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Avoiding the Error of Eliphaz

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 27, 2023 12:00 am

Avoiding the Error of Eliphaz

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 27, 2023 12:00 am

We live in a generation of “I want what I want, and I want it now!”—and pride is actually encouraged. But, as Christians, we are called to demonstrate humility, imitating Jesus Christ as He humbled Himself for us. Through these verses in 1 Peter, Stephen expounds upon three key qualities of humility by which we can show our love for others and to our Lord.


It is true that no man is justified before God, verse 17. It is true that men and angels err, verse 18. It is true that we live in bodies made of dust, verse 19. It is true that life is short, verses 20 and 21, as if there's only one peg holding the ten of our lives to the planet. This is all theologically correct, but Eliphaz is absolutely wrong in the application of it to Job's life. How do we know?

Because of what God said. When you face a crisis in your life, there may be many people who want to give you advice. Some of that counsel may be good, and some of it bad.

How can you tell the difference? There's nothing more refreshing than timely, encouraging words. There's nothing more destructive than unwise, uncaring words.

So when you have friends who are in pain, how can you provide wise, helpful counsel to them? In the midst of Job's suffering, Eliphaz was both wrong and unhelpful. As we explore that passage today, you'll gain practical insight.

Here's Stephen. In the New Testament book of James, the tongue is compared to a forest fire. It says it sets on fire the course of our lives, and our tongue is set on fire by hell itself.

It is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. James 3, 5-8. It's true, there isn't anything more refreshing and encouraging, uplifting or instructing than words.

At the same time, there isn't anything more destructive, defeating, discouraging, deflating than ill-timed, unwise, uncaring, unfeeling, self-serving, self-promoting words. After seven days of silence there at the ash heap, Job finally speaks. He's one of the greatest men of the east, chapter 1 informed us, one of the godliest men on the planet.

For one week his three friends who traveled from afar to be with him sat there with him in silence, but finally after seven days, Job breaks the silence and pours out his pain and his grief. While he doesn't curse God, he curses the day he was born. Why did I not die at birth, verse 11 of chapter 3? Why wasn't I miscarried, verse 16?

At least those who are dead are at rest. But no, I had to be born, I had to live, I had to grow up and experience the worst of any man's fears, verse 25. The things I dreaded, they happened to me. It was an explosive, lamenting, depressing, bitter cry from the gut-wrenching heart of Job. And now, following that bitter emotional speech, the oldest of his friends will speak, Eliphaz the Temanite. He will deliver his first speech and his words are fairly easy to outline as we cover briefly his words in chapters 4 and 5 with four different characteristics.

Number one, Eliphaz pretended concern. Look at Job chapter 4, verse 1. Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered, if one ventures a word with you, will you become impatient? In other words, are you going to get mad at me that I'm going to say something? By the way, Job will not get mad at him.

In fact, he will not even interrupt him and let him deliver his entire speech. Behold, verse 3, you have admonished many and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have helped the tottering to stand and you have strengthened feeble knees.

Now, if I could summarize what's going to happen here and what he's going to say in these opening remarks, it's basically this. Job, you've done a wonderful job in the past putting wind in people's sails and helping those who are flat on their backs stand back up on their feet. You have strengthened people who are defeated and filled with despair and I'm thinking this is a great start.

This is a wonderful way to begin. What I would want to read next in the very next verses, and now, Job, it's time for somebody to put wind in your sails. It's time for somebody to come along and encourage you. You've done such a wonderful job with others.

Now, your buddies are all here and we're going to encourage you. But, verse 5, now there's trouble after that word, but, but now it has come to you that is trouble. And you are impatient. It touches you and you are dismayed. Imagine these are the first words after pretending concern and quickly moves to personal condemnation. See he overlooks something.

In fact, he'll overlook a number of things, but he ignores something very obvious. Even though someone can encourage someone else who's in pain, they cannot easily encourage themselves. When did you ever look in the mirror on a Monday morning and give yourself a pep talk and then say, wow, is that good or what? I'm ready to go. There'll be more of that tomorrow morning, same time.

No. At this point it should be Eliphaz who is saying, look, Job, it's my turn to encourage you. But after just pretending to care and he really doesn't, he moves forward. And why doesn't he care? Because he doesn't think Job needs encouragement.

He thinks Job needs discipline. Look at verse 7. Remember now, whoever perished being innocent, where were the upright destroyed? According to what I've seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.

In other words, Job, you're getting the crop now. It's all in because of stuff you've evidently hidden. You've evidently lived a life of sin. And now this is it.

The truck is backing up and unloading on you. See, ladies and gentlemen, this is the classic theory of human suffering and millions of Christians believe it to this day. And it's this. The innocent do not suffer.

The upright are not destroyed. In other words, I could even further summarize it to say it this way. The good guys always win and the bad guys always lose. Even if Eliphaz is right, he gets a gold medal in being tactless, heartless, unsympathetic in his counsel. In fact, later on in Chapter 5, verse 4, he will literally imply to Job that it's his fault. His kids are dead.

What makes it even more devastating is that Job is likely to believe him. What parent has suffered the loss of a child and wondered if they weren't worthy of that child? Maybe they didn't deserve that child.

Maybe God has moved in this way. I have had parents weep in my arms. Did God take my son or my daughter because of something I did?

Common response of loving parents would be that they would gladly take their child's place and assume some form of guilt. The man who experiences bankruptcy is left to wonder, is this judgment from God? Did I do something?

What have I done? It's natural to believe this kind of message. And instead of words of comfort, Eliphaz goes right for the jugular with words of condemnation. His basic premise is this, sin produces suffering and suffering is always the judgment of God. Job is suffering, therefore Job is sinning. And because he is sinning, he is suffering and experiencing the judgment of God. You see, what Eliphaz fails to consider is Job was not sinless. Job wasn't sinless, but the Job was innocent.

He didn't factor that possibility in. Eliphaz had overlooked the fact that while sinners will be ultimately judged by God, they are not always immediately judged by God. Some people live long, wicked, evil lives of ease and they die at an old age with plenty of money in the bank and plenty of kids to fight over the inheritance when they're gone.

See, this is the quandary of Asaph, a godly man who writes in his agony in Psalm 73, I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked. There are no pains in their death. Their body is healthy. They're not in trouble as other men.

They're not plagued like the rest of mankind. Now here's where it gets dangerous to this believer. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure.

It's been a waste. Now I'm being chastened, he writes, every morning until Asaph later considers the end of the evil one. It's true that sinners may not be judged immediately, but those who do not know Christ will be judged ultimately, finally. Likewise, contrary to the advice of Eliphaz, the righteous do not always prosper immediately. Perhaps on earth, never, but the righteous will prosper ultimately.

Finally, just wait and see in that coming kingdom. So what kind of evidence does Eliphaz bring to the table to buttress his belief that sinners get judged and Job is obviously a sinner and a great sinner because he's suffering greatly? We'll call this section number three of his speech proud condescension. In fact, from verses 12 of chapter four all the way through verse 16 of chapter five, you can summarize his words with this statement to Job.

Hey, Job, fortunately for you, I have the answer and I've got plenty of evidence. It's ironic to me that this first version of a prosperity preacher gives his first evidence to Job that he's right and it happens to be a personal vision. Look at verse 12. Now a word was brought to me stealthily or quietly. My ear received a whisper of it.

Look at verse 15. A spirit passed by my face. The hair of my flesh bristled up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. This form was before my eyes.

There was silence, but then I heard a voice. Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his maker? You see, these are rhetorical questions applied to Job and the answer is obvious. Here's the application of his vision.

Job, you're not just and you are not blameless before your God. How do I know? I've had a vision. I've had a vision and because I've had a vision from God, I know the truth about you. Just admit it. How do you argue with that? How do you argue with somebody who says I've had a vision about you? God gave it to me.

You can't. I mean, once God has spoken, you can't wiggle out from underneath that. That angle is used by Christians all over this country. Anytime a letter or conversation begins with a sentence, God has spoken to me. There's no room for discussion.

Who can debate that? You're debating God. I can't tell you how many times over the years I have heard from people who've heard from God. Turn on your television and listen to the sons of Eliphaz, the preachers and teachers who will spend more time telling you what God told him or her rather than what God has already said in his word.

Evidently, this just isn't as interesting as the vision they had the night before. And when anybody says to you, God told me this about you, there's nothing you can tell them. There's no chance to correct their thoughts or challenge their decisions. But I want you to understand what makes it doubly hard for Job here is that this vision is theologically correct. It is true that no man is justified before God, verse 17. It is true that men and angels err, verse 18. It is true that we live in bodies made of dust, verse 19. It is true that life is short, verses 20 and 21, as if there's only one peg holding the 10 of our lives to the planet.

And then we fly away. This is all theologically correct. But Eliphaz is absolutely wrong in the application of it to Job's life. How do we know? Because of what God said.

That's how. He said in chapter one, Satan, have you considered my servant Job? He is a righteous man. He's blameless. He hates sin.

He reveres me. You see, Job is not suffering because he is a sinner. He is suffering because he was a saint.

He was not being punished for being unrighteous. It was his righteousness that set him up for these difficult days of pain. See, Eliphaz is so caught up with his own system, his own opinion, his own self-deceived arrogance with his personal vision that he might have made up that he goes on to chronicle in chapter five. His experience is he now perverts his counsel and he absolutely reverses godly wisdom and utters what Solomon warned a soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it.

When it's twisted, when it's turned upside down, when it's incorrect, it crushes the spirit. He moves then from pretended concern, number one, to personal condemnation, number two, to proud condescension, number three, and now, fourthly, he offers his perverted counsel. We could summarize his words that take us through the end of this chapter, his arrogant statements with this phrase, Job, I understand God so much better than you and you've gotten on his bad side. Notice verse eight of chapter five. But as for me, I would seek God.

I would place my cause before God, how utterly arrogant that is. Job has done nothing more over these last days, weeks, months than lay his cause before God to lay it all out in the open, to be asking the question that he has said to be brought to the despair that he's been brought to because of the silence of God. He's put it out there. Eliphaz, who can't identify and doesn't care to, says, now what you need to do is lay it out before God. What he's implying is, Job, you've laid it out before God, but you're hiding some stuff over here. If you do this, if you follow my advice, verse 11, God will set on high those who are lowly and those who mourn will be lifted to safety.

He's gonna snap you right out of it. Just confess that sin. You get right with God and life is going to get better quickly. Verse 16, you're going to get your hope back. Verse 17, you can be happy again.

Why? God's disciplined you. He's inflicted pain on you, but he will give you relief. Verse 18, he wounds, but his hands also heal. You see the, you hear the kernels of truth in there?

Kernels of truth are there, but it's misapplied truth and at the wrong time and to the wrong person. And it's crushing his spirit because of it. Don't miss this, he says to Job. Godly Christians do not suffer. In fact, he goes on in verse 19 and he says six troubles he'll deliver you from. In fact, there are seven things that Christians, we put it in our vernacular, will never experience.

What are they? Famine, verse 20. Christians don't have to worry about defeat in war, verse 20. Physical abuse or violence, verse 21. Harm from wild beasts, verse 22. Financial loss, verse 24. Baroness, verse 25.

And an early death, verse 26. Job, if you lay out your cause before God and you walk with him, you're going to have everything you can dream of. I mean, this can all be yours and all these bad things will never happen to those who follow my advice.

You can have everything in life you've ever wanted. Is he the original prosperity preacher or what? I can almost hear him saying, and send in your seed gift now to get it. He says in verse 26, you will come to the grave in full vigor. That is, you're not even going to get sick before you die. You're going to cross the tape without disease, no aching joints, no weary limbs. You're going to die in the saddle, Job, at full gallop.

That's my promise to you if you follow my advice. And he ends with saying, look, we've investigated this, verse 27. We've checked this all out.

We've got testimonials that will play in just a moment on the screens. It's true. Hear it.

Believe it. Know it for yourself. You see, instead of offering words of comfort, Eliphaz has only added to the agony of Job's suffering. Job was not suffering because he lacked holy living.

He was suffering because he was a leading example of holy living on planet Earth. Now, I got to tell you this. You probably won't believe it.

We'll prove it as we work our way through here. But Eliphaz is actually the most compassionate counselor of all of them. It's only going to get worse after this. He meant well, as did the others. But the effect of Eliphaz, which we'll uncover in our next session together, will be devastating, as we'll see it in the life of Job.

They did not help. They will only deepen the hurt. Now, before we wrap it up today, let me make some observations for those who would offer counsel. Acknowledge the sufferer's pain before you challenge their perspective.

They need your ear and your heart before they need your mouth, before they're ready to hear what comes out. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you to be a single mother. Those decisions that you made early in life, now the consequences. But I just can't imagine how challenging it is for you every day as you walk with God and raise that child. It must be agonizing to be facing a 10-year sentence in prison.

I can't imagine what's going through your mind. I'm so sorry to have heard the news of you and your family in that accident when your family was all killed. But you, you were driving.

I've heard and know you were under the influence of alcohol, but I know it's devastated your life. My friends, even when it is their fault, maybe when suffering is a consequence of sin, you will not be viewed as condoning their sin by sympathizing with their consequences. Acknowledge their pain before you challenge their perspective. Number two, don't dissect someone's speech without dealing with their spirit. Eliphaz listened in chapter three. We were given the message of Job's bitter, despairing lament.

I mean, here he is coming out with this stuff. I wish I had been miscarried. I wish I'd been born dead. All of the bitter anguish of his heart is just pouring out and Eliphaz responds to his speech, overlooks his spirit. Listen to what is being felt, not just to what is being said. Warren Wiersbe put it this way, a wise counselor and comforter must listen with his heart and respond to feelings as well as to words. You do not heal a broken heart with logic.

You heal a broken heart with love. Number three, make sure the content of your counsel is biblical truth, not personal experience. Now you can illustrate biblical truth with personal experience whenever helpful. But the basis of true hope, the foundation for healing of the spirit and the mind and the heart is not what you the counselor have experienced, but what God has said.

It's not what you've seen. It's what God has said. In fact, I like to think of it this way. This doesn't sound like something you'd say in church, but every time I hear the name of Eliphaz after studying, I think of elephant.

That just is the way I'm going to remember this guy. Because when he got through with Job, Job felt like he had been trampled on by an elephant. People who are in pain don't mind hearing a sermon, but they like sympathy too. There's the old axiom, you know, put some sugar in your medicine.

It'll help it go down. Now, as you've gone through this speech with me, perhaps you haven't identified or been challenged by Eliphaz. Perhaps you're sitting out there and you're identifying with Job. You don't want to give counsel.

You want to receive it. You are at this moment not standing before Job with answers. You're sitting with Job right now asking questions. Be aware the path of pain often runs parallel with the mystery of God. Pain and the mystery of God are often traveling companions. And it doesn't make any sense whatsoever, but it does to God. And Job will later on say in chapter 23, God knew the way that I took.

God knows. He knows the path you're on. He designed it. He knows every turn. He knows how deeply the valley will go. He knows where it will lead you.

And he knows why. A young theological student, Bible student came one afternoon to the great preacher, Pastor Charles Spurgeon for counsel. Spurgeon himself identifying with some of what this man was struggling with, this young man. The student was struggling with his lack of understanding concerning these matters.

They were very troubling to him. And he came to Spurgeon and Spurgeon replied, young man, allow me to give you this word of advice. You must expect to let God know some things which you do not. That is the mystery of God's marvelous plan. Sometimes the wisest thing to say is, I don't know.

I don't know. But he knows. He knows.

He understands. Eliphaz, you don't know. Eliphaz, you don't understand anything.

You don't. Eliphaz the elephant trampling all over people. You think you know everything. You do not know anything about Job. But God knows. And in the end, that's what mattered the most. There's going to be times when you're in pain and people will want to counsel you. There's also going to be times when people in your life are hurting and you'll want to be helpful to them.

This negative example from Eliphaz has practical implications for you. I hope you'll apply what you learned today. Wisdom for the Heart is the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. Stephen is the senior pastor of the Shepherd's Church in Cary, North Carolina. You can learn more about our ministry by visiting our website, In addition to this message, Stephen has another resource designed to encourage those who are hurting. It's a short, easy-to-read booklet called The Healer of Broken Hearts. Please call us and learn how you can get a copy. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE.

That's 866-48-BIBLE. Stephen will continue through the life of Job next time. Join us. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-27 00:10:19 / 2023-03-27 00:19:34 / 9

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