Job suffered. I imagined his solemn spirit standing beside me last night in my suffering. His spirit must find those who suffer to give them comfort. That is why he suffered. His suffering approached closer to the suffering of the Master than anyone I have read about. In chapter 2, we read about what happened after he lost his family, his wealth, and his health.
11 ¶ Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.
13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
These friends were not fair weather friends. They tore their clothes, put ashes on their heads, and sat and fasted with him for an entire week without saying a word. I’ve never been that good a friend. Eventually they tried to help him with their own formidable understanding of God and his justice and wisdom. They tried their best to wrap their minds around the circumstances that may have lead to his cursing. In doing so, they erred and they further wounded their friend.
I felt Job’s fierce anger and his testimony in Job 27 as he refuted the lies of Satan, repeated by his friends, tempting him into the dark despair. “You have sinned. You deserve your pain. You need to repent,” they said. Job refused the temptation to blame himself.
5 God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.
6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
God does not punish people with depression just as he didn’t punish Job with his trials for his sins. God punishes us for our sins, but only at the judgement day. There are many people who live successfully in sin. Job talks about this. This life is a time for us to judge ourselves and to use righteous judgement as Job did. Job knew God. He didn’t understand why he was going through his pain, but he refused to blame God or himself. He was a charitable man who, even in his wealth, suffered with those who were less fortunate.
25 Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.
It is easy to misunderstand Job’s friends unless you do a careful reading of Job. His friends were wise men who knew God. They wanted to help Job. There are entire chapters with their words which ring with the notes of truth. They had good intentions and they did their best to help Job. They were suffering too and struggling to understand something very difficult. Even so, their words were poison to him. They go back and forth for many chapters discussing God’s justice and goodness, his mercy and his mighty wrath. In the end, they are angry and frustrated and their criticisms become more pointed. Then God speaks to Job.
I imagine that it was a kind of vision. At first God asks Job questions about himself and the extent of his understanding about his own relationship to God. Then, he reveals his own vast power and majesty as only can be comprehended spiritually unless a mortal be consumed by his fire. I imagine Job’s eyes being opened spiritually to behold the majesty and greatness of God! He sees that in his poverty and want he is no different than when he was great in the eyes of the world. To God, he is the same. Only men think other men are great. Compared to God, we are nothing. We are all alike unto him, the rich and poor, bond and free, male and female. God is no respecter of persons. In his suffering, Job found God. Only then did he repent. Only then did he see his own nothingness before God. Not in the mistaken advice of his friends, but in the realization of God’s own majesty. His repentance had nothing to do with sin, but because he was fallen and realized it at last. Even he, a great, wise, and good man was broken and needed a Savior.
Then God spoke to Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends that we can assume was most in tune with the spirit. He told him that his wrath was kindled against him and his two friends because they had judged Job unrighteously. They were wrong, and God revealed their error to them. He told Eliphaz to ask Job to pray for them while they offered sacrifices in the spirit of repentance.
Imagine it! This leprous man that everyone turned away from in horror was praying for these three men who had been trying to help him and yet had hurt him. He was their intercessory with God. What better type of the Savior is there? I imagine the three friends as they made their sacrifices, coming to a more perfect understanding of the Master, the sinless one, our advocate with the Father, him who is Mighty to Save; The lamb of God, the eternal sacrifice of the Father who would suffer all things just as Job had suffered. Job, playing the role of the Savior, bearing the suffering of their sins, praying for them; those who had hurt him. Because those four men listened to God, miracles happened. Hearts were changed, hurt was replaced with joy, healing replaced deep wounds. In Job 42,
10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
11 Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
When I read these words, the spirit tells me that the example of Job’s three friends in esteeming Job as they did, helped all the people who knew them. Because they repented and gave respect and honor to Job, the rest of the community rallied around Job. They mourned with him and they did the ancient method of a Go Fund Me. They helped him get on his feet again. Relationships were saved and suffering ended. God blessed Job and everyone was blessed when they helped Job. Satan’s trap to destroy a good man, ended up making four good men better, and with them, a whole community was blessed. Such miracles are possible when we do as they did and turn our hearts toward the suffering among us. When we withhold judgement and exercise charity, we are blessed. When we judge the suffering and harden our hearts, God’s wrath is kindled against us. That judgement will come upon us.
How can this apply in our families? In our wards? In our communities? In our nations? I’m not saying we need to have the government throw more money or programs at the social problems in our society, but neither should we close our eyes to them. Are their Jobs among us that are judged and misunderstood through little or no fault of their own? What miracles are possible in our lives, our families, and our world if we could nurture that charity which never faileth? What judgements await us when we harden our hearts and turn away from the suffering?
The first is last and the last is first. Job was the first, then he was the last, then he was the first. Jesus Christ was the firstborn of the Father, and yet he was last. He descended below all things and suffered more than anyone had ever suffered. Then at last, he is first again, leading the Saints of God to their final triumph at the last day. Are we first today? Are we ready to be last?
I testify of Jesus Christ. He lives! He loves us! He sends trials to his children as he did to Job because he seeks to bless us. He refines the pure in heart, he comforts the broken hearted, he binds the wounds of the broken. We are broken! Rejoice in it! This life and it’s wicked ways is not where we are designed to be. His grace is sufficient for us and he waits for us to find rest in him.
Do not judge unrighteous judgement by assuming that those who suffer deserve their suffering. Comfort those who stand in need of comfort, advocate for the widows and the fatherless, give aid and comfort to the poor, and peace to the refugee. Welcome the unwelcome. Embrace the friendless. Stand up for the falsely accused. If we say, “That suffering person deserves what has happened to him,” that judgement will come upon us in the days of our tribulation. When the beggar comes to the Southern border, don’t turn him away and judge him as a thing of naught. Don’t make the children to cry for their mothers and turn your hearts to stone. This is less about politics and national sovereignty and more about the hearts of his people. We are all beggars before God and people, even the elect, are forgetting that. Like Eliphaz, we can turn from our sin, plead for forgiveness, and the wrath of the Lord can be turned away. It is not too late. Let us show ourselves to be true followers of Him who is Mighty to Save!!
There is enough and to spare! His nation, even the United States of America, has the power to save, to bless the world, to show to all people that there is a God in Israel and he does not turn aside from the children of men who seek his asylum. Have faith! Do not despair! He multiplied the loaves and the fishes, the winds and the waves obeyed him, and the blind received their sight. Is it so strange to think that a great nation with hearts full of charity might stem the tide of suffering in the world? It is our faithless hearts that stay his hand. We can do better! Let us start today.