With Friends Like These…
Friends are a gift from the Lord…usually. There is no denying that Job’s three friends are truly friends to him. The last two verses of yesterday’s reading tell us that they wept at the very sight of him and that they sat quietly with him for 7 days. What a blessing such friends are! We should strive to be such a friend, especially in times of suffering. Often we draw back from those who are suffering because we fear the awkwardness of not knowing what to say, when the best thing we could do is just to bear their suffering with them in silence.
Chapter 3 consists of what Job himself calls words for the wind (6:26) – things that a despairing person says that they do not truly mean. Someone said that a friend is someone you can trust to separate your wheat from your chaff. We don’t have to be guarded or false with a friend. We can speak according to our feelings without fear of judgment or condemnation, because we know that our friend knows that we are governed by our faith, and such emotions will soon blow over. When we are walking with a friend who is suffering, we should not judge them based on the words of the moment but on the testimony of their life.
Eliphaz, having heard Job’s words for the wind, does not remain silent as he should. He says many true things in chapter 4-5, but it is tainted by two wrong assumptions – one about God and one about his friend Job. We see both in 4:8:
Job 4:8 (ESV) As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.
While this principle is obviously true, it wrongly assumes that Job has “plowed iniquity” and that God only permits good things for good people and bad things for bad people. Job denies that he has turned away from the words of God (6:10) and accuses his friends of being a desert pool of water that promises refreshment but quickly dries up (6:13-21).
We often cannot know if one’s suffering is due to their sin and God’s corrective or punitive hand, and thus it is wrong to assume it is so unless there is an obvious sin to be pointed to and corrected (6:25-26). In such cases, we should speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). But Job’s point is that his friends should know him well enough to know that he is “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” (Job 1:8)
What kind of friend are you. Do you “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?” (Romans 12:15) Do you have people whose lives you are invested in enough to know their testimony of faith or sin?
Tomorrow we will further consider their wrong assumption…