Embers ~ Sheep Bite
Hey Everyone!! It has been F O R E V E R since I’ve blogged and even longer since I’ve blogged about Job. I am here today to tell you that I have not forgotten- and am going to be coming around a bit more often… bear with me while this study eats my lunch. 🙂 In case you’ve missed the other posts in this series- search the Topics Drop down for “Job Series” and you can catch up, there have been 5 posts thus far.
For the longest time I hated Job’s friends. Seriously. I knew how the story ended, how they were held accountable for what they said and did to Job. Yet, whenever I randomly flipped through the book and went to highlight a verse, 9 times out 10 it would be a something one of Job’s friends had said. I’d slam the book and chuck the highlighter with a huff of confusion: how could something profound and seemingly true come from their mouths with such a stinging bite?!
It was all messed up.
As I prepared for this post I noticed something very personal in my reluctance to press on through this book. I didn’t want to dive into Job’s mean-old friends, they made me incredibly uncomfortable. I mean really, every other writing project has been prioritized over my own blog for months now. But there’s beauty in the battle, so we press on. And somewhere in this storm, Job’s storm, there is profound truth.
What Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did with their twisted shanks of truth cut deep to the very heart and soul of Job. I know, because I, too, have been bitten by sheep.
In Job 1:12 God gave permission for Satan to strike Job’s surroundings, his things and even his relationships, but not Job’s person. Then in Job 2:6 God allows Satan to extend the attack and extend it he does. The attack first looks like it’s only on Job’s physical body with sores and boils, but if you step back and look at the whole scene, Job’s three (and a fourth) friends use the very thing that anchored Job’s soul as a weapon against him.
They attack his faith, his identity with God.
That, my friends, is spiritual abuse. “Spiritual abuse is when truth is manipulated for personal gain instead of Godly encounter.” (Major Scott Ncloy)
Jobs friends were deathly afraid that what was happening to Job could happen to them. They needed someway to logically explain this tragedy, because if you can explain it, you can predict and control it. Right? Job’s sufferings were intense; just watching it was traumatic. These friends of his wanted to know they were safe, so they put this suffering, these attacks, under the explanation of “IF you sin, THEN you suffer.”
They exploited his character to explain their fear.
Eliphaz (who’s name means God is strong) claimed Job was a liar because he proclaimed to be righteous but was apparently not. He urged Job to repent of his sins. Elliphaz said Job was suffering these horrendous things because he wasn’t perfect and didn’t actually have all of his ducks in a row. He took the strength of God and made it a weapon of perfection. But the truth is that God’s strength is not shown in perfection, it is found in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Bildad (who’s name means the Lord Loved) claimed that Job wasn’t in fact pure and therefore his sin made him worthless and that is why he suffered. He pressured Job to repent because he was unworthy of anything other than punishment unless he confessed. Bildad took the love of God and turned it into a list of conditions. But we know that God loves because that is who He is… “For God so loved us, He gave”… without conditions. (John 3:16)
Zophar (who’s name means Sparrow — pause for a moment about Matthew 6:26 and how God promises to meet all the needs of even the little birds). Zophar didn’t speak up as much as the others, but he spares no words. In fact he jumps on the “you deserve this punishment” band wagon with zeal, even to the point of declaring that God isn’t punishing Job enough. He took the promises of God and pointed out Job’s deficits. But the truth is “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace…” (Romans 3:23-24)
Job was falsely accused, belittled, and battered with religious words. His friends take the circumstances of this trial and try to define his character. When instead it’s his character that would define the outcome of these circumstances. Job knew who he was in God and he was absolute about who God is.
I want to be like that. Absolute and resolute in my awe of Him. That is the bedrock of faith, and I want to be firmly anchored there.
“Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” Psalm 119:49
*pictures are Creative Commons from Flicker
** Scriptures are linked to BibleGateway.com NIV version