Before we begin, let us pray…
O Lord, you have given us your Word for a light to shine upon our path. Grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
We will continue to study Job’s first reply to Eliphaz. We will learn about the second half of his speech from chapter 6. In sum, Job here counters Eliphaz’s counsel with charge of failing to understand his real condition which makes his speech to him as dry and cold criticism. For Job, his friends sided with his enemies and they need to hear him first in order to bring them back on his side. Job asks for their sympathy first instead what he got from Eliphaz is nakedly a cold judgment. They are his friends so they should know how do better.
So as part of our exhortation, we will learn about Christian friendship, its nature and importance. We will learn about its relationship to God, his Word and Spirit. The second sermon point of our preaching is 2) Job’s Request for Sympathy.
Let us begin…
Job’s Request for Sympathy
He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. My brothers are treacherous as a torrent-bed, as torrential streams that pass away, which are dark with ice, and where the snow hides itself. When they melt, they disappear; when it is hot, they vanish from their place. The caravans turn aside from their course; they go up into the waste and perish. The caravans of Tema look, the travelers of Sheba hope. They are ashamed because they were confident; they come there and are disappointed. For you have now become nothing; you see my calamity and are afraid. Have I said, ‘Make me a gift’? Or, ‘From your wealth offer a bribe for me’? Or, ‘Deliver me from the adversary’s hand’? Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the ruthless’? (verses 14-23)
Job pauses from his lament and request for sympathy from his friends. On the next chapter, in chapter 7, Job will continue his lament but for now at the second section of chapter 6, he points to them their errors and requests them to help him figure out if there unintentional sins that he may have committed rather than asking him to just simply relent.
From verses 14-23, Job uses travelling metaphors to communicate to Eliphaz his disappointment for his lack of understanding. He compared Eliphaz’s speech to a desert and a caravan. And in the end Job asks his friends rhetorical questions answerable by no to prove that he only wants them to understand his condition first in order to properly empathize with him. And yet, we all know his friends failed to do this to him.
Verse 14 gives us the charge of Job against his friends. They lacked compassion. For Job, this is as serious as Eliphaz’s charge. Eliphaz considers Job a a harsh fool who forsake his piety as his hope while Job charges Eliphaz for being unkind in his speech. Both evokes the fear of Shaddai as the basis for their charges so we know this is about wisdom or godly living.
Job in verses 15 to 21 expounds in this using metaphors and collectively regarded all his three friends of failing to understanding his condition which makes Job disappointed. Verses 15 to 17 likens Job’s friends to streams beneath desert grounds which are formed during winter then become a water source for travelers during spring. However during summer when voyagers need it the most, it becomes dry and unusable. For Job, his friends are like these streams. They are good companions when things go well but not useful when things go bad. And to add insult to injury, Job further expanded the metaphor to travelling experts expecting water on these pathways but ended up perishing in the desert. From verses 28 to 30, Job mentions the caravans of Tema and Shema are expert voyagers who knows well how to travel in deserts. And even them when needing water uses these ways of obtaining it and yet they still end up getting none.
So Job challenges his friends to put their feet on his shoes. He asks him in verse 21 to look at his condition and listen with compassion and kindness in order not to haphazardly give unwise advise. If they could only look at him in the midst of his pain and suffering and not just treat him as unnecessary burden to bear. The goal is to emphasize and understand his condition first and not immediate criticism and judgment. So in verses 22 to 23, Job asks his friends if he ever asks for help from that would cost them a fortune? Did he asks for their money or even burden them to sacrificially give what he lost? No, Job simply wants them to listen and understand and this is what he wants to direct his friends on the next set of verses.
Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray. How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove? Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind? You would even cast lots over the fatherless, and bargain over your friend. “But now, be pleased to look at me, for I will not lie to your face. Please turn; let no injustice be done. Turn now; my vindication is at stake. Is there any injustice on my tongue? Cannot my palate discern the cause of calamity? (verses 24-30)
Job did not discount the possibility of not sinning against God. He is simply saying to his friends that he know and have carefully considered that the proportion between the suffering and his sins are unbalanced. Well, he does not claim to possess perfect knowledge on the matter which is why he want his friends to help him figuring this out because as far as he knows he did not do anything to deserve such wrath. Again, this is not to discount the doctrine of total depravity. We all deserve death and punishment because we are sinners who sin because of our sinful natures but the point here is about tangible offense marked by foolish living. It is applied theology. Job wants to know and seeks understanding which I think in the end proves that Job practices what he teaches.
Verses 24 tells us Job’s request for sympathy. He needs in friends to point out him his actual sin instead of mincing words with him. Verses 25-26 ask rhetorical questions answerable by no again. For Job while words of counsel are lawful to use but words alone does not help. He wants them to understand that in his suffering, his words are but wind or words of grief and lament so instead of cold criticism, he wants to first listen and then acts accordingly. Verses 27 compares Job’s friends as executors who aim to punish him rather than treat him. Their words are also like wind to him they are of no value! So Verses 28-30, Job once more asks them to look at him, listen with understanding, and request for their sympathy. He is willing to listen if they can help him figure out if he did something equally offensive to receive such great retribution. And so after this Job continues his lament.
Let us end our preaching this morning with some reflections about the nature and importance of Christian Friendship. First, let me say friendship like all relationships is essentially a human need. We all were created for human companionship. In the garden, God declared that it is not good for Adam to be alone. In Genesis 2:18, our Lord said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Yes, this specifically pertains to the relationship between husband and wife and includes erotic love but at the basic level it also contains our need for companionship. So by extension, we know friendship is common and good. It is part of God’s good creation.
However, we must know it is also affected by sin. When Adam broke his covenant with God, Eve also broke it with Adam, and as part of the curse the woman will “…Your desire shall be contrary to[f] your husband, but he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16)”. In short, she will always attempt to usurp the authority of his husband. And the same with all relationship, we too in friendship will try to rule over one another. Therefore, we all need redemption and restoration. And our friendship must conform in the likeness, and follow the example of Christ.
So when we say Christian friendship, it is a kind of friendship each us cultivate as we all journey towards Celestial City. It is a kind of companion we seek in common to one another which is the good common state – sanctification. This means when we are talking about friendship between Christians, we assume both are grounded to true saving faith.
Christian friendship is important because we all need to help in our journey to this life on our way to the life to come. It is the kind of help Christ himself taught us to cultivate in this life as we shared the life of God to one another. It is a life in communion with God and as result a life we share in common to another.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:9-15)
So how is their friendship cultivated? It is by abiding in God and his Word and we receive it by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to those whom God elects and redeems. It is the good fruit of true and saving faith.
It is encouraging how group Bible study has grown in our church. It have witnesses how individual members of the church seek to help one another and encourage each other in every opportunity they get and even this relationship built up as we all first physically gather with one another every Lord’s Day, hearing his Word and responding in prayer and singing. So as God forms his people weekly, he also extends them to another, helping each other daily, in prayers and encouragements. This is the body of Christ formed by the mind of God in Christ and by his Spirit. Christian friendship results from this and slowly but surely we can see how God grows in children in fellowship with one another. Let us continue to pray for the work of God to continue in our lives.
ZCRC(Imus), God communes with his people and enables them to live for one another. He loved us first so we can abide in his love and love another. God speaks to us in his Word and we respond to him in prayer and thanksgiving and in gratitude, we serve one another and encourage each other as friends. May the Lord continue to dwell in our midst. Amen.