument reproves anything because he has done nothing wrong. In truth, even God, as I pointed out before, acknowledged this to Satan for God was moved against Job, “without cause.”

Job accuses his friends of something along the lines of taking advantage of an orphan, having, in so many words, dug a pit for their friend. Their pretended support gave him liberty to express his innermost sorrow but that liberty was turned back on him. If he had not been among friends perhaps he would have not expressed his grief in such extreme terms. David said;

Psalm 39:1 ¶  « To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David. » I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.

Job suggests that they think about his plight again, reconsider it. Or, as Matthew Henry noted in his commentary on this chapter; “A just cause desires nothing more than a just hearing, and if need be a re-hearing.” (14)

(14) Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (1706 repr., Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008), Kindle edition, Job, ch. 6.

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