The Bad Theology of a Few Good Friends {Learning from Job, part 5}

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In his time of intense suffering, Job’s friends came to sit with him.  After weeping at the sight of him, and seven days of silently letting him grieve, they listened to his lamenting and then began to speak.  If we’d been in Job’s place, we might have expected to hear words of encouragement and reminders of God’s steadfast love and merciful character.  However, in Job’s case, these men gave disheartening speeches based on some really bad theology.  Their words did have bits of truth, but they were mixed with some major inaccuracies.  And because of that, their discourses were harsh and insensitive. It’s a good reminder that we should make sure our theology is sound.  Only a sound, Biblically based theology will be strong enough to carry us through times of suffering and satisfy a distressed spirit.

So what was wrong with his friend’s beliefs about God?  Well, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar each had erroneous views and relied on their various conclusions about God, life, and suffering, rather than relying on knowledge of God himself.

Eliphaz

Eliphaz had the belief that trouble comes from a man himself.  There are bits of truth in this, right?  I have certainly brought trouble upon myself more than a time or two!  But not all of the troubles I’ve experienced in life are my own doing– or anyone else’s for that matter.  Sometimes things just happen.  (Of course, God chooses what He allows to happen in our lives.  We must understand that the Bible teaches that all things happen for His glorification and our eternal good.)  Eliphaz’s view was erroneous because he thought that Job brought about his own trouble and that submission to God would end suffering and bring about blessings instead.  Repentance and submission definitely bring blessings, but we still have problems with Eliphaz’s view.

  1.  Job was already in submission to God.  (see Job 1:8)
  2. Eliphaz was measuring one’s blessedness by external appearance only. He thought material abundance and prosperity equaled holiness. However, some blessings are spiritual in nature and cannot be seen.
  3. Eliphaz was relying on religious experience (his own conclusions from what he observed) as his guide rather than accurate knowledge of God.

Bildad

As if what Eliphaz believed wasn’t harsh enough, Bildad now comes along with his opinions.  He believed Job was suffering because of his personal transgressions and that Job’s children must have died as direct punishment for their individual sins.  (See Job 8:4-7).  As a mother who has lost a child (to stillbirth), I can’t imagine how his words must have stung Job’s soul!  But, sin does have consequences, so where is the error in Bildad’s beliefs?  Like Eliphaz, Bildad’s views came from a little truth mixed with some pretty bad theology.

  1.  Job wasn’t perfect, but he was in right standing with God.  (See again Job 1:8)
  2. Bildad, like Elipahz, was measuring blessedness by outward appearance only. In this case, his view is disproved by the fact that the wicked often prosper externally on earth while the righteous often do not.
  3. Bildad was basing his views on traditions (see Job 8:8-10) and the teachings of his ancestors rather than accurate knowledge of God.

Zophar

Zophar is considered the harshest of Job’s three friends.  He also believed Job’s suffering must be due to sin. He hurtfully stated that God was giving Job less punishment than his sins deserved. (See Job 11:6) Ouch! Zophar believed that if Job would just repent, God would bless him with rich rewards.  Similar to Eliphaz and Bildad, bits of truth are also hidden in his view, but errors abound.  Also, he truly lacked godly compassion because he saw issues as either black or white and founded his opinions of right and wrong on a poor theological foundation.

  1. Job wasn’t being punished for his sins because God had already announced his as upright. (Again, see Job 1:8)
  2. Zophar, like Job’s other two friends, measured righteousness by external appearance.
  3. Zophar used common sense as his guide rather than basing his beliefs on an accurate knowledge of God.  Common sense varies from one individual to another, therefore we can say that what Zophar was really using as his foundation for all of his beliefs was himself.  He was relying on his own opinions as his theology.

Can you imagine how abused Job must have felt to have his own closest friends come to “comfort” him like they did? I imagine his friends must have felt like they were giving him some tough love.  The problem is that they were wrong.  God even told Eliphaz so in Job 42:7-8.

I think most of us can look around and see traces of Eliphaz’s, Bildad’s, and Zophar’s bad theology around us, even within the Christian church.  I believe that the way we well-meaning Christians can arm ourselves against poor theology is by spending time reading, studying, and praying over our Bibles.  Without an accurate knowledge of God and Biblical doctrine, we are in danger of allowing unbiblical beliefs to creep in and take us off the right course.  This is a real danger indeed!  Job had questions and lots of growing to do, but it was his faith and relationship with God that saved him from being mislead by the poor theology of his few good friends.

**If you would like to use this series as a Bible study, here are daily assignments until next week.

  1. Read Eliphaz’s speeches in Job 4 and 5.
  2. Read Bildad’s speech in Job 8
  3. Read Zophar’s speech in Job 11
  4. Read Job’s replies to his friends.  His last reply can be found in Job chapters 27-31.  At minimum, read Job 27:1-7.
  5. Read Job 42:7-10 for God’s response to Eliphaz.

{This is the fifth in a series of posts I’ll be doing on lessons learned from the book of Job.  The posts, thoughts, and gathered research have all materialized out of my personal quiet times with God and morning Bible studies. I’m linking this post right here with Missionalwomen.com}

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One thought on “The Bad Theology of a Few Good Friends {Learning from Job, part 5}

  1. Pingback: God Can Be Known {Learning from Job, Post 6} | Heartfelt Reflections

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