Having received mercy, Job is merciful. Job comes to understand that while he has been challenged with incredible difficulties, tragedies and heartbreak, it is God’s merciful presence that has been unwavering. That’s good news for Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite.
As we’ve noted before they’ve tried to be good friends and faithful servants. And in their own misguided way they were good friends and faithful servants. They really have tried to be helpful and they were certainly present in their misguided bumbling, so there’s that.
The trouble is in the misguided part. Even that wouldn’t have to be such a thing maybe. I mean, we’re all a little bit misguided in some way or another, aren’t we? Except that Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar misrepresented God in this story of misfortune. These three friends have made God out to be some sort of vindictive monster who is to blame for all of Job’s misfortunes because Job clearly did something wrong to offend God! Well, really they were blaming Job for bringing the wrath of God onto himself.
Yet God’s response is not to punish those who blamed God incorrectly. We tend to anthropomorphize God, that is to place human characteristics and responses onto God. We picture God as the old guy with the gray beard and long flowing gray hair who shares the same emotions we do. Really, God is somewhat above all that and when we do that it is easy to imagine God being angry with people who have done displeasing things. Such as misrepresenting God. Isn’t that our response when someone misrepresents what we do or what we say? Isn’t that our response when someone misrepresents who we are? Don’t we become annoyed and even angry when someone says we did something we didn’t do? Don’t we become annoyed and even angry when someone says we said something we didn’t say? Don’t we become annoyed and even angry when someone says we are something we aren’t?
That being the case we could probably wrap our heads around an angry and wrathful (see what I did there?) God who brings down fire and brimstone style smiting upon the heads of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. They’ve been saying things about God, through Job, that aren’t true. And yet God doesn’t bring down fire and brimstone style smiting upon their heads, instead opting to let Job deal with it. God says in v8, “8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and 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 his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.”
Now, think about what Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have been doing with Job. They’ve been present but they’ve also blamed Job while at the same time misrepresenting God. What would you do if you were in Job’s shoes? Would you want to get back at them? Maybe just a little bit? Perhaps not an all out smiting from God but just, you know, a little something to get back at them?
Many of us would want a little vengeance, a little payback there but Job was better than that. Job chooses the path of mercy for those misguided souls surrounding him. Job lifts his prayer of mercy to God on behalf of his friends. God hears Job’s prayer and releases his friends from their wrongdoing.
Which is really what God wants for each of us, when it gets right down to it. God’s desire for each and every one of us is forgiveness and redemption from our wrongdoing. In Christ Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross we experience a release from our wrongdoing and we are redeemed from our sin. Our relationship with God is restored and we are transformed as a new creation, sent into the world to do likewise, extending love and forgiveness to those around us.
It is interesting what happens next in our story with Job. Job releases his friends from what they’ve done and in so doing it appears that he gets his life back. Interesting how that happens. The story makes it seem like God rewards Job’s faithfulness with a pat on the head by returning all the good things in Job’s life and then some.
It isn’t so much that we do good and God gives us good things as a pat on the head. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. And again. God is not Santa Claus hanging out and waiting for us to do good things for the purpose of rewarding us with toys. There are many people who will tell you that God is just WAITING to richly bless you. That seems to put us in the driver’s seat and that WE control what God does based on what WE do. Note the number of royal ‘WE’s’ in that sentence. Big mistake and very mistaken approach to faith.
Job’s story doesn’t show us how God gives out presents for good behavior. Job’s story shows us that living a life of faithfulness, mercy and forgiveness frees us from all the junk that weighs us down and holds us back. Job’s story shows us that living a life of faithfulness, mercy, and forgiveness allows us to see all the ways that God blesses us. Not with material things but with being present in our lives through difficult times and good times, loving us and forgiving us in spite of all the mistakes we’ve made. And through all that we are released into the world to Bring Christ’s Love to Life so that others can experience the love and presence of God in their lives.