Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What should be your confidence?

In earlier posts in this series, I looked at:

Poetry in the Bible, especially related to the book of Job


Nobody likes a whiner, looking at Job's initial complaint.

Now, in chapter 4 of Job, one of his friends speaks up. Eliphaz is a Temanite. This designates he comes from Teman, a town in Edom noted for its wisdom. So hearing Job despair of even being born, with explicit, haunting language, Eliphaz decides to be the first to speak in response. Job broke the seven days of silence. Eliphaz continues.

His words are recorded in poetry, and his first thoughts in fact are worthy of the best words in the best order, as Coleridge defined a poem.

Think how you have instructed many,
how you have strengthened feeble hands.
Your words have supported those who stumbled;
you have strengthened faltering knees.

The poet uses dialog to bring out more information about Job. Not only was he blameless and upright, not only did he fear God and shun evil, not only was he the greatest man among all the people of the East: even more than this he was one who encouraged other people. He strengthened them. Job was not only rich and pious, but he was active in the life of the community.

So far so good for Eliphaz. If he continued in this vein I think we'd like him. But instead he continues thusly.

But now trouble comes to you, and you are discouraged;
it strikes you, and you are dismayed.
Should not your piety be your confidence
and your blameless ways your hope?
Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished?
Where were the upright ever destroyed?
As I have observed, those who plow evil
And those who sow trouble read it.
At the breath of God they are destroyed;
At the blast of his anger they perish.

Eliphaz is echoing the prevailing wisdom of the time. Success in life is evidence of God's blessing. If you have success, you are blessed by God. Conversely, if you don't have success then you are not blessed by God. To Eliphaz it's a black and white situation. God no longer blesses Job. It must be because Job can no longer have confidence from his piety, i.e. Job has sinned. This also sounds a lot like our modern platitude "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Hmmm, perhaps not the best message for Job at that time.

Eliphaz goes on for a fairly long time with similar words. His means of encouraging Job is to suggest to him that he has sinned. What should Job do?

But if it were I, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him,
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
He bestows rain on the earth;
he sends water upon the countryside.
The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.

According to Eliphaz Job has sinned, so he should just throw himself at the feet of the Almighty and beg for relief. I actually find this part of his admonition refreshing. It's never wrong to appeal to God, to lay our cause before him. Eliphaz may not be correct as to the cause of Job's suffering, but this seems to me to be good advice.

Eliphaz said, "Should not your piety be your confidence....?" That requires an emphatic NO for an answer. Not our piety, but our relationship with God should be our confidence.

Next post we'll see what Job has to say in response.

And sorry it took so long to post this. We've had some lengthy Internet outages at home as our ISP is having trouble.

1 comment:

vero said...

The series is interesting.