February 7 – Job 2:11-13
Based on our conversation last week we know that Job’s friends are going to get it wrong—all three are going to blame Job’s circumstances on some hidden sin in his life, basically saying, “It’s your fault!” which is an awful way to treat a man who has just lost his livelihood and his children. But before the get it wrong, they get it right. In fact, their first response is excellent. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar make an agreement to come mourn with Job, likely having to leave their families and means of income for an extended period of time (their names tell us they were from Teman, Shuah, and Naamah, places to the southeast of Job’s land of Uz; cf. 1:1). So they come at cost to themselves, and more than that, they legitimately grieve with Job. They assume his same signs of mourning (torn clothes and ashes), and then for seven days they sit with him, mourn with him, and comfort him with presence and silence.
Which makes their words later in the book even harder to hear. If they had come with accusations first thing then we could simply label them as Job’s enemies. But in chapter 2 they clearly appear as Job’s friends, erasing the kindness of their comfort with the harm of their accusations. They present an incomplete form of friendship, one marred by their poor theology—they can’t fully comfort Job because their beliefs don’t have room for Job’s suffering. Remember last week, Eliphaz’s thoughts on the matter boil down to “those who sin incur suffering, so if you’re suffering, it’s because you’ve sinned.” Thus, despite their excellent start, they inevitably let Job down as they try to fix Job’s problems with terrible advice (check out Job 42:7-9 for how angry this made God).
That’s why we’ll take a moment to read Jesus’ thoughts on friendship in John 15:12-13, and we’ll compare him to Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. In this we’ll see that Jesus is the perfect friend; he did something similar to those three, but he also got right what they got wrong. Jesus came and assumed our form as a human; in his incarnation he came to be with us, to mourn what we mourn, and to comfort us with his presence. But, unlike Job’s friends, when Jesus opened his mouth he gave blessing instead of cursing, a better understanding of suffering, and a vision for God’s plan in the midst of suffering. In giving his life for his friends, Jesus not only came to accompany us in our suffering but to also share in our suffering.
Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection explain why friendship is so crucial to the Christian faith; the savior we follow was perfectly our friend by dying for us (John 15:13), and thus he leads us in being a friend to others. Jesus, the High King of the Universe, would rather call us friends instead of servants. Following a savior with that attitude, we should absolutely be known by our love for one another (John 13:35), not because it earns our place with him (unlike what Eliphaz says), but because Jesus loved us when we were yet his enemies (Rom. 5:8). Jesus came to be with us in our suffering, even suffering on our behalf. Thus we can be with the suffering of others and serve them at great cost to ourselves. But more than that, Jesus came to lead us out of suffering and into life everlasting with the good news of the gospel. Thus we enter into the suffering of others not merely as silent companions, or—God forbid—as advice givers trying to fix the problem, but as messengers of actual hope.
As an aside, an excellent book on the subject of friendship is Wesley Hill’s Spiritual Friendship. In it he looks at the significance of friendship in Christian thought, and the contrasting anemia of modern American forms of friendship.
Questions for Discussion
• Would someone read Job 2:11-13 for us?
• What stands out to you from this passage?
• What do you think Job’s three friends got right here?
• Think back to last week and Eliphaz’s advice to Job (4:1-9). How did his advice affect the comfort he could give Job?
• Could someone read John 15:12-13? What is Jesus communicating about friendship here?
• How does Jesus compare and contrast with Job’s friends?
• Why does Jesus’ kind of friendship mean for how we suffer and help others through suffering?