Worn-out Theology

A daily devotion for December 11th

Read the Scripture: Job 15
Job 15

1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:

2 "Would a wise man answer with empty notions
or fill his belly with the hot east wind?

3 Would he argue with useless words,
with speeches that have no value?

4 But you even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.

5 Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty.

6 Your own mouth condemns you, not mine;
your own lips testify against you.

7 "Are you the first man ever born?
Were you brought forth before the hills?

8 Do you listen in on God's council?
Do you limit wisdom to yourself?

9 What do you know that we do not know?
What insights do you have that we do not have?

10 The gray-haired and the aged are on our side,
men even older than your father.

11 Are God's consolations not enough for you,
words spoken gently to you?

12 Why has your heart carried you away,
and why do your eyes flash,

13 so that you vent your rage against God
and pour out such words from your mouth?

14 "What is man, that he could be pure,
or one born of woman, that he could be righteous?

15 If God places no trust in his holy ones,
if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes,

16 how much less man, who is vile and corrupt,
who drinks up evil like water!

17 "Listen to me and I will explain to you;
let me tell you what I have seen,

18 what wise men have declared,
hiding nothing received from their fathers

19 (to whom alone the land was given
when no alien passed among them):

20 All his days the wicked man suffers torment,
the ruthless through all the years stored up for him.

21 Terrifying sounds fill his ears;
when all seems well, marauders attack him.

22 He despairs of escaping the darkness;
he is marked for the sword.

23 He wanders about—food for vultures ;
he knows the day of darkness is at hand.

24 Distress and anguish fill him with terror;
they overwhelm him, like a king poised to attack,

25 because he shakes his fist at God
and vaunts himself against the Almighty,

26 defiantly charging against him
with a thick, strong shield.

27 "Though his face is covered with fat
and his waist bulges with flesh,

28 he will inhabit ruined towns
and houses where no one lives,
houses crumbling to rubble.

29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure,
nor will his possessions spread over the land.

30 He will not escape the darkness;
a flame will wither his shoots,
and the breath of God's mouth will carry him away.

31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless,
for he will get nothing in return.

32 Before his time he will be paid in full,
and his branches will not flourish.

33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes,
like an olive tree shedding its blossoms.

34 For the company of the godless will be barren,
and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.

35 They conceive trouble and give birth to evil;
their womb fashions deceit."

New International Version
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What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water! (Job 15:14-16).

Eliphaz returns, as all the friends do, to their narrow and worn-out theology. Of course, Eliphaz has Job in mind here: Vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water. I hope you have seen the fault in this line of argument. It is not that their theology is wrong; it is right. Eliphaz is pointing out the general nature of the fall and its effects upon human life, particularly the depravity of man. And he says rightly that there is nobody who is clean, nobody who is righteous before God. But what he fails to do is to point out to Job specifically what it is that he has done. How can you deal with evil if you do not know what it is? The great revelation that God is seeking to help Job understand is the nature of the corruptness of his heart. But God never charges Job with fault until he begins to see what is wrong, while these men come ready to charge him with every ugly thing in the book, though they have no proof at all. Job's life makes all their charges a lie. As a matter of fact, they themselves are guilty of the very things that they set before Job because they too are part of the human race. Eliphaz is a man born of woman, so he is guilty along with Job based on this fact, but you never hear a word of self-condemnation from him.

This is the terrible fault of these friends, and I hope it teaches us a very needed lesson. When we talk with somebody who is suffering or living in an obviously sinful state, we must never take the position of priggish smugness or a complacency that pictures us as being right and true and the other one as wrong.

Eliphaz goes on in a long passage to argue again from experience. He goes back over all the past and says, My thesis is true; everything proves it: God will not let a man get by with wickedness. The wicked are going to be punished. Therefore, if you are being punished, you must be wicked! He says in verses 34-35: For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil; their womb fashions deceit (Job 15:34-35). It is the same old tired thrust at Job: He must he guilty of some terrible sin.

Lord, deliver me from worn-out theology, which does not come from the study of Your Word but from my own pride.

Life Application: Do we use our theological smugness to accuse and wound? Are we learning instead that truth spoken in Christ's love and compassion is a gateway into newness of life?

We hope you were blessed by this daily devotion.

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