In my recent journey through the book of Job, one thing that had always puzzled me about the story of Job seemed to grow clear. I’ve always been curious why the advice and counsel of Job’s friends–Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar (all relatives of Abram, by the way)–is full of profound truths about our God that the Bible teaches elsewhere; yet, in the end they are rebuked by God. These guys seem to be staunch defenders of the faith, do they not? Here is some of what they say, full of pretty good doctrine!
Bildad: Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice? (Job 8:3)
Eliphaz: Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. (Job 15:15)
Zophar: And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. (Job 11:6-9)
Bildad: Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine. (Job 18:5)
Eliphaz: Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? (Job 22:2)
Why then does the Lord rebuke these three men? Aren’t we to have pure and sound doctrine? Shouldn’t we earnestly contend for the faith? We don’t want to compromise the truth, do we? Amen and amen. However, here is the issue with the sound doctrine of these men, they did not mingle the sweet honey of compassion and faith into Job’s bitter cup of suffering.
Let me paraphrase Paul’s words in Galatians 5:6 to expose the error of Job’s friends. It says that “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision (or we could say: sound doctrine) availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision (or, lack of sound doctrine); but faith (actually believing upon Christ, Whose Gospel is sound doctrine) which worketh by love (love to God which then extends outward towards our fellow man).” Sound doctrine is not merely to be outlined in a systematic theology, it is (as I recently heard someone say) to come out of our fingertips.
Sound doctrine alone does not save; Christ saves, and faith in Him alone is what procures that saving grace. The Gospel is the only true and sound doctrine; but merely being able to explain it does not mean one believes it. For, if you believe the Gospel, the fruit of that belief is love (Gal. 5:22): love for God which results in charity towards mankind.
Remember, Satan has twice approached the LORD Almighty and asked to wreak havoc on Job’s life. The LORD consents to allow Satan to beat the snot out of Job, only Satan could not kill Job. What was God doing here? Job was a righteous man, who served the one true God faithfully, and everything is pulled out from under his feet. What’s God up to? I tremble to say that God was proving something in Job’s life that would be a prelude to the ultimate proving ground of God’s purposes: Calvary.
Job was a righteous man, and to earthly eyes, it appears that God left Job and Satan triumphed. Yet in the end, God proves to heaven, earth and hell that those that put their hope in Him, will never be put to shame. God proves that true faith holds fast to Him, even in the darkest hour. God proves that even when it looks like Satan has won, in fact just the opposite is true: God’s purposes are wonderously accomplished.
Job’s story is one of a righteous man being humbled almost unto death, and then in the depths of sorrow and suffering being exalted to a high place. However, Job is a mere shadow of the Savior He foreshadowed. For Jesus’ story is one where the truly Righteous One was humbled unto death, even death on a cross, and therefore God has highly exalted Him (Phi. 2:8-11).
So, back to Job’s three friends with Doctorates of Divinity. These seemingly godly men, earnest to preach sound doctrine are rebuked, “And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath (Job 42:7).” Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar’s great error was not that they had bad doctrine, but rather, they applied it wrongly. They ought to have encouraged Job to hold steadfast in the faith. They should have comforted by saying, “Job, we know that all is bleak, and our earthly eyes cannot see what God’s purpose is in this suffering; however, we do know that we must not despair. God is faithful, He will accomplish His purpose. Our job is to trust Him to the end. To die in faith. To not despair of His goodness. To not question His sovereign faithfulness. To tirelessly resist the Devil’s agenda in this whole thing. To hold fast to God’s promise that He will crush Satan’s head. To love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.”
Now for you and I. Our job is not to make a chart outlining our doctrinal beliefs. Our job is to believe good doctrine. And as Proverbs 4:2 says, “For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.” Good doctrine is this: not forsaking God’s law. Good doctrine is cleaving to God’s law. What is God’s law? It is not to try to please Him by our own works of righteousness. The law is called the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), i.e. the Gospel. The New Law, is the Gospel. The command? To lovingly believe upon the Son (1 John 3:23). The Gospel believed upon is the glorious fulfillment of God’s promise in Jeremiah 31:33, “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Bildad & co. had sound doctrine, but failed to comfort Job by encouraging Job in faith. The final chapters of Job reveal the grand purpose of God, and teaches us that though we cannot see all ends, our calling is to believe that God and His redemptive purposes will not and can not fail.
In Job’s day and in Job’s story, it was an age where the godly men were few, for most of mankind had begun to worship idols, and had forsaken the one true God. Job was one of the few that stayed faithful; and when it seemed all was lost for Job, we see God gloriously thwart the Devil’s purpose of bringing a man of God to despair of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Even greater still, when Christ was pinned to two pieces of wood, and it appeared that Hell had won, all the saints of God, Job included, declare, “He promised to rise again, and He will!” I do not want to merely espouse nice doctrinal rhetoric, nor do I want to coddle suffering souls with the mush of humanism. I want to champion every soul within my reach to cling to Christ, with unfailing believe, for His kingdom cannot fail, and He must and shall prevail!