Nice People, Nasty Advice
Read Job 5:1-7
"Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?To which of the holy ones will you turn? Surely vexation kills the fool, and jealousy slays the simple. I have seen the fool taking root, but suddenly I cursed his dwelling. His children are far from safety; they are crushed in the gate, and there is no one to deliver them. The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pantafter hiswealth. For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward."
• Are you flooded with advice from friends and family?
• How do you know which advice to listen to? Who's right? Who's not?
• Why is it important to double-check all advice with what the Bible says? (Hint: God is consistent with His guidance).
Job was in pain. His entire world had been turned upside down. I (Michael) can imagine him curled up on the ground in despair. As we discussed earlier, he had lost his family, his wealth, and his health. It's just too much for one person to process. He could barely catch his breath enough to cry out in desperation. But when he did, he cursed the day he was born.
His friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar came to visit. They didn't even recognize him at first. And when they did, they wept and tore their clothes. For the next seven days, they sat by his side in silence. They saw firsthand how tormented he was. Eliphaz, who thought of himself as a man of great experience and wisdom, reminded Job that many others had suffered in life. And now that it was Job's turn, he was not handling it well. He called him impatient and questioned his integrity. Eliphaz claimed that he had received a mystical vision from God. He implied that Job had resentment toward God and warned that this would bring more harm his way.
Bildad suggested that maybe Job's children had sinned against God and that their doom was deserved. He challenged Job to repent before God so he could be restored to greatness. He believed that earthly blessings were a sign of one's obedience to God. And therefore Job and his family must have done something to deserve such loss and pain.
And his friend Zophar claimed that Job was guilty of wrongdoing. He reminded Job that God sees all and will not stand by and let wickedness go unpunished. He begged Job to confess in hopes of God having mercy on him. He, too, was convinced that Job had brought this suffering on himself.
Job turned to God for answers in the midst of his loss. But what he got instead were his friends. Or maybe they were just acquaintances or colleagues. They came to him in his time of need, but what they brought was just more confusion. They saw him lying there in despair and freely gave advice. But it was advice from their limited perspective and understanding. And therefore it was clouded with cultural misconceptions and agendas. Job, through his pain and questioning, remained firm that he was clean before God. But his friends kept insisting that they knew better. The heated conversation just kept circling around.
Then Elihu, a younger man, spoke out. (We'll come back to him on Day 50). He was upset with all of them. He rebuked Job for relying on his own actions to make him clean and for questioning God. And he was angry with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for not having better answers. They continued to rebuke Job even though they could not find any reasons to justify their beliefs. In this, Elihu condemned self-righteousness while reminding them of God's great power and wisdom. Finally, God spoke to Job and reminded him that He was Job's provider. He was the one who could justify the weak and make them whole. And He was not happy with Job questioning His ways.
We all have difficult days. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed that we don't know how we got ourselves into a situation, and often we do not know how to get out of one. We seek advice from friends and family. Sometimes we read books and listen to sermons. But a better start is to begin with prayer and the Bible. Go to the source. Don't rely on someone else's interpretation of the Scriptures. Read them for yourself. With honesty and prayer, God will speak into your life and offer you peace in the midst of disappointment.
Lord, please help me to recognize Your ways. Please grant me clarity of mind and peace in my heart. Bring me to Your path through prayer, Your Word, and the support of Your people. Amen.