Nobody knew the story behind the story. Job was living the story . . . and he didn’t know it. His buddies were late to the theatre and they were only catching the “closing act” . . . but they had no idea what was behind the story. And yet, understandably, they all had an opinion concerning the story.
One of my readings is in Job 5 this morning. Part II of Eliphaz’s response to Job’s first lament.
The story as far as Job is concerned is that he has been ruined for no apparent reason. Wealth gone . . . kids gone . . . reputation gone . . . health gone . . . wife less than supportive. That’s the story he’s living. His response? “Let the day perish on which I was born and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ . . . Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? . . . Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest” (Job 3:3, 11, 16-17).
Weary . . . what an understatement . . . that’s what Job was, weary!
But there was a story behind his story. A showdown in heaven between God and Satan. God had drawn Satan’s attention to His man Job as a man who was blameless and upright. A man who feared God and turned away from evil. A man like no other man on earth (Job 1:8). And Satan had said, Let me touch him and we’ll see how God-fearing and blameless and upright he remains . . . let me at him and watch him curse You, God, to Your face (1:11, 2:5).
But even though he was the story, Job didn’t know the story behind the story and so, he just wished the story had never even begun. Can’t blame him.
But it’s Eliphaz that has me thinking this morning. I read through his rebuttal of Job’s lament and, while so many of the words seem solid enough, there’s something about the attitude that bugs me. There’s an air of arrogant piety as he tries to “encourage” Job to see what’s “really happening” and trust in the Lord.
“Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? . . . But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before Him. . . Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.” (Job 4:17, 5:8, 5:17 ESV)
Really can’t argue with any of those statements. But what’s a guy doing rebuking someone who has lost everything and is still throbbing with both emotional and physical pain, the likes of which Eliphaz has never known? He looks at the narrative of Job’s circumstance and figures he knows the storyline. And so he provides his pious commentary.
Not faulting him and his friends for wanting to comfort their buddy . . . but there sure has to be some instruction in here in how not to do it. And I’m thinking it has something to do with recognizing that there is always a story behind the story. Facts I’m not aware of . . . dynamics that haven’t been made known to me. And so, as I have opportunity to draw alongside, I need to do so with humility . . . and gentleness . . . and wisdom . . . and grace.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. (Romans 12:15-16 ESV)
That God’s people would be godly comforters. For other’s benefit . . . for God’s glory.