Monday, August 10, 2015

Study of Job: Misplaced Hope

Do you have that friend in your life that gives (what she/he thinks) is great advice? You know the one-they could probably write for a certain greeting card company. They always have something to say about what you are walking through. They mean well, but sometimes their "pop psychology" or even their pretty biblical references (usually taken out of context) are not quite what you need to hear. It may be what you want to hear, but it is not what God has for you.

In chapter 4 of the book of Job, we see Eliphaz frustrated and confused by Job's condition because he is of the belief that the innocent do not suffer, and to him, Job was an innocent. The suffering of Job has rocked Eliphaz's world and turned his belief system upside down!

In the beginning of chapter 5, Eliphaz is still coming to grips with this juxtaposition of his world view versus what he is witnessing with his very own eyes. Job 5:7 says "Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward". This is a reference to Eliphaz's belief that man reaps what he sows, there must be a cause, that was generated by Job, for the terrible tragedies he has suffered. "The sparks fly upward" is actually a reference to Resheph-the god of pestilence and destruction. Eliphaz clearly has not come to terms with what has befallen his friend.

As if he realizes that his somewhat harsh words may have been rubbing salt into Job's wounds, Eliphaz softens his words (and likely his tone) in the next few verses. He encourages Job to appeal to God to relieve him of his pain and suffering.

To be honest, though, I am not sure Eliphaz is really "getting it" yet. The words of Job 5:8-16 do not strike me as spoken by a man (Eliphaz) who has an eternal perspective. He still seems to be seeking redemption for Job here on earth; and, while that is noble and does actually come to fruition, I have to wonder-what if it didn't? I know this is skipping ahead a bit, but what if Job was not redeemed while here on earth? What if his redemption did not come until he went home to heaven? Would we still be able to glean the joy from this story?

"So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts her mouth."
-Job 5:16

Every day, you and I see and hear of grave injustice around the world. Children dying of starvation, genocide in parts of the world, men and women murdered for their faith, families with no access to clean drinking water, families put out of their homes because of things beyond their control, soldiers returning from war to be forgotten by the very country the fought for. Where is the hope? Injustice's mouth seems to be wide open. 
In the book of Psalms alone, "hope" is mentioned 28 times (ESV). And each time hope is mentioned, it is in relation to the Lord or His word. Sweet friends, hope may be all we have sometimes, but please don't buy into the gospel of Eliphaz (otherwise known as "health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine"). God does not promise us a life of ease and wealth on this earth, but His promises are worth so.much.more.

1 Corinthians 15:18-19 tells us "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." 
Our hope is not in the things of this world. If it is, we are missing the best thing and are, therefore to be pitied. Sweet friends, place your hope in the One who created all things, the One who knows your innermost thoughts and knit you together in your mother's womb. Place you hope in God alone.