Thursday, March 7, 2013

Job 4: Such a Worm

In the book of Job, the blameless and upright man receives a nearly lethal dose of suffering. Through a week's time, three friends sit silently with the dusty mourner until he cries out to curse the day of his birth. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the three friends, are appalled that Job maintains his integrity and spend most of the remaining narrative trying to convince Job that he must have sinned grievously and deserves this earned retribution.

In Job 4, Eliphaz opens the arguments with simple logic: God upholds the upright and cut off the wicked, so Job must have been wicked. Eliphaz's whole premise is flawed, and the rest of the story draws out the nuance of God's sovereignty in man's affairs (hint: he is utterly sovereign).

The interesting feature of this chapter is the foundation of Eliphaz's argument--personal experience. Job 4:8 shows that Eliphaz's conclusions are drawn from observation. In his life, he has seen evil come upon the evildoer, and has never seen a good man perish. The perfect correlation, in his mind, cannot be coincidence.

This friend's second argument is interesting enough to warrant its own treatment, so before our exploration of Eliphaz's vision, consider the flaw of logic that brings him to the wrong conclusion. His foundational authority is himself. He makes up his mind with a thought, "it seems to me." Personal experience is not inherently a bad thing, but anchoring your doctrine and your wisdom to it is fraught with peril [Prov 3:7, Prov 14:12, Prov 18:17]. But oh how rampant this wisdom is today, even in the Church of Christ! Let your life be refined by Truth [Prov 9:10, Ps 119:105].

What is fascinating about Job 4 is the vision Eliphaz recounts in Job 4:12-21. Who is this spirit that brings tidings of God's transcendence and purity? Most commentators indicate their belief that this is a good spirit or angel because what he says is fundamentally true. However, evil spirits bemoan truth themselves [Mark 5:7, Act 16:17-18]. In fact, they often serve a morsel of truth to accomplish their deceptive purposes (c.f. Satan in Gen 3, Matt 4).

This deceptive half-truth technique seems to be the tactic employed against Job. If God cannot trust his exalted angels (aside: how does this spirit know that?), then how on earth could he remotely regard men of clay? For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Therefore, confess, do what's right, and God may restore you [Job 5:8-9 ff]. Satan loves to accuse God's people and wants to steal all hope from them [Zech 3:1].

But that is only half the story, for God has demonstrated his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus Christ interposed his precious blood [Isa 53:4-6]. That is the great comfort for the Christian, for yes, we were charged with error, but the Son of God has propitiated God's wrath toward those who believe.

Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed?

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day