by Pastor David Groendyk
Eliphaz speaks again for the third and final time. This chapter begins the third round of speeches from Job’s friends, although it won’t really be a full third round since only two of the friends speak, and the second friend gets interrupted by Job mid-way through his speech. As we approach these next few chapters, the ESV Study Bible summarizes them well: “If there was any comfort in the friends’ attending Job [in chapter 2], it has entirely evaporated. The two parties have argued themselves increasingly apart, revising earlier judgments as they do so.”
Notice how Eliphaz has changed his tune. In Job 4:3–4, he once praised Job for the wise counsel and spiritual support he offered other people who were hurting. Eliphaz had once considered Job a wise and godly man who was caught in un-confessed sin. Now, Eliphaz accuses Job of a flood of horrific, abusive, and wicked sin. “Is not your evil abundant? There is no end to your iniquities” (v. 5). Job has apparently stripped the naked of their clothing, withheld bread and water from starving people, and sent widows and orphans away empty-handed (vv. 6–9). Notice also Eliphaz’s reasoning in verses 2–4. The rhetorical questions make it difficult to understand, but essentially he’s saying that it doesn’t profit God at all to bring about suffering on the wise and blameless, and so the only reason for Job’s suffering must be judgment. Notice finally how Eliphaz incorrectly interprets Job’s own theology in verses 13–14. The three friends have consistently argued that wicked people do not prosper, to which Job replied that wicked men prosper all the time! Eliphaz takes Job to be saying that God doesn’t pay attention to mankind and that somehow wicked people can fly under God’s radar so that he doesn’t see. All of this adds up to the fact that Eliphaz has a horrible understanding of the situation at hand. He really knows nothing, and his counsel is detrimental to Job. The reality is that God will not always put snares and sudden terrors in the path of the wicked (v. 10). God will not always make the path of his children easy and pleasant. To understand the world the way Eliphaz does will only bring undue guilt and anxiety over non-existent sin as well as lots and lots of frustration and grief.
This all leads to Eliphaz’s application for Job: “Agree with God, and be at peace” (v. 21). On the face of it, that looks like good advice. But what does Eliphaz mean by that? He means for Job to agree that his own gross wickedness is causing this suffering and that Job must find it out and repent. The problem with Eliphaz’s advice is that Job does not have gross, unrepentant wickedness in his life. You can see how Eliphaz is heaping undue guilt and frustration onto Job’s already-painful life. Still, Job will not cave, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, Eliphaz’s counsel is good counsel when it’s given in the proper circumstances. Part of true repentance means to have the same view of our sin that God does. All of us as sinners must come to a sense of our sin, guilt, and corruption and agree with God’s assessment that it deserves judgment and that we cannot dig ourselves out of the debt we owe to God. We rely fully on the intercession of another person whose hands are clean in order to deliver us who are not innocent (v. 30). Eliphaz thought that that person would be Job himself who could intercede for others. Ironically, Eliphaz is the one who would need Job’s intercession (Job 42:7–9)! But Job has passed away, and we’re in need of a living high priest for our sin. Jesus Christ pleads with God on our behalf to save us, not because we’re good people, but because he has already fully paid the debt we owe. Therefore, especially for the man or woman who finds themselves straying from God, Job 22 does speak a good word: return to the Almighty, receive his instructions, remove injustice from your life, delight yourself in God and make your prayer to him, and he will deliver you from your sin.