Job’s Friends Try to Protect God (Job 22-23)
We all know the demons that plague us after failure. We second-guess ourselves during sleepless nights of self-torment. It even feels like the holy thing to do — to protect God by blaming ourselves. If we second-guess ourselves like this, imagine how we second-guess our friends, though we are seldom aware of it. Job’s friends show us how it’s done. In their eagerness to protect God from Job’s protestations, they increase their attacks on Job. Yet over the centuries, the Christian reading of Job has viewed the friends as tools of Satan, not God. God does not need protecting. He can take care of himself. Satan would like nothing more than to prove to God that Job served God only because God blessed him so richly. An admission by Job that he has done something wrong, when in reality he has not, would be the first step towards validating the accuser’s attack.
For example, Eliphaz’s last speech concentrates on putting God above reproach. “Can a mortal be of use to God? Can even the wisest be of service to him?” (Job 22:2). “Is not God high in the heavens?” (Job 22:12). “Agree with God, and be at peace” (Job 22:21). “If the Almighty is your gold and your precious silver, then you will delight yourself in the Almighty, and lift up your face to God. You will pray to him and he will hear you” (Job 22:25-27).
Job, however, is not trying to blame God. He is trying to learn from God. Despite the horrible adversity God has permitted to afflict Job, Job believes that God can use the experience to shape his soul for the better. “When God has tested me, I shall come out like gold,” Job says (Job 23:10). “For he will complete what he appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind” (Job 23:14). Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung have pointed out how many soul-shaping events occur at work.The dark forces of the fallen world threaten to sap our souls there, yet God intends that our souls come out like gold, refined and molded into the particular likeness of God he has in mind for each of us. Imagine what life would be like if we could find spiritual growth not only when we are at church, but in all the hours we spend working. For this, we would need wise, sensitive spiritual counselors when we face trials at work. Job’s friends, mired in mindlessly repeating conventional spiritual maxims, are of no help to him in this regard.
Paul Stevens and Alvin Ung, Taking Your Soul to Work (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010).