For the Love of God, Volume 2/February 6

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Genesis 39; Mark 9; Job 5; Romans 9

IN THE SECOND PART OF HIS SPEECH (Job 5), Eliphaz presupposes the stance he adopts in the first part (see yesterday’s meditation), yet adds several new wrinkles to his impassioned presentation.

First, he says that Job’s approach to God in this crisis is fundamentally flawed. By all means call on God (5:1)—but why imagine that someone as exalted as God will answer? Meanwhile, Job’s attitude is what is killing him: “Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple” (5:2). Eliphaz speaks out of his own observation: he has seen such fools prospering in the past, but suddenly they are uprooted. The implication is that Job’s former prosperity was the prosperity of a “fool,” and his current loss is nothing but his due. Somewhat inconsistently, Eliphaz adds that human suffering is a function of the human condition: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (5:7).

Second, rather self-righteously Eliphaz tells Job what he would do if he were in a similar situation (5:8-16). He would appeal to God and lay his case before him—not with Job’s attitude, which Eliphaz finds insufferable, but with humility and contrition. After all, God reigns providentially and is committed to humbling the arrogant and the crafty and exalting the poor and the needy. So Eliphaz would approach God as a suppliant.

Third, Eliphaz insists that at least one of God’s aims in bringing about loss and disaster is discipline: “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal” (5:17-18). Those who recognize this point discover that God quickly restores their life and prosperity. They find themselves secure in every trial. Job cannot miss the implication: if he feels he has suffered unjustly, not only is he insufficiently humble, but he fails to recognize the gracious, chastening hand of God Almighty, and therefore he remains under God’s rod instead of finding mercy. “We have examined this,” Eliphaz concludes rather pompously, “and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself” (5:27).

What Eliphaz says carries some measure of truth. God does indeed chasten his children (Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-6). But this presupposes that they need it; God certainly does not chasten his children when they do not need it. Eliphaz thus presupposes that Job deserves God’s chastening; readers of chapter 1 know he is mistaken. True, God saves the humble and abases those whose eyes are haughty (Ps. 18:27); but Eliphaz mistakenly assumes that Job must be haughty, or he would not be suffering. So here is a lesson: false or improper application of genuine truth may be heartless and cruel—and, as here, it may say false things about God.

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