Job 4-5 (click here)
Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? 8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. (Job 4:7-8)
Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. 18 For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal. (Job 5:17-18)
Flat, overly-simplified theology is dangerous. The world is complex, we are complex, situations are complex…things are not as simple as they seem. All too often we take something that is true and apply it in a very flat/rigid manner that Scripture simply will not allow.
This is the fault of Eliphaz (and the rest of Job’s friends). The basic truth he latches onto is that God punishes the wicked and upholds the righteous. We know that to be true, but the way in which that truth plays out in life is very complex. Eliphaz attempts to apply it in a very flat, overly-simplified way. Job is suffering…God punishes the wicked…therefore Job must have done something wrong and is being punished as a result.
Eliphaz offers an equally simple solution. Job needs to repent and God will bind up his wounds and heal him…restore him. The situation seems very cut and dry. Yet, we know that Job is not suffering as a result of sin. There is no punishment present. This is innocent suffering. Eliphaz has no category for that.
Innocent suffering does not undo the truth that God punishes the wicked and upholds the righteous…for God will uphold his justice, but in his time and his way. He works from an eternal perspective that we simply cannot see.
This is why we, like Job, must walk by faith…trusting God. When it comes to our pain and the pain of others…we must avoid simple diagnoses and prescriptions. Job knows that he does not “deserve” his present suffering. God must be doing something other than “punishing” him. God must have a deeper purpose, for he does not allow any of our pain to be meaningless no matter how senseless it feels to us (2 Cor 4:17).
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.