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The Philosophy of Eliphaz
We are now approaching a part of the Book of Job that is most interesting. Job's three friends have at last broken their silence, and Eliphaz the Temanite has opened his mouth to answer Job.
1. The effort of human wisdom to fathom the ways of God. Philosophy has a place where it can walk in all assurance, but there are realms where philosophy meets a maze and a mist which it cannot pierce.
The Word of God says:
"For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:11 ).
The wisdom of man must ever remain foolishness with God, because God moves in a realm where human wisdom cannot walk. Human eye hath not seen, human ear hath not heard, and into the human heart there hath not entered the things which God has prepared for those that love Him. Thus it is that "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14 ).
The Book of Ecclesiastes is God's demonstration of the utter failure of human wisdom to comprehend and to know God. In reading various passages, we see set forth wisdom's search, grief, failure, limitations, quest, and incomprehension. The conclusion is that over human wisdom, with all of its glitter and glow, there must finally be written the words of earth's wisest man, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, * * all is vanity."
The first speech made by Eliphaz, will demonstrate how far short these men of mind came in their endeavor to fathom the cause and effect of Job's dire misery.
God, Himself, as recorded in the last of the Book of Job, said, "The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath."
With the folly of human wisdom thus laid before us, and with God's rebuke against the speeches of the three friends of Job, let us beware lest we quote from these speeches as though they were carrying the mind and purpose of God.
We must remember that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Prophets and Seers of old were led to record not only the words spoken by false prophets, but also the words spoken by Satan himself. Let us, therefore, rightly divide the Word of Truth.
2. The revelation of human conceptions based upon human philosophy in the days of the ancients. The speech of Eliphaz, and of Bildad, and of Zophar, give us an insight to human lore as it existed in the days that were, doubtless, contemporary with Abraham. We are interested in these words, even though they do not rightly convey the mind of God. They do give us an insight into conceptions far back in history. These conceptions are not so far removed, either, from the carnal thought of our present day.
Job's three friends took the position that sickness and suffering were always the result of sin on the part of the afflicted.
Sickness and trouble may come, to be sure, as a result of Divine chastisement, but more frequently they come as a result of man's own folly. In the case of Job they came from neither of these, but in order that God might vindicate the faith and the fidelity of His trusted servant against the slander and calumny of Satan had they come.
I. THE PREFACE TO THE WORDS OF ELIPHAZ (Job 2:11-13 )
When the three friends of Job heard of the evil that was come upon him, they came by appointment to mourn with Job, and to comfort him. That they mourned with him, we know; that they comforted him, we do not know.
We wonder if there is not a suggestion in all of this as to how we should not approach the sick and the afflicted.
1. They came with lamentations. When they lifted up their eyes afar off and knew not Job, they lifted up their voices and wept; they rent every one his mantle, they sprinkled dust upon their heads toward Heaven.
We doubt if the lifting up of the voice, and the crying, and the tearing of garment, and the throwing of dust, helped to comfort Job.
2. They came with amazement. The very attitude of these friends showed that they were startled, and amazed. They marveled that their friend of the old days could have come to such a plight. This did no more than to accentuate the grief of Job.
3. They came with condemnation. Not a word of tender sympathy and of loving helpfulness came from the lips of Eliphaz and his two comrades. They acknowledged at times Job's former glory, but they only condemned him for his present wretchedness. What Job needed was compassion, and not carping criticism.
When we enter the presence of those bowed down with grief let us carry sunshine, and not shadows; kind words, and not bitter epithets. Let us hold high the star of hope, and not the blackness of despair. If a sense of sin and the retribution of sin lies like a pall over the head of the afflicted, let us tell them of a Saviour, plenteous in mercy, who will not always chide, nor hold wrath forever. Let us tell them that the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he hath committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
II. THE RECOGNITION OF JOB'S BENEVOLENT PAST (Job 4:1-4 )
It was impossible for Eliphaz to fail to concede Job's former greatness, and the glory of his former noble deeds. Men could not fail to recognize the wonderful past of Job. We wish you to note, however, that in the three good things said of Job by his friends, none of them compare to God's estimate of him. God said, that Job was "perfect and upright," "one that feared God, and eschewed evil."
Let us notice the complimentary statements of Eliphaz.
1. "Thou hast instructed many." This is an illuminating view of Job's past history. He had not been satisfied merely in the directing of his own life, and of that of his own household. He had felt a responsibility toward the many. He had instructed them in the way that they should go. He had taught them to shun the paths of the wicked, and to walk in the ways of righteousness.
2. "Thou hast strengthened the weak hands." When Job found a man down and out, he sought to lift him up. When he found one too weak to work out his own way, he strengthened him. In all of this Job was not living for himself, but for others.
3. "Thy words have upholden him that was falling." When Job found one who was ready to give up the fight, he gave him encouragement; he spoke words of cheer: he showed him the way out of his difficulties. This is the spirit that should dominate every believer. One who is falling does not need a kick, he needs the helping hand; he does not need a curse, he needs words which invigorate and encourage.
4. "Thou hast strengthened the feeble knees." There is a Scripture in Hebrews twelve, which says, "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees." Those who are running life's "race need to be cheered along their way. They need to feel that the eyes of others are upon them, and that their arm is reached out to aid them.
III. THE REBUKE OF ELIPHAZ (Job 4:5 )
Eliphaz is about to give Job a rebuke that has fangs to it. He tells him in effect that he who strengthened the weak hands of others, can not strengthen his own hands; that he who had upholden others, can not uphold himself; that he who had steadied other feeble knees, can not steady his own.
Behold, the heinousness of all of this. Eliphaz paraded Job's former greatness for the express purpose of prodding him to despair.
Mark the words of Eliphaz in our key verse.
"But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled."
What is Eliphaz seeking to show? 1. He is showing a comforter, left comfortless. 2. He is showing an instructor, uninstructed. 3. He is showing one who strengthened others, lying prostrate and weak. 4. He is showing one who upheld the fallen, as utterly cast down.
We can almost see the mockers as they surrounded the Cross of Christ and railed upon Him, saying, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save." This cry of the rabble against Christ is an epitome of what Eliphaz said to Job.
IV. THE IMPUTATION OF INSINCERITY (Job 4:6 )
There are four things that Eliphaz impugned to Job.
1. "Is not this thy fear?"
2. "Is not this * * thy confidence?"
3. "Is not this * * thy hope?"
4. "Is not this * * the uprightness of thy ways?"
What Eliphaz evidently meant was that Job had lost his fear, his confidence, his hope, and his uprightness.
1. That Job's fear of the Lord had waned. You know, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." This does not mean that we should be afraid of God, but that we should live in the fear of disobedience. This Job had always done. He had not sinned against his God in any willful way. Now that God had seemingly laid His hand upon Job, and judgment had fallen; Eliphaz insisted that Job had lost his fear of God, and had become a trembling culprit before God.
2. That Job's confidence in God had vanished. Job, according to Eliphaz, had come to the place where his confidence was gone. He did not longer walk in the light of the Lord's countenance. He had lost his trust.
3. That Job's hope had taken wings, Hope is akin to faith, but Eliphaz insists that Job had no longer the "day star of coming good" shining in his sky.
4. That Job's uprightness had forsaken him. He may once have boasted of being right, but now he was corrupt, and his way was perverse before God.
We do not doubt the sincerity of Eliphaz in thus impugning Job, but we do know that after the sore trial of Job had passed, that God said that Job was more right than was his accuser.
Of one thing we are certain, we should not judge others harshly, nor speak that which we do not know against any man.
Mark how Eliphaz put his charges into the form of a question. This is the way Satan did when he said to Eve, "Yea, hath God said?" Satan also sought to swerve Christ by putting a question mark over against His hallowed relationships with the Father.
V. THE CONDEMNATION OF THE GUILTLESS (Job 4:7-9 )
1. A question asked. Eliphaz said, "Who ever perished, being innocent?" He also said, "Where were the righteous cut off?" We know, in spite of such a query, that many who are innocent have perished, that many who were righteous have been cut off. Satan, indeed, is always most active against the pure and the true. He centers his strategies against those who are right with God. If this were not so, why should he thus have set himself against Job.
Persecution has always made its swing against the innocent, and has always sought to slay the righteous. The Blood of the Lord as well as the blood of the martyrs is abundant proof of this.
2. A charge stated. Eliphaz now says, "They that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." These words carry strong weight, for God has plainly said, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
However, Eliphaz was making a statement that is ultimately true; true in the finished harvest; but not always true in seed sowing time. Eliphaz also stated only a onesided truth. God went on to say, "He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
What Eliphaz failed to see was that Job's affliction was only an eddy, a temporary period of testing. Eliphaz judged from effect back to cause. He contended that Job had plowed in iniquity, and had sown in wickedness, because his "harvest" of grief and penury pointed that way. He failed utterly to recognize that Satan was going about seeking to devour Job. He knew nothing of the fact that it was Job's righteousness, and not his sin, that had brought on his day of anguish.
VI. THE STORY OF A SPECTRAL DREAM (Portion of Job 4:12-21 )
Eliphaz now attempts to terrify Job (a man who was already at his wit's end in suffering and grief), by relating a horrible dream.
1. The dream exploited. Eliphaz tells of "visions of the night." He explains how fear possessed him, and how his bones began to shake. Then a spirit passed before him, and his hair stood up. All of this goes to prove the heartlessness of Job's would-be comforters. It also proves the source from which they obtained their words.
For our part, we do not doubt but that these "comforters" were a part of Satan's plan to effect, if possible, the shattering of the faith of Job. Who fails to see back of this dream of Eliphaz the weird passing of some demon form, purporting to be an angel from Heaven, and uttering a part truth, as Satan ever was wont.
There is nothing too vile for the wicked one to undertake against one of God's holy ones.
2. The dream elucidated. Eliphaz dreamed that the spirit said, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, He put no trust in His servants; and His angels He charged with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?"
These words and those that follow carry in them the devil's own reminiscences of his past. Satan is charging God with guiltiness in dethroning and casting down no less a personality than himself; and of casting down with him many sinning angels. He says God could not trust His Heavenly servants, and "charged" His angels with folly; how much more will He not trust men who dwell in houses of clay upon the earth.
Satan knew the dream was false in any application to Job; for God was trusting Job, and Satan was maligning him.
Satan is still at work against God's children:
"All over the vast extent of territory where the Soviet Government exercises sway, hundreds of churches are being closed down. In the Soviet Russia paper Trud (Labour) for December, 1929, it is stated with callous glee and satisfaction; 'Religion is struggling for life like an animal which is hard pressed in the chase. It is being ruthlessly persecuted, and this will continue. In Moscow, there used to be 675 churches, now there are only 287. In 1928, throughout the U. S. S. R., 542 chapels, 445 churches, 59 synagogues, and 38 mosques were closed. By the 1st of January, 1930, we hope the number will have risen to 1,000 churches for the year. Bells tinkle in a melancholy way, but this policy will continue to be relentlessly pursued.'
All through 1930, this drastic closing down of churches has proceeded, in a determined attempt to stamp out organized religion. A new campaign for the extirpation of Bibles, Testaments, and all religious books has been entered upon. No longer are editions of the Bible permitted to be printed. No religious books are allowed in from outside countries. The ikons which served the Russian people in many cases as a kind of illustrated Bible have been destroyed by the cart-load.
ATHEISM: THE NATIONAL RELIGION
Atheism has been declared to be the national religion. Children are being instructed in the principles of Atheism, and are being formed into leagues to spy upon their parents, and to report if any of their friends show the slightest interest in the Gospel. They are rewarded with prizes in accordance with their success in thus acting as spies. Even personal torture is in progress. Not a few are shot for their faith, on the ground that to be a Christian is to be an anti-Communist. Many prominent churchmen have been confined in concentration camps on the shores of the White Sea, and on the slightest pretext, and often with no pretext at all, they have been made to lie down in shallow graves which they themselves have dug, and there freeze to death."
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Job 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
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