Things Aren't As They Seem
February 4, 2019
The Bible deals with the concept of “knowledge” in a difficult way. In some places, knowledge is referred to as a life source. Grace and peace are multiplied unto God’s people through the “knowledge” of God through Jesus. God said that His people perish for a lack of “knowledge.” Yet, there are verses that show how knowledge can be poisonous to people too. The Apostle Paul wrote that “knowledge puffs up.” Statements like these should make it clear that, when considering the knowledge that scripture provides, we must handle it with care. There are some who know things about the Bible and its contents, but don’t know the Author of the Word. It is possible to know things about God, but not know God Himself. We should desire the knowledge of God and the Word, but the scriptures show that when we seek this sort of knowledge with a prideful or arrogant heart, the knowledge we gain is trivial and not intimate and fruitful. Therefore, our approach to “know” God must be in the manner that He prescribes, and with humility. We need to come before the Lord, understanding that we can only know Him according to the ways that He makes Himself known, and that we must fully accept the things that He reveals as true. Otherwise, we run the risk of gaining knowledge about God that only serves to humiliate us later at some point. Unfortunately, the testimony of Eliphaz shows how foolish we can be when we know things about God, but forget who God is compared to us. Eliphaz knew about God’s righteousness. Eliphaz knew that God was just. Eliphaz knew that God was sovereign. Eliphaz knew that God was powerful as the Judge of all people. However, Eliphaz forgot that God was eternal, and spiritual in nature. Eliphaz forgot that, since God is transcendent this way, he is not like God. Eliphaz forgot that the holiness and transcendency of God made God much different from Eliphaz. In other words, while Eliphaz was able to know things about God, he was not able to know all things like God. Eliphaz forgot about God’s exalted position to know all things that might be hidden to us, and so Eliphaz made a fool of himself and caused great pain to his friend, that was already in great pain, because he thought, knowing things about God qualified him to speak as God. He was wrong. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans Chapter 14 that God’s people should not “judge” one another because we will all stand before the judgment seat (Bema Seat) of Christ – even believers. The word that Paul used to describe this kind of judgment was the word “krino.” This word refers to the act of examining something, making a determination, and then rendering a final verdict. Paul referred to many instances in which we should abstain from “judging” this way. We are not to render final verdicts about other people when they don’t agree with our personal opinions regarding issues non-essential to salvation as if their disagreement is grounds for condemnation. We are not to consider ourselves better than others as if our way of doing things is the only way, and every other way puts others at risk of God’s wrath. We are not to pretend as if we are God, like we know the things of the heart and have the authority to measure motives and intents of others. We are not to disrespect the opinions and convictions of others and devalue them because they are lesser than ours. We are not to doubt a person’s relationship with the Lord based on our examination of things we see. The reason Paul commanded against this sort of “judging” is because we are not God. The Bible teaches that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We can’t even understand our own hearts and convictions. How then can we know the matters of the heart concerning others? How then can we measure the validity or quality of someone else’s relationship with the Lord based on what we see? According to the Bible, our perspective is skewed. We are severely limited with information. We don’t know everything. We don’t have all the facts. How then can we make stern declarations and decisions about others as if we do know? While we might know things about God, we are not exalted to His position to know everything like God does. Thus, Paul taught about the dangers of what happens when people act as if they know all things like God does just because they know some things about God. Eliphaz showed what it looks like to do this in real time. In Job 4:7-11 Eliphaz spoke a harsh accusation against Job that was way off base. After hearing Job vent his pain and grief, Eliphaz felt it was necessary to address some things that Job said. It was true that Job’s venting was intense and dramatic, but it was also reasonable for the extent of suffering he had experienced in such a short time span. Job’s suffering was unique and excessive, so his venting was equally as unique and excessive. Eliphaz sought to deal with Job lightly and rebuke him with good intentions, but spoke incorrectly. Eliphaz wanted to help Job with his words and had good intentions to try and restore Job, but Eliphaz’s arrogance caused his words to be instruments of the devil that ended up causing arguments and division. After Eliphaz asked permission to address Job, he gave Job compliments for his past manner of living, before tragedy struck his life. However, Eliphaz then accused Job of the same hypocrisy that the devil sought to prove. Eliphaz brought up a compelling point in his accusation. Examining the circumstances of Job, he asked the question, “Remember now, who ever perished of being innocent?” Eliphaz looked at the extraordinary circumstances of Job and reasoned in his own head logically. When has a righteous person ever been treated so miserably by God? Eliphaz told Job to think about that point. He told Job to remember the recent past and history to see if he could come up with a single person that sought the Lord faithfully, but then was buried so brutally like Job. Eliphaz’s point was that, the harsh circumstances of Job are usually reserved for some of the worse people. Job’s issues seemed to be consistent with God’s judgment against the wicked. Eliphaz reminded Job that they had never seen the upright taken down in such a way. While it might have been true that God’s faithful servants weren’t destroyed to the extent of Job, that doesn’t mean that God’s faithful people were not cut down to some degree. Remember that Able was faithful to God but brutally murdered. Remember that King David was a man after God’s own heart, but was constantly pursued by enemies and often lived in poverty for it. Still, Eliphaz had a compelling point based on the circumstances as they could be seen with human eyes. Eliphaz then reminded Job about the judgments of God. Those who suffer like Job suffered, usually suffered on account of the extent of sin that they committed against God. Those who suffered like Job were those who labored in their rebellion against. God. Eliphaz knew that those who “plow” and “sow” sin will reap the rewards of their labor. To “plow” in sin is to labor hard in sin. Plowing in sin is putting your back, your legs, and sweating in order to do the work of sin. It is not a passive thing to plow. Eliphaz knew that those who rebel against God in this diligent way, are dealt with in the most brutal ways. Job’s circumstances looked like that form of brutality. Likewise, those who sow sin do so with patience. To sow a crop requires thought, care, and patience. To do so in sin requires patience in the effort to rebel against God’s purposes. Sowing sin is not necessarily impulsive, but purposeful and continuous. Those who rebel against God in this manner are judged by God in brutal ways. To Eliphaz, Job’s circumstances resembled someone being punished for plowing and sowing sin. This is why Eliphaz reminded Job that those who plow and sow sin are consumed by God, utterly destroyed by His anger and the blast of His power through the Word. It is true that God will utterly destroy those who labor in sin and rebellion without repentance, but Eliphaz was assuming that Job was plowing and sowing in sin. He was judging. He was assuming that Job would be condemned by God for actions that Job was hiding from others, but were being exposed by God. This was not true. Eliphaz went further to accuse Job of being a harsh oppressor. The testimony of Job 4:7-11 shows that Eliphaz compared Job’s circumstances to different types of lions. The comparison that Eliphaz made is parallel to idioms that Jews used to describe harsh oppressors. Eliphaz compared Job to a roaring lion, or the proud and boastful ruler. It is true that God will shut the mouth of this sort of roaring lion, especially the devil, but Eliphaz was not qualified to know the heart of Job to make this accusation against him. God will shut the mouth of the roaring lion so that the treats of oppressors don’t have to be feared, but that’s not what God was doing with Job. Eliphaz reminded Job that God will break the teeth of the young lions. The power that young lions have as harsh oppressors will be taken and destroyed by God. This is true. God will remove the power, authority, and influence that harsh oppressors leverage to destroy the weak. However, that was not what God was doing with Job. Eliphaz was not right to consider Job like a young lion whose teeth were being broken. Eliphaz compared Job to an old lion that God causes to perish by famine. It is true that God will destroy old oppressors by restricting the spoils and goods that made them fat and strong. God will cut off the world’s selfish oppressors. However, God considered Job to be blameless and upright, not a selfish oppressor. His loss of wealth was not reflective of God’s judgment this way. Lastly, Eliphaz reminded Job that God will scatter the cubs of a lioness, thereby making it impossible for the next generation to thrive. It is true that God will cut off the heirs of evil rulers and oppressors. God will cut off the children of harsh oppressors so that their evil doesn’t continue over time. That wasn’t what God was doing by taking Job’s kids away though as evidenced by Job Chapters 1 and 2. It is true that, from a human perspective, Eliphaz presented a compelling case. The time he spent in silence for seven days brought him some startling insights that seemed like they were right. That which God knew about God’s ways seemed to match up with Job’s circumstances. However, Eliphaz did not know God to understand all things God was doing. Eliphaz did not have the benefit of the spiritual insight that Job Chapters 1 and 2 provide. His inspection of the situation seemed valid, but his perspective was wrong. Eliphaz didn’t have all the facts. He didn’t know the spiritual dynamics of God’s work. He knew about God’s judgments, but forgot about God’s transcendence and eternal nature. It is easy to accuse someone of being a liar when we look at things as they seem to us. It is hard to let time show what God is actually doing in any given situation. Though it seemed like Eliphaz was making a brilliant assessment of Job’s issues, he was way off, being used as a tool of the devil to accuse the brethren. It is when we decide we know things like God does, forgetting our weaknesses as people, that we put ourselves in the foolish position of Eliphaz.