Eliphaz – True Friend or Harsh Foe

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly since my writing has been all over the place.  I hope I can keep my thoughts on the right track and actually make a relevant point!  I may revisit some of my previous, unpublished blogs to see if there is anything that can be salvaged…

Last night was the first Wednesday night Bible study I’ve been to in a while.  We’re studying the book of Job, which I recently studied on my own.  The subject was Eliphaz’s first speech and the discussion was very insightful.  The commentary from last night, as well as my previous study (by Charles Swindoll), both begin their attacks on Job’s friends in Chapter 4.  The implication is that Eliphaz is telling Job that he must have sinned and therefore, in some way, caused the punishment he received.

One of our group members made an interesting observation.  He questioned whether Eliphaz (in chapters 4 and 5) actually told Job that his sin caused his problems.  We looked for verses that specifically stated this, and the best we could come up with was verse 4:8 “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.”  But, this wasn’t specifically directed at Job, and was more of a general statement about reaping what you sow.  Then, in verses 5:6-7, Eliphaz says, “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”  This seems to describe the sin nature of man, and actually goes against blaming Job’s plight on his specific sins.

The more I pondered this, the more I was troubled by it.  I agreed with the original comment, adding that I really didn’t want to admit he was right.  I did not explain why that was, but I will describe it here….

When I consider the book of Job as a whole, a couple things stand out to me from my previous study.  One is that Job was amazingly patient and graceful despite all of the terrible events he went through.  Two is that God never apologized to Job for what happened, and essentially put Job in his place.  A third is that Job’s friends were pretty selfish and cruel throughout their speeches, and really deserved their share of negative attention because of that.  However, maybe there’s more to the story and a second study will illuminate details that I previously missed…

What if Job’s friends were really trying to help?  I do believe their hearts were in the right place, as they showed up to support Job.  They even followed the customs of the day and were silent for seven days, giving Job the opportunity to speak first.  Eliphaz then tried to help Job understand his problem, speaking first of the friends, probably terrified that he would say the wrong thing.  Was his speech delivered perfectly?  No, of course not, and if we’re really honest with ourselves, that’s to be expected, as most of us don’t excel in knowing what to do when trying to help our friends.

When you read Eliphaz’s first speech without the context of what’s to come in remainder of the book, he didn’t do that terribly.  He presented Job with Biblical truths, encouraged Job to seek God for help in this matter, and spoke very well of God’s greatness.  He might have been a little presumptuous about his personal knowledge regarding Job’s situation, but I contend he really cared about his friend and wanted to comfort him.

My point – perhaps Eliphaz did not yet deserve all of the bad press he received in the friend department.  He tried, he genuinely tried; shouldn’t that be applauded?

I think people often avoid their friends’ problems because they are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing.  I am queen of putting my foot in my mouth, despite having honorable intentions. Like Eliphaz, I tend to start out timidly, but once the words start flowing, it’s not always easy to know when to stop.  I think we all fall into that category from time to time.

I need to take this a step further, and this is the hard part – why I didn’t want to agree with the original comment in Bible study Wednesday night… Okay, here goes.

Maybe I should be grateful when someone makes an effort to relate to me when I’m going through a tough time, even if they say and do everything that I believe is wrong.  It could be that they really want to help, but don’t know what to do, but yet they feel they must do something.

Maybe this person loves me so much that it hurts them to see me suffer and they’re willing to do anything to take that pain away from me.  But, not being me, not being God, and not knowing the whole situation, they’re at a significant disadvantage.

Maybe instead of getting mad at the unsolicited advice and perceived negativity, I should feel loved because they chose to say anything, when it would be much easier for them to ignore a problem that is not theirs.  I could just thank them for their concern and feel their love.

Maybe I could just focus on the positive and ignore the negative.

Who says you have to take advice just because it’s given to you?  Giving someone else harsh words in return for their attempt at comfort can truly make tempers flare and then everything will end up being much worse…

I wonder if Eliphaz would agree?

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