Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.  For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.

 
 
 

Going to Jesus

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2-11

Beyond Perfect

From a sermon by Pastor John on December 18, 2005.

Job’s three friends, in order to justify their belief that God would never inflict pain on any righteous person, made many accusations against suffering Job. His three friends were named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zohar. Eliphaz was clearly the accepted leader of the three. I concluded this not only because he spoke first and made more accusations than the other two, but also because at the end of Job’s trial, God spoke to Eliphaz as a representative of the group and told him what he and his companions had to do in order to be forgiven for their sin.

The basic premise upon which Job’s three friends based their accusations was that there was no historical record of any godly man being made to suffer as Job was suffering (4:7). It was on this basis that Eliphaz insisted that Job was guilty of some kind of wickedness, and the accusations that they all heaped upon Job were actually only their attempts to guess at what his great sin must have been.

The following paragraphs contain a summary of the accusations made against Job by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zohar. Eliphaz’ accusations are those in chapters 4, 5, 15, and 22. Bildad’s handful of accusations are found in chapters 8 and 18. Zohar’s accusations are those in chapter 11 and 20.

In his first speech, Eliphaz accused Job of not measuring up to the standard he had held up for others in the past (4:3-5). He accused Job of being foolish and envious (5:2-4), of not seeking or trusting God as he should (5:8), of being crafty and froward (5:12-13), and of despising the correction that God was giving him (5:17).

Later, after Job replied to his accusations and to the accusations that Bildad and Zohar had also leveled against Job, Eliphaz restated his charge that Job was guilty of some kind of wickedness (15:20-21). To this generic charge, he sarcastically added that Job was full of useless talk (15:2). He said that Job had no fear of God and, amazingly, he suggested that Job was falling short in his prayer life (15:4). Job’s words, according to this elder, were full of iniquity and craftiness (5:5). And he condemned Job for lightly esteeming the wise counsel he was receiving from God (5:11). Eliphaz said that Job’s heart was deceiving him and that Job was keeping a secret concerning his sin (5:12). He condemned Job for his rebellion against God (5:13, 25), and he said that, being deceived, Job was putting his trust in vanity instead of the Almighty (15:31). He even accused Job of hypocrisy and of taking bribes (15:34). Then, he concluded his cruel tirade by saying Job has devised mischievous and deceitful schemes (15:34).

By the time Eliphaz speaks for his third and final time, his spirit had been very provoked by Job’s insistence on his innocence. Instead of simply stating, as before, that Job was wicked, he said that Job was guilty of great wickedness and infinite iniquities (22:5). It is astonishing, in the light of what must have been a matter of public record, that this elder accused Job of greediness when it came to dealing with poverty-stricken family members and of cruel abuse of the poor (22:6). Not giving any specific examples, he went on to accuse Job of cruelty and neglect of those who were hungry and thirsty (22:7). Moreover, he accused Job of refusing to help widows and of “breaking the arms” of orphans (22:9). He mocked Job for thinking that God did not see his sins (22:13-14), of casting God off and despising His power and wisdom (22:17). He was sure that Job was wicked (22:15) and that he was ignorant of God (22:21). And his final accusation against Job was that he simply was not repenting for whatever his iniquity was (22:23).

After Job had defended himself against Eliphaz’ first speech, Bildad spoke up and bluntly told Job that he was neither pure nor upright (8:6) and that he was not seeking God as he should (8:5). He suggested that Job’s children were dead because they had sinned (8:4), which must have been an especially painful reminder to Job of what he had lost. He accused Job of forgetting God and of hypocrisy (8:13). Not only was Job not perfect, according to Bildad, he was an evildoer (8:20).

After Job had tried to reason with Bildad concerning his accusations, Zohar spoke up and accused Job of being a blabbermouth, a liar, and a mocker of God, worthy of more pain than he was already suffering (11:2, 3, 6). He agreed with Eliphaz that Job was a vain and wicked man (11:11, 20).

To the cruel accusations which his “comforters” had made against him, Job offered a defense, to which Eliphaz responded with his second cruel speech, and when Job had replied to that, Bildad spoke again briefly, accusing Job of pride, wickedness, and ignorance of God (18:4, 5, 21).

Job rejected Bildad’s assessment of his character, and Zohar responded to Job’s defense by calling Job wicked and a hypocrite (20:5). He suggested that Job had never truly repented for the sins of his youth (20:11). He was sure that Job knew what his sin was but was willfully hiding it (20:12-13). He, too, thought Job was greedy (20:15), that he was a thief (20:18), that he had oppressed and neglected the poor, and that he had violently robbed them (20:19). He concluded his second and last speech by reasserting, in a general way, that Job had committed some unspecified form of iniquity, and that he was guilty of some kind of wickedness (20:27, 29).

After Job had made his lengthy reply to all these accusations, his three friends, seeing that Job would not be persuaded by them, fell silent. The silence was soon broken by a young man by the name of Elihu who was there. He reproved Job’s three friends for their accusations against Job, but he also condemned Job, saying that Job was unjust when he claimed that he was suffering innocently (33:12). His statement that Job had not confessed his sins (33:27) must have been a judgment that differed from the similar accusations of Eliphaz (15:12) and Zohar (20:11-13). He said that Job’s words reflected the thoughts of wicked men in that they left the impression that there is no profit in serving God (34:8-9). He suggested that the wicked would be satisfied with a spokesman such as Job (34:36) and that this was tantamount to rebellion against God and sinfulness (34:37). He said that Job seemed to have the attitude that he was more righteous than God (35:2). And that, just as Eliphaz and Zohar had said (11:2; 15:2), Job’s words were vain and proved that he was ignorant of God’s ways (35:16). Elihu’s last criticism of Job is a mysterious one, considering the very great afflictions that Job was suffering at the time. He said that Job had chosen iniquity rather than to suffer (36:21).

God Shows Up

Job made no answer to the charges laid against him by Elihu. Instead, at the conclusion of Elihu’s lengthy speech, God Himself spoke, challenging Job, as had Elihu, to defend the things he had said to his three friends. On the other hand, at the end of God’s speech, when He commanded Eliphaz and his two companions to repent, it was because Eliphaz and his companions had not “spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job did” (42:7).

At the very beginning of the book of Job, we learned that God’s judgment of Job was that Job was “a perfect and upright man” (1:1). At the conclusion of the book, we are led into the understanding that God is beyond perfect, as that word applies to any human being, and that even if we mortals are judged to be perfect by the standard God has laid out for us, He is beyond that perfection, in holiness, in wisdom, and in power. Therefore, it must be true that not only does God “humble Himself to behold the things in heaven and in earth”; He also humbles Himself to look upon and deal with perfect people. The elder among Job’s friends, Eliphaz, pointed out that God does not even trust angels and that He “charges them with foolishness.” Certainly then, regardless of how much knowledge of God we possess, or of how much spiritual power we are given, we should think of ourselves just as Jesus warned us to think; that is, as “unprofitable servants”.

The majesty of God can hardly be expressed, but in the book of Job we find that holy majesty revealed in so mysterious a way that we can hardly comprehend what we are reading. Late in Israel’s history, God mentioned Job’s name as being one of the greatest humans ever to have lived. At the end of his story, when “the perfect and upright” Job, a great and holy man according to God Himself, caught a glimpse of God’s inexpressible majesty, his humble response was simply, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” In comparison to the glory of God, that is the condition of us all, no matter what we have received from God.

Even Jesus knew this, and when a young man addressed him as “good master”, he quickly corrected the youth, saying, “There is none good but one; that is, God.” And if sinless Jesus felt this way about his Father, who is any other man to think differently?

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