Before we begin, let us pray:
Father, our Father in heaven, compel us all simply to take you at your Word. Touch us with the Holy Spirit, we pray, and do not let us get away from your Word without being caught by its promises and powerful joy. We pray this for our sake, Father, and for those whom we love, in the name of Jesus. Amen. (Worship Sourcebook)
We continue our study of Eliphaz’s first speech. At this point we will learn about his lack of understand regarding God’s redemptive plan when he sends his own son as the mediator of God’s people. We will also learn about his sound understanding of Creation and Providence and even Justice but not his mercy and grace which is the basis for God’s discipline. We will learn again how Eliphaz who professes to be wise actually ends us being the fool for his lack of compassion and empathy. But of course, we can also learn from us attempt to comfort Job with sound theology but we must watch out for his own missteps in order to learn from them.
Our preaching of this morning will cover three sections. First from verses 1 to 7, we will hear about Eliphaz’s assertion that there is no mediator for the fool. Second from verses 8 to 16, we will learn about Eliphaz’s own solution to Jobs problem and third from verses 17-27, we will understand Eliphaz’s explanation of Job’s present condition.
We have two sermons points for this morning but we have a lot of verses to cover. The sermon points are: 1) No Mediator for the Fool; 2) Sound Theology but Misapplied Advise.
Let us begin.
No Mediator for the Fool
“Call now; is there anyone who will answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn? Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. (verses 1-7)
Eliphaz utilizes again several poetical devices to communicate his point to Job. He wants to contrast the earthly destiny of the righteous versus the sure fate of the wicked. Eliphaz uses first a rhetorical question, then a repetitive proverb, a personal testimony, and at the end another proverb but this time, a contrasting parallel.
The goal of Eliphaz is to convince and for Job to recognize the error of curse-lament. Eliphaz wants Job to know that he cannot plead his case before God for his fate clearly shows his quilt. Instead of asking God to help him understand his condition, Job simply need to accept he is responsible for it and ask God to forgive him and restore him back to health and wealth.
Verse 1 challenges Job to call for someone to plead his case before God. Eliphaz here raised a rhetorical question answerable by a negative answer “No one. Or there is none”. The quest to find a mediator who can go between God and man was the idea Eliphaz dismissed. He cannot imagine anyone even an angel can go-between so sinners like you and me. We simply need to follow the precepts of God and take responsibility for our own actions and blame no one but ourselves.
Yes it is true that we must take responsibility for our actions, and yet it assumes we all have the power to follow God’s law by ourselves apart from God. And the idea of mediator while rejected by Eliphaz is the theme later on Job will confirm to be true. This is the basis for the redemption of sinners like you and me. Ultimately, we are only saved not by our own efforts or merit but by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It is grounded in the electing love and divine pleasure of God.
We will pick up this theme of mediatorship in the succeeding parts of Job’s reply but now let us go back to Eliphaz’s next point.
Verse 2 is a proverb against those who acts irrationally then suffers the consequences of his action. The fool or the simple which are subjects of this proverb covers those are hardened fool or stubborn people or the naïve ones and do not know any better. It means for Eliphaz, Job’s curse-lament is a foolish act and therefore indicates a possible hint of wrong-doing on side. And in order to encourage Job to stop him from this path, he offered his people testimony against those suffer the consequences of their own foolishness.
Verses 3-5 narrates a similar incident Eliphaz witnessed when someone who thinks initially prospered but soon got into trouble because apparently he was found out to be really wicked.
Eliphaz rightly predicted that his man’s fortunate will not last because he is a foolish man and therefore bound to lose his fortune. Verse 4 specifically tells us how this man lost his children and in verse 5, he finally lost his wealth.
Sound familiar? Of course, it sound like what happened to Job! In short, Eliphaz tries to point out that only a foolish man loses his family, wealth, and well-being because only a foolisn man commits a wicked action to deserve misfornute. Again for Eliphaz, Job must have done something to deserve his fate.
Verses 6-7 illustrates Eliphaz’s conclusion and judgment against Job. Troubles and affliction does not come from nowhere (dust or even ground). It originates from the decrees of God therefore, as sure as the curse of sin that befall mankind, we will most assuredly live under the consequences of our sins. Eliphaz’s missed it again. Job did not sin particularly to deserve the punishment God allowed him to endure. Yes, Job is not a sinless perfect person but his suffering particularly was given to him by God as a test.
This prompts us again to re-evaluate the misapplication of Eliphaz’s seemingly orthodox counsel. This is the theme of the whole text for our second sermon point.
Sound Theology But Misapplied Advice
“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields; he sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. They meet with darkness in the daytime and grope at noonday as in the night. But he saves the needy from the sword of their mouth and from the hand of the mighty. So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth.
“Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you. In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hidden from the lash of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the beasts of the earth. For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you. You shall know that your tent is at peace, and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing. You shall know also that your offspring shall be many, and your descendants as the grass of the earth. You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, like a sheaf gathered up in its season. Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.” (verses 8-27)
At this we will hear Eliphaz continues giving his personal testimony and deliberation about God’s creation, providence, and justice. He did this using a combination of hymns and proverbs.
The goal of Eliphaz is to convince Job to forget about his plead for understand and simply admit his wrongdoing so he can be restored back to God. Eliphaz is certain using the doctrine of retribution, only those who committed any wrongdoing will suffer but once it has been acknowledged, the path towards health and wealth becomes the reality again.
Verse 8 tells us how Eliphaz if given the same situation as Job will cease from questioning God and immediately begins to seek him for his benevolence. Verses 9-10 asserts God power by the things he has made and therefore demonstrates his superiority above everything created. The hymn portrays God as the creator who sustains everything “he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields…” This means all our wealth and health comes from him alone. He is the source of our well-being. So God is the creator and provider of all things (Genesis 1:1)
God is also holy and just who exercise his laws over his creation. Verses 11-12 pairs up to contrast between the lowly who mourns and the wicked who performs wicked deeds. The former is protected by God while the latter is frustrated by him.
Then in reverse Eliphaz conveys the same message. Verses 13-14 talks about the wicked and his fate. This man appears to be “wise” but he is actually a wicked fool who tries to make his fortune using wicked ways and God made sure he ends frustrated and lose everything in the end. On the other hand, the needy and the poor finds their hope and redemption from God. They are rescued from their miserable lot (Verses 15-16).
Now Eliphaz offers an explanation for Job’s present condition. He gave him a hymn about God’s discipline and his way to restoration. Eliphaz pairs his advise with the term “behold” from the beginning and the ending to emphasize its importance. It means he wants Job and us his readers to pay attention to his ancient proverb for it is true. Verse 17 states how God disciplines and verse 18 assigns to God both act of disciplining and restoring. Eliphaz uses numerology to illustrates the progression. Verse 19 explains how God in the sixth days he disciplines then on the seventh day, he restores. God appoints the time for both but surely for those he disciplines, restoration is guaranteed.
This is the message of Eliphaz to Job. As soon as he stops his complaint and begin acknowledging God’s discipline, he will immediately gets restored. Verses 20-26 narrates how restoration comes to those who turn themselves to God. First, no more destruction will come to them, Second, the workings of God’s providence will turn their efforts to fortunes. Third, they will inherit a fruitful household, and Fourth, they will prosper until they die. So Eliphaz at the end of his exhortation convinces Job to follow his advise because he has know this to be true. Verse 27 reads “Behold, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.”
Everything Eliphaz says on this large section of his speech it sound and true. God does discipline his people. However his view about law of restoration become mechanical and forgets an important premise about the God who praises to be the creator and provider of all things. He did not account for his sovereignty. God is indeed just and true but his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. He alone determines according to his goodness and wisdom what shall come to pass and no man can mechanical force God to act in ways limited only to man’s understanding. God does work within the natural framework of creation but he is also beyond creation and transcends it and works supernaturally above it.
Eliphaz misses this important aspect of God’s being because he rejected the notion of a mediator who by God’s appointment will reveal to us the way of the righteous comes also suffering and pain with the very purpose of demonstrating God’s glory. Since God is sovereign, he is also compassionate, merciful and full of grace. He offers pardon to the guilty sinners ever though they do not deserve it in the first place. God did this so by offering his own Son to suffer the greatest injustice on this world in order to save us sinners.
When Jesus saw a blind man and heals him, he explains to us a specific purpose for this particular sickness. John 9:1-4 reads “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The blind man obviously did not cause his blindness for he was blind since birth. It was not a product of discipline nor a punishment for his evil deed. Instead, as Jesus points out to his disciple, his blindness was appointed for him in order that he may demonstrate the glory of God when he gets restored back to sight. Jesus is indeed the light of the world and gives life to his people. There is no sinful or even wretched condition that is beyond God’s power of restoration. God gives grace to those whom he is pleased to give it. He alone is sovereign, merciful, and gracious. And this Eliphaz misses because he only knows God without his redemption plans.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God offered his son to die for our sins and he raised him up for our justification. We have Christ our mediator who himself suffers pain and death in order to deliver us from our sins and misery. This is the redemption plan God reveals for us in the gospel and only those who believes will accept it, trust it for the salvation of their own lives. Hear the Gospel of God: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6)”; “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things ? (Romans 8:32)” So let us be patient as those who suffers now from sickness and pain for God delivers us from our sins, and grants to us eternal life, and soon he will consummate his kingdom and demonstrate his power and glory when we finally receive our glorified bodies, and live with God forever and ever, Amen.
ZCRC(Imus), God is the creator, sustainer, redeemer of this world and his people. He is both just and merciful, He continues to show his grace to us and demonstrate his glory in lives of redeemed people. So let us continue to persevere in the faith until the end. 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.