Job’s justification of the purity of his integrity was meaningless to the comforters because they felt the proof was in the pudding. They regarded his trauma, bitter experience, unsightliness, and seeming complaining as evidences of his guilt. Concluding that indeed he must have done something wrong to merit such afflictions, they felt that his utterances were added proof of his guilt. In their minds, he deserved his sufferings, and they wanted to say, “Job, wake up to your situation.” How exasperating for Job! He could have done much better without their “comforting” and wished they would leave.
Job 13:15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
This verse, which is quoted quite frequently by Christians, shows that Job’s character, in spite of all his afflictions, was firming up and solidifying. His character was getting more and more crystallized, even though everything around him was negative. A transformation was taking place in his inner thinking, and he was manifesting a wonderful acquiescence to God’s providences. He was saying in effect, “I do not understand why God is permitting these experiences to come upon me, but He must have a reason.” What an excellent example he was!
One primary reason is that before his affliction, Job had the reputation of being the greatest man in the East; that is, he was a “lamp.” His brilliance and counsel had been an example as well as his sympathy for the poor and his prayer mode, but the three were saying, “Look at Job’s sad state now.” They were implying that Job’s reputation was superficial and that he did not really possess the qualities he was reputed to have. For proof, they pointed to his current state and appearance.
The attitude of the three was, “Job, instead of giving counsel to others, you are the one in need of counsel.” Jesus was similarly taunted while on the Cross. “You claim to be a physician. You gave advice and healed many people, but look at your pathetic state now. If you are what you claim to be, come down off the Cross.” Such criticism can pierce the heart of the one to whom it is directed. Thank God, Jesus did not come down from the Cross! Of course the ones doing the criticizing were not on the Cross. They were at ease while speaking to someone in dire physical straits. Armchair counselors often do not have experimental knowledge. Job’s feet were ready to slip in his sorrowful state, yet he was despised by those who were at ease.
Zophar was coming up to a climax. In verse 4, he quoted Job’s prayer beseeching God for an answer as to why he was having this experience: “I am clean in thine eyes.” But then Zophar gave the blunt comment of verse 5. In other words, “Oh that God, whom you just prayed to, might speak and let you know the true facts.” The comforter was a tormentor.
Zophar was implying that he knew the secrets of wisdom. He was praising God in one sense, but the motive was to justify and give strength to his criticism of Job. “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.” How cruel!
The point is that Job was aware of these constellations, and in observing them, the ancients imagined figures in the sky so that the constellations were identifiable. However, while Job was aware of these constellations, he was not aware that God was listening very attentively to his remarks. We know this to be a fact because in Job chapter 38, God mentioned these same constellations and elaborated on them, giving information Job was not aware of. For instance, God mentioned the “sweet influences of Pleiades” and the terrific wildness of the constellation Orion (Job 38:31). What seem to be wandering stars in Orion are indeed under complete control. Stated another way, the stars of Orion seem to be at variance with the laws of the celestial realm, but they are not. Lord willing, when we come to chapter 38, we will discuss this aspect of Orion further and also try to give a spiritual application to the constellations.
Job never said he was entirely innocent. The nature of his argument was that to the best of his ability, his pursuit through life was to live according to his conscience toward God. He knew that his purpose was unwavering in serving the Lord, and then sudden unexplainable catastrophe had come upon him. Job never said he was inherently perfect, but his intentions were steadfast. He said he was anything but a hypocrite, for both he and the Lord knew what he had been thinking. Later he will be vindicated along that line.
We, too, have down periods, as well as up periods of happiness and joy. The mixture builds character, as expressed in the Song of Solomon: “Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out” (Song 4:16). The informed Christian realizes that the different experiences are actually a Godsend in that they can work out a Christlike character. But it is hard to reason that way when we are in a down period. As the Apostle Paul said, “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). If we did not have the hope of tutorship in suffering, which Job lacked, how hard the trials would be! What a test of faith Job had! Considering his situation, he was a marvelous character. His faithfulness should shame us into being even more zealous in our walk in the narrow way.
Job’s experiences and the remarks of the three were like poison-tipped arrows that pierced him. To a certain extent, he was blaming God for permitting the experiences. Job was feeling a great loss and weakness, and as he meditated on his woeful condition, or estate, it got worse and worse. Later chapters provide details of the “terrors of God” that Job had experienced during the seven days of silence. In addition to his not eating or drinking for that period of time, all kinds of thoughts went through his mind and spirit.
While Eliphaz may have had a reputation as being a wise man, his observation was not accurate, for these things happened back there and they happen now. Both those who are living reasonably proper lives and those who are living improper lives experience robberies and calamities. In fact, as time goes on and man becomes more fallen, the majority may fit into the characterization that Eliphaz gave the wicked. But certainly in his own day, there were other righteous individuals besides Job who got sick and had troubles and problems. To suit his purpose, Eliphaz focused on just one side of the equation. He lacked a proper understanding.