Lord, amid all the tension and turmoil around me, You remain my center, my strength and my hope.
Consider: "I cried out to God for help ... When I was in distress, I sought the Lord" (Psa. 77:1-2). See Job 5:8-9.
What is your motivation for seeking God? It is sometimes hard to be honest with oneself about that. We tend naturally to be very self-centered, and true altruism is rare. Well, if Eliphaz's first premise is that sin and suffering are inextricably bound together, his second is that suffering has an escape route. Blessings can be had. Misfortune, he says, is God's rod of discipline (17) to promote repentance, leading to forgiveness and blessing. God inflicts pain, but also heals (18-19; cf., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 45:7). Job, Eliphaz tactlessly implies, is a "fool" (2-3) for being angry and resentful about what has happened. He contends that it is Job's own fault that he has lost his possessions and his children--one harvests what one sows (2-7).
So Eliphaz's next piece of advice is that Job should contritely seek God and therefore discover God's blessings for himself: blessings such as safe harvests, protection, rescue, hope--and even replacement children (8-16,19-26). Stop moaning, Job. Just accept God's discipline and trust him to put things right. Essentially, Eliphaz is counseling Job to serve God for the benefits that such devotion brings--to seek God for personal gain (the blessings) rather than seeking God for himself. If Job were to do this, of course, he would be falling into the very trap the Satan has set (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5).
Much of what Eliphaz says is good doctrine and supported by the New Testament (e.g., Heb. 12:4-12). By the end of the book, Job does experience huge blessing from God. Eliphaz's mistake lies in assuming that Job's situation fits into his preconceived ideas of what God is like. He fails to realize that Job could indeed be undeserving of his suffering. Retribution theory is neat and tidy, but God is not! We can never say we know everything there is to know about God.
Apply: What part of Eliphaz's advice is true and applicable to you? In what way?
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may learn from the hardships of life, and become more like Jesus through the learning process.
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