Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Sometimes well-meaning friends can do more harm than good. Today we'll meet some men who tried to help a suffering Job. Truly, with friends like these, who needs enemies, this story reveals a lot about human limits in understanding God's purposes.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today we meet Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. They were of little help in answering Job's cry, God, why me? And you know, Dave, there are people today who are just like Job's friends. I remember someone struggling with cancer told me how that a Christian walked into their room with a big Bible and said, if you only had faith, you'd be able to get up from your bed and walk and you would be healed.
So instead of comforting and encouraging this sick person, they judged them. And that's, of course, exactly what Job's friends do. I've written a book entitled God, Why Me?
Lessons from the Life of Job. Of course, it's actually based on this series of messages. And as I like to emphasize, even if you don't need this book, you know those who do. It's written to encourage us all the way to the finish line. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, I'm going to be giving you this contact info again at the end of this message. Right now, listen carefully. Someday when we see Christ, everything will become plain and clear and we'll understand it.
Until that time, there is a lot of mystery. There is a story, perhaps fictitious, of a young seminarian who was interning in a church and he was asked to do some hospital visitation. On his first visit to the hospital, the man was lying there, the patient with all kinds of tubes and whatever else you see in hospitals today. The young man bent over and began to quote some verses of scripture to bring comfort to the one who was suffering. And the patient became very agitated and clearly was asking for a pen or something to write with. So the young man took his pen out of the pocket and he gave it to the man and he scrawled something on a piece of paper very quickly. And immediately after the note was written, the man expired right there. He died.
Well, the young seminarian was very upset, of course. This was his first hospital visit and to have this happen was more than he could almost bear. But after all of the things happened, the body was taken away and so forth, he was walking back to his car. He decided to read the note that had been scrawled and he looked at it and he noticed that the man said, move, you're standing on my oxygen tube.
Well, whether that story is true or not, it does have a very important point. There are some people who mean very well and they have wonderful intentions, but they hurt you very deeply and do more harm than good. Now the Bible says in 2 Corinthians that God comforts us in all of our tribulation that we might be able to comfort others with the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God. This morning I have the very happy privilege of introducing you to Job's Comforters. If you've been with us, you know that this is the third in a series of messages on the book of Job. God willing, there will be a total of eight messages and this is a marvelous book and Job has three comforters who like to give long speeches and we aren't going to read all of those speeches, you might be glad to know, but I would like you to read them on your own and we are introduced to them in chapter 2 verse 12. Chapter 2 verse 12, Job is suffering miserably as we learned in the last two messages and when they lifted up their eyes at a distance they did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept and each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.
Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him for they saw that his pain was very great. If that's all they had done, they would have had a great ministry in Job's life, but problems began when they began to open their mouths. Now when you read these speeches, there are several things that you need to recognize. First of all, some of the things that they say are good and right. There's a lot of wisdom that you find in these three friends.
Some of the things that they say are wrong and accusatory and some of the things that they say are irrelevant. But what I'd like to do now is to introduce them to you so that we find out who they are and then we can get on with the business of finding out where they went wrong. First of all, we're introduced to a man by the name of Eliphaz the Temanite. Notice in chapter 4 he speaks after Job gives that remarkable soliloquy that we commented on last time.
And you'll notice that Eliphaz begins in chapter 4 verse 1. He answers and says, if one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient? But who can refrain from speaking? Behold, you have admonished many and you have strengthened weak hands.
Your words have helped the tottering to stand and you have strengthened feeble knees, but now it has come to you and you are impatient. What he's saying is, Job, you've helped others and now that you're going through a trial, what's your big complaint? And he's saying, why don't you just live up to what you told others to do?
Now, none of us like that kind of advice. I know because I'm a preacher and I live with preachers' kids. It's part of the agreement. Many years ago, you remember that wonderful series of messages that I preached on following Jesus Christ and it was, the first message says that we should always ask, is this what Jesus would do whenever we're going to do something? I remember being home that Sunday evening and after the evening service, I was watching some TV and Lisa comes down and says, well dad, is that what Jesus would do? Well, you know, all of us, we don't like to hear that we are supposed to always abide by our own words. We should and I try to, but Job, you are the one who has instructed others.
Why don't you now take your own medicine? Look at what he says now as we begin to move through this passage of scripture only very briefly. Where is it that he bases his views?
Where does he get his information? Well, let's pick up the text in chapter four verse seven. Remember now, whoever perished being innocent or where were the upright destroyed?
According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those whose soul trouble harvest it. Now, Eliphaz got his information from some kind of a mystical vision. Notice it says in verse 12, now a word was brought to me stealthily and my ear received a whisper of it amid disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night when deep sleep falls on men, dread came upon me and trembling and made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed by my face, the hair of my flesh bristled up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes. There was silence and I heard a voice.
Can mankind to be just before God? Bottom line, what he's saying and he's trying to be polite. He's one of the most polite of the three. What he's trying to say is, Job, as far as I'm concerned, those who sow iniquity reap it. Now, it's very important for you to know that in the next chapters, that is chapter six and seven, Job gives his reply. And Job pours out his vexation of heart. Notice chapter six verse four, for the arrows of the almighty are within me. They're poison.
My spirit drinks. The terrors of God are arrayed against me. And if you read these chapters, you will find that Job is pouring out all of his vexation, his grief, and his anguish. Now, what you need to know is that Eliphaz shows up two more times because each of these men end up all giving three speeches to which Job replies, except Zophar gives only two. There's another young man that comes and takes his third speech and will be introduced to him in a future message. So that's all that we'll say about Eliphaz.
Now, we come to another man whom some people have said is the smallest man, surely, in all of history. His name is Bildad the Shuhite. Let's look at chapter eight.
Am I going too fast for some of you? Notice, let's look at chapter eight where Bildad comes up and he begins to give his speech. He says in verse five, if you would seek God and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, surely now he would rouse himself for you and restore your righteous estate, though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.
So what he is saying is essentially the same thing. If you really sought God, Job, there you are, you're complaining, you're talking about how depressed you are, you're wishing for the day that you were born and you wish you had died before you were born or at birth, but Job, if you just got serious with God, he'd meet you. Now, where does he get his information? Well, if Eliphaz is a mystic, this man is a historian. Notice what he says, please inquire of past generations and consider the things searched out by their fathers, for we are only of yesterday and know nothing because our days on earth are as a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and bring forth words from their minds?
Job, what you need to do is to go back and to look at tradition and look at what others have said and you will find nuggets of wisdom that will help you through this circumstance. And so I want you to notice that Job replies now in chapters nine and ten and he spills out his soul. He says in chapter nine, verse two, in truth I know that it is so, but how can a man be right before God? What you're saying may be right and you tell me to seek God, but how do I find him? In fact, we're going to be considering that in a future message as Job spills out his heart and says, where is God when I need him?
Why does he always hide himself when I am in the midst of all of this distress? But he doesn't help Job's despair. In fact, if we had the time, we'd see that at the end of this speech, Job begins to sink into deep depression again and wish for death.
Now let me introduce you to a third of his friends, the third friend, and he is the meanest of all of them. And he is Zophar, Zophar the Naamathite, chapter 11, verse 1. He begins to talk to Job and he just is waiting to give his speech. He says, shall a multitude of words go unanswered and a talkative man be acquitted? Shall your boasts silence men and shall you scoff and none rebuke? For you have said my teaching is pure and I am innocent in your eyes, but would that God might speak.
Let's pick it up at verse 7. Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the almighty? They are as high as the heavens. What can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea. Verse 13, if you would direct your heart right and spread out your hand to him, if iniquity is in your hand, put it far away and do not let wickedness dwell in your tents, then indeed you could lift up your face without moral defect and you would be steadfast and not fear and you would forget your trouble as waters that pass by. Job, cough it up. What is it that you have done that is causing this? If only you would stop trying to justify yourself, if only you would search your heart, find out all of the iniquity that is in it and confess it, you'd get on with the business of being healthy and happy and wise and you wouldn't have to sit in this ash heap with a disease that has troubled you from the top of your head to the very soles of your feet. What is it, Job?
Get honest. Now, I want you to know that Job then replies and he replies in chapters 12 to 14 and of course we can only look at that briefly with great deal of anger and sarcasm. Look at chapter 12 verse 1 for example. And Job said, you are the people and with you wisdom will die. But if I have intelligence as well as you, I am not inferior to you and who does not know such things as these? I am a joke to my friends, the one who called on God and he answered him, the just and blameless man is a joke. And he goes on to say that his reputation has been ruined, the stories that people are telling about him in town are getting around, rumors are spreading, he is being implicated in sin and he does not know what to do because search his heart as he will, he cannot point to anything that has caused this disaster. Now, because we're doing a survey of the book of Job and we're not at all going to look at every chapter, I'm expecting you to do all the reading. Let me go to the end of the book and ask this question, what does God think of these three friends anyway? Now, they meant well and many of the things that they said were wise and good and they acted on the basis of the knowledge they had but what does God think? It certainly is worth your time to turn to Job chapter 42 where we can see exactly how God regarded all of this wisdom well intentioned though it was. Chapter 42 verse 7, it says and it came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job that the Lord said to Eliphaz, the Temanite, my wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends because you have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has. God says your theology was wrong and you approached this incorrectly and I am not pleased. In fact, Job ends up offering sacrifices for his three friends so that the judgment of God against them would be held back.
Wow. Well, in analyzing all this, we have to ask the question, where did they go wrong? What was so wrong with their advice? Well, what I'd like to do now is to give you three mistakes, three mistakes that Job's friends made in doing their counseling and in their pastoral visitation class that God asked them to respond to.
Where did they go wrong? Number one, Job's friends talked without feeling. They talked without feeling.
They were having a speculative discussion at Job's expense. They were having a rousing theological discussion and they came with their preconceived ideas and their preconceived notions. They were not in sorrow.
It was not they who were feeling the tremendous pressure of this illness. It was not their wife who suggested curse God and die and therefore they could talk freely. As a matter of fact, they were very concerned that this intellectual discussion go on so that they could display some of their knowledge and their keen insights and they had many keen insights, but they did not take into account that they were speaking to someone who was hurting so badly he could not see God.
And sometimes we do hurt that badly. So first of all, I would like to say that it was they talked without feeling because it was a speculative discussion. They talked without feeling because it was also a prejudice discussion. If you read these speeches, you find out that these men have their mind made up and their great concern is that Job agree with them. What they were saying is if you simply recognize that you were getting what you deserved, if you got out of this syndrome of denial and admitted the truth, why then indeed you would be helped.
And no matter what Job said, they kept responding in the same way, time and time again. And if you read the book, you find out that each time they speak, they get more direct and they become even meaner. You know, it's one thing to teach theology as a speculative study. I've taught theology. I used to teach theology at Moody Bible Institute and enjoyed it completely and wouldn't mind teaching theology again.
But you know, it's so interesting. You're in a theology class and you're discussing issues such as whether or not babies go to heaven when they die. We wish that the scripture were clearer. There are some hints that they do indeed go to heaven. We wish that the Bible would say more about that. And then in the class, there's an older couple who puts up a hand and says, you know, we had a son who was killed in an accident at the age of five.
Do you think that he is in heaven? Has he passed the age of accountability? And suddenly the classroom is electrified and there's almost a silence that comes over the classroom because from now on the discussion is no longer speculative.
Now suddenly we are dealing with heart issues. Now suddenly we are talking about things that have caused grief and weeks and nights of tears and now suddenly the discussion becomes very different. One day, and it must be 12 or 15 years ago, I was speaking at a conference and a man asked to see me later and I still remember him. I think I would almost recognize him if I saw him after these years.
He was standing outside under a tree and I'll never forget his face. He had a son who had just committed suicide about 10 days before. And this Christian man, as he was spilling out all of his grief and all of his unanswered questions said to me, really, he said, I have to say that if my son is not going to be in heaven, he said, I don't want to be in heaven either. He said, there's no way that I can be in heaven if my son is lost. And so we discussed whether or not, A, his son had accepted Christ and there was some question about that, but B, even if the answer is yes, what happens to someone who commits suicide who is a true believer? Now the interesting thing is that these are the kinds of discussions that can take place theoretically very easily, but when you have a broken man who is weeping before God, who is crying out and who refuses comfort, suddenly they take on an entirely different character. And I said some things to him. I think I even said some wise things to him, but I don't think that he received them. Maybe I was like one of Job's friends who thought I had all the answers when in point of fact, it is very difficult sometimes to have a speculative theological answer to an emotional hurt. It's very difficult. Now, you know, there are some people who have very good intentions who when someone gets sick simply says to them, what you need to do is to confess your sin, you need to have enough faith, you need to seek God, and when you do, God will hear you and God will answer you.
Now to me, this discussion is not speculative because there was a member of our own family who bought heavily into that theology and when this individual was not healed at a particular point in time, went through days and days of depression believing that God had forsaken her. You see, because if you accept that theology that everybody is supposed to be healed all the time, all that they need to do is to have faith, and if they aren't healed it's because of lack of faith, that can become cruel, diabolically cruel, and if you believe that, I suggest that you read the last part of the book of Job because God was not happy that those three friends tried to pound that into Job's head. It isn't that simple. And it never is that simple, is it?
This is Pastor Lutzer. All of us have asked the question why, and it's so important for us to emphasize that oftentimes we do not know the reason why. Someday God may make it plain. Someday in eternity it might be irrelevant.
But for now we ask the question. I've written a book entitled God, Why Me? It's based on this sermon series. In many respects it's a very simple book. It's readable. It's accessible. It's the kind of book that you can give to your friends.
For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Go to RTWOffer.com. By the way, when you're there, you can click on the endurance partner button. Some of you may want to become an endurance partner regularly connecting us with your prayers and your gifts. So go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I hope also that you take time to read the book of Job even as we go through this series of messages.
Call your friends. Invite them to listen as well because we will discover that at the end God gives an interpretation of what happened to Job. He didn't know why these events happened, but eventually it became clear. Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the short book entitled God, Why Me? Lessons from the Life of Job. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. When you're hit with bad news, a friend can be a great help. However, the friends of Job were scant comfort when he was undergoing his severe trials. Next time on Running to Win, more from Job on why human wisdom is no match for the hidden purposes of a sovereign God. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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