Eliphaz’s First Speech: “You Reap What You Sow” (Job Sermon 5)
March 21, 2021 | Andrew Davis
Trials, Justice of God
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a sermon on Job 4-5 and talks about the errors of Eliphaz in understanding who God is, who Job is, and the proper theology of suffering.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
So turn in your Bibles to Job. We're going to be looking today at chapters four and five, and it's marvelous how God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. We know that, as we're going to talk about in Eliphaz’s statement: “surely man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward,” there is great grief and difficulty in this world. In this world, we will have trouble, but Jesus Christ has overcome the worlds. And through the Holy Spirit, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. And the book of Job is a gift to us in the midst of our sorrow, in the midst of our suffering in trial, it's a gift to us. And also the community of faith, the church, is a gift as well. And we are given the opportunity to walk together in sorrow and sadness with one another. We are called on to rejoice with those who rejoice, but also to mourn with those who mourn. And as we begin looking at this long section Job four through 27, the longest section of the book, at a series of dialogues that Job has with his friends and his counselors: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, we're going to learn lessons on counseling of those that are going through grief. Hopefully, we're going to learn what to do and what not to do. We're going to see the wisdom of God and giving us the whole narrative and the dialogue of what his friends say to him and what he says in response. Job's friends really do desire to help him; I'm convinced of that. Much of what they say is doctrinally accurate, but at the end of the book we find out from God himself that what they said about him was wrong.
And so we have to sift through how do we then read it, something that God himself has said was wrong, how do we understand it? How do we sift through it? They speak wrongly about God. They also, I believe, speak wrongly about Job and about his true conditions, circumstances. And in the end, they really do fail miserably as counselors, as Job himself says in Job 16:2, “miserable counselors are you all.” We're going to see why and how we can do better, hopefully. It's very difficult. I acknowledge it's difficult to counsel a suffering person, somebody going through great grief, going through, perhaps, the worst trial of their lives and to be the friend that's called on the scene to stand there and bring the word of God to bring comfort and consolation. It's hard to do it. You feel like no matter what you say, you make it worse.
One woman was talking about what it was like for her to try to lift the spirits of another woman who was going through deep depression. And she said, “No matter what I said, it was wrong. No matter what I did, it was wrong.” It's what she writes, "You cook their favorite meal, you tidy their kitchen while they're out, you put fresh flowers in the hall, you suggest they buy a new coat, all are wrong. You were supposed to realize that their present loss of appetite means that the sight of their favorite meal would just reduce them to tears. Tidying the kitchen was actually a way of you saying to them that you disliked the way that they're leaving their kitchen in the chaos. Putting fresh flowers in the hall was wrong because they're soon going to die and they look so much better out in the garden anyway. And as we're suggesting a new coat, that was a threat because you're probably saying they should at least try to do something about their disheveled appearance, no matter how they feel."
So I can be sympathetic. I can say, look, I know it's a difficult ministry, but I think we are going to be called on as the church to stand alongside people that are grief stricken to be able to give counsel to them, how do we do it? And so we're going to walk through Job's friends and look at some of their counsel. We're going to see their mix of true doctrinal assertions, but I think faulty applications and try to understand how we can do better. Today I'm going to walk through Eliphaz’s first speech in Job four and five, try to understand what he said, and then evaluate it, try to see what he got right and what I think he got wrong and then apply it to us. So let's begin by understanding this friend: Eliphaz the Temanite.
I. Eliphaz the Temanite
He speaks first, probably therefore is the oldest and wisest of Job's friends. He seems to say the most profound things of the three and at least, at the start, is generally the kindest to Job. He has a deep faith in God, a transcendent holy God. He yearns to help his friend make it right with God and get back to the blessed life that he formally knew. Eliphaz, we’ll see, will assert that no human being is righteous before such a holy God, and that whenever there's trouble it's inevitably because individuals have sinned in some way, everybody is guilty of error. Fundamental to his approach is the law of retribution. The law of sowing and reaping, that is, “You reap what you sow.” So the best thing that Job can do is quickly repent, appeal to God's mercy, so that his prosperity can resume. Eliphaz appeals often to his experience, the things he's observed with his own eyes, what he's lived through. That may be some of his problems, we'll see. He's also very logical and he follows his logic, his doctrine, where it leads, however far it leads. We're going to see that's going to be part of his problem as well. He ends up placing his logic and rational side above faith in a living God. In the end, his views lead him to make a devastating evaluation of Job that is stunning in just how wrong it is. Not in today's section, but later in Job 22:5, he's actually going to say these words to Job, “Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?” And then he is going to elaborate in verses six to 11 of that same chapter, listen to this: “You,” Job, “demanded security from your brothers for no reason; you strip men of their clothing, leaving them naked. You gave no water to the weary; you withheld food from the hungry, though you were a powerful man owning land, an honored man, living on it. And you sent widows away empty handed and broke the strength of the fatherless. That is why snares are all around you. Why sudden peril terrifies you. Why it is so dark, you cannot see and why a flood of water covers you.” Oh my goodness. For this string of charges he has no proof; because it never happened, none of those things ever happened, but he's just logically following his theology to its terminal stop, to where it leads.
We also know that there's much that Eliphaz doesn't know. If he's just going by what he sees and experiences in this world, he doesn't know God's true evaluation of Job. He doesn't know of the conversation that God and Satan had concerning Job. He doesn't know of Satan's activities in bringing such misery into Job's life. He doesn't know any of these things. And he actually doesn't know Job's track record, his actual track record 24/7; just assuming that Job's awfully busy at nighttime doing all of these wicked things that no one ever sees him doing. So many times we human beings can jump to conclusions based on appearances and we can wrongly judge people through our lack of knowledge. So that's just an introduction to Eliphaz. Now, let's walk through these two chapters and see what he actually says.
II. An Overview of Eliphaz’s First Speech
Let's look at his first speech. Now in chapter four verses one through six, he's going to effectively say, “Job it's time for you to practice what you have preached.” It's time for you to practice what you have preached. Look at verse one through six of chapter four, “Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: ‘If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking? Think how you have instructed many; how you have strengthened feeble hands, your words have supported those who stumbled. You have strengthened faltering needs, but now trouble comes to you and you're discouraged. It strikes you and you're dismayed. Should not your piety be your confidence, and your blameless ways your hope?’” So Eliphaz recognizes Job's piety, his track record of previous godly counsel. The powerful, effective instruction that he's had in the lives of many others. Job has, he says, repeatedly instructed others and strengthened in their weak moments, but now it's happened to him and he's falling apart. Eliphaz, therefore, is mildly rebuking Job for not heeding his own advice and becoming so discouraged. “It's time to practice what you preach Job and live up to your counsel. You should realize that everything's going to be fine if you really are as blameless and pious as you say you are and if you're patient. You should simply trust in your piety and in your blameless ways,” that's verses one through six.
Now in the next section he gets to the core of his doctrinal approach. You reap what you sow. You reap what you sow, look at chapter 4:7-11, “Consider now: who being innocent has ever perished. Where were the upright ever destroyed?” verse eight, “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God, they're destroyed, at the blast of his anger they perish. The lions may roar and growl; yet the teeth of the great lions are broken. The lion perishes for lack of prey and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.” So this is Eliphaz’s fundamental doctrinal approach, his worldview: an unchanging pattern that he has observed by simple observation, by experience. “I have noticed, I've seen this pattern. It's never violated. The righteous never perish. Those who plow evil, reap a harvest of trouble. God sees to it. With the slightest blast of his nostrils God can topple the wicked. In a moment they perish, they die instantly under the wrath of God. That's how powerful God is in dealing with the wicked. “The lions and lioness's,” representing wicked oppressors, powerful people in this world, strong, dominant people, “they may roar and growl for a while, but in the end, their teeth will be broken and they will starve for lack of prey. That's how powerful God is in dealing with the wicked. Do you see the implication? You're one of those lions Job. You're one of the wicked oppressors and now God has come after you.” That's what he's saying. “Your only hope Job then is to repent of your closet wickedness, throw yourself on the mercy of God and start behaving righteously and God will reward you.”
Third section verses 12-17: “Are you more righteous than God?” Now this section begins with a bit of an eerie vision, a night vision. It's kind of creepy, but let's go ahead and follow what Eliphaz says, “A word was secretly brought to me. My ear has caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake, a spirit glided past my face and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes and I heard a hushed voice. Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” Well, that's kind of an eerie buildup, isn't it? He has some kind of a vision. God has, it seems, secretly revealed this to him, a timeless truth that's relevant here. It's like, “I have had a direct revelation from God himself so you better listen to me. Can a mortal be more righteous than God or more pure than his maker?” In other words, God doesn't make mistakes. “Fundamentally, you are suffering because of your unrighteousness and your impurity. You have to take responsibility for your sins Job. That's why you're suffering. Clearly by claiming that you're pure, by saying God has wronged me, he has made a terrible mistake, you are wrong. God never makes any mistakes, that cannot be.” Next section verses 18-21: “If angels are vulnerable, men are vastly more vulnerable.” Chapter 4:18-21, “If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, then how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth! Between dawn and dusk they are broken in pieces; unnoticed they perish forever. Are not the cords of their tent pulled up so they die without wisdom?” in other words, “Human sinners are extremely fragile. They're vulnerable. If God can so easily deal with rebellious angels, like Satan and the demons, then how much more human rebels? We are weak, we perish easily. We're so fragile. We die like a moth being crushed. We ought not to challenge God by our sins because with the greatest of ease he can unleash his mighty arm and pull us down like a tent. So be warned, Job.” I think the attitude here is similar to one preacher a number of years ago that preached this fundamental principle: your arm is too short to box with God. Well, that's true. So don't take God on and don't fight him. The next section verses one through seven of chapter five: “Only God can rescue a sinner from God.”
Look at chapter 5:1-7, “Call, if you will, but who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Resentment kills a fool and envy slays the simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed. His children are far from safety, crushed in court without a defender. The hungry consume his harvest, taking it even from among thorns and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For hardship does not spring from the soil nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet, man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” “So all of this terrible misery that's come upon you is a judgment from God and to whom can you turn to be delivered? No one is stronger than God, so who will you appeal to? I believe you're receiving a just punishment from God and God is the only one who can deliver you from God.”
So, sinners who are getting what they deserve from a holy God are filled with resentment and envy for those who are not. “I've seen,” he says; Eliphaz resorts again to his personal experience to what his life on earth has taught him. But I only say as an editorial comment right in the middle of this: appearances can be deceiving. Things aren't always what they appear to be; that's definitely the case when it comes to Job. So what had Eliphaz seen? Well, he had seen a fool taking root and beginning a harvest of success, but then God unleashes judgments on him and he's destroyed quickly. That's what he's seen. Hardship came on that wicked person quickly and not for no reason, you reap what you sow. And then as a result, the hungry and thirsty who are deprived from this rich oppressor's abundant harvest have come in and eaten and drunk from what he had wrongly stored up; that's what he's saying. And then he says, “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” All human beings suffer in this sin cursed world.
Next section, verses 8-16: “God opposes the wicked but gives grace to the humble.” Look at verse eight of chapter five, “But if it were I, I would appeal to God. I would lay my cause before him.” Why should you do that? Well, because God is amazing. He does amazing things. Look at verse nine through 16, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. He bestows rain on the earth. He sends water upon the countryside. The lowly he sets on high and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He thwarts the plans of the crafty so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their craftiness and the schemes of the wily are swept away. Darkness comes upon them in the daytime; at noon they grope as in the night. He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth. He saves them from the clutches of the powerful. So the poor have hope and injustice shuts its mouth.” So the God who performs such amazing natural wonders as giving rain to the earth, he can forgive you, heal you and restore you. He's got that kind of power. Now, Eliphaz makes two statements that are true, we'll circle back to them later: Rain is amazing and God catches the wise in their craftiness, more on both of those in a moment, but he makes a faulty application to Job: “Be honest about your sins Job, don't continue in your wicked crafty ways because God fights wicked oppressors. And he elevates humble people to great heights of safety above the reach of their wicked crafty oppressors.” that's what he's saying.
Now, this section we looked at last week: “God wounds and God heals.” Look at chapter 5:17-27, “Blessed it is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you. In famine he will ransom you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword. You'll be protected from the lash of the tongue and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine and need not fear the beast of the earth, for you'll have a covenant with the stones of the field and the wild animals will be at peace with you. You will know that your tent is secure. You'll take stock of your property and find nothing missing. You will know that your children will be many and your descendants like the grass of the earth. You will come to the grave in full vigor like sheaves gathered in season. We have examined this and it is true so hear it and apply it to yourself.” so this is Eliphaz’s final pitch: “Our best hope for you is that this staggering level of suffering, which has undoubtedly come from a staggering level of sin,” we'll get to that later, “But this staggering level of sin, of suffering can be healed and restored. God will forgive you. He'll restore you. If you will just accept your correction. If you just humble yourself under God's mighty hand, you'll find a level of new prosperity and security far better than the old situation that you had before, which was obviously now it's become apparent, built on wickedness. But you'll have an even greater prosperity built on righteousness.” Amazingly, this is exactly what does happen to Job at the end of the book. All you have to do is read this section of Eliphaz and then compare it to what happened at the very end of the book and you'll find out all of those things did in fact happen. So Eliphaz, he says, has researched this whole thing thoroughly. It's true. So hear it Job and apply it to yourself.
III. What Eliphaz Got Right
All right, so that's Eliphaz's two-chapter presentation to Job. Isn't it amazing that the Holy Spirit wanted us to walk through that? Wanted us to hear it and read it, he gave it to us in inspired scripture, and then later tells us that a lot of it's wrong. So it's just a marvelous thing as we read that, let's first see what he got right. What did Eliphaz get right? Well, first just the ministry of silence and the ministry of presence, just along with the other two friends coming to Job in his sorrow and sadness and sitting with him, it's called the ministry of presence. We have a tendency to run away from grief and sorrow and sadness. We don't want to be near it. It's hard to look at it, but he didn't do that, neither did the other two friends. They came and sat with him. And then for seven days they didn't say a word and that was very comforting and it was humble. So that's what they got right. So for me, I just want to take that as application, when I hear that someone is going through a great sorrow, to go toward that person to reach out, to be with them, to sit with them.
All right, so that's what he did right in terms of his physical presence and then his seven days of silence. What did he get right in what he said, of the things that he said? Well, first of all, God is in fact, a moral king ruling actively on planet earth. That is true. We're not deists who believe that God created the world and set it up like a machine and then stays out of it and doesn't do anything. Still less are we atheists that think that this whole thing came about by time plus chance. We don't live in the law of the jungle where the mighty just rip and shred the weak and there's nothing that the weak can do. It's nature red and tooth and claw, and there's just no rhyme or reason to any of it. That's actually true. He got that right. Habakkuk felt that way in Habakkuk one, 13 and 14, when he found out that the wicked oppressors in Jerusalem were going to be crushed by the Babylonian army invading, a bunch of pagans. And it just didn't make any sense at all to Habakkuk. So he says in Habakkuk one, 13 and 14, “Why are you silent,” speaking to God, “while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? You have made men like fish in the sea like sea creatures that have no ruler.” and it really does seem that way sometimes, doesn't it? That it's just the law of the jungle and might makes right and all that. And that God has just recused himself and doesn't get involved. Eliphaz says, no, that's not true. God is actively ruling on planet earth. He got that right.
"God is in fact, a moral king ruling actively on planet earth. That is true. "
Secondly, the law of sowing and reaping actually is true. It's the centerpiece of his theology and it actually is biblical. There's lots of biblical evidence about this. Look again at Job 4:8, this is his basic assertion, “As I have observed those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” Well there are many verses that corroborate this: Proverbs 22:8 says, “He who sows wickedness, reaps trouble.” Matthew 7:2, Jesus said, “the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Galatians 6:7 says it the clearest, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,” very plain. And then Romans 2:6-7 unfolds it theologically; it says, “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory honor and immorality, he will give eternal life. But those who are self seeking, who reject to the truth and follow evil, they'll be wrath and anger.” That's the law of retribution and it is true. So you got that right.
Thirdly: man's basic misery. Look at Job 5:7, “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” We need to have an expectation of sorrow in this world. Don't be surprised when pain and suffering comes to you. It's part of what Adam brought the human race into. As Jesus said plainly in John 16:33, “In this world, you will have trouble,” I love the rest, “take heart! I have overcome the world,” said Jesus. So we need to understand we're going to have sorrow and misery.
"We need to have an expectation of sorrow in this world. Don't be surprised when pain and suffering comes to you. It's part of what Adam brought the human race into."
Fourthly, God does, in fact, catch the wise in their craftiness. Job 5:13, “He catches the wise in their craftiness and the schemes of the wily are swept away.” This statement, the apostle Paul chose out and used under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in I Corinthians 3:19, where there he's dealing with the wisdom of the world and of the wise and all that. And he says, God, in the end, doubles it back on the crafty: “For in the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’” I Corinthians 3:19. This is especially true with devious wicked plots that then end up catching the one who hatched them. That happens a lot. It says in Proverbs 26:27, “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it. If a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.” Think about the book of Esther. Remember that? And the wicked man, Haman, who hated Mordecai, remember? And then by extension hated the Jews and orchestrated a plot to kill Mordecai and all the Jews. And he erected a gallows in his yard; remember this, to hang Mordecai on it. And he was going to orchestrate the death of his enemy to hang him on the gallows. Who ends up hanging on those gallows? Haman does and his sons. And so that's “if you dig a pit, you fall into it.” This is, by the way, especially true when it comes to those who use their political power, their governmental positions around the world to oppose the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The very means that they used to shut down the kingdom actually expand it and purify it and establish it. And so Psalm 2, God laughs at the opposition of the wicked kings and princes around the world as they try to stop the building the kingdom of Christ. Clearest example of this, “the blood of martyrs is seed for the church,” and so the more that the Roman emperors made martyrs, the more Christians sprang up out of that blood. And so that's just God laughing and catching the wise in their craftiness. And we're going to get to enjoy the laughter for all eternity as we see all of the devious schemes and plots that powerful people have unleashed against the church of Jesus Christ and how God used them all to build and purify his church.
Fifthly, only God can rescue us from God. That actually is true. And it's important for us to understand this. Deuteronomy 32:39, “See, now that I, myself, am he, there is no God besides me, I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal,” listen to this, “and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Now the fuller statement in the Bible is: “no one can deliver out of my hand but me.” God can, in fact, deliver us sinners from his own righteous wrath and judgment. And he has done that at the cross. He has, in fact, delivered us from his own wrath by the death of his own dear son. And as you're listening to me today, you may actually have walked into this place today under the wrath of God because of your sins. For all the years you have been rebelling against him and sinning, you have piled up and stored up wrath against yourself for the day of God's righteous wrath when his judgment will be revealed, but the beauty of the gospel is all of that stored up wrath, can in fact, be transferred to Jesus, the substitute, he died under the wrath of God that we might live free, and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Only God can deliver from God. Praise God for it.
"Only God can rescue us from God. That actually is true. And it's important for us to understand this. ... God can, in fact, deliver us sinners from his own righteous wrath and judgment. And he has done that at the cross."
Sixth, God's natural wonders really are amazing. Job 5:9-10, “He performs wonders that cannot be fathom, miracles that cannot be counted, he bestows rain on the earth, sends water on the countryside.” Now, God himself is going to celebrate his own creative power for many chapters at the end of the book and I'm going to enjoy going through that, but let's just stop for a minute and look at this one statement by Eliphaz. Is rain amazing? I would've read right by this except for a devotion I read a number of years ago by John Piper and he zeros in on this statement. And so let me summarize what Piper says in that devotional. He says, “Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder brought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the near east, far from any lake or stream, a few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water, but if the crops are to grow and if the family has to be fed from month to month, water has to come on those fields from another source, from where? Well, from the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to actually be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? Well, how much does the water weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night; that would be 206 million gallons of water, which adds up to 1.6 billion pounds. That's heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it's so heavy? Well, it gets there by evaporation, meaning that the water sort of start stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. So how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. Well, what's that? Well, the water starts becoming water again. By gathering around little dust particles between a thousandth and a 10000th of a centimeter wide, that's about a hundred times smaller than the eye of a gnat, that's small. What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water that would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh, so the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea, takes the salt out, then carries it for 300 miles and dumps it on the farm? Well, actually it doesn't dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the billion pounds of water down in little drops and they have to be big enough to fall for about one mile or so without evaporating, but small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks. So rain really is a great unsearchable thing that God has done. I think I should be more thankful for it than I am.” That was a good devotion, wasn't it? By the way, I stripped out a lot of the scientific details that I would find interesting, but I don't think you would.
Seventh, blessed is the one whom God disciplines. I gave a whole sermon to this last week so I'm not going to circle back. Except that God wisely brings affliction in the lives of his children to purify them, to get them to repent from sins, and so that whenever trouble happens, as we said last week, you should ask the Lord to search you and know you and show your faults to you, whatever sins he may be bringing about through the discipline and through the hardship.
Eighth, God wounds and God heals. Eliphaz was right that God has the power to restore us completely. And he does bring wounding in our lives, but he also brings amazing healing. And in the end, the healing is going to be infinitely greater than the wounding ever was. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ with all of the New Testament theology that we have now, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth and resurrection bodies, which blessedness far outstrips even what happened to Job at the end of his life. Because those blessings, that prosperity, that health will never, ever, ever be taken from us. And so the Lord does wound, but the healing is amazing and we'll spend eternity swimming in that healing.
IV. What Eliphaz Got Wrong
So that's what Eliphaz got right. What did he get wrong? Well, first, the law of sowing and reaping doesn't work in reverse, it doesn't work in reverse. While it is true that people who sow evil, reap bad consequences, the whole book of Job exists to say the opposite isn't necessarily true. People who are reaping bad consequences necessarily sowed evil, that isn't true. Job is there to prove it. Not everyone in this world suffers because of their own sins. Job had no vast mountainous iniquity proportional to the sorrow going on in his life. It just wasn't true. So that logic just didn't work in reverse. And I would say the vast majority of the suffering in the world is not in any way directly connected to the sins of the people that are going through that suffering.
Secondly, failure to listen sympathetically and what we would say: believe the best about your friend; believe the best about your friend. Eliphaz and the other two think Job is lying when he says: “Nothing like that has happened. I didn't do anything. I'm not aware of any great sins in my life.” They think he's lying and they won't accept it. And it says in first Corinthians 13, “Love believes all things,” that doesn't mean credulity, we'll just accept whatever, but there's just no evidence of Job's wickedness. There'd be no reason to doubt him. And so there's something in the Christian Church called the judgment of charity. We're going to accept people as what they appear to be unless there's evidence the other way, “by their fruit you'll know them.” And so Job and his friends should have been sympathetic listeners and believed him when he said: “I'm telling you nothing like that has happened.”
Thirdly: failure to be humble. Remember, last week I talked about those two categories of sins, those common sins that plague us every day where David said, “My sins are more numerous than the hairs of my head?” And then there are those grave, life altering sins, like David with Bathsheba. We need to be aware of both when we're going through afflictions, but of the first everyone is subject to them. We all have moments of sinful pride and arrogance and anger and selfishness and idolatry and all of these things we battle all the time. And Eliphaz didn't seem to realize that was true of him too. A matter of fact, Eliphaz and his two other friends actually believed Job was guiltier than they were, that's why he was singled out for such grievous wickedness. We know the exact opposite is true. If any of those three men had been more righteous than Job, it would've been them that it happened to, not Job. So it's ironic that actually he being more righteous than them was chosen by God for this sorrow and suffering. Instead, when we see the afflictions going on in other people's lives, we should be humble about our own sins. It should be an opportunity for us to repent and be humble about what sins we've committed.
Fourthly: failure to show compassion. To extend compassion, to speak words of comfort and consolation, specifically lined up with Job as a righteous man suffering. And when they just go off the rails, “You must be a great sinner to suffer such great sorrows. You must be an exquisitely great sinner to suffer such exquisitely great” so they are off the rails at this point, and they had no compassion.
Fifthly: failure to deal honestly with all the data in this world. Eliphaz said, “I've observed this, I've seen this” well, is this all you've seen? Have you not seen wicked people prospering right to the end of their lives? Haven't you seen that? Job's going to deal with that in Job 21. It's there in Psalm 73, the wicked prosper. Some of them die in their beds surrounded by people who love them. And so that should open the door to the fact that God doesn't settle all his accounts in this world and the righteous die; all of them die, not having received any of the best promises, because they're all in the future. And many, most wicked die not having received retribution for the wicked things they did in this life. It would be just good for us to be aware of that. God doesn't settle all those accounts here. When does he settle them? Judgment day and more specifically the eternity that follows. Heaven and hell that follows. That's how God settles his accounts.
Sixth: understanding God's complex response to evil. It is not a simple thing what God is doing with the problem of evil and suffering in this world. And they try to make it simple. It's a vast, complex tapestry of events and causes and effects that's far beyond our ability to trace out and they should be more humble- should have been more humble about the complexity of it. And seventh, failure to see from an eternal perspective, the very thing I just said. We have an even better eternal perspective because of Christ's death and resurrection, but they should have been able to see this whole thing from an eternal perspective.
All right. So what applications should we take from this? Well, first, I'm taking the whole angle of this sermon in terms of counseling, counseling somebody who's going through grief and sorrow. Start with yourself. We did a whole sermon last week on this so I won't spend much time, but when you are going through sorrow and sadness ask the Holy Spirit to show you: is there sin in my life that you're dealing with? Is there something that I'm doing that's offending you? Is there some way I am violating your standards in my conscience? And whatever pops in your mind at that moment, deal with it. I'd be surprised if nothing did. If nothing did proportional to the sorrows and sadness you're going through, I understand that. That's why the book of Job is here. Then you bear it patiently and ask the Lord to work on the sins that you do know are in your life. But ask the Lord to search you and know you. What about counseling a suffering friend? Well, as I said at the time earlier in the sermon, go there and be there, don't pull back. I had a friend this very week, he was going through a struggle because of sin in his own life and he acknowledged it, very humble, dealing with it properly and all that. But he said, “I've been very lonely the last three months and many people have pulled away from me.” Don't do that. Go toward people that are broken, toward people that are sorrowing, toward people that are going through suffering and then, ministry of presence, maybe ministry of silence, don't go with a big packet of words. Just go and sit, put an arm around them, spend time with them. And then listen, just listen and then pray, a ministry of prayer. Don't force your theology like a square peg in a round hole. That's what Eliphaz and the friends did. Don't force it. Be humble about your own sins when you go. Point them to Christ; point them to Christ, his death, his resurrection. Point them to heaven. Point them to the eternal perspective we should have as Christians. If they do confess sins, if they say: “I think this is why this is happening, I think I've sinned.” Then point them to the cross. Point them to Jesus's death, which is sufficient to atone for all of our sins. Allow them to talk about that. Don't say, oh, don't do that. The Holy Spirit may very well be dealing with them in their sin. Don't do that, just listen, but be humble as you do. Say Jesus's blood is sufficient. If they don't confess sin then, and there's no evidence, believe them. You're not their judge. You're not the one they're going to stand before on judgment day. So that's what I think, “love believes all things,” means; there's a sympathy that we have with our friends so you're going to listen to them and again, point them to Christ.
And then finally, all of us, let's look again to Christ who is truly the only perfect sufferer there has ever been in this world. He's the only one that did not suffer for his own sins, but he did for ours. I Peter 2, it says, “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth, when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the time that we've had to walk through these two chapters and the learning that we have from Eliphaz. Lord, help us to take these many lessons to heart and to allow them to be woven into our lives by the power of the holy spirit. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.