Job’s Friends Speak
Scripture to meditate on:
Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
“If someone ventures a word with you, will you be impatient?
But who can keep from speaking?
Think how you have instructed many,
how you have strengthened feeble hands.
Your words have supported those who stumbled;
you have strengthened faltering knees.
But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
Should not your piety be your confidence
and your blameless ways your hope?
“Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
As I have observed, those who plow evil
and those who sow trouble reap it.
At the breath of God they perish;
at the blast of his anger they are no more.
The lions may roar and growl,
yet the teeth of the great lions are broken.
The lion perishes for lack of prey,
and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.
“A word was secretly brought to me,
my ears caught a whisper of it.
Amid disquieting dreams in the night,
when deep sleep falls on people,
fear and trembling seized me
and made all my bones shake.
A spirit glided past my face,
and the hair on my body stood on end.
but I could not tell what it was.
A form stood before my eyes,
and I heard a hushed voice:
‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?
If God places no trust in his servants,
if he charges his angels with error,
how much more those who live in houses of clay,
whose foundations are in the dust,
who are crushed more readily than a moth!
Between dawn and dusk they are broken to pieces;
unnoticed, they perish forever.
Are not the cords of their tent pulled up,
so that they die without wisdom?’ – Job 4
If ever there was a cautionary tale for those who seek to be good friends, this is it. Job’s three friends obviously care for him. Earlier chapters suggest the small group traveled a long way to be with him in his misery. They even listened quietly (for a while) as he catalogued his grievances and pain. But eventually, they can help themselves no longer and they begin to speak.
Biblical commentators refer to the next 23 chapters as “the debate” as the three friends go about diagnosing Job’s problem. It’s tempting to want to skip over all the speeches and suggestions from Job’s friends… but let’s not. For one thing, it will serve as a reminder to us the next time we are tempted to lightly analyze the pain and suffering of our own friends and family members. For another, the purpose of this book is to consider the source of wisdom, and as we will read, the author uses the voices of the friends to raise some very interesting perspectives on wisdom.
Consider the times you have suffered. How your friends may have succeeded (or failed) in their attempts to comfort you? In my experience, those friends who have suffered themselves are the ones I most want beside me in times of pain. Not because of the words they speak, although there is no doubt they have accumulated much wisdom. I desire their presence because they are a flesh and blood reminder to me of God’s presence in times of trials, a calming friend who does not pass judgment in the midst of a storm, and a hope of renewed strength at the end of suffering.
“If someone utters a word with you, will you be impatient?” – Job 4:1
Questions to ponder:
- Think of a time when a friend attempted to comfort you when you were suffering? Were they successful? Why or Why not?
- What do you think you most desire during an especially difficult trial?
- Have you ever invited God to be your companion and comfort during suffering?