Do WE have a ‘RIGHT’ to become WEARY & TROUBLED?
May 25 Bible Reading: Job Chapters 4-6
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: "If one attempts a word with you, will you become weary? But who can withhold himself from speaking? Surely you have instructed many, and you have strengthened weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have strengthened the feeble knees; but now it comes upon you, and you are weary; it touches you, and you are troubled. Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope?" (Job 4:1-6)
The above passage starts off what the Bible scholars describe as “The First Cycle of Discussion” between Job and his friends (from 4:1 to 14:22). While the last chapter contains a brief monologue of Job through which he is bemoaning his birth and life, this chapter infuses life into the words of Job and starts off different cycles of discussion, speeches, debate, dialogue, or discourses (until 31:40). There are three such cycles in which the three friends of Job – Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar speak one-by-one, and Job replies individually to each one of these speeches. Thereafter, the fourth friend Elihu interjects his thoughts (32:1–37:24), and then finally God Himself speaks and has the last word in this prolonged series of discussions (38:1–41:34).
Eliphaz (“God is victorious”) is probably the oldest and most respected of the three visiting friends, and so he is the first to speak out his analysis of Job’s present situation. In doing so, he takes the position of a theologian emphasizing the greatness of God and His judgment of sin. He begins almost apologetically, and does everything he can to be considerate of Job’s feelings while laying out his own religious convictions (based on his personal experience) that Job is guilty of some secret unconfessed sin. However, he starts out his discourse by asking Job why he did not practice what he preached (4:1–6), which is a terrible way to start encouraging a hurting friend!
What Eliphaz was telling Job in a nutshell was: “You helped others, but now you cannot help yourself?” These words remind us of what the people who mocked at Jesus during His crucifixion had remarked sarcastically: “He saved others; now He cannot save Himself!” The reason he gives for this is Job’s self-righteousness: “Is not your reverence your confidence? And the integrity of your ways your hope?” (4:6) Since people suffer for wickedness, the logical conclusion is that Job has sinned in order to deserve this punishment (4:7–9).
However, the observations of Eliphaz were distorted as he firmly believed that God would never punish the righteous! He concluded that since Job was suffering, he must be a sinner (see 22:4–11, 21–30). Even though Eliphaz compliments for being a wisdom teacher (4:3-4), but he derides Job for failing to apply to himself what he had taught others so far (4:5). In making this assumption, Eliphaz believes that everyone commits error. Thus, he propagates the principle of retribution (4:7-21), while stressing that God always is compassionate to deliver His sons from sorrow (5:9-26). That is the reason why Eliphaz stresses that Job does not have the right to become weary or troubled!
The question that we should ask ourselves when someone challenges our integrity, or, questions our motives or, when we are going through intense sufferings like Job due to no fault of ours is: do we have a right to become weary and troubled? The short answer is: Yes. In fact, even a cursory reading through the book of Psalms will provide us with many instances of how the Old Testament saints became weary and troubled, and vented out their complaints to God. If we are truly reverent and obedient to God, and maintain integrity in our behavior when we are alone and when we are with others, we may get puzzled, perturbed and even in a state of panic thinking why God we have to go through suffering due to no fault of our own.
It is at these times we need to look to Jesus as the best example to follow: "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin." (Heb. 12:2-4)
Just like Jesus endured all the sufferings thinking about the joy that was set before Him, we too should follow His example. Above all, remember that God loves us and chastens us so that we become stronger, and He is glorified through this process: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb. 12:5-6)