Summary: How Job's friends show us both the wrong way and the right way to help a friend who is suffering.
This is the fifth study in the teaching series from Job called “Turning Tears into Telescopes.” This message is entitled “With Friends Like These—Who Needs Enemies?”
Since I grew up in Alabama, the birthplace of rednecks, I got a real chuckle out of the following list of “Things You’ll Never Hear a Redneck Say.”
1. “I thought Graceland was tacky.”
2. “Duct tape won’t fix that.”
3. “Wrasslin’s fake.”
4. “That deer head detracts from the decor.”
5. “We don’t keep firearms in this house.”
6. “I prefer cappuccino to espresso.”
7. “I don’t really have a favorite NASCAR driver.”
8. “Hey, here’s an episode of ‘Hee Haw’ we haven’t seen!”
9. “I’ll take Shakespeare for 1,000, Alex.”
As we think about Job’s three friends, we are going to learn some things you should never hear one friend say to another friend. In the previous lessons we learned Job lost his fortune, his family, and his fitness, but he didn’t lose his faith. In this chapter we are introduced to Job’s three friends who have come to comfort him. But they don’t help him, instead their words of accusation only add to Job’s torment. They say things you should never hear a friend say.
When I was a teenager, I really enjoyed playing basketball. I played high school ball in L.A. (Lower Alabama) back in the olden days of the early 1970s. And no, we didn’t use a peach basket and a ladder to get the ball out! I can recall that whenever a player was called for a foul, the opposing fans pointed their fingers at the offending player and chanted together, “You, you, you, you, you!” Maybe it was just an Alabama thing. The fans did it to try to upset the player who had committed the foul.
In William Blake’s engraving of Job’s three friends, they can be seen pointing their fingers at Job. They remind me of those basketball fans in Alabama. It’s as if they’re saying, “You, you, you, you, you...you’re guilty, Job. That’s why you’re suffering!” With friends like these, who needs enemies? Let’s meet them in Job 2:11-13:
“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out form their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”
Now if that were all we ever knew about these three friends, they would have been heroes. But instead they started talking and became zeroes! The vast majority of the book is given over to the speeches given by these friends and Job’s response to each one. These three friends basically say the same thing: “Job, you are suffering because you are wicked.”
Their speeches follow a pattern: Eliphaz speaks first, indicating he’s probably the oldest. Then Job responds to Eliphaz. Then Bildad speaks, and Job responds. Then Zophar speaks, and Job responds. This cycle repeats itself three full times. We won’t take time to examine every word they spoke. Instead, I want to examine the attitudes expressed by these friends. They show us both the wrong way and the right way to help a friend who’s suffering.
I. THE WRONG WAY TO HELP A FRIEND WHO’S HURTING
Much of what the friends said was theologically correct, but they made two fundamental mistakes. If you’re trying to help a hurting friend you must avoid these two errors.
1. Don’t make false assumptions about why they’re suffering
False assumptions can get you in trouble. I heard about a carpet layer who was replacing some old carpet in a customer’s den. When he finished tacking down the new carpet he reached for cigarettes he kept in his shirt pocket, and they weren’t there. About that time he noticed a lump in the middle of the carpet about the size of a pack of cigarettes. He didn’t want to go to the trouble of taking up the entire carpet, so after looking around to see he was alone he took his hammer and beat the object flat to hide any evidence of his mistake.
When he got to his truck he found his pack of cigarettes on the seat. As he lit up the homeowner ran out and said, “Hey, have you seen my television remote control? I’m sure I left it somewhere in the den.” It’s a dangerous thing to make false assumptions!