March 19, 2019
The Bible shows that things aren’t always as they seem. Our vision of reality is skewed and limited. Sin corrupts truth from the eyes of all people. Our carnal eyes have no way of seeing that which is taking place in the spiritual realm. This means that we are not privy to more than half of the information required to know what God is really doing. We don’t know the outcomes of our lives, nor the lives of others. We don’t know how each day will end. We don’t know what the next day will bring. This makes it difficult to assess the circumstances of life. Many people have looked at circumstances one day and figured them to be favorable, then after time, realized they weren’t so good. The same is true of the contrary. Often times we look at things that, upon initial observation, look terrible, only to find out that things were actually good. This kind of stuff happens all the time, and so it’s hard to know how to respond to things as they come upon us. This is why the Bible instructs God’s people to walk by faith and not by sight. Rather than looking at what we see and coming to conclusions we can’t justify, we should remember what the Bible says about who God is and trust that all things will somehow work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.
A great illustration of this principle is seen in the testimony of Job. In Job 16:1-22 the Bible shows that Job responded to the second round of accusations and insults from his friend Eliphaz. While Job’s response was heartfelt, it was not entirely true. His testimony is reflective of what he felt inside, but his feelings were based on the circumstances of the moment. Job wasn’t able to process or comprehend the full scope of God’s work and so he couldn’t take into consideration the goodness of the conclusion of God’s work. Therefore, Job remained miserable, lonely, and depressed. In Job 16:1-22 the Bible shows that when our minds are fixated on the moment, life can spiral into a dark abyss of repeating frustrations. When Job replied to Eliphaz, he began by saying that he had already heard what Eliphaz had said. Eliphaz was just repeating himself. When people get into debates of this nature, seldom do new points come out. People just go back and forth over the same issues, neither person relenting from their position. Job was the victim of this reality here. As a result, he felt that his friends were not very friendly. They might have come at first to provide comfort, but let them know, flat out, that they were of no comfort at all. With all of the pain and grief that Job expressed that he was going through, his friends seemed to be best fit to pour salt into his wounds rather than to mend them.
Job wondered if his friends would ever stop and shut up. Sometimes the best comfort a friend can provide is silence. Even if Job was indeed a hypocrite as his friends accused (which he wasn’t), we have to realize when our point has been made and whether it will be received or not. If the point is not received, continuing to harp on it will not do anyone any good but incite further frustration and spite. Job felt that if the tables were turned, it would be different. If he were the one who was well and one of his friends were sick, he would not speak to them as they were speaking to him. Job felt that he would be able to speak comforting words and actually provide benefit to his friends. It’s hard to tell. The accusation that Job made against his friends is often true of many people. It’s easy to kick people when they’re down. Our sinful nature and self-righteous tendencies often provoke us to provide back-handed comfort – that is, comfort that comes with an accusation. We often feel that our condition compared to another’s condition makes us qualified to see more clearly, when in fact that is not true. Job may have felt that he would be a better friend if the circumstances were reversed, but human nature might prove otherwise. Thus, it is important to remember that if we seek to provide comfort to others in a time of need, we should rely on the Holy Spirit of God, the One True Comforter, and not our own habits and instincts.
Since Job’s friends were not speaking words provoked by the Spirit, and he was not receiving comfort of any kind, he felt he was trapped. If he spoke out to defend his integrity, his friends figured him to be an unrepentant hypocrite. If he remained silent, his friends figured him to be silent on account of conviction and guilt. Job couldn’t win with these guys and so he figured that God was behind it all. Job explained that he felt that God had targeted him as God’s chief enemy on account of some sin that Job couldn’t identify. Job felt as if God was trying to wear him out through his friends. Job confessed that God was omnipotent to inflict his suffering from the loss of his family, suffering from his sickness, and suffering from his irritating friends. Though God was not targeting Job this way, it is true that He is able to use anyone and anything to oppress those whom are deserving. God’s sovereign control is so supreme that He is able to affect our families, our finances, our fitness, and our faith. To those who are His enemies, this is a scary reality! To those who are His children, we must trust in the nature of God, that He is merciful and compassionate. We must remember that God’s chief aim is to do good by using us as His instruments of righteousness for His glory. Though our lives might seem painful and difficult for a season – even a long season – we should never forget who God is and what His chief aim is. Job struggled in this area.
Job was honest about how he felt, but was wrong about his position with God. This sentiment is proven by the very words that Job used to describe his perception of his relationship with God. Job complained by saying the following:
“They gape at me with their mouth. They strike me reproachfully on the cheek. They gather together against me. God has delivered me to the ungodly and turned me over to the hands of the wicked.”
These are the very words spoken of Jesus Christ. These words are later quoted in Psalm 22 and also by the prophet Micah to refer to the suffering of Jesus Christ during His trial and crucifixion! Job felt he was an enemy of God, but time would later prove quite the contrary. Job was not an enemy of God. He was an instrument of God’s righteousness, being used as a prophetic picture of the Messiah Himself! Job’s suffering was not in vain. Job’s suffering was not in order to cause destruction. God was using Job to show that He is able to bring redemption, restoration, and life out of suffering, even suffering that is parallel to Jesus’ own suffering. Job couldn’t understand God’s plan to restore him. Job didn’t know that God would increase him two-fold in the end. Job didn’t know the Messianic prophecies of Jesus Christ. Still, the Father had perfect understanding and control of the circumstances.
Recall that when Job’s suffering began, it was inflicted by the devil according to the suggestion of God Himself. God gave Job over to the devil because the devil felt that he could turn Job against God. Thus, God’s work with Job was not just to teach Job certain things about Himself, but to prove His own superiority over sin, death, hell, and the devil. Job was confused and distraught, but never cursed God like the devil thought he would. Not only did God prove the devil wrong in that sense, but also in the sense that Job became a prophetic picture of Christ. God didn’t just preserve Job from condemnation, but took the full extent of Job’s suffering and reversed it unto glory when He was ready. This shows that the devil has absolutely NO POWER at all against the people of God. The Lord God is truly Almighty and Sovereign. Thus, when suffering comes, we need to remember that the will of God is to glorify Himself by destroying the works of darkness. Though it may seem dark at the moment, every day begins with sunlight. Though Jesus died, the resurrection came as scheduled. This is our hope.
Still, Job didn’t know these things. When we forget the fundamental truth of the Gospel, we can overburden ourselves with unnecessary grief. Job felt that he would remain in suffering for so long that instead of wearing sackcloth and putting ashes on his forehead, he’d just sow sackcloth onto his body and lie in dust forever. This is obviously a dramatic over exaggeration, but common for those who forget the hope that comes in Jesus. Thankfully though, the Lord did not let Job lose his convictions concerning his innocence. Though Job was in pain and confused, the Lord continued to build his confidence in his blamelessness as a hypocrite. At least Job had that peace. His friends accused him of being a hypocrite and of praying in vain. God strengthened Job’s heart to assure him that he was neither a hypocrite, nor a vain babbler in prayer. Job was so confident in the Lord this way that he urged both heaven and earth to validate him, which God would in time. Job again pleaded for an intercessor that could endorse Job’s claims, not only to God, but to his friends to lighten the burden of his suffering. This is no doubt, an allusion to our Chief Intercessor Jesus Christ, who stands between us and the Father on our behalf to justify us of our guilt. The desires of Job show that he was indeed a child of God and not an enemy. When we recognize these subtle things that God puts in our hearts, we can be assured in our times of distress to remain focused on the hope of restoration and redemption that God longs to provide in this life, and/or the next.