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Title: Job, in your weariness will you listen?
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Job, in your weariness will you listen?
Last week we ended with Job having been attacked by satan and his wife encouraging him to just curse God and die.
Next Job says something which to us seems perplexing.
“Should we receive what is good from God, and not also receive what is evil?”
Now some translations say “trouble” instead of the word “evil” and I believe knowing which is correct is important. It helps us to get a handle on Job’s understanding of God which transfers a large impact on the cumulative theology revealed in this book.
Like most ministers I am not an expert in Hebrew so I have to rely upon study helps.
Job’s claim is essentially – If we receive good from God, should we not also expect to receive evil?
As I have studied both the words “good” and “evil” they both are used in the absolute sense which sounds like Job is talking about things which are intrinsically good and evil.
Nevertheless there are many translators and commenters who translate this as troubles both here and when it appears again in chapter 42:11.
While I greatly admire and often lean upon these great academic minds, I know that as humans we all have bias’ which inadvertently impacts our work and study. It is something we all have to be VERY careful about and as I looked into this word I don’t see a justification for turning the word into just “trouble”. In the end, it seems like an attempt to sidestep the implications of Job using this word.
Overwhelmingly the book of Job is seen as a book of a righteous man suffering, yet maintaining his integrity. This taken together with the common view that Job is after the law creates a dilemma. If Job were still attributing evil as proceeding from God after knowing the law of Moses, we would have a real issue with Job being a righteous man.
This is where having a deep respect for God can help us. If we desire to know God for Who He really is, then we will take all the necessary, uncomfortable steps needed in order to see what scripture actually says rather than assuming it fits our personal theological view.
Over the course of my life it has appeared to me that for some unknown reason Christians overwhelmingly seem to NEED Job to be a book about a righteous man suffering wrongfully.
Now while I agree, at the beginning of this book Job did nothing wrong to warrant this attack from satan, this is common enough. Many cases where satan seeks permission to attack God’s children, his entire goal is to incite evil where none existed beforehand.
Something almost never discussed in Christian circles is how Job does not in fact keep true to his integrity throughout the book. Before we reach the end, Job is justifying himself at God’s expense.
From the beginning Job is called a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil. But it might shock many to realize that Job is NEVER referred to as a righteous man throughout the entire book.
Fact is, Job is only called righteous once in all of scripture, no doubt referring to Job as he is after his encounter with God.
This is another reason why I take a strong stance on the fact that ALL SCRIPTURE is about God and Jesus in particular – not man. I think it is by getting our focus off of the purpose of scripture and Who it is ultimately revealing to us that many of our doctrines get off track.
So THIS book is about God and His pursuit of mankind in the face of opposition.
It is a redemptive book where God uses all the means available to Him to have an encounter with His servant whom He loves.
One thing which is regularly overlooked by most is that at the end of this whole series of events, before God restored Job’s health and possession – Job has to repent!
So coming full circle, I believe having Job in the right time frame relative to the giving of the Law sidesteps much of this.
If, as we suspect, Job is much earlier than the Law, then his ignorance of God’s character in this regard would be far more theologically approachable.
So back to our word “evil”. If this word is used as a noun it means outright evil as we typically understand the word.
If used as a verb it can vary in meaning to simply mean difficulties.
The difficulty in translation is that sentence structures can change. Nouns can be presented as verbs and pronouns.
So I looked at the Septuagint translation of this word which would have been careful to maintain the meaning and they used the Greek word Kakos and while the definition is quite lengthy it can be summarized as meaning actively causing evil.
The word is translated as “ravenous beasts” in Titus 1:12 pointing to someone who is morally wicked, vicious and bad in heart, conduct and character.
Now to be certain the Hebrew words טוֹב (tov, “good”) and רַע (raʿ, “evil”) in action have to do with what AFFECTS life, but it is still used in the absolute sense.
So while that which is good benefits people because it produces, promotes and protects life; that which is evil brings calamity and disaster, it harms, pains, or destroys life. This makes the usage of the word very subjective!
I am reminded of a New Testament passage where our Lord said, “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it in abundance.”
Now clearly Jesus was not talking purely about the externals of human life, but one would be hard pressed to claim such were not in some way included.
Jesus, we are told, “went about doing good and healing ALL who were oppressed by the devil, BECAUSE the Father was with Him.”
Now I’m no theologian but I believe these statements regarding our Lord have some direct implications to this statement in Job.
It seems that Job was in fact under the mistaken impression that from God proceeds both “good” and “evil”.
Now what set me to examining this whole passage closer is NOT so much what Job said about God and “good” and “evil”, but rather what it failed to say.
“In all this Job did not sin by what he said.”
This phrase is the second out of the two examples I placed before you back in our introduction to Job.
I told you that it was important to distinguish between what was “wrong” and what was “sin”.
In Job chapter 1, he said something which was neither “wrong” nor “sin”.
Here in chapter 2 he is saying something which was just not “sin”.
The obvious use of the phrase in both cases directly following something Job said is indicative. It is pointing out that what Job said this second time was WRONG, it simply was not SIN.
THAT I submit to you is very important!
We as New Covenant believers can clearly see that to charge God with sending evil is not true. We however have all the advantages of the Old Testament and the New, as well as the inward witness of the Holy Spirit of God.
Job had NONE of these things! He truly believed what he said which is why it was not sin for him to say this. That does not change the fact that what he said was still wrong!
We will see this belief of Job resurface a few other times in this book so I encourage you to watch for it.
Now begins the meat in the sandwich of the book of Job.
The book of Job begins with the man himself, his relation to God and his attack by satan.
It ends with a confrontation between him and God.
All that goes between these two bookends are the counsel of his friends, the defenses Job offers in reply and the intervention of one, godly young man.
In steps Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar
“(11) When Job’s three friends heard about all this calamity that had happened to him, each of them came from his own country – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.
They met together to come to show sympathy for him and to console him.
(12) But when they gazed intently from a distance but did not recognize him, they began to weep loudly. Each of them tore his robes, and they threw dust into the air over their heads.
(13) Then they sat down with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, yet no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Now no doubt you will all develop opinions about these men, their advice and their motives as we move along through the book. I think however, that people are too complex to place a simple label on them so I think we should proceed with caution.
One thing is clear and I think we need to hold on to this truth throughout the narrative – these men clearly cared for Job.
These men are referred to as his friends. They had heard of the sufferings of Job and traveled to come see him. They wept when they saw him, and shared in his sorrow.
I wonder how many Christians in the present age would sit for even 7 hours without speaking out of respect to a brother’s suffering, much less 7 days!
So as we go forward, regardless of the opinions you may develop of these three men, remember that!
“(1) After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born. (2) Job spoke up and said:
(3) “Let the day on which I was born perish, and the night that said, ‘A man has been conceived!’ (4) That day – let it be darkness; let not God on high regard it, nor let light shine on it! (5) Let darkness and the deepest shadow claim it; let a cloud settle on it; let whatever blackens the day terrify it! (6) That night – let darkness seize it; let it not be included among the days of the year; let it not enter among the number of the months! (7) Indeed, let that night be barren; let no shout of joy penetrate it! (8) Let those who curse the day curse it – those who are prepared to rouse Leviathan.”
This is an interesting statement and commentators are all over the place in regard to its meaning. I believe the translation is solid, though there are some variations which might surprise you. In the end I believe context come to our aid in understanding. Whatever Job is saying in this verse, it is in the body of verses which are talking about wishing he had never been born. From this comes line after line of hypothetical solutions to his having been born.
- Let the day perish
- Let it be darkened and blotted out
- Remove it from the days of that month and year
Then he says in this verse he says, “let those who curse this day, curse it – those who are prepared to rouse Leviathan”.
Leviathan is set forth in scripture as a literal sea dwelling animal which is quite fearsome. God is said to have killed one and given the meat of it to the Israelites to eat in Psalm 74:14.
Here in this verse it appears that Leviathan may be a type of metaphorical personification for destruction.
One additional clue we have regarding this is that the next verse continues the rant. So this verse could hardly be set forth as stating something out of step with the flow of the narrative.
“(9) Let its morning stars be darkened; let it wait for daylight but find none, nor let it see the first rays of dawn, (10) because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb on me, nor did it hide trouble from my eyes!
(11) “Why did I not die at birth, and why did I not expire as I came out of the womb? (12) Why did the knees welcome me, and why were there two breasts that I might nurse at them? (13) For now I would be lying down and would be quiet, I would be asleep and then at peace (14) with kings and counselors of the earth who built for themselves places now desolate, (15) or with princes who possessed gold, who filled their palaces with silver.
(16) Or why was I not buried like a stillborn infant, like infants who have never seen the light? (17) There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. (18) There the prisoners relax together; they do not hear the voice of the oppressor. (19) Small and great are there, and the slave is free from his master.”
Now I said regarding the words of Job’s wife that we don’t really have a notion of what the ancient world knew regarding exists after death, but this statement from Job seems to imply it was peaceful.
“(20) “Why does God give light to one who is in misery, and life to those whose soul is bitter, (21) to those who wait for death that does not come, and search for it more than for hidden treasures, (22) who rejoice even to jubilation, and are exultant when they find the grave?
(23) Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and whom God has hedged in? (24) For my sighing comes in place of my food, and my groanings flow forth like water. (25) For the very thing I dreaded has happened to me, and what I feared has come upon me. (26) I have no ease, I have no quietness; I cannot rest; turmoil has come upon me.”
- Job is in such distress that he wishes he’d never been born.
- Morning stars here are in reference to the last stars still visible before daybreak.
- God is credited with being complicit with man’s suffering. He does not stop it, but continues to give life and light that they might suffer longer.
- The term “hedged in” is now used in a negative way, as if God hedged Job in with his torment so that he could not escape.
- This is in clear contradistinction to the way satan used it. He claimed God had hedged Job in, only in terms of protection and blessing so that nothing bad could happen to him.
- Job admits that this was what he had feared all along.
Now this last point I don’t want to camp on too much. Back in our Word of Faith days this phrase was a lifeline for our theology which allowed us to place all the blame at Job’s door.
Fear, we used to wrongfully claim, was the opposite of faith. As such Job lost everything due to his fear (or evil faith) that God was secretly not reliable.
If we had just read the entire passage in its context we would not have exited the wrestling match which God afforded us in this passage so easily.
If however, we DO go back and reread this second attack in context we find very clearly stated that God does not agree with our old WoF assessment.
If you remember, God’s reply to satan was,
“I see you have set your heart upon Job My servant. Have you considered that there is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil? Still he holds firmly to his integrity, so that you stirred Me up to destroy him WITHOUT REASON.”
Circling back to our misguided thinking about Job being in sin due to his fear.
Truth is, fear is NOT the opposite of faith, it is the opposite of godly hope. Fear is an expectation of evil, even as godly hope is an expectation of the goodness of God’s favor.
Perfect love, we are told in scripture, cases fear out, because fear involves torment. Whoever fears has not been made mature in love.
Job we know had NOT been made mature in love. This is evidenced by the existence of his fear to begin with. However, this was not due to Job lacking trust in a God he knew. No, it was entirely due to his misunderstanding of a God he loved and revered, but Who he still knew little about.
Remember this is the subtext of the entire book. God is seeking to reveal Himself to Job and in the revealing, incite relational trust and in inciting trust redeem his life from destruction.
As to WHAT Job was fearing – it is possible that Job had literally feared all of this happening to him from the beginning. It is also equally possible that at the end, his greatest grief was regarding his children which we already knew, he had lived in fear regarding.
We cannot read into this statement because the text does not clarify if he was referring to one specific part of his suffering or whether all of it was in view. So we will have to leave it there and move on.
Job’s words loosen Eliphaz’s tongue
“(1) Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:”
As many before me, I attempted to locate these three men in relation to their stated lineage or country but found little. In fact, the only real promising person was Eliphaz, and I mentioned this once already, but thought this was a good place to make a mention of it again.
There IS an Eliphaz mentioned in Genesis 36 who was one of the sons of Esau, son of Isaac and brother of Jacob. Furthermore, he had a son named Teman who is named a chief of Edom as were his brothers. A chief was something like a clan leader so it would be a stretch to assume he founded a land named after him. It would be even more of a stretch to say his father moved to this land and came to be known as a Temanite, but that is the ONLY possibility afforded us in scripture and not too many take that seriously.
However, IF this is THE Eliphaz mentioned here as a friend of Job, then it still places Job as existing prior to the Law, though AFTER Abraham.
In regard to trying to identify these men the translators of the New English translation have this to say,
“Commentators have tried to analyze the meanings of the names of the friends and their locations. Not only has this proven to be difficult (Teman is the only place that is known), it is not necessary for the study of the book. The names are probably not symbolic of the things they say.”
“(2) “If someone should attempt a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can refrain from speaking?”
Not that it would take being someone close to pick up on Job’s demeanor but I imagine Eliphaz is detecting in Job a mind which is already made up and which is pretty well set to stay that way.
“(3) Look, you have instructed many; you have strengthened feeble hands. (4) Your words have supported those who stumbled, and you have strengthened the knees that gave way. (5) But now the same thing comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are terrified.
(6) Is not your piety your confidence, and your blameless ways your hope?
(7) Call to mind now: Who, being innocent, ever perished? And where were upright people ever destroyed?
(8) Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble reap the same. (9) By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.
(10) There is the roaring of the lion and the growling of the young lion, but the teeth of the young lions are broken. (11) The mighty lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
(12) “Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear caught a whisper of it.
(13) In the troubling thoughts of the dreams in the night when a deep sleep falls on men, (14) dread gripped me and trembling, which made all my bones shake.
(15) Then a breath of air passes by my face; it makes the hair of my flesh stand up. (16) It stands still, but I cannot recognize its appearance; an image is before my eyes, and I hear a murmuring voice:
(17) “Is a mortal man righteous before God? Or a man pure before his Creator?
(18) If God puts no trust in his servants and attributes folly to his angels, (19) how much more to those who live in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like a moth?
(20) They are destroyed between morning and evening; they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
(21) Is not their excess wealth taken away from them? They die, yet without attaining wisdom.”
Now this is not the last of Eliphaz’s words but it is all we could rightly hope to get through tonight.
This is going to be fun!
Now, I am again going to pick on commentators. Not because I do not admire and respect them – I do! This book of Job however, I believe tends to draw the worst out of people. Rarely have I even found a person who does not have a strong opinion about the book of Job. Rarer still is to find a person who came to their conclusions honestly. In a great majority of the times I have spoken with people about Job, their opinions were ones afforded them by others – a trusted minister, a book which used Job to make a point, other Christians perspectives – the list of second hadn opinions are nearly endless. What is truly rare, is a person who has read and studied the book for themselves, with a determination to come to their own conclusions honestly. Most of those who read the book, did so to confirm beliefs they held prior to the reading. This is dangerous, because as human beings we find it very easy to find whatever it is that we are looking for.
In literally EVERY message I’ve EVER heard taught on Job as well as its use in every book and the thoughts in every commentary – Job’s friends are never shown in a fair light. They are demonized from the onset. So much so that all of their words, counsel and advice are set forth as being ungodly and unreliable.
I have considered that this is due in large part to God’s statement about their counsel which is found in Job 42:7&8.
At the end of the book of Job God says these daunting words to Job’s friends…
“(7) After the LORD had spoken these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger is stirred up against you and your two friends, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has. (8) So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job will intercede for you, and I will respect him, so that I do not deal with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has.” – Job 42:7,8
However, God did not say that EVERY word these men spoke were wrong only that they had spoken what was not true about God.
I think you will see that as we examine what Eliphaz has said so far, there were many correct words he spoke regarding God. I would say that rarely will a person who seeks to serve God, only attribute to Him what is false. However, we can say much that is correct and still, in the end misrepresent Him.
Also, God did NOT say that everything Job had said regarding Him throughout the trial was correct. The words of Job which God was referring to were those he spoke AFTER his encounter with God. They were words of humility and repentance.
One beautiful truth we see about God is that once we are reconciled, He does not drag back up our failures nor does He make public mention of them. His words always focus on what we did right!
If you recall God’s account of the patriarchs and great women of faith in Hebrews 11, He only mentions the good reports.
Abraham is mentioned as a man who did not waver in faith – yet we know he did! That is how we got Ishmael and the entire muslim faith!
Sarah is set forth as only a believing woman when we know that at first she laughed and did not believe.
In like manner we see Jesus, Who like the Father only reported the good of His disciples.
How many times do we see the disciples not only misunderstanding Jesus, but actually acting contrary to His ways? “Let us call fire down on them” one disciple says. “What did you mean by this parable?” inquires another.
Yet, Jesus’ words in His last prayer to the Father over them says,
“(6) I have revealed Your Name to the men You gave Me out of the world. They belonged to You, and You gave them to Me, and they have obeyed Your word. (7) Now they understand that everything You have given Me comes from You, (8) because I have given them the words You have given Me. They accepted them and really understand that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me.” – John 17:6-8
So God was not denying Job had mischaracterized Him prior to this, only that Job had in the end stated what was right!
Remember that we learned about this portion of God’s character and justice a few months ago in Ezekiel 18.
If we read from verse 20-24 we can see this very clearly!
“(20) The person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity.
The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.
(21) “Now if the wicked person turns from all the sins he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is just and right, he will certainly live; he will not die.
(22) None of the transgressions he has committed will be held against him. He will live because of the righteousness he has practiced.
(23) Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?”
This is the declaration of the Lord GOD. “Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives?
(24) But when a righteous person turns from his righteousness and practices iniquity, committing the same abominations that the wicked do, will he live?
None of the righteous acts he did will be remembered. He will die because of the treachery he has engaged in and the sin he has committed.”
So all that being said, beginning next week we will examine these words of Eliphaz, knowing we will at some point see both sound & solid counsel as well as poorly informed counsel as we go through the book from Job and his friends.