Monday, January 10, 2005

Comforters of trouble: Job 16-17

Job is not impressed with the council he is getting from his friends. He refers to them as "sorry comforters". (Job 16:2) In the original Hebrew language, it is literally, "comforters of trouble". Job is complaining that, for all their attempts at comforting him, they are only making his problems worse. Job would have been better off if they had just sent a Hallmark card and stayed home. Job asks them, "what plagues you that you answer?" (Job 16:3) Job would have been happy if they had been content to leave him alone. Job didn't ask for their help, so why do they feel compelled to respond and to contend with him?

"They have gaped at me with their mouth, they have slapped me on the cheek with contempt; they have massed themselves against me." (Job 16:10) Instead of their words helping, instead of them being "seasoned with grace", their words stung as a well placed slap on the cheek. "My friends are my scoffers... Surely mockers are with me" (Job 16:20, 17:2) Instead of compassion, Job says that his friends treat him with scorn, derision, contempt, and ridicule. Job looked for help and was disappointed.

Job make two specific charges against his friends. "He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil, the eyes of his children also will languish." (Job 17:5) Zophar actually wanted God to confront Job for the folly of his words. Instead of interceding for Job before God, he was actually looking for and expecting Job's punishment. When we become the accuser of our brother, then we are working in agreement with the Devil who is the "accuser of the brethren". When we, however, stand in the gap for our friend, then we are partnering with Jesus in His work on our behalf.

"They make night into day, saying, 'The light is near,' in the presence of darkness." (Job 17:2) Secondly, Job complains that his friends did not take seriously his trouble. All they had to offer were empty cliches. "The light is near" sounds nice, but for Job, this was no guarantee. Job's friends minimized his trouble and discounted his pain and then wondered why their words of wisdom failed to help. We often do this when we say things like, "cheer up, it can't be that bad." But in some cases it is, and in others, it may even be worse. Our problems are not helped my minimizing them, but rather by facing them head on at full strength. Job needed friends who, even knowing the full magnitude of his sufferings, were still willing to be his friends. Oh that we might be such friends.

David Robison

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