March 15, 2019
As children of God it is important to remember the limitations that we continue to possess even as heirs of His eternally unconditional promises. Our justification and forgiveness of sins doesn’t make us righteous in this life. Our possession of the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we become like God, having His wisdom, His power, and His authority. The Spirit of God convicts us of the testimony and righteousness of Jesus. The Spirit of God is the means by which God Himself works through us as instruments and vessels. The Holy Spirit doesn’t make us super human so as to suddenly possess certain powers or quality of wisdom based on instinct. This means that we need to continue to walk in humility, meekness, lowliness and gentleness. While we might be Christians, we are still depraved human beings. This means we still have weaknesses, we still have issues, and we still have sinful tendencies requiring us to remain dependent on the Lord and His righteousness and wisdom. Our attitudes should reflect this understanding.
The testimony of Job 15:1-13 shows that Job’s friend Eliphaz had forgotten this principle. Sometimes when we as people get caught up in circumstances, conversations, and express our opinions, we can do so from a position of authority that resembles deep rooted pride. Eliphaz felt that his physical condition and circumstances compared to Job’s, somehow made him a better person, more worthy, wiser, and better equipped to speak about Job’s issues than Job himself. It is often easier for the observer of circumstances to speak as authorities and experts concerning all things, often times speaking well beyond our means and beyond our true understanding. Eliphaz spoke as if he knew the heart of Job and so continued to accuse Job of faults that Job was not guilty of. Thus, Eliphaz’s contributions to the situation ended up being poisonous, even though some of the things he said were true in concept.
When Eliphaz responded to Job, he immediately responded against him. Job had stopped addressing his friends and simply addressed God directly in prayer. Job had given up on trying to get his friends to understand the extent of his suffering and confusion. Job had given up on trying to explain his integrity and innocence regarding the hypocrisy they accused him of. Job felt he would receive greater comfort from God Himself, and addressed Him alone. Still, Eliphaz took it upon himself to criticize Job’s prayer to God. Eliphaz felt he was qualified to examine and pick apart the statements that Job made to God in his plea for eternal mercy and restoration. Eliphaz complimented Job by stating that he was once known to be a wise man, but did so by stating that Job had since lost his mind. Eliphaz felt that Job used to be wise, but as he prayed and spoke about his suffering, he had become a fool. Eliphaz felt that Job was only saying foolish things that were an offense to God, further proving their accusations of hypocrisy.
Eliphaz did state an important truth in his response. Eliphaz noted that those who don’t fear the Lord in repentance, and speak as fools to God, actually restrain their prayer. Prayer that is prideful in presumptuous is not prayer at all. Prayer that does not come in fear and reverence of God’s holiness, righteousness, and supreme glory, is prayer that falls on deaf ears. The Bible teaches that prayer is not communication to God that should reflect all of our personal interests and opinions. Prayer should be conducted in the Spirit of God. This means that the Holy Spirit should actually be communicating the will of the Father according to the model of Jesus to us, so that His will is being planted into our hearts and uttered out of our mouths. Prayer is where God’s desires become our desires. If our “prayer” is simply reflective of our desires and complaints without consideration of God’s purposes and promises, then our prayer is not effective. Eliphaz was right in this regard: When prayer is seasoned with pride and self-righteousness, it is not prayer that God will consider and our prayers are restrained by our flesh.
Still, this was not Job’s issue. Eliphaz’s hypercritical examination of Job caused him to be in error and speak presumptuously. Eliphaz spoke to Job without considering anything that Job expressed about his pain and suffering; without considering anything Job said about his confusion; without considering anything Job said about his innocence, and without giving Job the benefit of the doubt based on the history of Job’s integrity and current state of grief. Eliphaz was still an accuser, and simply stated that the complaints coming out of Job’s mouth were proof of his inward rebellion against God. Eliphaz went so far as to say that Job’s mouth was actually condemning him. Eliphaz was so confident in his opinion that he felt Job’s heart was corrupted causing his mouth to speak out of the abundance of his heart, thus explaining Job’s gripes and complaints and confusions. In other words, Job was confused about God’s purposes for his suffering because his heart had distanced him from God. As if all people who are right with God have perfect understanding of God’s will at all times. This simply isn’t true.
Eliphaz then began to attack the attitude of Job while exalting his own personal integrity. He asked Job if he was the first man ever born, being the only one to have the wisdom of God. Were the things Job said about God known only to him? Job never said that. When Job prayed to God, he never did so with a pompous attitude so as to exalt himself. In fact, Job’s address to God was quite the opposite. Job addressed God confessing his sin and seeking a merciful release from his suffering so as to be better connected to God in eternity. Job never sought to exalt himself above his friends or speak as if he had hidden wisdom from God. Yet Eliphaz took offense in this way and sought to justify himself. He cited his age as proof that he too was wise. Eliphaz assumed that age guarantees wisdom concerning the things of God. This is not true either. In fact, the manner in which Eliphaz spoke against Job is proof that, while age can provide experience and knowledge, it does not necessarily guarantee wisdom concerning the things of God. Many old people have died not knowing anything about God.
The reason that Eliphaz spoke in such a way to Job is stated by Eliphaz at the end of his statement in Job 15:1-13. Eliphaz assumed that Job was despising God’s mercy that God had expressed thus far. Here, it is reasonable to think this considering the tone of Job’s remarks to his friends and to God. It did seem as if, at times, that Job was not considering the mercy and grace of God that He was giving, even though Job was suffering. Though Job suffered greatly, it actually could have been worse! Still, that didn’t give Eliphaz the right to harp on Job and attack him. Eliphaz jumped to the conclusion that Job’s inability to articulate the extent of his pain was a sign that Job had turned his spirit away from God. This was not so. The Bible never says that Job turned his spirit against God. Job wanted his spirit unified with God through understanding and the release of his pain. It was the presumption of Eliphaz to think that he already knew the cause and conclusion of Job’s circumstances that caused him to assume the condition of Job’s heart. The Bible clearly says that we are not qualified to know the hearts of people, and so we always need to be careful so as not to make assumptions about the heart.
We are never to examine and criticize people’s relationships with God and assume that they are condemned. We do not know what people are really going through, especially in their time of suffering. We never know what God is actually doing with the people He works through. We cannot assume to know the outcome of God’s work in people. We cannot pretend to understand all things concerning God’s works and how people should appropriately respond to Him. While the scriptures do provide standards of what is right and wrong concerning our attitudes, works, and words, we are not to criticize others assuming to be professionals and authorities about these things as if we are able to execute God’s righteousness ourselves, otherwise we end up being the hypocrites we accuse others of being.