The first of Job’s friends speaks – Eliphaz. We cannot be sure, but it is possible, perhaps likely that the speakers begin in age order – oldest to youngest. This would have been common at the time. A show of respect and honour towards one’s elders.
Either way, Eliphaz has known Job for some time. He has now sat with him for seven days. He has just heard Job cry out in lament. From here through chapter 37, follows a similar pattern. Job will speak. One of his “friends” will respond.
It is tempting to approach the speeches of Job’s counsellors with the mindset that they got everything wrong and almost read them dismissively. Yet, we need to consider what they say carefully. Some of what they say is wrong. Some is correct. Much is just incomplete.
Eliphaz asks crucial rhetorical questions in verse 17:
Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?
The answer to these questions is “No”. We, like Job, like Eliphaz are sinful, unworthy and unable to stand before a Holy God on our own merits. We cannot claim our own righteousness. We cannot claim perfect innocence. If we were to meet God or attempt to approach God on our own, claiming our own worthiness we would meet our Judge and eternal damnation would be the just punishment.
We, Job, Eliphaz and everyone else in human history, bar one need a Substitute and Mediator. Someone to pay the penalty due to our sin and stand in our place before a Holy God.
We need Jesus – our Perfect Substitute (Isaiah 53) and our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
Yet in all of this, Eliphaz made a fundamental and common error. He asserts that suffering is always the direct result of personal sin. Suffering in this Fallen world is always the result of sin (Romans 8:18-25) in the sense of our living in a sin cursed world and having sin cursed bodies. However, some specific experience of suffering is not necessarily due to some specific personal sin. Among other places in Scripture we see this, is with the man born blind in John 9.
Job has not and will not claim to be morally perfect or without sin. Eliphaz hasn’t identified anything in Job’s life specifically that could be an area of unconfessed sin. He is simply, mistakenly asserting – the only reason you are suffering is because there is some sin in your life.
We must be careful in these days when we experience some form of hardship and/or hear of others in New Zealand or around the world who experience great suffering due to Covid-19 (or anything else for that matter).
Like the Psalmist, we should always have a desire for God to show us sin in our lives so that we can confess and repent, turning from our wicked ways to Him in faith – Psalm 139:23-24. Yet, we must resist the false teaching of – suffering is always the result of personal, unconfessed sin. We must not become morbidly introspective. Our focus is never to be on our sin but on our Saviour, Who made and end to all my sin.
We must be careful to guard our heart and our words when thinking of how others (even other countries or people groups) are affected by Covid-19. We must not draw unbiblically justifiable conclusions that certain people or certain countries or certain people groups are more sinful or more deserving of God’s judgement. Jesus taught against this very kind of wrongheaded thinking in Luke 13:1-5.
Soli Deo Gloria
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