But you even undermine piety and hinder devotion to God. Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you.Job 15:4-6
As Eliphaz begins the second round of attacks on Job’s spiritual credibility by which his three ‘friends’ maligned and criticised him, we see the intensity of the rhetoric heating up. I feel there is an important implied lesson for us here as we read this part of God’s inspired Word. Let us remember that this is an integral part of the Scripture concerning which the Apostle Paul writes: “ALL SCRIPTURE is GOD-BREATHED and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
It is part of our fallen nature to find fault in others, and therefore so easy to let theological discussions degenerate into slanging matches. We allow ourselves to polarise and make accusations that are based on subjective personal opinions, while at the same time expressing them as objective doctrinal truths!
We, the readers, have been made aware of the REAL CALIBRE and DEPTH of Job’s spirituality in the opening chapters of the book. These truths are not up for debate because they are GOD’S DECLARATION of the TRUE condition of Job’s heart and the actual reason why he is undergoing his current trials. Sadly, Eliphaz does NOT have this information, and yet he is prepared to pass judgement, with UNFLINCHING CERTAINTY, on Job’s piety and devotion! It is ironical that, from our GOD-REVEALED perspective, Eliphaz’s condemnation of Job is in fact more appropriately a condemnation of the criticiser himself! His words, “Your own mouth condemns you … your own lips testify against you” are more applicable to HIM than to his friend.
We are reminded of Jesus’ warning: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2), and James’ application of it: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. … Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. … The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (James 1:19-20; 3:1-2, 6).
Let us pray with David: “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3). Every time I express a harsh criticism of someone else, I run the risk of BEING MISTAKEN, because I don’t have full, or even accurate, knowledge of all the background and circumstances that contribute to his situation!
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, … when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.1 Corinthians 4:9-10a, 13
One good thing that comes out of the troublesome, irritating problem the Apostle Paul had with the Church he had planted in Corinth is that his inspired Word to them is particularly helpful for us in our situation today!
In my lifetime, I have seen the Church move from being a ‘tolerated’ and even ‘respected’ force in the life of our nation, and indeed throughout the world, to being seen as a spent force that is to be opposed and NOT tolerated! But, sad to say, this current situation is probably more the norm throughout the history of the Church than the one that existed in my childhood/teenage years.
The hostility we face today is certainly more representative of the challenges faced by the Early Church. This, of course, should not surprise us! What warning did Jesus give to his disciples? “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19).
But the exciting aspect of all this is the other thing we learn from Church History (even up to the present day in many countries!): the places where the Church grows fastest and strongest are the places where there is the greatest persecution! Not that I am hoping for MORE persecution among us, but if that’s what it takes to extend God’s Kingdom then let us heed God’s Written Word and be prepared to go through the sort of treatment Paul endured – to be portrayed publicly, in the media and in the view of the culture in which we find ourselves, as [strange, misfit] ‘spectacles’; but let us also pray for the wisdom, grace and strength that our Sovereign Lord can provide as needed, and let us resolve always to ‘answer kindly’. Eugene Petersen interprets verse 13: “When they spread rumours about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.” Are we up for it, to be ‘FOOLS for Christ’s sake’? – Jesus warns, from his own experience, that this is inevitable for everyone who wants to identify with him!
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.Exodus 1:15-17
Our present culture would openly and forcefully condemn the King of Egypt’s instruction as ‘Genocide’ – while, at the same time, it approves and legislates for ‘Conception to Birth’ abortion whenever this would fit in with the mother’s needs/preferences. Somehow, our culture manages to justify this human ‘wisdom’ by closing it’s eyes to the inconsistency and hypocrisy it blatantly displays.
Thankfully, Shiphrah and Puah knew that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7), so they bravely ignored the instruction. This, of course, did not prevent Pharaoh from pursuing his ungodly murderous course by other cruel means (verse 22)! In the providence of Almighty God, however, all this resulted in Moses’ being rescued miraculously and even being nurtured and raised in Pharaoh’s household – an essential part of his divine preparation as the instrument God was using to bring about Pharaoh’s downfall and the fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham!
Ultimately it was all a key part of God’s Divine Plan, not only to rescue his people from bondage, but to send the Saviour of the world.
It is good to keep this ‘Big Picture’ in mind as we witness the way human ‘wisdom’ is creating such unrest, havoc and uncertainty today. Let us reflect on what the Apostle Paul says about human ‘wisdom’: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.’” (1 Corinthians 3:19, cf 1 Corinthians 1:21 and 25). While the world persists in ignoring God and rejecting the truth of his Word, we are witnessing the disastrous impact this is having on us and our society, and it understandably causes us much anguish. But, as the Prophet reminds us: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” (Isaiah 59:1). Are we looking to him in constant prayer, that he will have mercy upon us?