The Great Cynic Defeated (Job Series, Part 3)Featured, Religion — By Mackenzie Mulligan on August 31, 2012 at 7:00 am
Once again Satan has been repulsed, but he is patient. Job remains strong thus far, but Satan has all the time in the world. Job is in emotional and physical agony, and Satan even deprives him of rest (7:3-4). Job tosses and turns, tormented with visions and nightmares (7:13:15). And now his friends have come, his friends who are convinced that all misfortune is a punishment from God. It is here that we must be careful, for the words of God at the end (42:7) makes it clear that when these friends speak of God, they are not to be trusted. They are right occasionally, but they are often wrong, their words guided by a false understanding of God and how he interacts with us.
Job receives his friends without words, but their presence has not gone unnoticed, and they are doubtless welcome (at first). When he finally speaks after seven days and nights of silence, it is to curse the day of his birth. He has lost everything, and even God seems to have forsaken him; surely, in this circumstance, it would be better not to have been born. God has smitten him and closed him in, and he has no rest.
Immediately Eliphaz responds: Calm, patient, and loving, yet, he says to Job, you do know why all this is happening to you, don’t you? “Who that was innocent ever perished?” But more cutting than that, I think, is one of the first things he says. “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?” Job would answer with a resounding “Yes!”… and that is also the reason Job is so troubled. His fear of God, his upright integrity, is so exceptional that it is known to the sons of God and Jehovah himself. Why, then, has Jehovah forsaken him? Why has Jehovah set himself against Job, his most loyal and faithful servant?
That is the question Job asks, again and again. And each time he asks it, the angels grow more worried, and Satan give another leap of demonic joy. After all, with friends like these, who needs enemies? Satan merely has to sit back and watch as each friend unintentionally wounds Job to the core.
In 5:3-4, Eliphaz proclaims, “I have seen the fool taking root… his children are far from safety: they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them.” This, to a man who only days before had lost all his children as they were crushed to death by the very winds of God. There was, indeed, no one to deliver them, and Eliphaz does not even realize what he has said. Instead, he continues: the offspring of the righteous man is many, he says, forgetting that he is speaking to a man who is now childless.
Each one of these friends does the same thing: It is no wonder that Job, fed up with their arrogance and condescension, says, “worthless physicians are you all! Oh, that you would keep silent, and that be your wisdom!”
These friends, far from helping Job, only remind him again and again that his children are dead, his body is dying, and God has apparently turned away from him. And they tell him to repent… from what? There is nothing to repent, as we see from the mouth of God himself–Job is blameless and upright. Satan laughs every time one of his friends opens their mouth. “Any moment now,” he thinks. Any moment, Job will break.
He wishes the universe to justify itself, not because he wishes it to be caught out, but because he really wishes it to be justified… He speaks of the Almighty as his enemy, but he never doubts, at the back of his mind, that his enemy has some kind of a case which he does not understand. He is anxious to be convinced; that is, he thinks that God could convince him… he lashes the stars, but it is not to silence them; it is to make them speak.