Let's not assume...
Today, I have an entirely new take on Jobs story. Job, a man of great grief and sorrow, and his three friends- men who have been ear marked as men of poor counsel.
For years I have heard many messages about Jobs three friends- Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and they are always painted in a light of stupidity and dim-wittedness. Individuals who were hasty with their lips- deserving of a beat down for accusing Job during his time of mourning and despair. (Albeit, it seems they were actually trying to encourage him.)
But over all, when you look closer at their tale, being awful friends is just not their case in my humble opinion. I don’t even think this would disagree with scripture- I think instead, it disagrees with how we have often read it. We always need to vilify someone when we face difficult times, and for the reader, it’s easy for us to see Jobs despair, and point the finger towards his friends.
Let’s consider their interactions with Job.
First, they sat silent for many days (seven to be exact) before even speaking (Job 2:13). I’m not sure I would have that type of patience- oh, I get that Jobs trial was awful, but even under terrible circumstances I’m not sure I’ve ever sat still, silently, days on end for anyone. They had a fortitude, and they understood that being a friend sometimes means simply sitting still next to the one who is hurting.
Second, when they did finally speak its apparent their insight went much deeper then random poor-counsel. Yes, it was poor, but far from random. Speculative? Certainly…but still not poor. They knew sin in ones life had the potential to bring hardship. Is this not what Ecclesiastes touches on? And that book is herald as a book of wisdom.
As I read their interaction closely, I recognized truth and wisdom in their words when they eventually spoke up. Even Job agreed with a majority of their counsel. I do not believe his friends to be foolish, but rather, I think it's evident that they were deeply sincere, caring and passionate- faithful friends of Job who loved him deeply. Certainly they felt close enough to be open and honest.
They spoke foolishly, presumptuously and impulsively - but that doesn’t mean they were fools, presumptuous or impulsive. We’ve all had moments of behavior like theirs, but maintaining the label of fool for life due to a moment of lapsed judgement isn’t really fair.
Do you have people in your life who feel so confident in their relationship with you that they would be willing to call you out in sin? Do you feel the liberty to correct loved ones?
I believe they were God-fearing and knowledgeable.
But what they, like most of the religious community seemed to miss was the incalculability and sovereignty of God. We cannot hold God hostage to His word or His promises. They are not there for us to demand or beat God over the head with. And certainly we can not manipulate God in any form, especially when we presume to understand matters that our beyond our finite minds.
We cannot control or invoke Him to act on our behalf. We can only believe in His love and trust in Christ's sacrifice. Job understood this in part. What Job needed was someone to pray with him and for him. He needed someone to reach out to God. He needed a mediator.
32 “God is not a mortal like me,
so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.
33 If only there were a mediator between us,
someone who could bring us together.
34 The mediator could make God stop beating me,
and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment.
35 Then I could speak to him without fear,
but I cannot do that in my own strength.
33-35 blow's me away- Job recognized his need for Jesus-several thousands of years before Jesus would even be born.
Jobs friends failure was misrepresenting Gods character.
We cannot assume God’s actions and character based on what we comprehend. When something seems out of sorts let’s not fumble to speak on behalf of God if we are not certain. Instead, let us give God the space He needs to move, function and do as He chooses. Pray for the grace to understand and respond accordingly instead - not assumingely. We would do better to simply pray for others.
It’s amazing how far an “I don’t know” and, “I don’t have an answer for that” will go
Trials often do not need our interpretation. Most often trials simply requires your ear.