Job’s Miserable Friends

Have you ever just wanted to call a friend and unload your troubles, find a shoulder to cry on or share with someone who can understand what you are facing?  There are times that our circumstances have no rhyme or reason.  We cannot change them.  We just feel like complaining to someone. We rant. Afterwards, we could feel a bit better if our friends commiserate, but not if they immediately tell us what we did wrong in the situation or how we should have dealt with an issue. Monday morning quarterbacks. They don’t help. They don’t encourage. I think this is how Job feels with his three friends.  At first, he may have been thinking, “Oh, here come my friends.  Maybe they will comfort me in my distress. Maybe they will encourage me.  I’m glad they are here.” But as we will see, this is not to be the case.

After he has lost his family and his wealth and possessions, Job is afflicted another time with painful sores from his head to his feet.  Job is in such misery that he sits down in ashes and scrapes his sores with a piece of broken pottery. His three friends journey to be with him.  As they approach, the Scripture says that they are shocked at his state.  They tear their robes and weep.  The three sit down in the ashes with Job and remain silent for a week. Finally, Job cries out with a lament cursing the day he was born.

Eliphaz is the first of Job’s friends to speak, but like all of Job’s friends, he is a wretched comforter.  Eliphaz asks Job a few questions in Job 4:6-8:

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

Eliphaz is partially right but partially wrong.  Sometimes our sin does result in bad consequences including sickness and disease.  Sometimes God does punish us and rebuke us so that we will repent and turn away from our sins. While this is sometimes the case, it is not always the case.  Not every sickness is due to our personal transgressions.  Jesus was asked by His disciples before He healed the blind man in John 9:2,3:

And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Here we see Eliphaz giving harsh counsel to Job, as if God is sending discipline for Job’s sin.  Over time, Job becomes exhausted with his three friends and tells them that they have failed him.  Job says this about these three so-called friends and their counsel in Job 16:2,3:

I have heard many such things;
    miserable comforters are you all.

Shall windy words have an end?
    Or what provokes you that you answer?

Job is worn out from their advice. He is telling them in no uncertain terms that their counsel is no good to anyone else going through similar sickness, because it is not true.  Job could have believed what they were saying and punished himself trying to search out some secret sin in the hopes that he would be healed, but that would have been in vain.  That conviction would have gone against his belief in a sovereign, just God who would vindicate him.  Job’s suffering was not caused by his sin.  If Job was to be helped, eventually he would be by God Himself.  Job’s help will come from the mouth of God Himself when He gives Job the right counsel which will transform his outlook and thinking.  To hear the rest of Job’s story and the concluding message of this book, tune in to next month’s newsletter in which I will conclude the wisdom of this book.