Thursday, October 30, 2014

Job, chapter 22, comments: good advice, wrong application

1 ¶  Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, 2  Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? 3  Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect? 4  Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?

Eliphaz bounces back with the rejoinder questioning how can a man assist God with his wisdom like he helps himself. God isn’t helped by Job’s self-righteousness and it doesn’t do anything for God that Job talks about how good he is. He asks rhetorical questions that clearly have a negative answer. Would God be afraid of Job or would He go along with Job because of Job’s presumed righteousness?

We would say, “Job, your self-glorification does not glorify God. He owes you nothing and all of your yapping about your innocence is just accusing God of wickedness.”

    5 ¶  Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite? 6  For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing. 7  Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. 8  But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it. 9  Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken. 10  Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee; 11  Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee. 12  Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are! 13  And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? 14  Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven.

Eliphaz accuses Job of being an exceedingly wicked human being whose iniquities are infinite. Now, that is going to an extreme, but think about it. We sin against a God who is eternal and in that regard our sin is infinite. Only a God of infinite power and grace can forgive us our sins against Him.

Eliphaz accuses Job of stealing the clothing from off his brother’s back. Brother is synonymous with neighbor in this context. Here are two examples;

Exodus 32:27  And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

Leviticus 19:17  Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.

 A pledge was something you put up to guarantee a loan. The lender was only entitled to the pledge if the person asking for the loan defaulted on the loan. Later, after God had called out a people from the world’s nations for Himself, He gave them His Law which said that not only was charging interest to a brother  wicked but;

Exodus 22:25 ¶  If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. 26  If thou at all take thy neighbour’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: 27  For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.

Eliphaz accused Job of denying water to the exhausted, for we know how a drink of cool water can refresh us, and denying bread to the hungry. God’s standard for how to treat the poor was;

Deuteronomy 15:7  If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: 8  But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. 9  Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. 10  Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. 11  For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Job oppressed the poor as a man of power, held in honor, whose cause was always carried in court against the poor, Eliphaz insists. He accuses Job of sending widows away empty and of even breaking the outstretched arms of the fatherless.

Isaiah 10:1 ¶  Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; 2  To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
James 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Eliphaz says that this is why Job is suffering. Eliphaz compares the height or distance of God in heaven and the distance of the stars which went against commonly understood science of the time which, in some cases, put the stars at a limited distance on the inside of a sphere with the earth at the center. Here, the implication is that at least this culture understood the stars were at a great distance, comparing that distance to God’s abode in Heaven.

So, Job, Eliphaz is saying, you think God doesn’t see what you’ve done because He is as far away as the stars? He can’t see through space and time to visit your iniquity? The clouds obscure His sight as He walks around Heaven?

    15 ¶  Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? 16  Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood: 17  Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them? 18  Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me. 19  The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn. 20  Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth.

Eliphaz goes on to ask if Job has considered the historical record, most of which from this time is lost to us. So much of what we call history today is speculation and the majority of evidence is buried in the dirt and not all the spades of archeologists in the future will dig it up. We have the historical record of the events before the Flood of Noah when a civilization was founded on corruption, violence, and rebellion against God with extraterrestrial beings called the sons of God mating with human women to produce a race of genetic freaks. Their haughtiness was overthrown with a flood, for sure.

Job’s point that the wicked often seem to do well is irrelevant to Eliphaz as he points out that those wicked people were given good things by God. The wicked don’t receive those good things in spite of God but because of God and from His hand. In truth, we must acknowledge that God provides even the most heartless sinner good things and benefits in this life.

Matthew 5:45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

However, the good things that God gives the wicked do not draw them close to Him. Eliphaz says that the destruction of the wicked makes the righteous glad and the innocent laugh. Although destroyed by a flood they are consumed by the fires of Hell. Shall we laugh at the suffering of the wicked? Is that how a Christian is supposed to act? How does God feel about their destruction?

Ezekiel 18:23  Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?…32  For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Lamentations 3:33  For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

We have the answer to why God does not work immediately against men’s evil and wickedness and why even the wicked receive good things from His hand.

2Peter 3:9 ¶  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    21 ¶  Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. 22  Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart. 23  If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. 24  Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks. 25  Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver. 26  For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God. 27  Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows. 28  Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways. 29  When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. 30  He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands.

Basically, Eliphaz is telling Job to repent again, to turn from his wickedness, and make God’s acquaintance, receive God’s law, and store His words in Job’s heart. These verses in Job speak for themselves and require little additional explanation to understand them.

Psalm 119:11  Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Paul tells the Thessalonians;

1Thessalonians 4:1 ¶  Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

Eliphaz tells Job to turn again to God and put away his sin, promising that he’ll be rewarded greatly if he does with wealth, answered prayers, and the blessing of being used by God for good things. Look at the testimony in verse 29, that Job will be able to tell men who are in dire straits and tough times that God will lift them up, presumably, if they repent. This is all great advice and very true, but misapplied to Job out of ignorance and self-righteousness. It is still important to remember that while speaking the truth these friends of Job are misrepresenting God who has not allowed Job to be hurt for anything he has done but is proving his faithfulness to Satan.

The lesson for us again is to beware of insisting upon knowledge about the reason for a thing God has allowed, knowledge we don’t have, when our calling in the context of someone’s suffering is to minister to them not to be their judge and jury.

In its simplest terms our calling in response to a brother or sister’s suffering should be;

Romans 12:15  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Pontificating on how God will work this tragedy for good or trying to come up with an explanation why it happened makes you as useless a comforter as Job’s friends.

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