The Book of Job-Chapter Twenty-Two:
Are you learning anything from spending time in Job's story, beloved? I know I am, even though some of it has been painful for me. But in this chapter we meet up again with a guy who is not learning anything. It's Job's old friend, Eliphaz, and he is as entrenched in error as ever. He opens, in response to Job, with pure sarcasm:
Verses 1-4: "Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect? Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? will he enter with thee into judgment?"
Then he begins to drone at us again with assertions about Job:
Verse 5: "Is not thy wickedness great? and thine iniquities infinite?"
Error has taken on a life of its own here, but it is not that far removed from what can happen in our thinking today. This is a distasteful thing to do to Job who has been growing in spiritual insight and closeness to God all along. Eliphaz is resorting to just plain slander now. He seems desperate. This will be (and it should be) the third strike for his argument against Job:
Verses 6-9: "For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing. Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; and the honourable man dwelt in it. Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken."
This is unfounded. There is no substance, no shred of evidence anywhere to suggest these charges. Job had been blessed with riches, it's true, but he wasn't an elitist. You know, it was Christ's ultimate fate to face deeply cutting false accusations also. I'm afraid it may be yours too if, like Job, you choose a path that leads you very close to the Lord. Job is growing in faith and ministering to us but what a price he has been paying for it.
Verses 10-11: "Therefore snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee; Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee."
To Eliphaz, Job is spiritually blind but it's Job's own fault:
Verses 12-14: "Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are! And thou sayest, How doth God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven."
According to his friend, Job has misinterpreted the character and intentions of the Lord completely. And it is a willful ignorance and not just some kind of naiveté on Job's part.
I have to wonder here about Eliphaz. Is he a confused and frightened believer or an intentional liar? He's acting in accord with Satan (who we are told is THE patron of all liars). In the end does it really matter why a person is lying and persecuting the righteous? Eventually, even in spiritual matters, it gets a little like that old adage: what walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck IS a duck--regardless of names, intentions, and circumstances!
Elsiphaz does seem sincere in a way. I can't judge him, but his words are hurtful and actually horrible. Here's another rebuke:
Verses 15-17: "Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood: Which said unto God, Depart from us: and what can the Almighty do for them?"
"How can you be so dumb?" says Eliphaz. The wicked have an open history of comeuppance from God. How could you not heed such a warning, Job, how could you fall into that way, knowing the consequences. Life is very simple for Eliphaz.
And now we get even more into his real point:
Verses 18: "Yet he filled their houses with good things: but the counsel of the wicked is far from me."
"I'm better than you are, Job. I'm on a higher spiritual plane and your suffering proves it!" This is dangerous talk. Hurtful, hurtful. Today we might say it is UN-Christian. The Son of God attracted those who were suffering, they flocked to Him. He understood and healed and loved them. And He still DOES, by the way. He never had this kind of attitude, not even when speaking of justice and judgment to come.
Eliphaz is reeling out of control:
Verses 19-20: "The righteous see it, and are glad: and the innocent laugh them to scorn. Whereas our substance is not cut down, but the remnant of them the fire consumeth."
This is Satanic, or at least arrogant and foolish. This ancient book speaks of a spirit that is loose even now in our Churches: self-righteousness, selfishness. I can tell you it doesn't fill the pews with Truth seekers or attract the needy.
"Repent, Job!" he says.
Verses 21-25: "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart. If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles. Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust, and the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks. Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver."
Do not mistake this for truth. It is as old as the hills, as dark as the pit, and just as empty and wrong then as it is today:
Verses 26-28: "For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God. Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows. Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways."
There's nothing ancient about this message. It's 2014 as I'm writing this and I could go turn on a screen right now and within minutes locate a broadcast sermon based on a message very like this one from Eliphaz and maybe even in his EXACT WORDS (as in verse 28 above). It's because they are Satan's words and remain a very effective threat to true belief today.
"Spread the word, Job!" he says.
Verses 29-30: "When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person. He shall deliver the island of the innocent: and it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands."
Don't listen to Eliphaz. Your ministry is NEVER to be based on your righteousness or personal power. God is not motivated by my righteousness. He IS my Righteousness. More specifically, my association with His Son is my ONLY Righteousness. Your hands and mine are too polluted to cause the Lord to save anyone no matter how physically blessed or spiritually gifted we become or are deceived into thinking we have become.
Will Job follow this advise, make a false confession, seek to restore his riches in that way and then become a minister of "prosperity at all costs?" Chapter 23 and beyond will tell us. But before we go there, let's close with this thought from an Old Testament writer who, much later in history, saw the futility of legalism and self-righteousness:
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags: and we do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Isaiah 64:6
"...and the Lord hath laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all." from Isaiah 53:6
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