Monday, June 24 2024

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Proverbs 25–28
Chronological Order: Isaiah 28-30
New Testament Only: Acts 18:1–17

The Role Of A Friend

Job 4–6

Friends old menSo Job has had incredible tragedy visited upon him, and, as you can imagine, he is devastated.  Three of his friends hear of his great sorrow and come to comfort him as good friends should.  Seeing him in great pain they have enough wisdom to simply sit with him for seven days while he grieves.  I have struggled with this very aspect of comforting someone who is hurting; who has experienced loss.  I feel like I should say something but don’t know what to say.  How can I say anything that would make a person feel better after such loss?  I can’t.  I must admit, silence in such circumstances is uncomfortable for me.  I feel like a comforter should do more than sit in silence and yet, this is often the best course of action.  Sometimes being a friend or comforter is best expressed by simply showing up and being there.

Obviously, at some point, there comes a time for talking.  This can be an awkward transition.  Just because a grieving person is ready to talk does not mean they are ready to dialogue in a calm, reasonable fashion.  Eventually, hurt and pain are released verbally.  Sometimes this release is not rational.  Sometimes it seems self-destructive.  How we respond to this verbal release will say a lot about our own spiritual maturity.  After having started off well by sitting with Job for seven days in silence his friends respond poorly to his verbal release.  Job says he wishes he had never been born and goes on and on how he wants the day of his birth obliterated.  Today we read of the first misstep of his friends.

Job’s friends sincerely want to help him.  They have a belief, however, that bad things only happen to those who have significant sin in their lives.  In other words, if you check everything off your “God To Do List” no trouble will ever come your way.  Now it is easy to get this misunderstanding.  God did say that we should obey Him so it will go well with us.  He does say that He will bless those that obey and punish those that do not.  The problem is that God gave us the Law so we would come to understand that we cannot completely obey in our power.  If our confidence is in our own ability to check things off the list of the Law then we haven’t learned the lesson of the Law; we need a Savior; our ability is insufficient.

I find this discourse between Job and his friends fascinating.  Usually we look at a debate and attempt to discern who is “right” and who is “wrong”.  This dialogue shows me that in a debate both sides can be right about some things and wrong about others.  Both Job and his friends will say some solid truths.  They will also miss the mark on a number of issues.  Job’s friends start with a wrong assumption about Job.  They assume he has committed some iniquity.

Job 4:7-8 ESV

“Remember: who that was innocent ever perished?
Or where were the upright cut off?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity
and sow trouble reap the same.”

Eliphaz is saying to Job that he must have some sin in his life.  In a sense Eliphaz is correct; Job does have sin in his life but he did not “plow iniquity and sow trouble”.  We know this because God has said as much at the beginning of this book.  Job knows it too.  It is right to want to help someone identify sin in their life so they can be rid of it.  We must be very careful, however, in how we go about doing so.  Jesus Himself said

Matthew 7:3-5 ESV

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus is not saying “don’t help your brother remove a speck from his eye”.  He is saying be very careful for you may have something in your own eye that prevents you from seeing the speck in your brother’s.  That is the case here in Job.  His friends have the same sin, pride and self-righteousness.  They can’t see Job’s real sin because they have the same speck in their own eyes; it has caused a blind spot.  This means that they are unable to help Job uncover his sin because they can’t see it.  They therefore accuse Job of sin of which he is not guilty, and of which he knows he is not guilty.  This means that Job feels compelled to defend himself.  He doesn’t view his friend’s words as help but as an attack.  This is not the way to help someone see their sin.

Do you remember David?  He had taken another man’s wife and had the man killed.  God informed Nathan of this and sent him to confront David.  Did Nathan barge into the throne room and with great indignation stick his finger in David’s face and say “You sir are a thief and a murderer!”  No, he did not.  How do you think David would have responded?  Would he have been receptive or defensive?  Would he have responded with a melted heart or an angry heart?  I suspect he would have had Nathan eliminated as he had Uriah.

Nathan came and told David a story of a man of plenty stealing from a man with little.  David became exceedingly angry and he said the man who did this deserves to die.  It was then, when David admitted the severity of the sin, that Nathan said “You are the man!”  Realize that for Nathan to take this approach he had to know what David’s sin was; he couldn’t go in guessing.  Nathan, knowing the sin, led David to an admission of sin in others and then held up the mirror.

There are many lessons in the story of Job.  One of those lessons is on how to help someone see their sin.  This lesson is illustrated for us in the negative; the wrong way to do the job.  Job’s friends did not attempt to help him in love but in self-righteousness.  The loving approach would have been to put self-righteousness aside and listen to Job, slowly guiding the conversation toward self discovery of his sin before God.  Lecturing from a position of ignorance will almost always result in a defiant, defensive response.  Listening and guiding toward truth will typically bear more fruit.

Job’s friends said a lot of things that were true some of them even hit the mark, but they were not delivered in a way that would break through Job’s defenses since he too had a lot of truth with which to defend himself.  We can be right and wrong at the same time.  We can identify sin correctly but bring it to the sinner incorrectly.  It is not enough to be right; we must also love and bring sin to the surface not by accusation but in love.  We must put the other persons well being first in our heart; our words must pour out from a place of true love for the hurting individual.  Remember that God could have judged us in righteousness.  Instead He sent His son to die for us out of His incredible love for us.  That is the attitude we must have when addressing sin in others.

Finally, we must realize the only way to a changed heart is through the work of the Holy Spirit.  As you will see, it was only when God finally took Job to task for his sin that Job realized his sin and became repentant.  You and I cannot save, we cannot convict, we can only point and guide.  That is not an insignificant role, but we must not attempt to usurp God’s role.  We must do our part; no more, no less.

Have a day filled with love for the lost!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

(Originally posted 6/3/10)

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Today's Bible Reading: Job 1–3

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Today's Bible Reading: Job 7–8

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