There are some powerful lessons for us to learn from today’s passage in Job 4:1-21. Let’s go!
Job 4:1-2 (NIV) 1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: 2 “If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking?
On verses 1-2: Eliphaz and his friends were doing such a great job of comforting Job…until Eliphaz opened his mouth! It’s not that Eliphaz should not have said anything at all. Rather, it’s about what Eliphaz said in the verses that follow which would end up frustrating Job instead of helping him.
Job 4:3-5 (NIV) 3 Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. 4 Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. 5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
On verse 3-5: To paraphrase what Eliphaz is saying in verses 3-5: “Job, in the past you would encourage and strengthen others when they were in trouble. But now you can’t pick yourself up when you are in trouble? What’s wrong with you?” Eliphaz finds it strange that Job would be a great encourager of others when they encounter trouble, but be so down in the dumps when he himself encounters trouble. It’s as if Eliphaz is suggesting that Job is weak and a bit hypocritical for being someone who encourages others to face their problems courageously, and yet when problems come upon himself Job faces them without courage.
What can we learn from this? Here Eliphaz wrongly assumes that encouragers don’t need encouragement themselves. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Encouragers need encouragement too. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “That person doesn’t need my encouragement since he’s always so positive and encouraging to others.” For we often try to bless others in ways that we ourselves want to be blessed. Instead of just looking at a person in trouble and thinking, “how weak is he?”, be an encourager.
Job 4:6 (NIV) 6 Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope?
On verse 6: To paraphrase Eliphaz here: “Job, shouldn’t your piety in encouraging others then be your confidence now? And shouldn’t your blameless ways then be your hope now? In other words, Job, shouldn’t you practice what you preach?” Eliphaz suggests. “Since you always seem to know how to instruct others to face their problems, how come you can’t face your own?”
What can we learn from this? Keep in mind that Job has just lost everything, including his children, and the first point Eliphaz tries to bring up with Job is that Job has been a hypocrite. Even if Eliphaz was right about Job being a bit hypocritical (and that is a big if), accusing a person of hypocrisy is not the way to start a conversation with a person who is in deep grief and who has just lost everything. You’re not going to help a grieving person by accusing them and putting them on the defensive.
I believe there is another layer to Eliphaz’s statement in verse 6. It’s as if Eliphaz is saying, “Job, if you’re so pious, God-fearing and blameless, then you shouldn’t have any problems. Your life should just be 100% confidence and hope.” As Eliphaz would say in verse 7: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?”
Here Eliphaz makes the biggest theological mistake of the entire book of Job, one that his friends after him would also repeat. That mistake is to assume that if we always love and follow God, we will never have trouble. Compare this to Jesus’ own statement in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Just because a person has trouble does not mean necessarily that their trouble is the result of their sin.
A corollary of Eliphaz’s mistaken thinking is to assume that I can somehow put my hope in my own moral performance, that if I am good enough and God-fearing enough, I can earn a trouble free life on earth and/or a happy afterlife when I die. That is what most other religions and secular philosophies teach at their core. Yet in response to this ego-driven approach to spirituality, Jesus would say, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In response Paul would latter say, “No one is righteous, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:23-24) In other words, Eliphaz, I can’t put my confidence in my own piety or my hope in my own blameless ways, because no matter how pious or blameless I try to be, I can never meet God’s standards. I can never earn a trouble free life on earth or a place in heaven. But praise God for sending Jesus Christ to live the pious, blameless life that I could never live. When I put my confidence and hope in Jesus’ blameless ways, and not my own, that’s when my life both now and for eternity is secure.
Job 4:8-9 (NIV) 8 As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish.
On verses 7-11: Here Eliphaz continues with his biggest theological mistake. Eliphaz thinks, “Job, the reason you are in trouble now is because you have somehow sinned and done evil.” Just look at verses 8-9.
Eliphaz then makes a cryptic statement in verses 10-11: he negatively compares Job to a strong lion who has lost his cubs. Eliphaz is suggesting that no matter how strong or upright Job thinks he is, the fact that Job lost his children shows that Job sinned.
Eliphaz has yet to learn that sometimes we go through trouble not because we have sinned but because we are being tested.
On verses 12-21: Now Eliphaz does one more thing: he claims to have received a supernatural word from God in a dream (“a word was secretly brought to me” (v12) “amid disquieting dreams” (v13)). The message of the dream is basically that God wants to crush and destroy prideful sinners.
What can we learn from this? A person may go into great detail about their seemingly supernatural experiences, but at the end of the day, whether the word they bring is from God or not will depend on how that word matches up with Scripture. Eliphaz’s word was a word of judgment, condemnation and fear that did not capture the full revelation of who God is in Scripture. Eliphaz had yet to understand that while God is indeed holy and just, God is also full of mercy and compassion, One who does not treat us as our sins deserve. Always match the message that a person claims to have from God for you with Scripture to help you determine whether that truly is a word from God.
So in one short speech contained in chapter 4, Eliphaz has done a lot. He has accused Job of being a weak hypocrite (verses 3-6), a sinner who got the trouble he deserves (verses 7-11), and a prideful person that God has decided to crush (v12-21). Good times. It’s no wonder Job would become even more frustrated after receiving Eliphaz’s “comfort”.
Lord Jesus, I praise You because when we were helpless, You did not come to condemn us the way Eliphaz condemned Job. Instead You came with love, mercy and compassion. You identified with our pain, even to the point of taking our pain upon Yourself and dying on the cross in our place. Thank You for being the ultimate encourager and the greatest comforter. May I be a wise and effective comforter like You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!