The consolations of God - Second in a series
The key passage of this series, Are the consolations of God small with thee? is found in Job 15:11.
After losing his children, servants, livestock, camels, health and appearance, as Job sat and scraped the boils that covered his body, three friends came to comfort him, Eliphaz, Zophar and Bildad. They sat with him for seven days in silence, mourning for his losses.
Then Job spoke: Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night [in which] it was said, There is a man child conceived. (Job 3:3)
Eliphaz, to urge him to repent, countered: Remember, I pray thee, who [ever] perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? (Job 4:7) He also shared a vision he had been given; a spirit stood before him and 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… (Job 4:17-21)
Eliphaz finished his counsel with the exhortation: Behold, happy [is] the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole…" (Job 5:18-27)
Job objected to Eliphaz's exhortation. Job was a man who knew good from evil and endeavored to do right in all ways. What he had experienced was not a chastisement but a decimation! He needed much more than a clucking disciplinary word from an older friend. Yet the jabs continued, as Bildad and Zophar joined in, and then a younger friend, Elihu, added his zinger.
At one point, Eliphaz reminded Job, What knowest thou, that we know not? [what] understandest thou, which [is] not in us? With us [are] both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father. [Are] the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee? (Job 15:9-11)
There, we see the key passage of this series of posts in context. A careful reading of Job 15 makes clear that Eliphaz felt that the vision and insight he shared with Job (in Job 4:17-21) ought to have ministered to Job's deep need for comfort and guidance. Job would have realized this, had he not been rebellious, vain and deceived!
To be fair, there was truth in Eliphaz's special "word." It's true that a man cannot be more just than his Maker. Matthew Henry restated Eliphaz's special insight as follows:
Shall such a mean, weak, foolish, sinful, dying creature as this pretend to be more just than God and more pure than his Maker? No, instead of quarrelling with his afflictions, let him wonder that he is out of hell.
In the end, Job was led to confess that he had considered himself to be God's equal, even to the point of challenging God's wisdom. He had been a man who thought he could be just or acceptable to God by his lifestyle. Indeed, he had worked hard every day to demonstrate his righteousness to God.
He had wanted God to explain why nearly all his possessions and loved ones were destroyed, but instead he was given a new way of seeing: Then he exclaimed, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. (Job 42:5) He understood that he had been presumptuous. It was a shocking revelation!
After Job’s change of heart, God called on him to intercede for his friends, and once he did, God restored his life. (These insights are also found in the God Remembered Abraham Bible Study on this site.)
So, when we meditate on our key passage, will we consider it a futile verse, since it was voiced by a man who needed the intercession of the one he sought to teach?
Perhaps, as we picture the group of friends biting and devouring one another (Gal 5:15), we will be careful not to console others in deep distress by our private store of verses. God alone can console the brokenhearted, and those consolations will not be too small.
The Lord's exhorted Job, and it deeply consoled him for his immense losses because it led to a repentance that opened his heart to see God in His glory— things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. (Job 42:3) Neither let God's consolations be too small for us nor his exhortations too great.