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Don Smith :: Chapter 5: The Pleasures of God (Job 4-6)

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Chapter 5: The Pleasures of God (Job 4-6)

To believe God's children are the objects of His divine pleasure is most exhilarating. God the Father delights in His children as He delights in His eternal Son. The Son is the unrivaled joy of heaven. He is the eternal Son who was begotten, not made. The intimacy and companionship between the Father and the Son is infinitely glorious and joyous. The Father, however, was pleased to send forth His Son into time and space to fulfill His ordained purpose of redeeming an eternal bride for His Son. It pleased the Father, for the fullness of deity, to dwell in His incarnate Son. Jesus Christ was the radiant glory of the invisible God veiled in human flesh. He was the Son in whom the Father was well pleased (cf. Matthew 3:17). But the story of the Father's pleasure in His Son takes humanity to a place it cannot fully comprehend. The Bible tells us the Father was pleased to crush His beloved Son. He was pleased to pour out His just wrath upon His righteous Son as He hung nailed to a tree (cf. Isaiah 53:10). We must ask, "What kind of God would do this to His own Son? What would motivate this God to exhaust His wrath on His Eternal Pleasure?" The answer is: "For the same reason He is pleased to crush the righteous child of God."

To understand God's pleasure, is to explore the mystery of God's glory. Our God is an eternal God ordaining and fulfilling His good pleasure. He took no fiendish pleasure in crushing His Son anymore than He takes delight in watching the righteous suffer today. But His bruising, crushing, and chastening are all a part of His eternal pleasure. With infinite wisdom, He works for the ultimate glory of the Son and the joy of His Bride. The greater glory of heaven outweighs the temporal pain and suffering of earth. Suffering, like all things, somehow works together for a greater good. He places hedges around the righteous to protect and to prosper them. But as in the case of Job, He granted Satan limited access to strike him in order to serve His holy purposes and Job's greater good.

Job struggled to comprehend, as we all do, how we can be the objects of God's divine pleasure, yet He is pleased to crush us. Frankly, the thought of being the pleasure of God is far more exhilarating than thinking God takes pleasure in crushing the righteous even for some greater good. Sometimes this is where we are tempted to wish God took less interest in our character growth and more interest in our temporal pleasure. This is where our notion and faith in God are tested and proved. Can we trust God to take away everything we treasure? Can we bless Him who chastens and crushes us with sickness and disease? Job did, but not without long painful bouts of consternation and anger.

This is where we find Job-seated outside the city gates on a mound of trash. He is grieving the loss of everything he owned, unparalleled wealth, and everything he loved, including ten children. He is suffering the pain and agony of a dreaded disease that covers his body with boils. Without invitation, three friends of Job appear to mourn and comfort him and for seven days they remain silently by his side. Then after seven days and nights, Job opened his mouth with great lamentations. His anguishing cry is recorded in chapter three. He did not curse God, but he did curse the day of his conception and birth. He wondered why he did not die in childbirth or die in his mother's arms. He welcomed death like a prospector searching for hidden treasure. He acknowledged that God had placed a hedge around him giving him life and prosperity. But now in his suffering and grief, he wanted God to let him out of the hedge. He wished that God would no longer give him life, but take it from him. Exhausted from his lamentations, he bowed his head in total despair. This is when the first of his friends, Eliphaz, breaks forth with a diatribe of super-spiritual dribble and self-righteous condemnation of Job. Like Satan, he is a slanderer of the righteous. To understand the deceitfulness of Eliphaz's words, we must explore this man's theology.

Eliphaz's Theology

The problem with Eliphaz was his self-righteous, judgmental attitude. He, like the others, held to "retribution theology" which means, "good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people". In other words, God blesses the righteous in direct proportion to their good works but He curses the wicked in direct proportion to their evil works. The unfounded leap Eliphaz made was in assuming that Job suffered because he was hiding some terrible sin; otherwise, he would still be enjoying his prosperity. The folly of this notion, as we have all seen so far in this story, is that Job was suffering not because he was unrighteous, but because he was righteous. Here we are faced with the dilemma: Job was God's delight, yet He was pleased to crush him through the evil work of Satan and wicked men. We have the advantage of knowing what neither Job nor his friends knew-God had empowered Satan to strike Job.

Eliphaz's comments begin with a soft, empathetic voice (Job 4:1-5). He acknowledged Job's wisdom and recalled his history of comforting others who were weak and poor. But he quickly turns to argue his case against Job's innocence. He did so by trying to shame him into a false confession of guilt. He did not tempt Job to curse God and die, but to repent before God and live.

He continues by describing how God blasts and breaks sinners (Job 4:6-9). God's judgment, he argues, has now come upon Job. He suggests that this explains Job's troubles and problems. He attributed Job's confidence in prosperity to his reverence and hope in his integrity. But we must ask, "Was Job confident in his own righteousness or in God's?" This is a topic that begins here and will not be resolved until the God of the Whirlwind appears before Job. Eliphaz asked the rhetorical question, "If Job could ever remember any innocent people who perished or who were cut off?" (cf. Job 4:7). "No!" insisted Eliphaz, because, "those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same" (Job 4:8). His words were a perfect example of "retribution theology"-whatever a man sows, that will he reap. Therefore, Job is reaping a harvest of adversity because he must have sown seeds of sin that have incited God's judgment.

Furthermore, Job rightly believed that God is holy and more righteous than any mortal (Job 4:12-21). To substantiate his authoritative words, however, Eliphaz described a mysterious encounter he had one night with a spirit that floated through the air. It made his hair stand up on end. Then he heard this spirit say, "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his maker?" (Job 4:17). The message in Eliphaz's vision contains a high view of God's holiness, but a low view of God's grace for repentant sinners. He suggests that if God puts no trust in His servants and charges His angels with error, will he not much more charge sinners with error? Then like a frog sitting on a lily pad, he leaps beyond what he knows to be true. God does not crush sinners quicker than he does a moth. Eliphaz has denigrated God's image bearers to the level of moths and sparrows. "Do not God's image bearers have more value than the birds of the air?" (cf. Luke 12:7). Jesus said, "Yes!" Eliphaz relentlessly attacked Job's sense of trust in God's grace. He pointed out that God breaks sinners into pieces all day long.

Then in Job 5:1-7, he tried to intensify Job's isolation from men and God by chiding him to call out and see if anyone came to his rescue. He made the cruelest of accusations against Job. Eliphaz alluded to Job's former years of prosperity and then how he had become a cursed man. Then he plunged a dagger into Job's heart. He claimed God had crushed his children to death in a windstorm because of his sin. There is no more hurtful thought than that a parent would cause the death of a child because of their own folly. It would be like saying to a father, "The police shot your ten innocent children when they came to arrest you for murder. You are to blame for their judgment!" He claimed the cause for Job's affliction had come from within himself, as a result of his unrepentant sin.

But we must ask: "Are all the trials and tribulations of the righteous a direct result of their own sin or the sin of their parents or are there other reasons? Can adversity enter our lives by the pleasure of God for purposes known only to Him? Is God ever pleased to let Satan strike the righteous for the development of their faith? And what did Jesus say when someone asked him if a man born blind was a result of his own sin or the sin of his parents?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed" (John 9:3). Eliphaz made no allowance for God's sovereignty to reveal His glory even through the pain and suffering of the righteous.

Then Eliphaz observed God's great, unsearchable, and marvelous works (Job 5:8-16). He is benevolent in causing rain to water the fields. He is merciful setting on high the lowly and lifting mourners to safety. He is all-wise, catching fools in their own craftiness. He is just, saving the needy and giving them hope. But what was lacking again in Eliphaz's observations was any consideration of God's sovereign grace by which He justifies and sanctifies the righteous. There is no mention of God's unconditional love and grace for the righteous. He made no distinction between God's dealings with the unsaved and the saved. He had greatly erred in thinking the righteous are conditionally blessed and that when they sin they receive exactly what they deserve, justice and not mercy. Eliphaz insinuated the reason God did not answer Job's cry for help was due to his sin.

As he neared the end of his painful accusations against Job, he reminded him that God corrects and chastens sinners (Job 5:17-18; Hebrews 12:5-11). Eliphaz was correct in saying God not only bruises, but He also binds. He wounds and also heals. He delivers as well as blesses. But what he failed to consider is that God is pleased to chasten the righteous even when they have not sinned. We are told His chastening is a sign and assurance of God's paternal love for His own. Chastening has a holy purpose and is not necessarily an expression of God's retribution.

Hebrews 12:5-11 instructs the child of God how to accept his chastisement: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

These insights were totally missing in Eliphaz's theology. Understandably, when the righteous suffer they may question God's ways, but they need not question his motivations. They are always, always, driven by His holy purposes and divine love. It could be said the Lord chastened and scourged Job, not out of retribution for his sin, but as an act of love for Job's good-a love that pursued good beyond his comprehension. Eliphaz came to mourn and comfort but failed miserably. He discomforted Job by predicting he would perish forever without anyone regarding him. Death would be like God crushing a moth without thought or concern.

Job's Theological Response

Job expressed his theological response through a mouth twisted in pain (Job 6:1-13). He concluded that God is pleased to crush the righteous (Job 6:1-4). But why would He not crush him to death? He accused his friends of judging him too severely for his comments made in pain. They did not appreciate the weight of his grief. He likened the weight of his sorrow to the weight of the sands of the sea on a scale. They would equal out on the balance. He also attributed his suffering to God the Almighty. He felt his plight was far beyond what man could inflict upon him. Therefore, he believed that God had shot poison tipped arrows into his heart. He was pierced to his inner being for reasons only God knew.

It seemed to him that God had arrayed His terrors against him like a mighty king positions his weapons and army in full attack (Job 6:5-7). In other words, he believed he was in a spiritual battle with God over things he did not know. What he did not know was that he was in a spiritual battle with the Evil One.

Job then cried out to the Lord for the pleasure of dying (Job 6:8-9). He pleaded for God to crush him and die (cf. Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53:4-5; Isaiah 53:10-11). But he had to accept that God does only what He pleases, and He was not pleased to crush him to death, but only crush him up to death. This was disconcerting. Job did not disagree that God is pleased to judge the wicked, but he was struggling with why God crushes the righteous. What kind of a God is pleased to crush the righteous? If we go back to the beginning of the Scriptures, we learn about God's pleasure. He was pleased before the foundation of the world to crush His Son for sinners. He pronounced His curse upon the Serpent in the Garden with this prophetic decree, "I will put enmity between you Satan and the woman, and between your Satanic seed and her godly Seed; He, a male Son of the Woman shall crush your head, And you shall bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

Here the pleasure of God was first announced to Satan and to Adam. This prophetic promise was announced again by the Lord in Isaiah 53:4-5. This seed would grow up like a tender plant and as root out of dry ground. He would have a beauty unappreciated by man. He would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, not unlike the grief Job suffered. He would bear our grief and carry our sorrows. He would be smitten and afflicted by God, wounded for our transgressions. God was pleased to smite the Righteous One for the salvation of the unrighteous. Job did not have the insights of Isaiah 53:10-11 when he considered his own grief. But we are given a glimpse into the very heart of God when it says, "it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10).

What kind of God strikes, chastens, and crushes the righteous? It is the same God who crushed His Son by the evil work of the devil on the cross. And we may ask, what did Christ know that Job did not know as He suffered? Listen further to Isaiah 53:11 as it describes the hope of Christ as He was being crushed for our sins, "When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities."

Christ knew His suffering and death were accomplishing the pleasure of God-the pleasure of seeing the multitude of sinners saved and resurrected. It was His joy to suffer and, in the process, justify many. In our suffering, we too must remember that the God who is pleased to crush the righteous was also the God who crushed His own Son for us. He crushes us for a greater good than temporal pleasure, but for an eternal blessing. "Our light affliction, which is for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). To use Job's analogy, if the weight of his suffering were compared to the weight of the sands of the sea, they would not be compared to the weight of glory to come. Job, however, longed for death because it would bring relief from his pain.

He had not concealed or been ashamed of giving testimony to the Holy One yet He wished that God's hand was loosed to cut him off like a weaver cuts off the wool when he has completed his tapestry (cf. Job 6:10; Isaiah 38:12). He had no strength left in him to hope. It was gone but there was still more he could learn about the sufficiency of God's grace when he was weak (cf. Job 6:11-13).

Job's Anger

Job then turned from his contemplation of God to his anger towards his friends. His analogy of his friends is graphic poetic picture of their failure to comfort him (cf. Job 6:14-30). They had dealt deceitfully with him like a dry riverbed offers false hope for the thirsty sojourner in the wilderness. These men brought nothing refreshing or life-giving. Instead, they led him into deeper despair. These so-called friends had forsaken the fear of God and came to him without wisdom and kindness. "Retribution theology" is like that; it leaves people stiff, cranky, judgmental, and self-righteous-especially when they sense the weakness and vulnerability of others. There is no grace but only insensitive, vindictive words. Job had had enough of their emptiness. He had not invited them to come in the first place, so they were free to leave.

He told them straightforwardly that they had given him no understanding about his plight. Instead, they tried to shame him into a forced confession of sin but without any knowledge of his sin, only the knowledge of his suffering (Job 6:24). They argued his guilt but without any evidence or proof (Job 6:25-26). They undermined their friendship by overwhelming him with accusations of causing the death of his children because of some deep, dark sin he would not admit (Job 6:27-28). They reasoned that God had crushed him because he refused to repent of his sin. What bothered Job as much as anything was their unwillingness to accept his plea of relative innocence before God (Job 6:29-30). There is nothing more disheartening than having friends who do not trust you. He claimed there was no injustice on his tongue and no sin he could discern.

To believe God's children are the objects of His eternal pleasure is most exhilarating. But to believe God is pleased to chasten and crush them is less than exhilarating. And what kind of God would do this? It is the same kind of God who was pleased to chasten and crush His own beloved Son, so that He might redeem us from the curse. And why did the Father ask the Son to endure such cruelty? Because He saw the greater good rather than the immediate need. With infinite wisdom, He foresaw the blessings that awaited both the Son and His Bride. Likewise, it was Christ's joy to be crushed for the pleasure it would bring the Father and ultimately us. May we come to appreciate not only God's eternal pleasure in us because of our identity with Christ, but also His pleasure to chasten those He loves for purposes greater than our finite wisdom can comprehend.

Chapter 4: The God of Hedges (Job 3) ← Prior Section
Chapter 6: The God Who Visits Man (Job 6-7) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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