You’re Being Punished

Job 5

Eliphaz, like Bildad and Zophar, responded properly to Job’s predicament… at first. Right and proper for them to mourn, to show all the signs of true grieving over Job’s loss. Was good for them to sit with Job in silent sympathy, comforting by their presence and outward signs of grief. But at some point their sorrow over Job’s loss turned to sorrow over the loss of Job, when they wrote Job off as dead at least in God’s eyes.

Perhaps as the eighth day began, Job sensed his friends were about to speak. Job didn’t allow that to happen, he spoke first so his friends would be more fully informed when it was their turn. Eilphaz didn’t take it well. He’d had a week to ponder and think through the situation, reach some conclusions about what was going on. Eliphaz took deep breath, opened his mouth to speak and Job interrupted. The longer Job went on, more disturbed Eliphaz became; moment Job finished Eliphaz burst out with his response.

He bravely stood up in God’s defense, citing both reason and experience to justify his conclusions. Eliphaz declared good and right principles, but he didn’t do so well with applying them. Eliphaz’ strength his intellect, not emotions; his ability to think, not ability to feel. Able to make logical arguments, unable to show compassion. People like Eliphaz are really good at analyzing but lousy at sympathizing.

It’s apparent from Eliphaz’ words what he had done for most of previous week: sat there with Job, looking at Job in his circumstances, not looking at Job’s circumstances with him. Came up with his answer to Job’s problem as an outsider, not insider. Sometimes perspective person brings to situation when they haven’t been part of it as it developed can be helpful. Eliphaz went way too far, instead of helpful was hurtful. The longer he went on, more speed he picked up, more rashly he spoke of both Job and God.

A. you’re really a hypocrite v.1-7

who’s gonna help you now (1)

no one dares to come close – in fact, Eliphaz hints that Job ought to be thankful he still has them for friends, that they’re still around to set him straight; if not for them, he’d have no friends at all!

nobody can take your side: truly righteous, yet seriously afflicted – look to the angels, saints of the past, Job unable to produce any other example to prove his point

you’re not acting like a Christian (2)

others haven’t behaved this way – even when they had it tough, didn’t give in to vexation and jealousy

they haven’t argued against God like you – no one in right mind gets angry with God, only the wicked

btw, a stupid spell doesn’t make someone wicked; even the most righteous person is at risk of acting foolishly

God treats wicked people the same as you

“I’ve seen it all before, I know how it goes.” Eliphaz

their evil caught up with them (3)

Eliphaz took liberty of speaking for God – proclaiming their doom if they didn’t turn from their evil ways

just like Job they prospered for a time, then God issued his consequences for their wickedness

their children died (4) they lost their stuff (5)

Eliphaz again reasoning backward from effect to cause – here’s how it happened with the wicked, here’s how it happened with you, therefore you must be wicked

sorry, Eliphaz, it’s no comfort to grieving parent to be told other peoples’ kids have died too; it’s no comfort to confused demoralized child of God to tell him other people have lost everything in sudden tragedy

a Christian couldn’t have it this bad

affliction doesn’t just happen (6)

Eliphaz has convinced himself Job’s calamity is result of Job’s wickedness; does his absolute best to beat Job down into thinking the same

where there’s smoke there’s fire – where there’s affliction there must be evil (7)

Eliphaz’ narrow view of God brings him to wrong conclusion – that God works according to a formula, always and rigidly responding to good with rewards, to evil with calamity

B. quit pretending and repent v.8-16

if I were in your shoes… (8)

Eliphaz spoke as absolute and unquestionable authority: here’s what I would do; if you know what’s good for you, you’ll do the same

Eliphaz didn’t get to bottom line in a good way, made a lot of wrong assumptions, didn’t learn much until rebuked by God; did, however, direct Job to the only one who could help him – God

here’s about the closest Eliphaz got to truth in his entire speech, recognizing God’s works but foggy about God’s ways

here’s why you should

God is great (9)
no trouble you have, no source of trouble is so great but what God can deal with it
God never runs out of resources – no matter how many people call on God for help, no matter how great their need, God can always provide

God is good (10-11)
he is powerful and supreme over all aspects of his creation and he uses that power for good of his dependents
no one who turns to God in their need is beyond his reach – the key is admitting need and dependence

You can’t get away with evil (12-14)
since your circumstances are consequences for wickedness, don’t compound it by trying to fix it yourself

God is your only hope (15-16)
not a case of “God helps those who help themselves”; God helps those who need him because situation is hopeless
Job’s situation is hopeless and he’s out of resources – God will certainly help Job is he seeks God

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”Matt. 5:3

don’t miss good bit of encouragement here just because it’s from Eliphaz – there truly is hope for poor in spirit, those who are humbly dependent on God

C. take your medicine v.17-27

Eliphaz says much good here; misses the mark in two ways: by rigidly applying “you reap what you sow”, by failing to get beyond temporal to spiritual understanding

he totally blows it as a counselor to Job – what he says doesn’t apply to Job, and, Job doesn’t need to be told “suck it up and deal”; he needs real comfort which Eliphaz cannot provide

it’s for your own good (17)

just like with earthly parent-child situation, fatherly correction is for benefit of the child; purpose of correction – bring about right thinking and acting

God can be trusted in his discipline (18-19)

God doesn’t cause pain for no good reason, and no more than is justified; God’s goal – to bring about wholeness

remember Jesus’ sermon text Isa 61:1the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”

God will keep you out of more trouble (20-21)

general truth here but also implied warning – if you don’t repent, famine and war and the sword and slander could very well be your lot

what’s most important: a right relationship with God, full dependence on him and his grace takes away fear even when serious calamity does come

You will be at peace (22-24)

Eliphaz idealizes his way back to Garden of Eden pre-Fall, speaking in even more grandiose terms – man and creation no longer at odds with one another, singing together in three-part harmony

but he misses most important aspect: peace with God; for the man on good terms with God, the rest is secondary

You will live long and prosper (25-26)

Eliphaz just goes over the top here – all the man’s descendants just died, he himself appears sick unto death (they just had his week-long wake), Eliphaz promises lots of grandkids and long life; OUCH, how insensitive!

the irony is, that’s exactly what God did for Job, even though Eliphaz had no idea at the time

You better pay attention, I know what I’m talking about, I’ve done the research (27)

pretty much the height of self-righteous expression: I know better than you, would do better than you in same situation

“Before we take up the ministry of comforting others, it is wise to ask ourselves if our intent is to help them find their place in God’s world or in ours.” Balentine

Eliphaz had highly distorted view of God and his ways in his world; seems he was trying to fit both God and Job into his own reality, not interested in seeing life from another person’s persepctive

These arguments didn’t rightly apply to Job; we know that because we know more of the story. They are kind of arguments Satan uses to discourage a believer. Do you have opportunity to be counselor to one in need? Don’t be like Eliphaz – making experience and observation the standard by which you judge things. Start with word of God, understanding God and his ways as revealed there. Then seek further understanding from his ways as revealed in the world. And above all, be merciful and compassionate: bind up, don’t beat up the brokenhearted. Make sure there is much of the Gospel, the Good News in your counsel.

But… do some or all apply to you or someone you are close to? Much of what Eliphaz said has truth in it even though poorly or wrongly applied. He was right about this: seek God. Run to Christ, our sympathetic high priest. He understands, he is prepared to comfort and restore all who come to him in faith.

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