I will show you, if you listen to me; what I have seen, I will tell. (Job 15:17)
If there is, perhaps, a kernel of truth in what we find in Eliphaz’s second speech, this may be it; although its presence by no means straightens-out its generally skewed picture of Job nor its judgementalism. Nevertheless, there is something to be learned from verse seventeen, something that we members of God’s family, we members of the Church, have seemed to have forgotten. This truth isn’t found in the content of the Eliphaz’s speech but can be gleaned from his motivation.
Eliphaz is wrong about Job when he counts him as a scoffer—as wicked. We have known this from the very beginning—and we have the advantage of pondering Job’s meanings through the lens of the gospel; but Eliphaz has neither of these. He can only speak in accordance with what he has been taught and/or upon his experience. Regardless, when exhorting and teaching others, there is no need for condescension:
There are gray-haired old men among us, more advanced in years than your father, (10)
And we learn from God’s exchange with Job toward the end of the book that just because a person has had much experience, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily get it right. The point is, Eliphaz does appear to have Job’s best interests in mind, even when he seeks to do so while raising himself up.
Because of the busyness and anxiety of modern life—both in the world at large and also within a church in transition—there can develop the tendency to trust others to God, and it goes something like this: you’ve been given everything you need. So long and hope to see you in glory. Eliphaz and his friends—even though most of what they say isn’t the way to go—they don’t leave Job to his own after their first engagement. In fact, Job 15 is the beginning of the second cycle of speeches; they appear to be genuinely concerned with resolving Job’s situation. How easily they could have all thrown up their hands and walked away.
Take a moment and reflect upon you journey to and with Christ. For some of you this next part may be easy, and for others of you this task a bit more difficult: Who are the individuals that have had the greatest impact upon your faith and/or your discipleship? A safe assumption is that another person acting as God’s appeal, that’s how I think Paul puts it, helped you approach the throne of grace. And even though we’ve all had encounters with gurus and sages and learned much from them, the most impactful and life-changing parts of our faith have likely come through those who have shared their lives with us—from those who aren’t only sharing their wisdom. How does that saying go: “There’s ministry to others and then there’s ministry with others”?
In a recent bible study, we were taking a deep-dive into the parable of the good Samaritan. After several sessions I felt that it was time for us to wrap it up and move on to another parable when one of the participants asked, “Why does the Samaritan come back, since he says, ‘When I come back’? What’s Jesus’ point?” “I never thought about it,” I responded. “We’ll,” she said, “let’s think about it.” Earlier I had shared with the class my belief that every detail of Luke’s gospel has been shared for a reason—based on its opening verses explaining Luke’s motivation—so the question wasn’t totally unexpected, I guess. Watch what you say, I guess, is the point.
We came to the conclusion that the Samaritan’s future return to the inn means that the ministry God desires is a ministry that doesn’t end: It’s a relationship and not a one-and-done. We’re asked not to simply hand out bibles nor to just shake hands and welcome visitors—although these are important, no doubt—but we have been asked to return to the inn, to not leave well-enough alone. Afterall, just before sharing this parable Jesus tells the 70/72 to remain in the towns that will welcome them.
After spending years in Ephesus, growing and strengthening the church there, Paul departs the city for Macedonia and Greece. Circumstances eventually prompt the apostle to begin making his way back to Jerusalem, hoping to arrive there before Pentecost. To do this, he intentionally bypasses Ephesus and journeys to the town of Miletus, instead. How easy it would have been for Paul to not give a second thought to the Ephesians—after all, they got years of his life and ministry. How easy it would have been for him to say that they knew enough, had had enough encouragement. Of course, as you’ve read already, he doesn’t. Yes in 21:32 he commends them “to God and to the gracious word of his that can build” them up, but this closing word arises out of a shared life.
In every way, I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Paul shares with the Ephesians more than doctrine and the Samaritan provided with his neighbor with more than wine, oil, and money—even Eliphaz, misguided as he was, gave Job more than advice—each provides in the deepest hope that they can make a difference in the life of another.