Job 15:1-16 – Things Turn Ugly

Everyone's just so darn sure that they're right.

Job 15:1-16 (ESV)

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said:

“Should a wise man answer with windy knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind? Should he argue in unprofitable talk, or in words with which he can do no good? But you are doing away with the fear of God and hindering meditation before God. For your iniquity teaches your mouth, and you choose the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; your own lips testify against you.

“Are you the first man who was born? Or were you brought forth before the hills? Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself? What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not clear to us? Both the gray-haired and the aged are among us, older than your father. Are the comforts of God too small for you, or the word that deals gently with you? Why does your heart carry you away, and why do your eyes flash, that you turn your spirit against God and bring such words out of your mouth? What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!”

What started out as three friends trying to help console Job in his grief has now turned into a full blown fight. Imagine this kind of argument erupting at a funeral. How on earth did this turn so ugly?

The key here is a perfectly sharp disagreement over the facts – specifically whether some sin precipitated Job’s afflictions. Job is absolutely sure that no such sin happened. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are equally certain that one must have.

Certainty makes people hostile. Job’s certainty makes him sure his friends are lousy comforters. Their certainty makes them sure that Job’s lying, and thus that he’s falsely maligning God.

Job is right and they’re wrong but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that this kind of disagreement isn’t rare. People are often sure they’re right even when they’re wrong.

In this case God Himself is going to show up and set things straight, but usually this kind of disagreement is never resolved. Either the argument leads to the end of a relationship, or everyone just lets the whole thing drop (and simmer).

Normally, there’s only one way to achieve a good ending; someone has to admit they’re wrong, even though they’re still sure they’re right. Neither Job nor his friends do that here.

Admitting you’re wrong even when you’re sure you’re right falls under the category of forgiveness – something Christians are commanded to do. Yeah it’s hard, but hey, it’s not martyrdom.

Besides, do this a lot and when you get to heaven you’ll discover that you were right half the time.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.