Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. (Job 4:7-8 ESV).
At this point we get the first of the replies of Job’s three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These friends all come with the same solution to the problem, but they approach it in three distinct ways, according to their personalities. As I considered their responses, I dubbed them in terms that describe the approach each takes: Eliphaz the Elegant, Bildad the Brutal, and Zophar the Zealous.
Eliphaz is the first speaker, evidently the oldest, for there is a smoothness about him and a courtesy, at least at the beginning, that indicates that he has learned to say unpleasant things in gracious ways. His argument is this: The righteous are never punished; only the unrighteous suffer. Where did you ever see an innocent man perish? he asks Job. Where did you ever see an unrighteous man succeed? His argument is, clearly, that Job’s problem is caused by his own willful sin, something that Job is hiding. And this will be the basic argument all through the book: There is something wrong, Job. If you will only admit it, you’ll be all right.
I remember years ago picking up a Christian magazine that specialized in attacking men in public ministry, such as Billy Graham. The editor of the magazine said of Billy Graham, who had just had a certain illness, that it was a judgment of God on him because he associated with the wrong kinds of people. But what fascinated me was that in the next issue the editor announced that he himself had fallen and broken his leg! His explanation was that Satan was attacking him, trying to stop his God-given ministry!
This is so characteristic of humanity. We all see clearly that the suffering of others is caused by their sin, while our suffering is always caused by something else. Eliphaz argues that if you just cast yourself on God’s mercy, He will forgive you and restore you, and everything will be fine. You can be confident that you will be protected and kept, even to a ripe old age. Of course this is not the truth. Anyone who has lived a few years at all knows that you can find godly people who are not protected from troubles and who still go through times of trial and peril and suffering. Though his arguments sound like good theology, Eliphaz does not take in all the facts. That is why Job is given to us, that we might learn to correct our theology and to understand that sin is not the only reason for suffering.
Suffering is both universal and personal. When we meet this reality the Scripture is the only real source of understanding. There we find the wisdom of God. If you are experiencing trial, go to Him! That is the person of your comfort.
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