Before we begin, let us pray…
O gracious God and most merciful Father, you have given us the rich and precious jewel of your holy Word. Assist us with your Spirit, that it may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to your own image, to build us up into the perfect building of Christ, and to increase us in all heavenly virtues. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the same Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Today we are going to end our prologue with a transition towards speeches between Job and his friends. We will briefly learn who these friends are how they relate to Job. Then we will dig deep on the first speech of the book. It is actually a prayer of lament. It is a speech by Job directed to God that his friends must have heard and triggered the whole series of exchange. In the end we know God will finally speak to Job and end his whole ordeal. Also by then we will know from God his commendation of Job’s speeches and his rebuke of Job’s friend’s speeches. In short, we know that Job was vindicated while his friend’s were not. This means Job’s friends counsel did not receive divine approval and we will operate on this assumption in the whole book.
Now, for our brief introduction about Job’s friends, we will learn about their names, their prominence, and their apparent close relationship with Job. While their efforts to comfort Job was paved with good intentions, they end up giving bad advice. Next, we will hear Job’s first recorded speech after suffering the loss of his wealth and health, his family and dignity. It is a heartbreaking speech. Job almost went overboard but by God’s mercy, he did not still curse God. His grief and lament is directed towards God and dead set in asking questions in order to understand God and his ways. In the end, we learned that Job abdicated knowing God is infinite in his wisdom and boundless in his goodness. He alone knows what is good for his people.
Our sermon will have two points: 1) Job’s friends; and 2) Job’s Grief. Today we will focus on the first point and next week will end with the second point.
Let us begin…
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
The narrative seems set to demonstrate the passage of time. Later on, I will highlight the difficult relationship between time and pain but it clear here from the geographical distance between the origin of Job’s friends, significant travel must occur. So what time time it may took each of the friends here, it must have been place these events occurring Job and his friend, their back and forth speeches, months after the two great losses Job went through.
Now the fact that three of Job’s friends were mentioned together with their place of origin points to their prominence. Similar to Job the Uzzite, his friend’s probably were also wealthy and healthy. They probably also possess vast lands with numerous servants, have a great big family, and respected by the community. Their names Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, paired with their place of origin gives us the impression that they are important people not only his Job’s life but in their society as well.
This may also mean for to consider that these men were also regarded as wise men. These three men together with Job the Uzzite may have been considered a council of wise wen who ruled as nomads during their day. They must have shared trade, skills, and knowledge and possibly religions. It is possible that these men also like Job fears God and shuns evil but again in the end, we know they did not receive God’s approval. Job had to intercede for them, similar to a high priest, in order for God’s wrath against them appeased (Job 42).
And yet despite of their foolish counsel. one positive element we can learn from them on this narrative is that they really do care and love Job. Verses 11-13 reads,
“…They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”
Job’s friends cared enough to visit him and sympathize with his pain. However, we will learn after Job’s first speech, we will know they consistently blames Job for his “misfortune”. They insists that Job may have sinned and this is the only explanation as to why he is suffering. Conventional wisdom dictates that the righteous prosper while the wicked suffers. And since Job is suffering, he must have done something wicked. However, we know from the heavenly perspective given to us from the previous verses, Job suffers by God’s appointment. This Scriptural establishes for us again that while we do suffer consequences of our sins, there will be suffering we suffer primarily due to God’s divine wisdom and pleasure.
Focusing on Job’s friends, we learn about the importance of caring and sympathy as Christians we are called to minister to one another with love and compassion. Job’s friends came to visit him and sympathized with his pain . However, what they failed to do was to put their selves in his shoes. Instead, their prosperity blinded them of their own inadequacy to empathize with Job’s situation. We will know about this as we dig deep on their speeches so we will pick this up next time. For now, it is important us to simply recognize the difficult task of sympathizing with anyone in pain when we even do not know what they are feeling and suffering during the time they are in pain.
This ability to empathize is also supplied to us by God’s grace. Christ who is our Savior paid for us sins and also cleanse us of all unrighteousness. He provides us with all the benefits of justification, sanctification, and perseverance. In Christ, we share his glory as well as his suffering, and our Lord suffers and identifies with our frailty. He was tempted and yet did not sin. He suffered and died for us, and in our union with Him through faith and by His Spirt, God continues to conform us in the image of his Son. And this becomes for us groundwork for bearing the burden of one another. It is the bond that allows us to share each others pain.
The wisdom and power of God is found in Christ. The wisdom from Redemptive history teaches us that “Suffering comes before glory”. We learn this from Christ himself, and this is the content of our preaching. We preach Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Scripture reads,
“…but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).”
The world considers the message of our gospel as foolish and weak but for us who are being saved by it, Christ is the wisdom and power of God. Therefore our ministry to one another, as we continue to relate with one another, is done in relation to Christ, performed with humility and weakness, and reflecting our dependence on him. In short, we minister Christ to another as we are also in Christ. He is the common bond we share to one another.
So regardless of situation either we are experiencing prosperity or adversity, our ability to empathize comes from our union with Christ. It is grounded in faith. In Christ, we reflect our dependence on God for understanding and strength. While world counsel from a position of strength, a Christian ministers God’s wisdom in weakness.
So let us serve Christ to one another. He is the common bond we serve to one another.
ZCRC(Imus), Christ is the wisdom and power of God. He provides understand and strength. Let us serve Christ to one another and reflect our dependence on him. May the Lord continue to uphold us with his wisdom and power. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.