Job’s friends came to him in his hour of greatest need. Initially they did the right thing. They simply offered the gift of their silent presence. For seven days and nights they were silent, grieving with him in the loss of his children, his servants and his fortune. Problems arose when they began to speak, presuming there was hidden sin in Job which caused God to visit him with such suffering.
Eliphaz: “Does your reverence for God give you no confidence? Shouldn’t you believe that God will care for those who are upright? Innocent people don’t suffer, do they? Upright people aren’t destroyed, are they? My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” 4:6-8
Beware of the abusive and inaccurate conclusion that guilt is the cause of suffering. Reason with the authority of scripture, not your opinion or your own experiences.
Zophar: “Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!” 11:6b “Get rid of your sins and leave all iniquity behind you.” 11:14
Zophar presumed to speak for God and inaccurately indicated we need to clean ourselves up before approaching God.
Eliphaz: “If you will listen, I will answer you from my own experience.” 15:17
Eliphaz presumes to possess sufficient wisdom gained from his life experiences to address Job’s deep suffering. Beware of falling into this pit. We have the advantage of Proverbs 3:5 (“Lean not to your own understanding…”)
Zophar: “When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.” 20:23 (KJV)
Woah! We do not know what God will do.
Eliphaz: “Is it because of your reverence for him that he accuses and judges you? Not at all! It is because of your wickedness! Your guilt has no limit! For example, you must have lent money to your friend and then kept the clothing he gave you as a pledge. Yes, you stripped him to the bone. You must have refused water for the thirsty and food for the hungry. After all, you think the land belongs to the powerful and that those who are privileged have a right to it! You must have sent widows away without helping them and crushed the strength of orphans.” 22:4-9
Since he couldn’t figure God out Eliphaz fell back on the old standard: “you sin – you pay.” You will never be able to figure out God. Don’t try. Express the truth you know of God: He is good, all the time. He loves; He is sovereign. He is always at work promoting His agenda which is His glory and your ultimate good, concurrently.
Young Elihu comes on the scene and speaks more accurately about God. He reminds Job of important truths about God. “In (what you said about God) you are not right, and I will show you why. As you yourself have said, ‘God is greater than any person.’ So why are you bringing a charge against him? You say, ‘He does not respond to people’s complaints.’ But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in bed. He whispers in their ear and terrifies them with his warning. He causes them to change their minds; he keeps them from pride. He keeps them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death.” 33:12-18
Elihu asks a very important question, virtually, “Are you more concerned about your pain or your sin?” He is not condemning in his attitude; he is gently asking questions. “Why don’t people say to God, ‘I have sinned, but I will sin no more’? Or ‘I don’t know what evil I have done; tell me, and I will stop at once’?” 34:31-32
Elihu puts his finger on Job’s specific sin. “For now you have added rebellion and blasphemy against God to your other sins.” 34:37
Elihu lifts Job’s thoughts to a higher, a more accurate perspective of God, (in the several following verses, also.). “Look, God is all-powerful. Who is a teacher like him? No one can tell him what to do. No one can say to him, ‘You have done wrong.’ 36:22-23 God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We cannot comprehend the greatness of his power.” 37:5
(All scripture from Job in the NLT, unless otherwise noted)