In modern terms, round one is over, and round two is about to begin. Each of Job’s 3 comforters has had their initial say, and Job has answered each as he can. Eliphaz the Temanite takes to the podium once again and the second siege begins much as the first.
Eliphaz sharpens his approach a bit, zeroing in on three basic arguments. But in the process he also slips into the error of those who know their reasoning isn’t strong enough on its own. He resorts to the simple assertion that to disagree with him, must be to disagree with God. It is this very tactic which often makes the Evangelical mindset the fodder of its critic’s volleys in our day. When Christians engage the World in dialog, and cannot seem to make our point, it is a sad truth that we often still run to the refuge of either the ad hominem attack, or the blustery assertion that if you disagree with me – you disagree with God. And since no one WANTS to disagree with God, this seems to be a magic bullet argument (at least in our own minds) to shut down the objections. But Job doesn’t fall for it any more than we ought to use it. How important it is in genuine discussions to keep the Spirit of Christ at the fore, and never run to hide behind false barricades and shallow bunkers that depend more on attempts to muscle an argument than to allow truth to stand and win the day on its own.
I feel Eliphaz’s frustration. He thinks if he can just get Job to understand his point of view, Job will concede, so he pounds the very same points home over and over as though Job just doesn’t get it. But he is never humble enough to wonder is he’s making his point poorly, or needing to understand Job’s points more precisely, or even consider that he might in fact – be wrong.
Lord help me – how very many times I’ve been Eliphaz!
Eliphaz’s discourse takes this very simple structure this time around:
1. 15:1-6 / Is this any way for a “wise” man to talk? It is useless babble. In fact it undermines sound doctrine about God (15:4 But you are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God.) Your sin is informing your theology more than the truth does, proving what we’ve been saying all along – you are a guilty sinner!
2. 15:7-16 / Do you really think you know better than the 3 of us put together with our age and experience? Your attitude shows contempt for God’s goodness, while trying to prove your own.
3. 15:17-35 / I’ll tell you the truth, it is the wicked who suffer – it has always been this way. Just because it is you suffering this time doesn’t change the fact. And no amount of self-deceit can clear you.
It strikes me how Paul’s words to Timothy would be particularly useful at this moment: 2 Timothy 2:24–26 “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” But when in frustration we fall back on invective, insult and bluster, we can do no one any good spiritually. Least of all (in such a case as this) bring any comfort.
How much more learning to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) would bring about both comfort and growth in all involved. Even when we have brought grief into our own lives through our sin and foolishness, does that mean our pain is any less, or needs any less to be relieved?
The words my own Mother spoke to me on several occasions come to mind at this moment. “Let your words always be sweet. Then it won’t be so bad when you have to eat them.”