Job 22

Job 22:1-3
22 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
2 “Can a man be of benefit to God?
Can even a wise person benefit him?
3 What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous?
What would he gain if your ways were blameless?
Eliphaz makes his final speech. It seems that his frustration with Job escalates into a vicious attack. Eliphaz compiles a catalogue of sin of which Job must be guilty (verses 6-20). This leads into a beautifully poetic passage on the forgiveness and grace of God (verses 21-30) along with an appeal to Job to repent.

It begins in response to Job’s words in Chapter 21:14-15, he spoke about the attitudes of wicked people. Such people will not serve God because there is no benefit for them. But Job would not behave like them.

Eliphaz emphasizes the almighty nature of God, saying that God was so lofty and transcendent that he had no direct concern at all with Job. That even if Job were righteous it would have no great benefit to God himself and therefore God would not be interested in Job’s appeals or be involved in the trivia of his life.

Eliphaz’ view of God is not an uncommon view among believers. This would be my default view of God that he is far off, distant and not really concerned with the trivia or detail of my life. That God is not really connected with me or engaged with my experience of life.

It seems that often our view of God is shaped by our experience of our own earthly father’s and this may be a frequent worldview of someone who grew up with an absent father or a father who was not really engaged.

There are some who may fear God in an unhealthy way who grew up with an overbearing father.

Whilst this is not an absolute, it’s certainly something I have noticed when sitting in groups with people who have struggled with their view of God. Counsellors and therapists call this projection.

Even in Job’s story we see in the opening verses that God was intimately involved with Job. He knew details, he thought about Job, he considered his life and his ways. We see evidence throughout scripture that God is a God of intimate connection with his people. Far from the lofty view that Eliphaz was asserting.

Whilst it may be true that our righteousness may have no great benefit to God, it has a significant benefit to our own well being and that is why God is passionate about it because he loves us intimately, deeply and fully.

Eliphaz was implying that Job was depending on his own righteousness. He thought that Job wanted to be perfect to assist God. This had never been what Job had said, or even hinted at. Whilst this can be an issue for religious people, we can get cocky and arrogant in a very subtle way with the idea that we are good have earned God’s favour almost that he is lucky to have us on the team.

Job was not like that. He knew the righteousness that he had. He knew that he could not lay claim to it. This had been a work of God in him. He knew that he was flawed, but redeemed. He stated in chapter 19 that his Redeemer lives.

It is important for me to remember that my story is not one where I once needed God but now I am okay. I need God’s ongoing redemption and grace. I didn’t used to be a sinner and now I am okay. I am a sinner today and tomorrow and next week. It’s also important to remember that sin is not about whether I measure up or meet a performance criteria but is a violation of relationship. It is a usurping of my father and effectively saying… I don’t trust you dad, you don’t have my best interests at heart and therefore I don’t believe you will meet my needs so I am going to meet my own needs.

Every lie, every manipulation, every fleeting lustful thought and glance does something to me and those around me that erodes what is supposed to be relationship, that is supposed to be underpinned by love, safety, security and trust and instead if I assert my own way over God’s way it brings fear, fragility and mistrust into my life and those around me.

Does it make any difference to God? In one sense no. It has no effect on his well being. He is always 100% God. He is fired up and 100% full of joy. In another sense his love for us and longing for us to connect with life and experience the fullness of relationship with our fellow humans and our maker mark a grieving in his heart. …not for him, he’s okay but for us that we lose something that he longs for us to have.

In our human experience we have moments of that when we shed our usually selfish heart and in a moment we may feel this for our spouse or our children or grandchildren. Sometimes a bad decision from one of our children may bring a negative feeling of shame and skew that selflessness because we feel disappointment due to how we might look in the eyes of others and our reaction may be more self focused than on the wellbeing of our children but in one of those moments when we feel only love and compassion for our children and we lose all sense of self a bad decision by our son or daughter leads us down a path of grieving which is not our loss but theirs. We see clearly how their bad decision may effect them and we feel their pain even though they themselves don’t quite connect with that yet.

After my multiple affairs and wanderings and the initial hurt and trauma that my wife suffered as a result of my destructive behaviour, she was able to work through her own sense of hurt and pain and shame in the story and this awakened a compassion and love that although not without consequences for our marriage and family was a strong catalyst in facilitating my journey home.
Job 22:4-20

4 “Is it for your piety that he rebukes you
and brings charges against you?
5 Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?
6 You demanded security from your relatives for no reason;
you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked.
7 You gave no water to the weary
and you withheld food from the hungry,
8 though you were a powerful man, owning land—
an honoured man, living on it.
9 And you sent widows away empty-handed
and broke the strength of the fatherless.
10 That is why snares are all around you,
why sudden peril terrifies you,
11 why it is so dark you cannot see,
and why a flood of water covers you.
12 “Is not God in the heights of heaven?
And see how lofty are the highest stars!
13 Yet you say, ‘What does God know?
Does he judge through such darkness?
14 Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us
as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.’
15 Will you keep to the old path
that the wicked have trod?
16 They were carried off before their time,
their foundations washed away by a flood.
17 They said to God, ‘Leave us alone!
What can the Almighty do to us?’
18 Yet it was he who filled their houses with good things,
so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked.
19 The righteous see their ruin and rejoice;
the innocent mock them, saying,
20 ‘Surely our foes are destroyed,
and fire devours their wealth.’
Eliphaz now makes some specific charges against Job…
The idea of demanding security against loans given to relatives when the wealth that he had meant that he did not need to do so was a strong accusation of taking advantage of his own family when they were in need.

The thrust of Eliphaz’ accusations was that Job took advantage of the poor and needy and was not generous with his wealth.

He accused Job of concealing his sin from God and selfishly indulging in his blessed life. He reasoned that this is the reason that God was punishing him now. He reminded Job that he could not hide from God!!

The three friends told Job to learn from ancient advice (Job 8:8-9; Job 15:10; Job 20:4). But Eliphaz knew that some ancient advice is wrong and that people had passed down ancient advice sometimes to justify their own actions rather than express a spiritual truth.

Verses 16 & 17 may refer to Noah’s flood (Genesis chapters 6-8). It may be a more general metaphorical term.

Eliphaz emphasizes the truth that the enjoyment gained from the blessings of God will not be permanent for the wicked and that they will be swept away but he targeted this at Job as if he was to be counted amongst the wicked and also he had an short term perspective of it happening by the way of some earthly judgment without an eternal perspective.
Job 22:21-30
21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him;
in this way prosperity will come to you.
22 Accept instruction from his mouth
and lay up his words in your heart.
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored:
If you remove wickedness far from your tent
24 and assign your nuggets to the dust,
your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines,
25 then the Almighty will be your gold,
the choicest silver for you.
26 Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty
and will lift up your face to God.
27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will fulfil your vows.
28 What you decide on will be done,
and light will shine on your ways.
29 When people are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’
then he will save the downcast.
30 He will deliver even one who is not innocent,
who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”
Eliphaz urged Job to stop all of his fine sounding speeches and turn his efforts to repentance then God would return to him. The words of Eliphaz are recorded as beautiful dense Hebrew poetry. Theologically accurate but misguided at Job. He was convinced that Job had fallen out of fellowship with the almighty.

Ophir is mentioned in verse 24 which was apparently a land where high quality gold could be sourced. It’s location is not certain. It is mentioned a few times in the Bible. Ophir in Genesis 10 (the Table of Nations) is said to be the name of one of the sons of Joktan.[The Books of Kings and Chronicles tell of a joint expedition to Ophir by King Solomon and the Tyrian king Hiram I from Ezion-Geber, a port on the Red Sea, that brought back large amounts of gold, precious stones and ‘algum wood’ and of a later failed expedition by king Jehoshaphat of Judah. The famous ‘gold of Ophir’ is referenced in several other books of the Hebrew Bible. In Jewish tradition, Ophir is often associated with a place in India, named for one of the sons of Joktan. The 10th-century lexicographer, David ben Abraham al-Fasi, identified Ophir with Serendip, the old Persian name for Sri Lanka.

Eliphaz realised that real success is not money. Eliphaz emphasised his ideas with humour. Men used to find gold in the rocks (Job 28:6; Job 28:10). So Eliphaz told Job that his gold belonged in the rocks. Job should return his gold and trust God instead.
God will be his silver and gold…even more secure than precious metal. Eliphaz urged Job to put his trust in the Lord and all his troubles will be over.

This may be over simplistic …one of my spiritual friends told me that his troubles actually started when he began to walk with God but it was his walk with God that helped him navigate the trouble. That could be true in my story too… the trouble didn’t really get going until I started to walk with God. If you think about it then it would make sense.Why would Satan bother with me if I was not walking with God. I am already doing what he wants me to do! Living a faithful life does not prevent trouble but simply equips us to handle trouble. Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world”.

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