Job – Elipaz Speaks

If one ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
Yet who can keep from speaking?

I can relate to Elipaz’s opening statement, responding to his friend’s rant of questions, distraught as they are. I have never sat with a friend who was suffering for seven days in silence, and then receiving the burst of pain’s expression. I think I would be a little timid myself – how would I would be received?

And yet, I would be filled with my own thoughts, just as Elipaz was as he sat the seven days,  trying to make sense of Job’s suffering. Now that the door is open to conversation, and it would be hard to be quiet.

Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope? 

Elipaz had listened to Job’s life throughout the years and knew 2 things: Job had confidence in his relationship with God and Job had lived a good life.

In Elipaz’s simple way of reasoning, one of those two things must be off. Either Job’s relationship with God was not what he thought it was, or his blameless life held blame. 

So he held out to Job a lifeline:

Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty,
For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.

He reminds Job who God is, the one who loves us enough to discipline us, and the one who loves us enough to heal.

I haven’t lived a “blameless and upright” life. Somehow, this verse is a comfort to me. In the midst of feeling God’s discipline or the natural results of sin, I need the picture of him binding my wounds, his hand healing my life shattered in pain.

Elipaz painted the picture for Job, hoping he would admit his wrongs and turn to the God who loves him, just as we try to paint that picture to prodigal sons and daughters or those who wander. God receives no joy in discipline, just as we receive no joy in disciplining our children or seeing them disciplined with the pain of life. We want to woo them back into the healing power of God.

But the healing depends on the response…

Job – Job Speaks

Job’s friends take a lot of flack from critics, but I want to give credit where credit is due. They did sit in silence with him for 7 days. And even then, they didn’t jump the gun in conversation but waited until Job wanted to talk. What restraint!

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.

Remember before this time, Job had developed a lifestyle of being “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” He also, “did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

But what he did do was regret he had ever been born, to experience such suffering. He wondered about the purpose of his life, so that he could find purpose in the suffering.

Poor Job, he didn’t have the full picture. He’s living in the here and now, just as we are. There is purpose in suffering, even if we cannot see it. There is something going on in the background we are totally unaware of. It could be that others are watching, learning what “blameless and upright” looks like. It could be our time has not come, not for us or others, and we linger, using the strength we do have to allow ourselves to be used as a “living sacrifice.” It could be there is drama in heaven between Satan and God of which we are unaware. 

But we can assume we do not have the full picture.

The fact was, as much as Job regretted it, he was born. He was blessed. Those blessings were taken away. God had something in mind Job could not comprehend.

I think of so many I know who are in a season of suffering. There are so many questions, and even the desire to have life completed through death. We want to understand what is un-understandable. But at some point, it will be fully known. 

One truth we can hold on to is that God gave us life, he will determine death, and it is our choice to give him everything between the two.

But let me just add…it’s still hard!

Job – His Friends Show up

Then three friends come to visit Job… 

I wonder what it would have been like to be one of those friends? You have loved and admired this man for years. He is successful in all the ways you want to be, and he even taught you skills that helped you succeed. You attended parities for his children, maybe even wanted his daughter for your son. You sat at the gate with him and heard his wisdom. There was no one more revered than Job.

And now you find him sitting among broken pottery outside the gates so no one else can catch his “disease.” He’s an outcast. The beautiful clothes are torn to threads. The wealth is gone. The children are gone. His wife is not even there. Some bring him food, I assume, maybe out of pity or compassion. And there may be some dogs around who share it with him, his only company before the friends show up.

Can you see them looking at Job in horror, trying to make sense of what happened to him, trying to make sure that it doesn’t happen to them? I doubt there were hugs, holy kisses or touching of any kind.  

When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. Getting closer, they “raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads towards heaven.” They deeply felt compassion for him and were distressed themselves. They even “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw this his suffering was very great.”

First, let me say that their greatest gift was sitting with him, entering into his suffering without talking. When others suffer, one of the greatest gifts we can give is to enter into their suffering with our presence. Words are not necessary, and sometimes not even helpful. Our presence, our willingness to be “with them,” speaks volumes.

And they didn’t rush away. They spent seven days and nights. This was no vacation. This was away from all their own lives, their investments, their families, their social settings. This was outside of the city, maybe in the cold at night and hot by day. This was in the midst of seeing him scrape his sores, the puss and blood flowing from them. It may have included hearing him moan from the pain, trying to find comfortable positions to sit or lay. It may have been seeing the flies gather in the heat, swarming his wounds, people bring him scraps instead of the fine dining they were use to themselves. They persevered with Job, even as Job persevered.

And they gave him silence. Silence to think his own thoughts, feel his own feelings. Silence to think their own thoughts and feel their own feelings. For seven days, they were silent. 

For many of us, we can’t be silent for ten minutes, much less in an environment like this.

And then Job, acutely aware of what he is experiencing and the reality of his life his friends are seeing for themselves,  broke the silence and opened his mouth…

Job – Pain Outside and In

I hate torture. I can’t stand to see it in movies or on the news. You can ask my family…

Physical pain is considered by most the ultimate suffering. It’s one thing to lose your money or the extras in live.  I lost a son-in-law to cancer which still is hard, but I can’t imagine if I had lost him with all my other children in one delft blow. Emotionally it would be so painful.

Job had lost it all and still stayed true to his God.

But then Satan and God have another conversation, very similar to their first. God is proud of Job and how he is making it through everything Satan has thrown at him and still has his integrity, holding firm to his faith.

Satan believes his ace is in physical torture.

I wonder how God felt at that moment? He had already seen Job suffer and be faithful. Could he put him through more? Would he put him through more?

I don’t know why God gave Satan the go-ahead. To me, it seems like too much. But God knew Job. He had created and blessed Job. He saw his heart every time he brought a sacrifice, every time he prayed. He knew his character, and he knew Job’s strength, even when Job didn’t know it.

So Job received the lash of Satan’s fury, causing sores from his feet to his head. They hurt so much, the only relief he found was scraping them with broken pottery, as if the external pain was easing the internal pain. He was an oozing, bloody mess, his wife could not even stand being with him. She begged him to curse God so that he would be out of suffering and maybe her suffering would also end. His response:

Shall we receive the good from God, and shall we not receive evil?
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

As miserable as he was, he didn’t flinch. His God had a purpose in all of this. Suffering didn’t change the character of God or Job’s faith. And if he had to scrap boils for all long as he lived, he would do whatever God asked of him. 

At this point, Job is a broken man, emotionally, physically, financially, socially. He’s gone from a prince at the gate to an outcast outside the walls.

But he refuses to sin.

Job – And Then It Happened…

This book is so hard!

God allowes “all hell to break loose” in Job’s life. Foreign enemies capture his herds and servants, his wealth.  Then fire from heaven, lightening, starts a fire, burning up other herds. That would be equivalent of losing your business or job, your bank accounts and investments, all in one moment.

Other enemies capture his camels, his mode of transportation if he needs to flee, and another signs of wealth. It’s as if your car, bike, bus, boat, air travel, everything material is now gone!

Then a tornado hit the building his children are in, killing them all. There are no future generations…no future.

How did Job respond?

First, he felt the pain. Don’t let anyone brush this off as if God spares Christians pain. There are no pat answers. There is just pain, waves and waves of gut-wrenching pain. Let anyone who has known deep grief tell you about the pain that rocked them.

Secondly, he expressed the pain. He didn’t hide it. He did what people in his culture did to let the pain out of himself and on display for all to see. He couldn’t sit with the pain inside of him, so he arose. He tore the clothes covering his body, emotions and pain screaming. He shaved his head because he couldn’t bear to even have his hair cover his pain. And he fell to the ground with no personal strength to endure the overwhelming suffering.

Third, he worshipped. 

That was not what I was expecting, nor what I would see myself doing if I had gotten the news Jeb had. But he said,”

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”

 Job knew all the blessings he had been given. The ability to have children and wealth and power were not of his own. They were blessings from God he never felt he deserved in the first place. And even when they were taken away — 

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

There are no “whys?” There is no defense. There are no accusations from Job that he didn’t deserve such awful suffering. He didn’t tell God it was unfair, or that his enemy deserved it more than he did. 

Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

I think of myself, in my meager sufferings. I’m often tempted to compare myself to others, to feel I’m getting the raw end of the stick. Or I’m tempted to say, “If you don’t care, I don’t either” and push God away. 

Can I have the same response as Job?

Job – Blessing or Curse?

Like I said before, a lot of things in the book of Job bother me. God allowing Satan to destroy Job’s life is one of them.

But first consider, it was not God’s idea to crush Job. It was Satan’s idea. He hates what God loves. He wanted to prove that Job loved God only because he had money, health, family and friends, respect, power — all the world loves. Since Job had all that Satan loves, is he loving and fearing God “on the side?”

Am I loving and fearing God “on the side?”

I look as if I love God. I feel that I love God. But if God allowed all my financial security, health, family and friends, respect and power to dissolve, what would I think or feel? 

Prosperity gospel runs rampant in this country and others with the false belief that blessings are the result of good works. Poverty means someone is lazy, sinning or not “doing good.”

That is a lie from the pit!

Sometimes I feel guilty that I am surviving cancer. People talk about me and some of the good things I do as if I am earning another day. But that is so backwards. I receive each day by grace, unmerited favor. I am no more worthy of another day than any of my friends who have gone before me. But because God has given me another day, it’s my responsibility to use it for good.

God knows Job really loves and fears him, even if Satan does not. God knows the end of Job’s story before it begins. It almost feels like he’s trying to redeem Satan — maybe if Satan sees how man loves God, he will quit tempting him and give up the battle. We all know that is not going to happen, because Satan is still alive, tempting us in our walk with God. But it is an interesting thought…

Knowing Job’s true character, God allows Job to go through unjust, undeserved, suffering. And, contrary to the Prosperity Gospel, we also go through unjust, undeserved suffering. Suffering is suffering – it hurts no more or less knowing the reason. 

And yet, we search for answers to relieve pain… 

Let’s Talk about the Book of Job…

After Psalms, I started reading Job. Job is a book that I have often wondered why God included it in the Bible. I personally don’t get much out of it, don’t underline many key scriptures, don’t even understand what is true in the counsel of Job’s “friends” and what it not. And…it is so long…

But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read it. It is in the Bible, God’s written word to us. God must want to communicate something to us, to me, through it.

 Let’s start with the story in Chapters 1 & 2, which have enough questions of their own. A man, Job, is so “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” that God boasts about him to Satan.

This is where I have my first disconnect, trying to picture God stooping so low as to get into a boasting match with Satan.

But maybe that is not the picture I should get. Maybe it’s the thought that God does boast to Satan about us. I wonder if he ever said, “Have you considered my servant Martin Luther King, and all the good he is doing?” Or, “Have you considered Billy Graham and all the good he is doing?” 

Maybe God wants to boast about us, about me?

Are we giving him the “blameless and upright, one who fears God and turned away from evil” material he can boast about? 

Or on the other side, are there times when Satan comes to God and says, “See there is another one you thought was doing good, but look how they have fallen?”

Does Satan taunt God with our sin? 

Does he boast to God about his conquests? Did he show God the video of George Floyd’s death?  Burning cities? Hitler and massacres in Rwanda?

I don’t know what kind of conversations God and Satan have, and frankly, it troubles me that they talk at all. It even troubles me more if they have these kinds of conversations. God knows who wins, but Satan keeps trying…even today…to prove he is stronger than God.

The book of Job seems to be the answer to the question, who is stronger, God or Satan?

We know how it ends because we have read the end or heard the story, but obviously, Job didn’t know how it was going to end when the story started, when he was “blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Nor did he know that there were conversations going on between God and Satan.

We have our own stories. We don’t know the end, or even what comes next in our lives. We don’t know the conversations God and Satan are having even today.

Maybe we should read on…