Eliphaz takes the gloves off and pounds Job with 10 confrontational questions in rapid succession,
- Would a wise person answer with empty notions…?
- Would they argue with useless words…?
- Are you the first man ever born?
- Were you brought forth before the hills?
- Do you listen in on God’s council?
- Do you have a monopoly on wisdom?
- What do you know that we do not know?
- What insights do you have that we do not have?
- Are God’s consolations not enough for you…?
- Why has your heart carried you away…?
The 11th question is more philosophical as Eliphaz shifts from inquisitor to expositor, “What are mortals, that they could be pure, or those born of woman, that they could be righteous?” (Job 15:14)
“Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen, what the wise have declared,
hiding nothing received from their ancestors (to whom alone the land was given when no foreigners moved among them):
All his days the wicked man suffers torment, the ruthless man through all the years stored up for him.”
Eliphaz is convinced that all of the pain and suffering Job is dealing with is of his own doing. In his mind, this is a simple argument that needs to be pounded into Job’s head by providing evidence of many others who have fallen because of their sin.
It’s so much easier to ascribe pain and suffering to sin than to deal with the much larger issue that we are in a fallen world, that bad things do happen to good people. Honestly, it’s so much harder to have a conversation with those far from Christ because of this dilemma, but it is a real conversation about real life. Eliphaz wants to hold fast to the simple formula, if…then or your sin = your punishment, but it’s more complicated than that.
“I have heard many things like these;
you are miserable comforters, all of you!
I’m reminded that during all of this discussion Job is dealing with sores from head to foot; the tragic loss of his family is compounded by disease and great discomfort. Then his friends arrive!
Job asserts he would approach the problem differently if roles were reversed:
But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
Hmmm…I wonder if this would be the case. It’s a lofty goal to be pursued and worth mentally swapping shoes with those who are afflicted. Perhaps the perspective would do us some good after all.
Chapter 17 turns dark as Job concedes his death is imminent and afraid he will not be exonerated before the grave wins. His urgent appeal seems to mark the center point in the narrative:
“But come on, all of you, try again!
where then is my hope–who can see any hope for me?
Will it go down to the gates of death?
Will we descend together into the dust?”
Job 17:10, 15-16
Where then is my hope? Can we deal with worldly problems and yet hang onto hope? If Job was able to, in his extreme example, certainly we can without any doubt. We are on the other side of the resurrection, we have Christ to rely on–our hope is secure. But this is not so clear to those outside of the faith. Navigating these waters is difficult, challenging and costly (at least in emotional terms). We will be tried, of this we are certain. Lord, help us as we reach out to others who have given into the world, who see the simple cause and effect scenario and have given up on hope. May we be the small light that guides them to you. Help us to have eyes to see how you see, especially today.