Today you should read: Job 20
1) They assumed that Job’s sin was the cause.
Each of them, after the period where they comforted Job in silence, opened their mouths with eloquent speeches, explaining Job’s suffering and thinking they had all the answers. The problem was that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar each assumed that Job’s sin was the cause of his suffering.
Eliphaz: “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)
Bildad: “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” (Job 8:3)
Zophar: “If you prepare your heart, you will stretch out your hands toward Him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear… But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.” (Job 11:13-15, 20)
While these guys desired to be helpful, they didn’t really know the reason for the suffering. Their guesses were errant.
2) They had a faulty theology of suffering.
They assumed that all suffering = retribution. SIMPLY NOT TRUE. What these friends didn’t understand was a biblical framework for suffering. Their limited, small-minded theology led them astray. Mark Driscoll notes 15 different kinds of suffering in the Bible (read his original post here):
– Adamic Suffering: Romans 5:12-21
– Grief Suffering: 2 Samuel 12:18-22, John 11:35
– Punishment/Retributive Suffering: Revelation 20:15
– Consequential Suffering: Galatians 6:7-9
– Demonic Suffering: Acts 15:16, John 8:44, Revelation 12:10
– Victim Suffering: Genesis 37
– Apocalyptic Suffering: Isaiah 24-25
– Disciplinary Suffering: Hebrews 12:7
– Vicarious Suffering: Isaiah 53
– Empathetic Suffering: Romans 12:15, 2 Corinthians 2:4
– Testimonial Suffering: Hebrews 11
– Doxological Suffering: John 9:1-3
– Mysterious Suffering: 1 Corinthians 13:12
The friends made a colossal mistake in thinking all suffering was God’s revenge on us. Really, it was as much a poor theology of suffering as it was an improper view of God. God’s ways and mind are so much higher than we can fathom. We must be careful in making theological assumptions.
3) They became more confrontational and judgmental rather than helpful.
When you read chapters 3-36 of Job, you find them filled with banter and arguments with Job over the cause of his suffering. Instead of really being there for him, they wouldn’t give up their case. A good proverb on this very idea: Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Proverbs 26:9 In other words, bad theology with foolish minds led to more pain for Job. While these guys may have set a poor example for us on helping a friend through suffering, the Bible is articulate about the care and love we should show. Here are a few verses that talk about being a true friend to someone in crisis:
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Romans 15:1
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:8-9
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Any other verses come to mind? What’s your evaluation of Job’s friends? Share your comments/thoughts and let’s critically think through being the Church.
Posted by: Todd Thomas