Monday, January 17, 2005

My friends have wronged me: Job 19

Ten times Job's friends responded to Job and his complaints and ten times Job was unimpressed. For all their words of wisdom, Job was no better off. In fact, in many ways he was worse off then before on account of their "help". Their words only seemed to add to Job's pain. Job asks them, "How long will you torment me and crush me with words?" (Jon 19:2)

Job's friends were so certain that the cause of Job's calamity was his sins, even though they could not identify the sins in question. They accused Job of having sinned against God but could not show him how or where he had sinned. Job, in his own defense said, "Even if I have truly erred, my error lodges with me." (Job 19:4) What Job was saying is that, even if there was some deep, dark, hidden sin in his life, it was even hidden from him.

Sometimes, there is a fine line between conviction and condemnation. Conviction, which is the work of the Holy Spirit, is the process by which we come to understand that something we have done is contrary to God's law and is offensive to Him. Condemnation, on the other hand, is the sentence of judgment for what we have done. The problem comes when we feel condemned (or judged) for something, yet we do not know for what. This condemnation is not from God but from the Devil. When the Holy Spirit brings conviction, it is always for a specific act, thought, or attitude. Conviction is never vague or uncertain. Job's friends brought condemnation, assuming that Job had sinned, but were unable to bring conviction for any specific sins.

Job challenges his friends saying, "If you say, 'How shall we persecute him?' and 'What pretext for a case against him can we find?' Then be afraid of the sword for yourselves, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, so that you may know there is judgment." (Job 19:28-29) We must be careful not to judge based solely on our suspicions. We must never judge someone's heart based on their outward circumstances. It is wrong to first assume someone is guilty and then dig around in their life looking for what they are guilty of.

Finally, Job ask for pity from his friends, "Pity me, pity me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me." (Job 19:21) However, pity helps little. Pity is simply feeling sorry for someone's state. Compassion, however, includes the desire to aid and to alleviate another's pain. Compassion literally means to "suffer with". More than pity, we should have compassion on the hurting. We should be willing to suffer with them, to enter into their world, and to help them carry their cross. Job's friends neither had pity for Job nor compassion for his pain. They were very willing to point out his faults, but had no desire to walk with him and help him in the midst of his suffering. Let us learn from the example of Job's friends and not be afraid to "suffer with" those who are hurting. Let us be those who show compassion rather than condemnation.

David Robison

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