I began to read in my Bible, the book of Job, chapter 42. When I came to verse 10, I decided to read the whole book of Job again. Once again, I was amazed at the insensitivity of Job’s friends.
Here is a man who is down and out and yet, his friends have nothing but bitter, condemning words to offer him in his time of need. Their so called ‘friend’. Reading through this book, it made me look into my own heart and examine my relationships, past and present, where I have felt confused and hurt by words or actions of others, and it also made me examine how I could have been a better friend in some of those relationships.
When we get hurt in a relationship, we often end up feeling that it was the other person’s fault. It often takes tears, soul-searching, and honesty on our part to realize that we had something (even if perhaps it was just a small part) to do with the break down of that relationship. It could be anything from not being sensitive enough to the others needs, to saying something out of line. It is in times like these that to do anything less than searching our hearts, would be to fall into the trap where Job found himself. Only – Job didn’t realize he was there.
In chapter 32, a new voice is heard after the reprimand Job’s friends bring to him. Job, throughout the book up to this point, always comes back to stating that he has done nothing wrong. That his life is blameless. He is convinced that his plight is due to the fact that God has left him, is angry with him, has turned away and forgotten him. He wonders what he has done to deserve his state of condition..
Elihu, this ‘new voice’ that is heard towards the end of the book, begins telling his opinion of the plight that has befallen Job.
“…My words come from an upright heart… my hand should not be heavy upon you. But (speaking to Job) you have said… ‘I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt. Yet God has found fault with me; he considers me his enemy…’
By this time I imagine Job was feeling rather picked upon. Elihu, however, brings to light a different perspective of Job’s lament.
He begins, in chapter 34, to remind Job of the words that had come out of his very mouth. In verse 5 Elihu says to those listening, “Job says, ‘I am innocent, but God denies me justice. Although I am right, I am considered a liar; although I am guiltless, his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’ Elihu goes on to say, “what an is like Job, who drinks scorn like water? He keeps company with evildoers; he associates with wicked men. For he says, ‘It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God.’
You must remember the Lord never slumbers nor sleeps. And so, He is listening to this conversation. I wonder if finally, in verse 38, God finally says, “Okay, that’s enough. Time to get involved.” He comes ‘out of the storm’ (verse 1). If He came out of the storm to speak to Job, does that mean that all the while, He was actually in the storm with him? Was He in there, being tossed and turned with each cry of despair? Does it mean that He never did forsake Job and that there was a purpose in Job’s suffering that the human heart could not perceive?
I wondered that as God began to speak to Job. I also thought, if it was me in Job’s place, I’d be shaking in my shoes, at the very least. God begins by saying, “Brace yourself like a man.” I can just picture being blown away at that point and all areas of me were exposed for what they were. For three chapters, God reminds Job that He is speaking, and in no uncertain terms, just who He is. In chapter 40, God gets even more serious. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer Him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy – how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer – twice, but I will say no more.” I can just picture Job at this point, wanting so bad to say something, then thinking better ofit. Following that reply is the Lord’s answer and again it is, “Brace yourself like a man…”
After listening to God for what probably seemed like an eternity, Job replies to the Lord. I have to admire the courage of this man. He was not afraid to be candidly honest with the Lord. He knew the Lord had heard his every word, good and bad and there was no sense in hiding from him now. There was nothing to hide. All had been exposed.
“I know that you can do all things… Surely I spoke of things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Confession and repentance. Job began his trial as righteous and blameless. Through his trial, his pride got the best of him and God called him to the carpet. He recognized his sin and confessed it with a repentant heart. God was pleased and restored him. However, the story didn’t end there.
God turned to Eliphaz, one of Job’s “friends” and said that he was angry with him and the other two hooligans because of what they had said about Him was not right. The way out? Job was going to have to pray for his friends. And, he did.
I wondered, how many times have I been hurt and scorned by friends and the last thing I felt like doing was to pray for them? I do remember though, at an early age, the importance of that lesson by a high school teacher. I was confiding with him how I was having a difficult time with a peer in one of my classes. He told me to start praying for her and having no reason to doubt his advice, I did. After many weeks, I am not sure that God changed her heart or that He changed mine, but we ended up becoming really good friends.
“After Job prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” That is the verse I started at before I went back and started again at the beginning. It was the part of how Job had prayed for the friends that had given up on him. The ones that only added to his pain and suffering. The ones that were ready to walk out on his life and give him up for dead. Instead of casting off their friendship after all was said and done, he obeyed as God commanded and prayed for his friends. It is only after that act of obedience that God blessed him. Was it because he obeyed? Was it because there was total forgiveness toward Job and his friends, brought on by Job interceding on his friends’ behalf? It is rather difficult to pray for someone whom you have a grudge against.
Friends don’t condemn and berate. They support each other and pray for one another. And when they do that, they are friends forever.