When I read through the book of Job, it’s amazing to me how many true things Job’s friends say about God in their dialogue with Job. I say “amazing” because we often focus on how much his friends got wrong about God (and they did get a lot wrong!). But within a more narrow context, they also make many true statements. Eliphaz says, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?” (4:17). Later in chapter 5 he says, “But if I were you, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” (5:8-9). And a few verses later, “Blessed is the one whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.” (5:17-18).
There is a lot of truth in Eliphaz’s words in just those two chapters. The questions he asks are good ones. When he asks if any person claim a higher righteousness than God, couldn’t one imagine that this is what Job was doing by emphasizing his innocence and complaining that God was not acting justly? When Eliphaz encourages Job to appeal to God, this is also not bad advice. When he reminds Job that God’s discipline of us is an act of love and mercy, he is speaking truthfully. Just as we required the discipline of our parents to learn and grow, we require the discipline of our heavenly Father – who does often use circumstances to reveal our sinfulness and grow us into maturity.
But we know that by the end of the book of Job, despite the truthfulness of many of the things his friends said (I only gave 3 examples, but the book is full of true statements like these!), God rebuked his friends. So, what exactly happened? How do so many truthful words come to warrant rebuke?
One of my study Bibles has a comment on 42:7-8; “God directly vindicated Job by saying that Job had spoken right about God in rejecting the error of his friends. They are then rebuked for those misrepresentations of insensitivity and arrogance. This does not mean that everything they said was incorrect, but they made wrong statements about the character and works of God, and also raised erroneous allegations against Job.”
So, what is my point? The book of Job reminds me that my understanding of God and His ways is limited. I can have many right thoughts and beliefs about who God is, and still draw wrong applications and implications from those truths. The book of Job reminds me to love truth about God, but to live in these truths with a posture of humility. There is much that God reveals about Himself to us in His Word – we can know Him. And yet, I am a sinner – prone to emphasizing certain sides and pieces of God over others. My views of Him are limited, and the applications and implications I draw from knowledge of Him cannot be completely separated from my sinful flesh.
One thing I learn from the book of Job is how easy it is to settle on some right truths about God, and still get the big picture very wrong. The example of Job’s friends teaches me to approach God with humility and ask Him to reveal my blind spots to me. They remind me to be humble and compassionate with others, and to have a teachable spirit – so I will hear and listen to others and receive wise correction.
Mostly the book of Job leaves me feeling thankful; because of Christ, we are promised His Spirit to dwell within us and teach us. John 16:13 says, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all truth.” In prayerful dependence, I ask God to give me a right view of Himself and His truth, and thank Him that He provides His Spirit to help me in this purpose.
In Him who guides in Truth,
ARH Staff Writer