(A lesson from Job’s friends)
If it’s in the Bible, is it necessarily a statement from God? Or should we be extra careful to first find out WHO is speaking and where their inspiration is coming from? Could we be simply reading a quote from someone who may or may not be speaking under divine inspiration?
In other words, is everything we read in the Bible something God says is right?
I ask this question because so often people will quote this or that verse without context – and sometimes the source of the words is not a source we really want. Those words may be in the Bible to make certain points – but the words themselves may not be God speaking. God is writing it. God is giving it to us in his book, but not every sentence is God speaking.
A clear example of this is when the Serpent says to Eve “You will NOT surely die if you eat of the fruit of that tree” (Genesis 3:4-5). But that is a direct contradiction of what Elohim the Almighty had said to Adam: “for in the day you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17). OK, we all know that statement from Satan the Serpent is not inspired of God and yet it is in the Bible. Yahweh has it there to show us to be on guard against statements from Satan that come from seemingly harmless sources.
OK, that example in Genesis is easy to discern.
Remember one time Yeshua even said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan, for you are an offense to me…” (Matthew 16:23). Peter had just said that Yeshua would not have to die (verses 21-22). Yeshua understood that was a temptation from Satan and so addressed the source of that thought directly – and yet it had been voiced from a top disciple! So we have to be on guard to realize who is speaking and what is being said.
Let’s step this up a notch now. How many people quote all kinds of verses from the book of Job without giving much thought about who is the one speaking. Remember what God himself said to Job’s friends:
Job 42:7-8 “And so it was, after YHVH had spoken these words to Job, that YHVH said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."
So God directly dismisses the words of Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Interestingly God does not disparage the words of the youngest friend Elihu.
Click on “Continue reading” to see how a shadowy figure who appeared to Eliphaz was his inspiration! And it wasn’t God.
In my most recent sermon – this one on the Testing of our Faith – I refer to the book of Job. Notice where the “inspiration” for Eliphaz’ words came from:
Job 4:12-19 "Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. 13 In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men,
14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake.
15 Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. 16 It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence; then I heard a voice saying:
17 'Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? 18 If He puts no trust in His servants, If He charges His angels with error, 19 How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before a moth?”
Had you noticed that before? This was not a good angel. God’s servant angels – when appearing to mankind – usually say something like “Don’t be afraid. I’ve been sent to give you a message from God.” Now many encounters with the spirit world (angels) are frightening. Daniel passed out. Isaiah wet his pants (Isaiah 6). But normally the good spirits make an effort to put people at ease with something from God.
But this spirit that came to Eliphaz was creepy. So Eliphaz’ inspiration came from this fallen angel, a demon. His words are sarcastic, bitter and frightening to Eliphaz. Yahweh had said that Job was blameless and a very good man. But this evil spirit comes to Eliphaz and basically says, “Come on now, if even we angels are charged with error, can you believe Job is so clean? NO way!”
And that became the foundation of Eliphaz’ arguments to Job: “Job, you’re suffering because you must be a secretly very sinful and evil person. This kind of suffering just doesn’t happen to really good people”. Eliphaz’ two other friends picked up on that thread as the three of them used this faulty reasoning to gang up on Job.
But that reasoning is not uncommon. Even Yeshua’s disciples, upon coming to a man who had been born blind, immediately jumped to the same kind of thinking: “Who sinned? This man or his parents, that he should be born blind” (John 9:1-3). Yeshua set them straight and basically said we can’t always assume that catastrophic things that happen to people is always because they’ve sinned horribly. Yeshua said this was to reveal God’s glory.
But we do think that way, don’t we?
So back to the book of Job. My advice is – when reading the chapters where Eliphaz, Bildad or Zophar are speaking, have your guard up as you read. Just because their words are in the Bible doesn’t mean they are divinely inspired words. As you read through the book of Job, obviously some of their words are fine. But be careful. GOD said they did NOT speak about Him correctly. And as depressed as Job was, God says Job’s words were right!
But how many times have we heard people quote from Eliphaz or Bildad or Zophar’s words – picking a verse here or there from the book of Job to make their point? It’s possible that particular statement being taken from those men’s words could be fine – but yet consider: God said they had not spoken about him – God – correctly!
The “friends” started off fine – by just being there, quietly, for a whole week. Job was super depressed, and understandably so, for all he had gone through. I’ve lost one son. It’s a horrible experience. Job lost every single one of his sons and daughters, and hundreds of servants, and thousands of livestock and buildings –all in one day. Then he lost his health and was in severe constant pain. That alone would be enough to understand his depression.
Job’s friends were supposed to cheer him up. But instead of being compassionate, Bildad for example, basically says, “your kids all died because they must have done something evil.” (I’m paraphrasing). See Job 4:8. They had it coming! They deserved what happened. But of course he was wrong.
And it gets worse from there. So be careful when quoting people whom God says were not right. God says they were saying wrong things.
Let’s also learn a huge point from the book: Job’s sufferings were not the result of sin or even cause and effect of something Job had done. His sufferings came about from a discussion and a test God put him through to see if he would remain steadfast and faithful no matter what. (Of course I realize there are many, many other points and subplots in the book of Job.) Be careful when you see someone going through a lot of trials. Don’t jump to the conclusion –even if silently and privately – that that person must have been sinning to have brought all this on himself. That’s basically what Job’s friends said. God said they were wrong.
Of course sometimes – even many times – God does send calamity to punish the wicked. We all know that. But when calamity strikes, it’s not always because God is punishing. That’s my point. Sometimes God is testing us and our faith with pain and suffering. Hear my most recent sermon on the Testing of our Faith, Part 1.
Remember, even the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was from the tree of the knowledge of GOOD and evil. It was a MIX of good and evil. That’s the tricky part. It had some good in it but even then – The Creator had instructed they were not to eat of it –at all! It was not an ugly tree. I’ve seen children’s Bible story books where that tree is depicted as all gnarled up and ugly. That’s not what the Bible says. The Word says that tree and its fruit was beautiful to behold (Genesis 3:6). And it was for the knowledge of GOOD as well as evil. And remember, in this case, even that tree was created by God. And even that tree was included in the statement that when God saw what he had made, “Behold it was good”. And yet – forbidden.
So sometimes we hear people quoting the Bible or talking pretty about things – and if we’re not careful, we can be hearing statements that simply go against the Bible. If our guard isn’t up, if our defenses are down because they quoted a verse here or there – we might be listening to error without even realizing it. And this is why we must know God’s word inside and out.
Enjoy God’s word. Just know who’s speaking as you read. And be careful about quoting until you’re sure of its source!