|Series Theme: The Anguish of Job|
|Meditation No. 10|
|Meditation Title: Be an example?|
1-10 roughly cover Ch.1-4
11-20 roughly cover Ch.4-7
21-30 roughly cover Ch.8-11
31-40 roughly cover Ch.12-15
41-50 roughly cover Ch.16-21
51-60 cover Ch.22-33
61-68 cover Ch.34-42
Job 4:1-3 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied: "If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? But who can keep from speaking? Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands.
Job has just poured out his heart in anguish. He rues the day that he was born that allowed his life to develop to this day of pain. It's a short-sighted cry but when you are in complete anguish that isn't very surprising. When he comes to the end of his cry, there is a brief pause and then Eliphaz can't hold himself back any longer. Remember, he is one of the three friends who have come to sympathize with him and comfort him. (2:11).
First of all he recognises that Job is in a state and therefore he launches out somewhat defensively: If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient? He knows that in Job's state he might object to whatever comes. Yet, as we said, Eliphaz can't hold himself back: But who can keep from speaking? Anyone watching you and listening to you Job, would want to help and say something, is what he is saying. This sounds just like a concerned friend but sometimes those who appeared concerned have another agenda!
See where he goes next: Think how you have instructed many, how you have strengthened feeble hands. Hullo? What is this saying? Think about where you've come from! See how he continues: Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. (v.4) It looks like he's saying, think about the sort of man you've portrayed yourself as, a righteous man who can straighten out others. Where is this going? But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged; it strikes you, and you are dismayed. (v.5) That sounds like a clear rebuke that says, you should not be like that, does your past count for nothing? Have you not learnt from what you have taught others? It gets worse: Should not your piety be your confidence and your blameless ways your hope? (v.6) This sounds like a bit of a snide shot, as if to say, if you are as righteous as you have thought you were, shouldn't that be what you trust in? Now that's nasty because it could be taken in two ways. First, it is just as it comes and is therefore a challenge to snap out of it and trust in what he knows. Second, it could have an implied, barbed edge to it that suggests, well if this has happened to you, perhaps it shows that you were not as righteous as you thought!
That's not nice! What do people in anguish need? Our church's mission statement speaks of being a people that are loving, accepting and caring. It is that middle word that the person in anguish needs acceptance. I remember once I was in rather a mess, mostly not of my making, but we needed help from outside and two people helped' us. One of them, when he first came, started out with, Well, you blew it that time didn't you! As someone in deep anguish it wasn't what I needed. The other man, fortunately, took me where I was and just lovingly accepted me and helped me through.
A couple of elderly good friends have loved and accepted us through the years and never uttered a single word of criticism. The hard nosed fundamentalists at this point say, But you were probably wrong sometimes, you needed correcting! No, I needed loving. I am a Christian and the Holy Spirit lives in me and He corrects me. When I am loved and accepted then I feel secure enough to come out from behind my defensive barriers and acknowledge failure and then let the Lord do His work. The second man and the elderly couple have almost certainly been the greatest agents for change in my life over the years. Why? Because they came without judgement and just loved and accepted us and their love has transformed us! We are utterly different people because of their love.
I sometimes see people from other churches, who live in an environment of harsh correction, living under preaching that is more focused on pointing out our failures than providing hope. For them Christianity is a struggle and guilt is always not far away. No, when we are struggling with life, we need hope and encouragement. When we are in the midst of a crisis we need loving acceptance that understands what we are going through. Eliphaz started out looking like he was there for Job, but his words had an edge that seemed judgmental.
We can all of us forget the fundamentals of life. Eliphaz pointed at Job's past and assumed it made him less vulnerable in the present. It doesn't matter who the great man of God is, we're all vulnerable today. It's not just the person who feels weak; Paul warned, So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (1 Cor 10:12). We are sometimes most vulnerable when we are feeling strong. The key point here though, is that even though you were strong last week, today we still need the Lord's grace and protection just as much. Don't ever take leaders for granted and think they don't have the same struggles that you have; they do! Temptations come, potential crises arise, and anguish can be just over the horizon for any of us. Is this being negative about life? No, it is simply being real. There's a whole lot more we could say in respect of guarding ourselves and getting the support of others in the body of Christ, but even the best of us come under pressure from the enemy.
A final point here, perhaps in preparation for what is coming: don't make any assumptions about why a person is going through a crisis. We may jump to terribly wrong conclusions. Like Job it may be nothing to do with their sin. Yes, it may be because of their sin, but at that point they need gentle handling and heaven will be checking our motives and the way we speak: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Gal 6:1-3). There is enough there in those three verses to provide a week of meditations. Our goal restore gently. Our danger we might be tempted. Our approach carry each other's burden. Our folly to think we are something better than others. Let's learn how to be better comforters!