This devotional which is about Job 5.
Job 1 and 2 record the discussion God and Satan had about Job and the calamity that God allowed Satan to bring into Job’s life. At the end of chapter 2, Job was visited by friends who wept with him and “…sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights” (v. 13). Job broke that silence in chapter 3 with a bitter expression of the turmoil in his soul.
The first of Job’s friends to speak was Eliphaz the Temanite. His response to Job began in chapter 4 and extends to our reading today, Job 5. He began his speech by complimenting Job’s wise words for others who were in trouble (4:1-6), but then Eliphaz began to rebuke Job gently for not applying his words of wisdom to himself (4:7-21).
Here in Job 5, Eliphaz continued his response to Job. His message is, in summary:
- Don’t be bitter (vv. 1-7, but especially v. 2).
- Appeal to God to fix all this if you think you’re really innocent (vv. 8-16).
- But be honest with yourself and realize that God is putting you under discipline (vv. 17-27).
The assumption that Eliphaz and all of Job’s friends had was that Job was suffering because he had sinned and was now experiencing the discipline of God in his life. While Eliphaz did not directly call on Job to repent, his instruction “do not despise the discipline of the Almighty” (v. 17b) insinuates that Job should repent. Eliphaz’s sweeping description of what a good life Job could have in verses 18-26 is all designed to persuade Job to stop hiding his sin, stop living in denial about it, and come clean with God. This chapter, and Eliphaz’s speech, ends with these words, “We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself.”
If we didn’t have Job 1-2 or God’s speech at the end of Job, I think we’d be tempted to agree with Eliphaz. I know I would be tempted to agree with him. Job’s problems came so fast and so ferociously that it is hard not to see them as deliberate acts of God. If Job were as innocent as he claims, why would a good and loving God treat him so badly? it makes no sense to us, humanly speaking.
That’s a big reason why the book of Job exists. It exists to challenge and correct our simplistic ideas about suffering. People tend to see God’s blessings as proof that he approves of how they are living. We also tend to see problems as proof that something is wrong. That’s what Eliphaz thought, but he didn’t know anything that he thought he knew. Instead of being spiritually helpful to Job, Eliphaz compounded Job’s suffering with his words.
We should learn from the book of Job that God works in this world in ways that are more complicated than we think. If you are talking with another believer about his or her problems, you don’t know why God allowed those problems to happen. So, it is unkind and unhelpful to make assumptions and then apply God’s word based on those assumptions.
Are you kind and loving when you talk with other believers who are suffering? Or do you–even if you mean well–make the suffering more painful? By all means do what you can to speak truth to other believers, but ask God for wisdom and discernment and make sure that you are kind and loving instead of self-assured and harsh.