The Anguish of Job – Meditation 12
Job 4:12-15 “A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end.
The area that Eliphaz moves into next will certainly upset some people. I mean, “A spirit glided past my face”, what us that about???? Some will write this off as just some weird thing because “there can’t be any such communication with ‘the other side’” while other will uncritically accept it and say, “Great!! Both are wrong and we need to be wise and understanding of the truth. The apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jn 4:1). In other words, says John, check out these strange things. Don’t take them automatically as something from God.
When we find ourselves with this sort of situation, we need to check the nature of the experience, check the content of the message and check the outcome or fruit of what it says and how it leaves us feeling. Let’s do that here.
First let’s check the experience itself. Amid disquieting dreams in the night. He starts off from a place of apparent nightmares. Not a good place to start from if you are discussing revelations from God, an indication of a mind not at rest. But then, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. This wasn’t in response to a revelation from God, this was just a feeling of dread. Something nasty was happening. Now certainly in Scripture when the Lord reveals Himself there is often ‘the fear of the Lord’ because He is awesome, but fear that is disassociated from revelation is concerning. Then we find, A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. That is quite a different experience from anything else we find in Scripture. Dreams or visions are almost quite normal in the Bible but one of the things about such things that bring revelation is that although they come bringing divinely supernatural revelation, in the way they come they tend to be quite ordinary. This is not an ‘ordinary’ experience. Is every mystical experience of God? Definitely not! Even angels in Scripture are sometimes so ordinary that they are mistaken for ordinary men.
Let’s look next at the content of this apparent revelation. “Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” (v.17) Excuse me? Is there any question of this? Why was this spirit saying this to Eliphaz? Was it to pass on to Job (there is not mention of that guidance) or was it just to confirm Eliphaz in his wrong thinking? The enemy loves to encourage us and confirm us in our wrong thinking! Is there anyone involved saying that God is not righteous? Is there anyone saying that they are more righteous than the Lord? This sounds like a put-down of mankind. Why? Certainly the Lord is above question; of that there is no doubt. Let’s see where it goes. “If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error” (v.18). Where did this come from? Is that true? Does God not trust any of His angels? Surely He does for He sends them out as messengers. Who has He charged with error? Which angel? Well, Satan. Ah, this sounds like sour grapes then. Is this an indication of where this ‘message’ originates? How does it continue: “how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth!” (v.19). So, it appears to be saying, if some angels fell of the rails and received God’s censure, how much more will human beings whose lives are very transient and so easily destroyed? That is a real put-down view of humanity. You are weak and you are failures and you are easily crushed. That almost sounds mocking. How does that line up with Scripture? Is this really how God feels about mankind?
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule.” (Gen 1:26). That’s our starting place – made in the image of God. Listen to how David, the man after God’s own heart saw us: “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psa 8:4-6) That is not a negative put-down view of mankind. That says that we have tremendous potential. Yes, mankind has sinned, yes mankind has fallen, yet God has not written mankind off. Remember the most famous verse in the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). ‘The world’ here refers to the people of the earth. God doesn’t have a pessimistic view of mankind, He loves us and that is why He sent Jesus. What does He offer us? Eternal life, a life in eternity with Him!
Finally, what is the fruit of this ‘word’? Well for Eliphaz it is a confirmation that man is weak, man is a failure, man has no hope and man is a sinner who deserves God’s judgment. Now of course all that is true but it is only half the picture as we’ve just noted above, and so if you dump someone with just this half of the picture you’re going to leave them feeling pretty down. Does this word bring Job closer to the Lord? No it makes him feel worse. It just confirms he is doomed. Listen, by contrast to what Paul taught about prophecy from the Lord: “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Cor 14:3) Wow! That IS different! If it was a word from the Lord it would have strengthened, encouraged and comforted Job – but it didn’t!
What are the basic lessons here? First, don’t accept every weird and wonderful experience or word as from the Lord. Check it out. Check out the circumstances of how it came, check it out against Scripture to see if it conforms to the overall picture and, finally, check it out to see the fruit or effect of it. Does it bring repentance which releases life, joy and hope, and does it simply build up and encourage. Those are fruits to be looked for. If it pulls down, condemns and makes the person feel bad, throw it away. God is in the business of bringing life not condemnation (Rom 8:1). Don’t let legalistic, doom bringers bring you down. Jesus has come to set us free from our sin, our guilt and our shame, not to rub our noses in it! Hallelujah!