Job Bible Study (Seeing God in the Storm)

Job 15-17, Miserable Comforters


All three of Job’s friends have taken their shot at “comforting” Job. They have tried to comfort him by trying to explain why Job is suffering. Their conclusion is that Job must have sinned. Sin is the reason that Job is suffering. But the first two chapters of Job reveal that this is not the case. Job has not sinned. Though the friends have tried to cause Job to admit his guilt, Job remains resolute that he has not sinned. Unfortunately, the friends will not leave Job alone. We will now read another cycle of speeches from them. Again we will consider what these friends say, what is inaccurate about their wisdom, the response of Job, and what we learn about God.

Eliphaz’s Attack (15:1-35)

Sin prompts your mouth (15:1-6)

After all that has been said the friends seems all the more convinced of Job’s sin because of the words he is saying. In verse 2 we see that the politeness of Eliphaz has completely disappeared. He says that a wise man would not speak with such empty talk. Yet again Job is called a windbag. Eliphaz declares that the wise do not engage in such empty chatter. Job’s attempts to argue his case are of no value. Your words are useless. Not only this, Eliphaz says that what Job is saying undermines the fear of God, directing people to challenge God and no longer pray (15:4). Your words are detrimental to those who seek to live faithfully. Your sin is what causes your mouth to speak and your tongue is misleading (15:5). Your own mouth condemns you and shows that you are not blameless (15:6).

Before we move forward we should consider some typology that rests here. Job is blameless and upright and the only thing the friends can say is that Job’s words condemn him. But Job’s words only condemn him because he is not saying what the friends want him to say. Move forward in history to the time of Jesus. Jesus is blameless, upright, sinless, and perfect. The only thing false witnesses could charge against Jesus was his words. Yet again Jesus did not say anything wrong. Rather, Jesus’ words were charged against him because he did not say what the Jewish leaders wanted him to say (Matthew 26:65).

Job’s “wisdom” is corrupt (15:7-16)

Eliphaz now turns in this section to challenge the wisdom of Job. Eliphaz asks if Job thinks he has the inside track on wisdom. But consider that Job has not claimed to have a monopoly on wisdom. Job is merely questioned the wisdom of these friends. They are misrepresenting Job and misrepresenting God. Eliphaz says that Job is fighting against the wisdom of the ages. Eliphaz’ point is very simple: the older are wiser. Job’s ideas are wrong because that is not what the forefathers believed (15:9-10). Older does not necessarily mean godly wisdom. These three friends may be aged but they do not have godly wisdom with them and Job recognizes it.

But Eliphaz thinks he has God’s wisdom (15:11-13). He calls his words to Job “the comforts of God” and is agitated why Job does not receive that comfort. Amazingly, Eliphaz says that their words have been gentle words to Job (15:11). Because Job does not accept their words, Job’s heart has carried him away and his spirit has turned against God. Now we have listened to the words of Job and we have not seen evidence that Job’s spirit has turned away from God. Instead we have see the opposite. Job is pleading for the relationship to return. Job desires to be renewed by God so that they can enjoy a new relationship (Job 12-14). But Eliphaz continues to try to show that Job is sinful (15:14-16). Eliphaz restates a prior argument that no one can be pure before God (4:17-19). But he clearly is point his finger at Job, calling him one who is abominable and corrupt, drinking injustice like water (15:16).

Eliphaz will speak wisdom (15:17-35)

Thus, Eliphaz ends his argument with Job by telling him that he is imparting wisdom in his words (15:17-19). Eliphaz describes the condition of wicked in this section. The wicked man suffers torment. Wealth and power offer no escape from these terrors (15:20). The wicked are hopeless and distressed (15:21-24). The wicked are stubborn against God (15:25-26) and are blinded by their wealth (15:27-30). The wicked who hide behind their wealth lose their wealth (15:29-31). Notice that Eliphaz is clearly putting Job in the category of the wicked. Your wealth was not a sign of divine blessing. Rather, Job is the wicked wealthy who are wiped out by God. In verse 30 Eliphaz uses Job’s words about how the shoots of a tree will sprout again after being cut down. But Eliphaz tells Job that God will burn up his shoots. Suffering is not inevitable to humans but divinely instituted discipline for sin. Humans are full of wickedness and Job is a deceitful human.

Here again we see the problem with retribution theology and how this misrepresents God. Does God use suffering to bring people to him and turn people to him? Yes and we will see that truth made later in this book. We see this truth made in the New Testament that trials refine our faith. But here is the error: is all suffering divinely instituted discipline for sin? No! We cannot draw such a conclusion. Suffering and loss does not mean God is disciplining you, as illustrated by the lives of Job, Joseph, the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, Stephen, and many more. I cannot look at person, a group of people, or a nation and say that the reason they are suffering is because God is disciplining them. The way God runs the world is not that simple.

Job’s Response (16:1-17:16)

I need new friends (16:1-6)

How will Job respond to this new attack? Job begins by stating that he needs to get new friends. Job calls these three “miserable comforters” who will not stop blowing hot air with their long winded speeches (16:1-3). If the roles were reversed, Job says that he could pile on them like they are piling on him. But he wants them to strengthen him with their words and comfort him in his pain (16:4-5). Whether Job’s speaks or whether Job is silent, neither will stop the pain.

God destroys me (16:7-22)

Job proceeds to talk about how God has devastated him. God has worn him out and his friends have turned against him (16:7). He feels completely alone. Again, when we believe in retribution theology then any suffering makes you think that God has left you. This is why Job feels alone. His friends are against him and he thinks that God has left him also. Thus Job describes how God has wrecked him. Listen to verse 9. “He has torn me in his wrath and hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me.” I want us to consider this because we can feel the same way.

But we are taught something very valuable in this book. We know that this is not at all what God is doing. God is not attacking Job. God is not venting his wrath on Job. God does not hate Job. God loves Job. So I want us to see how there can be a disconnect between what we feel and truth. Feelings are not truth. We have a great problem with this in our society that we think what we feel must be the way things are in reality. But this is frequently not the case. Job feels that God has torn him in wrath and hates him. But this is not true. We have to tell ourselves this in the face of trials. God is not against us. God is not destroying us. God does not hate us. God has not turned his back on us. We need to hold on to God and draw near to him even though he feels far away. Consider the words of the song, “Abide With Me.” “When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O, abide with me.” Let this be our encouragement. Notice this is what Job continues to say through his suffering and feelings of loss and emptiness. He knows that there is no hope in himself (16:16), yet he cries out to God and his prayer is pure (16:17-19). He is in tears and pain but his prayer is pure. His friends scorn him but he will seek the Lord (16:20). Job’s cry is for an intercessor. He needs someone to plead with God for him. He desires a mediator who will plead with God as a person pleads with his friend (16:18-22). As we have noted before, we see the hope of Jesus being foreshadowed. We need an intercessor who is our friend and Jesus fills that role perfectly for us.

I am hopeless (17:1-16)

Job ends his speech with utter hopelessness. He feels that death is near (17:1), yet he still must deal with mockers and watch their hostility toward him (17:2). But even with this Job knows that God will not let these who lack understanding triumph (17:3-5). God is still just. Yet Job returns to his own condition. He has become a byword to everyone. People spit on him, which is the ultimate insult and a sign of rejection (17:6). He is a shadow of his former self when you look at him (17:7). But his condition is a problem for others. The righteous do not have a good explanation for what has happened to Job (17:8-9). Job’s situation destroys retribution theology. We have talked about how we like to cling to this idea because when we see someone suffer, we comfort ourselves by thinking that they must have done something wrong. That is why suffering has fallen on that person and since we are not living like that person, then those things will never happen to us. But the righteous do suffer and this is a problem for all the cliche answers about life that we try to hold on to.

The hopelessness of Job continues. He challenges his friends again that they are not wise and do not have the answers to his situation (17:10). Job’s plans and hopes are shattered (17:11). Naive affirmations of hope are not helpful (17:12). This is an important point to consider. How often people attempt to be helpful with so many cliches and empty words! Friends, those in deep pain do not need our answers but our love and compassion. Friends, there are not answers, so do not try to give answers. Just be compassionate. Be a comforter. Saying empty words like “Things will get better” or “There is gold at the end of the rainbow” or “Turn lemons into lemonade” or some other kind of weak advice or comfort is not helpful and not true. I hope that we would learn something very valuable that our goal as comforters is not to provide answers. God is too complex for us to give answers for why things happen the way that they do. Further, we do not have the wisdom to know why things are happening as they are. We just need to quietly sit and absorb what is happening. Thus Job ends with pointing out that all he sees in darkness (17:13-16). His only hope is the grave and he is resigned to his inevitable demise.

Message For Today

The big concept of this discourse is the miserable comforters these three friends prove to be. I think it is important for us to consider how to avoid the mistakes these men make in offering comfort.

First, we must shorten our words. Less words are more valuable. The more Eliphaz speaks, the more harm he did. We do not need to say something. Some of the most valuable comforts are tearful hugs and quiet companionship and compassion.

Second, we must season our words. The command that we read in Ephesians is just as important, if not more so, during suffering. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV) Our words need to build up the person, be words that fit the occasion, and words that give grace. We have not seen these qualities in the words of the these three friends. When you speak, consider your words. What can you say to help? Are your words fitting the occasion? Are your words giving grace to who you are speaking to?

Third, we must consider our words. Even if I am speaking the scriptures, am I applying the scriptures properly? We have seen these three friends use the scriptures in advising Job but they are often using the scriptures in an improper way to characterize God and counsel Job. We must think carefully if my help is really scriptural and accurate to the ways of God.

Paul says that God comforts us in our afflictions so that we can comfort those who are in any affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4). Let us not be miserable comforters but actual comfort those in any affliction.

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