We’ve had a lot of harsh things to say about Job’s friends, so today I’m going to speak a little in their defense. A lot of readers and commentators make it sound like they were completely wrong in their approach and severely deficient in their theology, but I don’t think so.
Let’s just keep this clear by asking some simple questions. Is God holy? Does he care about our conduct? Absolutely. Is each of us a sinner who deserves judgment from him? Without a doubt, since the Bible plainly tells us so. Is all judgment delayed until the next life, or does he sometimes reveal his displeasure in this world? There are cases, both in the Bible and in history, in which evil people were cut down and their lives ended by what can only be described as divine intervention. The city of Sodom was wiped out, along with an entire generation of humanity during Noah’s time. All the land of Canaan was under God’s death penalty, and the Israelites were forbidden to leave anyone alive. If you believe (as I do) that the book of Revelation is some type of description of what will happen just prior to Jesus’ return, reading it can be pretty sobering.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you. Job’s story is only mentioned a few times in the rest of the Bible, and the book is only quoted one time. There are some other verses that are paraphrased, but there’s only one unambiguous direct quote from the book in the entire New Testament. 5:13 is found in 1 Cor. 3:19, when Paul is praising God’s mysterious ways. And who was making that original statement? Eliphaz.
I’m not saying that their view of God is without fault. The Lord himself rebuked them at the end of the book. What I am saying is that their majestic view of the Lord almighty, who has inscrutable plans and who raises up kingdoms and casts down kingdoms for his own purposes, can be a corrective for us. He's the judge of all mankind, and Eliphaz’s call for repentance in today’s reading is not a bad altar call for sinful humanity which thinks it’s the center of the universe.
Again, our God is both immanent and transcendent. He's as close as a heartbeat for those of us who humbly trust him and repent, but he's also the sovereign Lord over the universe who's going to someday call all creation to account. Everything and everyone in all creation is accountable to him, and he's accountable to no one. I think we in America, with our emphasis on a “personal relationship with Jesus,” need reminders of who he really is.
Father God, you use imperfect people all the time to reveal who you are. I bow before you, humbled by your awe-inspiring majesty. You are God, and there is no other.
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