When The Righteous Suffer
A daily devotion for December 5th
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 "If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
But who can keep from speaking?
3 Think how you have instructed many,
how you have strengthened feeble hands.
4 Your words have supported those who stumbled;
you have strengthened faltering knees.
5 But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
6 Should not your piety be your confidence
and your blameless ways your hope?
7 "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
8 As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.
9 At the breath of God they are destroyed;
at the blast of his anger they perish.
10 The lions may roar and growl,
yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.
11 The lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
12 "A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it.
13 Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on men,
14 fear and trembling seized me
and made all my bones shake.
15 A spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.
16 It stopped,
but I could not tell what it was.
A form stood before my eyes,
and I heard a hushed voice:
17 'Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can a man be more pure than his Maker?
18 If God places no trust in his servants,
if he charges his angels with error,
19 how much more those who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!
20 Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces;
unnoticed, they perish forever.
21 Are not the cords of their tent pulled up,
so that they die without wisdom?'
1 "Call if you will, but who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
2 Resentment kills a fool,
and envy slays the simple.
3 I myself have seen a fool taking root,
but suddenly his house was cursed.
4 His children are far from safety,
crushed in court without a defender.
5 The hungry consume his harvest,
taking it even from among thorns,
and the thirsty pant after his wealth.
6 For hardship does not spring from the soil,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground.
7 Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upward.
8 "But if it were I, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.
9 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
10 He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside.
11 The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
12 He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
13 He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.
15 He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.
16 So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.
17 "Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
19 From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.
20 In famine he will ransom you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
21 You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
22 You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the beasts of the earth.
23 For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
24 You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
25 You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
26 You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
27 "We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself."
Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. (Job 4:7-8)
At this point we get the first of the replies of Job's three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These friends all come with the same solution to the problem, but they approach it in three distinct ways, according to their personalities. As I considered their responses, I dubbed them in terms that describe the approach each takes:
Eliphaz the Elegant,
Bildad the Brutal, and
Zophar the Zealous.
Eliphaz is the first speaker, evidently the oldest, for there is a smoothness about him and a courtesy (at least at the beginning) that indicates that he has learned to say unpleasant things in gracious ways. His argument is this: The righteous are never punished; only the unrighteous suffer.
Where did you ever see an innocent man perish? he asks Job.
Where did you ever see an unrighteous man succeed? His argument is, clearly, that Job's problem is caused by his own willful sin, something that Job is hiding. And this will be the basic argument all through the book:
There is something wrong, Job. If you will only admit it, you'll be all right.
I remember years ago picking up a Christian magazine that specialized in attacking men in public ministry, such as Billy Graham. The editor of the magazine said of Dr. Graham, who had just had a certain illness, that it was a judgment of God on him because he associated with the wrong kinds of people. But what fascinated me was that in the next issue the editor announced that he himself had fallen and broken his leg! His explanation was that Satan was attacking him, trying to stop his God-given ministry! This is so characteristic of humanity. We all see clearly that the suffering of others is caused by their sin, while our suffering is always caused by something else.
Eliphaz argues that if you just cast yourself on God's mercy, He will forgive you and restore you, and everything will be fine. You can be confident that you will be protected and kept, even to a ripe old age. Of course this is not the truth. Anyone who has lived a few years at all knows that you can find godly people who are not protected from troubles and who still go through times of trial and peril and suffering. Though his arguments sound like good theology, Eliphaz does not take in all the facts. That is why Job is given to us, that we might learn to correct our theology and to understand that sin is not the only reason for suffering.
Father, thank You for the sufferings of Job. Help me to view my own sufferings in the light of the revelation of this book. Grant to me Lord, strength to stand in the midst of pressure.
Life Application: Suffering is both universal and personal. When we meet this reality, where do we go for understanding? Do we have godly wisdom to offer others in their time of trial?
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