Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Groping for God

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. (Job 2:11-13)

Their planned appointment with Job began well enough, but the “Comforters of Job” ended up garnering that moniker by espousing prevailing wisdom du jour which held that suffering was attributable to moral failure and prosperity to blameless living. If assessing suffering were a game of Blackjack, Job’s friends could be credited with playing the percentages. By asserting that His affliction was God’s chastisement for some moral defect, however, Job’s friends, like tardy theatergoers who arrive after the prologue, were oblivious to the true theme of the epic drama that was playing out in Job’s life. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar didn’t enter the story until the end of chapter 2.

Eliphaz the TemaniteRemember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off? Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. (Job 4:1, 7-9)

Bildad the ShuhiteHow long wilt thou speak these things? And how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind? Doth God pervert judgment? Or doth the Almighty pervert justice? If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression; If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty; If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. (Job 8:1-6)

Zophar the NaamathiteShould not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace? And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou hast said, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.’ But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee and that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth. (Job 11:1-6)

Common sense may serve one well in card counting. If we want to be more than “latecomers” to the epic drama of someone else’s life, however, we must resist the natural impulse to depend on our own understanding. Myopic pragmatism will only serve to deepen discouragement, or worse, divert someone from the work God is doing in their life. If we hope to bring the encouragement of Christ to someone who is suffering, we will need to come with a listening heart that is tuned to Heaven’s higher ways.

Instead of soothing Job’s pain, his friends’ counsel salted his wounds and aggravated his suffering. An enemy’s kiss is deceitful, and the wounds of a friend may be faithful, but misunderstanding from a trusted friend can finish off a bruised heart.

Nobody sees with perfect clarity. Even the most highly revelated perspective sees imperfectly.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (I Corinthians 13:12)

At some point, every man finds himself groping to understand his own suffering. God will often withhold the explanation, however, because understanding or alleviating his pain isn’t nearly as important as groping for and finding God Himself. Job’s groping eventually brought him face to face with God and his understanding of God reached high-definition clarity.

Then Job answered the LORD, and said, ‘I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’ (Job 42:1-6)

Job’s friends’ advice, on the other hand, incited God’s displeasure and He instructed them to ask Job to intercede for them.

And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore … go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job. (Job 42:7-8)

In the end, both Job and his friends were humbled and found the grace that ensues. It is interesting to note that each found mercy and healing in relationship to the other. And God’s perspective ended up being the only one that really mattered.


Lord Jesus, I look to You. Give me ears to hear you and an understanding heart. Tune my heart and spiritual ears to Your infinitely higher way.

© 2008 Seeds for Good Soil. April 23, 2008.

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