[June 07]--When Good Friends Do Bad Things

Job 4:1-9, 17-19

I thoroughly believe that every follower of Christ should read the Bible from cover-to-cover on a consistent basis. This isn't commanded by Scripture itself, but I also think that it’s a good idea for believers to be on some type of plan by which they systematically go through the entire Bible, so that they don’t miss a single word. Remember that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for making us like Christ.

Having said that, I’m going to use today to summarize about half of the book of Job for you. You still need to read the entire book, but we’re not going to spend a whole month doing a verse-by-verse commentary. One of the reasons I’m doing this is because the friends’ arguments can be summed up in two sentences: “Job, you’re going through this because God is angry with you and is punishing you for some secret heinous sin. Once you repent, everything will be made right again.”

Now, I don’t say it nearly as eloquently as they do. In fact, even nonbelievers acknowledge that the book of Job contains some of the most beautiful poetry ever recorded. The friends are very good at putting their arguments in flowery phrases that sound very persuasive, but those two sentences are the essence of what they’re saying.

There are a couple of things that should be noted. First, they started out stating their position in very indirect ways. As Job responded to them and protested his innocence, they became less and less subtle and started outright accusing him of specific transgressions. What you need to know is that in this culture, to accuse someone directly would be a major breach of etiquette. Even now, in Non-Western cultures like in the Middle East and Asia, you never come out and tell someone “No” or that they’re wrong. You say it in very subtle and indirect ways. “Saving face” is extremely important. In America we pride ourselves on being upfront and even blunt in our dealings: “Quit beating around the bush!” is a common complaint. Not in this setting.

So why were they leaping to these conclusions about the reason for Job’s suffering? Over the next few days we’ll examine how correct they were in their theology, but for now we’ll just see where they’re coming from. Most people in the Old Testament period believed in an afterlife of some sort, and they hoped that the Almighty Judge would eventually make things right, but they weren’t as sure about it as we are today, and they certainly were hazy on the details. The Lord Jesus--especially through his Resurrection--has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” For people in Job’s time, however, their idea of what happens after death was somewhat murkier, so they held to a “Justice in this life” type of mentality. In other words, they expected that people would get what they deserve in the here and now, and the concept that someone could suffer for some reason besides punishment was completely foreign to them.

Lord Jesus, I’m reminded again of how important it is for me to use my words carefully. When I do have to confront a brother in Christ, help me to speak the truth in love. In other words, just take over my mouth, please.

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