As we read through the dialogue in Job, we have the advantage of knowing what was in chapter 1. It was there that God declared that there was no one like Job: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8 NET). As we read through the dialogue between Job and his three friends, keep in mind that Job is innocent of doing anything that caused the calamities that he has had to endure.
The problem for his three friends — Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar — was that their world view was very simple: if you were wealthy, that was obviously God blessing you for your faithfulness. And they definitely believed the opposite to be true: if you were suffering, this was God’s punishment for some wicked deed of which you were guilty. Unfortunately for them, this is not the way God works.
Notice Eliphaz’s accusations against Job:
“All his days the wicked man suffers torment, throughout the number of the years that are stored up for the tyrant. Terrifying sounds fill his ears; in a time of peace marauders attack him. He does not expect to escape from darkness; he is marked for the sword; he wanders about – food for vultures; he knows that the day of darkness is at hand. Distress and anguish terrify him; they prevail against him like a king ready to launch an attack, for he stretches out his hand against God, and vaunts himself against the Almighty, defiantly charging against him with a thick, strong shield!…He will not grow rich, and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the land…Let him not trust in what is worthless, deceiving himself; for worthlessness will be his reward. Before his time he will be paid in full, and his branches will not flourish…For the company of the godless is barren, and fire consumes the tents of those who accept bribes. They conceive trouble and bring forth evil; their belly prepares deception” (Job 15:20-35).
His conclusion was simple, based on his own worldview: Job was suffering, he had lost everything, therefore, he must be a wicked man. As long as he continued to attack and rebel against God, there was no hope for him.
In other words, as we might say, “It’s your own fault!” If Job hadn’t have been wicked, none of this would have happened to him.
Fortunately for us, this is not the way that God works. Yet how often do we hear similar things coming from well-meaning Christians.
- “If you are faithful, God will bless you with all that you want.”
- “If you are faithful, nothing bad will happen to you.”
- “Bad things happen to wicked people.”
But what did Jesus teach?
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way” (Matthew 5:10-12).
You see, blessings and suffering are not a commentary on our living wicked lives. Jesus said that those who are blessed are those who are persecuted for doing right! Paul expressed it this way to Timothy: “Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Where Eliphaz thought that suffering indicated wickedness, we find in reality that suffering and being persecuted may point to a faithful life.
Let us live faithful lives, realising that this very well might bring us suffering. Most importantly, it will bring us God’s approval.
Readings for next week:
5 October – Job 18
6 October – Job 19
7 October – Job 20
8 October – Job 21
9 October – Job 22