15. Discipline

The Anguish of Job – Meditation 15

Job 5:17 “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty

Oh no! Does Job need to hear this in his anguish? Although the cane was still in use in my school days, fortunately I never received it. I received clips round the ear, detentions and, on one occasion a visit to the headmaster’s study, but never the cane, I’m glad to say. Punishment is unpleasant. It’s supposed to be; it’s supposed to deter us and put us off doing something or of doing it again. Ultimately it is to bring about a change in behaviour in us – and it’s not pleasant!

Now correction is something that arises often in Scripture, for example, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16,17) Yes, that is in one of the more famous verses of the New Testament. God’s word sometimes has to rebuke or tell us off, correct or put right our thinking or behaviour, and train us or bring about changes in us. That is what correction, training and discipline is all about. Solomon was very strong on it: “he who hates correction is stupid.” (Prov 12:1). Why is that? It is because sin in us warps our thinking, distorts our perception, creates off-kilter attitudes, and leads us into silly patterns of behaviour, and none of those things do us any good. We need to change but another facet of sin is that it doesn’t like being told what to do, so we need God’s help to change.

So here is Eliphaz still beating up on Job. We’ve said a number of times already that he is basically judging Job and assuming that his plight is to do with sin. The implication of this verse today is that, “Of course you are a sinner and so God is having to beat it out of you with harsh circumstances, so think well of what is happening to you!” But of course, again as we’ve said several times, that isn’t what this is all about. If you can narrow it down to a tight description, we might simply say that God is testing Job’s resolve and his faithfulness and, no doubt, giving him a number of lessons along the way.

Eliphaz is very positive about it though. Yes you are a sinner and God is correcting you, but correction always has a good outcome; that is the gist of what follows. Listen to him: “For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.” (v.18). It’s all right, he says, He may have wounded you, but He’ll also heal you up afterwards. Well that happens to be true, but for the moment it’s not a great deal of help! He continues: “From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you. In famine he will ransom you from death, and in battle from the stroke of the sword.” (v.19,20) The ‘six’ and ‘seven’ usage was a cultural way of saying ‘many’ or ‘lots of’. In other words lots of things can go wrong but he will rescue you and save you from harm, keeping you from death. Yes, but Job wants to die! That’s how bad he feels. This may be true but it doesn’t make Job feel better!

See how he continues: “You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes. You will laugh at destruction and famine, and need not fear the beasts of the earth.” (v.21,22) Yes, he says, when it goes bad God will protect you from the gossips and you won’t go to the same destruction. You can laugh at death. Well, yes again, that is true, but you actually need to get God’s grace to cope like that. You can’t do it on your own, so perhaps a nice act here by Eliphaz would be to say, “I feel with you in your anguish. May I pray for you that either God will release you from it or give you grace to cope with it, because I don’t know that I would be able to cope in your shoes without his help?”

Then he goes on: “For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field, and the wild animals will be at peace with you. You will know that your tent is secure; you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.” (v.23,24). Perhaps we might put that, “You will be at peace living in God’s world and know that your home will be secure and everything you own will be secure.” What! Just a minute! Job has just had his home taken and his flocks taken and his family taken! So what is Eliphaz saying? Once you have been disciplined and straightened out, this is how things will be. Right! Thanks!

He finishes off: “You will know that your children will be many, and your descendants like the grass of the earth. You will come to the grave in full vigor, like sheaves gathered in season.” (v.25,26) Yes, this only confirms what we’ve just said. Once God has sorted you out, everything will be wonderful again. Implication: you’re in a mess and need God’s discipline to sort you out – THEN everything will be fine again. And this man is a friend????

But how often do we deal with people like this? How often do we point fingers? Someone has said the Christian army is the only army that shoots its soldiers when they are down. That was not how Paul saw it. We’ve seen it before; let’s see it again: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:1-3). If Eliphaz had been in Job’s shoes, I wonder how he would want to have been treated? Line on line here, Eliphaz is revealing his ignorance of the true facts of the situation and is just piling up more and more evidence of his own spiritual poverty. Jesus reached over and touched the leper (Lk 5:13). If only Eliphaz could have touched Job meaningfully. If only people would ‘touch’ me meaningfully when I’m down, if only I could always ‘touch’ people meaningfully when they are down, what a different church it would be!

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