Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jun 2, Job 5-7

Today's readings are Job 5-7.

Job is a man of integrity. God pronounced him "blameless and upright" at the beginning of this book. His first friend and counselor, Eliphaz, evaluates Job by the trials he sees Job enduring. His accusation is based on the mistaken idea that God only punishes evil and blesses good (Job 5:1-7). He encourages Job to receive his due punishment from God (Job 5:17-27). Clearly, at least to Eliphaz, Job has done some secret wrong to bring all this calamity down upon himself.

We should not mistake Job’s friends as arrogant or aloof. They seem to be excellent and devoted friends who are genuinely concerned about Job and long to see him redeemed. When they first appear on the scene, they sit quietly and patiently to show him sympathy and comfort for seven days and nights (Job 2:11-13). Their dedication to Job is commendable, but their counsel will prove to be an object lesson on the pitfalls of approaching our friends for advice instead of trusting God.

One struggle Job has is that he is the only one who can be sure that he hasn't been acting in an ungodly way. Apparently, these men know something about the character and nature of God. Eliphaz seems to speak knowledgeably about God and certainly sounds right in his thinking. Except, Job (and his readers) know that Eliphaz is wrong, in spite of his highly "spiritual" sensations.

Job disputes Eliphaz's assessment of him in spite of how tidy and godly his judgment of Job appears. Job wants answers as to why all this is happening to him, but he will not settle for the quick and easy platitudes and half-truths Eliphaz offers (Job 6).

Job believes he identifies with the sufferings of slaves and laborers (Job 7:1-6), even though he has never been either. Job doesn't feel he deserves this treatment and we hear the first hints that he also feels he deserves an answer (Job 7:7-16). He wants to know why he is being put under the microscope (Job 7:17-21).

Job’s frustration and suffering are dominating his speech and demeanor. Eliphaz’s over-spiritualized insight of Job’s circumstances and his encouragement to receive the discipline of God have not been any help. Nevertheless, Job has lost hope but maintains a respectful posture before God, asking questions and seeking answers but having an ardent desire for all his troubles to be over, even if it means death.

Eliphaz’s counsel is, of course, useless, but only if one is aware of the background we read in Job 1. However, Job is missing a crucial element to his story. God may be trying to teach Job something valuable. Job is so consumed with his loss and dreadful plight, he’s unable to see beyond them.

How easily we, like Job, can slip into being preoccupied with our circumstances or feeling sorry for ourselves and miss the fact that God may be teaching us or equipping us for what lies ahead. What Job seems to be missing is trust in God to help him through his dilemma. Instead, all Job wants is to be delivered from it. Job’s story should give us pause to consider if we work harder to get out of tough situations than we do to learn from them. 

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