February 5, 2019
The Bible teaches that God has a way of humbling people. The scriptures explain that God is highly exalted above all creatures, physical and spiritual. He is the unique eternally self-existing and self-sustaining God. All things exist and remain because of God. Though people often go through life forgetting this truth or even rebelling against this truth, God always has ways of reminding people of this truth through humbling circumstances. Those circumstances might not always be on public display for all to see, but the scriptures show that God is fair to reveal His superior righteousness and glory to all people, giving all people the opportunity to submit to Him willingly. The Bible states that in the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the majesty, glory, and supremacy of God, specifically through Jesus. God is merciful to reveal Himself to people in this life in ways to humble them now voluntarily so as to escape forceful submission to Him later through condemnation.
The testimony of Eliphaz shows that sometimes God will exercise supernatural means to reveal the superiority of His glory. In Job 4:12-21 the Bible documents the response that Eliphaz gave to Job regarding Job’s emotional outburst. Job had gone through exceptional tragedy in a very short period of time that the devil himself levied against Job. Job went into an intense state of depression where, even in the company of his three friends, he remained totally silent and in shock for a week. After a week, he expressed the intensity of his grief. Job’s statements were dramatic only on account of the extremity of his pain. Still, there were some things that Job said that Eliphaz felt required some sort of response. Though Eliphaz meant to do his friend well, he did not fully consider the suffering of Job, nor the spiritual roots of Job’s circumstances. Eliphaz had compassion, but his compassion was limited to his human capacity. Eliphaz had knowledge about God, but did not have God’s knowledge to know why Job was suffering. Eliphaz relied on his personal wisdom and experience to counsel Job, which was severely limited and flawed. He looked at Job’s suffering and assumed that Job suffered because he was an offense to God as a hypocrite. Though Eliphaz sought to do his friend well, his lack of dependency on God and His words caused him to be used as a tool of the devil, becoming an accuser rather than a comforter.
It was for this reason that Eliphaz referred to a vision he once had concerning his own circumstances. Job 4:12-21 explains that Eliphaz had a visitation from an angel at some point. Understanding Job to be a contemporary of Abraham, Eliphaz’s testimony about his vision is consistent with the manner in which God spoke to people in those days. However, the Bible is not clear to indicate exactly when Eliphaz had this vision. It is unclear whether Eliphaz had this vision during the week he was with Job, or whether he had the vision long ago and simply thought that the revelation he had from the angel was applicable to Job’s current circumstances. The context of Eliphaz’s reference makes it seem as if his vision was an older vision that he thought would be helpful to counsel Job in the moment. However, since Eliphaz was already falsely accusing Job of being a hypocrite, it is important to notice that, just because the Lord speaks a divine word to us, doesn’t mean that it is applicable to all other circumstances we see.
God doesn’t call for us to use the specific experiences of His rebuke against us to rebuke others. It is true that we all have similar issues, but God’s chastening for us is meant for us. When we try to chasten others in the manner that God chastens us, it comes out wrong. Though God may use us as tools of rebuke in some cases, it is only by God’s supernatural direction that we are used that way. Eliphaz was examining the circumstances of Job through the distorted lens of his own flesh and flawed wisdom. Therefore, his thinking that God’s previous word to him would also be helpful to Job was a consideration fueled by the flesh too. Just because Eliphaz had a spiritual experience at one time doesn’t mean that the spiritual experience would be helpful to all other issues that seem right in his eyes. God might reveal certain things to His people in certain supernatural ways at one time, but we never know if that personal experience is helpful to anyone else too unless we seek the Lord in humility to know God’s perspective and wisdom. Had Eliphaz slowed down and sought the Lord more diligently, he would have found that this vision he previously had, while true and compelling, was a misapplication to Job’s circumstances.
Still, Eliphaz’s vision requires consideration. God did reveal Himself to Eliphaz at some point in time, so whether the revelation applied to Job at that time or not is not relevant to us today. Eliphaz’s vision still provides details about God’s supernatural identity and works, which is helpful for all people in all circumstances. It’s never a bad thing to know more about who God is and how He works! Eliphaz explained that his vision took place at night when he was getting ready for bed. This is a detail that is consistent with other revelations that God provided in scripture, especially through David. It was often times in the quietness of the night that God made Himself known in these ways. God often spoke profound things when the noise of the day and the grind of the world was quieted and His people were still. This is helpful to consider. Not that God can’t stop the momentum of a day to reveal important things to us, but it is clear that He prefers to reveal His truths when our bodies are still, our minds are quiet, and our surroundings are not distracting. Hearing from God doesn’t require this sort of setting, but it is certainly helpful!
Eliphaz testified that there was a “spirit” that passed before his face. He could not make out its complete form. He could not discern what kind of spirit it was. Either way, Eliphaz admitting that he was terrified. He said that as soon as he felt the presence of the spirit that was trembling to the point that his bones were shaking. The hair on his body stood up as with goose bumps. He was able to see the form before his eyes, but couldn’t move or say a thing. This is a common response to how the Bible describes people responding to God’s messengers. When God unveils His supernatural creations to people, those people are always unable to understand what they are seeing so that extreme fear comes upon them. Regardless of the messages that the angles carried, most of them had to tell the people they visited to “not be afraid,” showing that all of them were terrified. When the mortal flesh of humanity experiences the superior glory of creatures from the spirit realm, the human being always feels insignificant, pitiful, and horrified. No matter what we think of ourselves compared to one another, it is clear that even God’s messengers are sufficient to remind us of how small and pitiful we are in reality.
When the angel spoke to Eliphaz, he cut right to the point. The angel asked, “Can a mortal be more righteous than God?” This question is rhetorical in nature, showing that the angel was sent to Eliphaz to deal with issues of self-righteousness. Can the thing created be greater that He who creates? Is the clay more glorious than the hands who form it? Is there righteousness in a creature that is mortal, identified by decay and corruption? This question from the angel shows that the angel had a clear understanding of Eliphaz’s weakness as a mortal, and sought to remind him of this truth. The Bible doesn’t explain the motives God had for sending the angel, but still, the angel quickly addressed self-righteousness that Eliphaz might have had. The angel was sent to humble Eliphaz by reminding him of who he really was, compared to spirit beings and especially, God Himself. When considering the full depth of reality – physical and spiritual – Eliphaz was simply clay in the hands of the Almighty God. He had no reason to think highly of himself when considering this truth.
The angel proceeded to explain to Eliphaz the truth of how God deals with other spirit creatures. The angel said that God doesn’t put trust in His servants that are spiritual in nature. In other words, God is not dependent on angels to do His work. He is not dependent on angels to receive His glory. God is sufficient within Himself and always will be. This explains that, the position of angles comes by the same grace that saves us humans! Angels are not entitled to be in their position of privilege with the Lord. Even the angels admit that God’s glory is so great, that they are beneficiaries of His grace to be in His presence and be used for His work. If this is true of angels that constantly terrify people when they appear, how much more grace does God need to show to allow us to dwell in His presence and be used for His good purpose?
The angel explained that God also charges the angels with error. Remember that when Satan rebelled against God, he took 1/3 of the angels of heaven with him. Even though God has not administered their sentence yet, the devil and his angels have been judged! Their doom is eminent. Their condemnation is guaranteed. If this is true of God’s angels, how much more likely is God to judge us who are unrighteous by nature? If God justly condemns angelic beings that are far more superior to people, how much more condemnation do we as people deserve being “clay” in the hands of God? What do we as people have to boast of? What form of righteousness do we really have? How good do we think we are?
The angel reminded Eliphaz of our pitiful nature, stating that the “excellence” of all people vanishes away at some point. The façade people manufacture to make themselves seem better than others will go away when God removes the veil that distorts our perspective. When we die, there is no covering and no glory. Death shows that all people are mortal, decaying, corrupted, weak, and like God said, we are the dust of the earth. We came into the world without wisdom, and the inevitability of death shows that we will exit this world without wisdom if we rely on our own reasoning, power, or ability. Though this vision that Eliphaz had didn’t specifically apply to Job’s issues to prove Eliphaz’s claim that Job was a hypocrite, it was still true of Job. The statements of the angel that appeared to Eliphaz are true of all people. We are all far beneath God and have no business coming up with our own standards of righteousness, goodness, or truth. The LORD is God and there is no other. Where Eliphaz’s point does apply, is that we would all be wise to fear the LORD God and submit to Him, regardless of the circumstances of this life that come upon us.