Job has faced great difficulty in the loss of his possessions, his children, and his health. To hear the critique of a man like Eliphaz at such a time as this is an extra burden to bear, yet this too is somehow from the hand of the Almighty. Job is well aware of the sovereignty of God in suffering. He has faced evil, yet he is not content to blame the secondary causes for his misfortune, as if these losses were somehow outside of the Lord’s decrees. Job knows that he is ultimately facing the arrows of his almighty Lord. The terrors that he must live through, including the indignity of the ill-timed advice from an advisor who was less righteous than he, still come from the Lord who commended Job for his righteousness.
Job acknowledges that some of his words have been rash, but he rightly suggests that the reason for this failing is that the calamity he has faced is heavier than the sand of the sea. It would be best for us not to judge Job in this situation. He has faced providential trials that he cannot fathom. His words reflect the depth of his misery. To expect him to say all the right words now would be like expecting a starving animal to make no noise at all. It would be a very unnatural demand that Job would simply smile silently through these troubles. Even the sinless Son of God, in the day of His deepest distress, acknowledged before everyone that He felt forsaken by God. This was perfectly consistent with His fullest statements of faith in His Father to deliver Him from trouble.
But now Job feels as if he has no reason for living. The banquets of earth’s bounty he has no taste for. All he can desire in his pain and grief is that the Lord would crush him and his life would be over. Is it surprising that Job would express such an honest sentiment? Who, when facing their worst fears, does not have very similar feelings? If the Lord should return today that would not be a moment too soon for those who are in extreme pain. We are waiting for the heavenly world that Christ has won for us.
Eliphaz’ wicked suggestion that Job faces these troubles because of his own sin completely misses the mark. Job has been unusually faithful. He has listened to the Word of God fully and has not denied the instruction of the Holy One.
There is a limit to what anyone can take. Job’s heart is not made of bronze. His body does feel pain. His sense of resourcefulness to fix his own miserable condition is completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of his loss and his great discomfort. Now must he be insulted as well? Is it actually the will of the Lord, in some way, that this servant should suffer more than he already has? Will Job’s friends withhold kindness from him in his hour of greatest need?
There is a way of offering spiritual advice that is far from being the light of the world. When Jesus was touched by a woman who had been bleeding for years, He did not lecture her on the biblical legislation concerning clean and unclean. He healed her immediately, based on her outrageous action. He saw the faith coming from the heart of despair, and not the broken law that reached forth an unclean hand toward the Messiah. What do we hear in the words of those who are in despair? Is there a cry of faith somewhere under all the confusion? Is there something of more value that we can communicate beyond our desire to see a suffering saint capable of moving beyond his troubles?
The friends of Job have no words of any value to him, though they may think of their words as apples of gold in settings of silver. Perhaps they would understand Job better if they had suffered as he had. We have a great High Priest in the heavens who is able to sympathize with the most pitiful suffering saint. He faced the extremity of divine punishment for us, and He is able to bring us words of comfort that come from One who understands. His promises for the future are not mere wishful thinking. He has conquered sin and death and secured for us a full world beyond our emptiness and miseries.
There is nothing that Job’s friends can pay to change his calamity. He does not want their money. The price that overturns misery this deep is far above all the gold in the world. It is the precious blood of Christ that is the cost of our redemption.
Job does not need his rash and honest words to be corrected by men. He needs the security of a world beyond his current losses, which can only come through the death of the Messiah. Consider the difference between the love of the cross and the reproof of our cries of agony coming against us from men who are less righteous than we are. There is no comparison. In the midst of the worst pain that men can face, we can truly say that Jesus knows, and that He understands. Perhaps through the lens of the cross and in the light of God’s promise of a resurrection kingdom, we can begin to see in brighter light the outlines of His promise that He is working all things together for our good.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, have mercy on those who suffer. Father, some who are exemplary for righteousness face terrible difficulty. How can Your servants keep on going? Grant to us a new patience and comfort when it seems as if all is lost. We know that You are here with us, but our friends and companions may not know what to believe in a day of grief. If we have gone astray, show us. We do not know what to say. Please Lord, be near us today.