As we know from the first two chapters in Job, God was allowing Satan to afflict Job to see if he would turn his back on God and curse Him (see Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). Satan was allowed to destroy Job’s possessions, his children, and his health (1:13-19; 2:7-8) yet instead of “cursing God” Job “praised Him” with these wonderful words, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (1:21…NKJV).

As great as these trials were, Job’s greatest test would come from an unlikely source: three of his friends! In 2:11 we read, “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.” So far, so good, for initially they had good intentions…to “mourn with him, and to comfort him.” When they first saw him, they “did not recognize him” and “they lifted their voices and wept” (verse 12) They were so devastated by his plight that “no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (verse 13). Again, so far so good, for they showed real empathy. But as time went on a very lengthy conversation took place between them and their comfort turned to words of reproof, for they became convinced that Job was suffering these terrible hardships because HE HAD SINNED.

Now let’s read Job 22:21-23, “Now acquaint yourself with Him (the Lord), and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; You will remove iniquity far from your tents.” The speaker here is Eliphaz (who was no doubt the oldest of the three) and he appeals to Job to REPENT by receiving God’s Word into his heart and returning to the One Who he had forsaken. He goes on to assure Job that if he does repent and return to the Lord he will once again enjoy fellowship with Him (verses 24-30). Had these words been directed at one who had actually fallen into sin, they would have been “words of wisdom,” but such was not the case.

Space does not allow us to delve any deeper into the arguments of Job’s three friends (who became less compassionate and more judgmental as time went on) and Job’s many attempts to justify himself and to assure them that HE HAD NOT SINNED. Suffice it to say that they were really off base, for in truth Job HAD NOT SINNED (as we saw from our quotations from 1:6-12 and 2:1-6). He was indeed a righteous man who loved the Lord, though he was not without fault, for he did end up questioning and accusing God at some point and did need to learn some lessons about himself and about God.

What lesson is there for us in this? At the very least we should learn to be very careful about judging our brother or sister who may be going through a deep trial of affliction. It is all too easy to assume they are being PUNISHED by the Lord for some sin in their life. I would encourage you to read Hebrews 12:7-12 which speaks specifically of being CHASTENED of the Lord. The word “chasten” means “to instruct; to train,” and thus it does not always imply that the trials in our life are for correction. I believe every trial God allows in our life is for one of three purposes; they are either 1) PREVENTIVE (to “prevent us from sinning”…see 2nd Corinthians 12:1-7); 2) CORRECTIVE (see 1st Corinthians 11:27-32), or 3) INSTRUCTIVE (to teach us more of God’s wondrous love and grace, and His ability to sustain us in the trial). If we see a dear brother or sister passing through a fiery trial, let’s be very slow in seeking to judge God’s purpose in the trial. That should be left to the one being tested, as we see in Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN TRAINED BY IT.”  (344.5)  (DO)