This message is part of a series entitled, “God Tries His Children”. To see all of the messages in this series, please click here.
Last week we considered God’s tests of obedience. We looked carefully at our Savior and His vicarious sacrifice and the emotional stress He suffered for us. What a great and glorious God we serve, who would take our sins upon His own body on the tree (1 Pet 2:24). Jesus bore our grief and sorrow of isolation and sin so that we would not have to (Is 53:4). Last week we discovered a little more about the pain and suffering He took upon Himself. We learned that His suffering gave us a heavenly companionship. We found we never have to feel alone; we can know we have Him with us at all times. We know He loves us. His Spirit is with us. The Father is with us. The more I learn about our God, the more in awe of His love and grace I become.
Under these circumstances, we considered obedience to be a desire of the Christian rather than a chore. We should do our utmost to bend our will to serve God. We should know that obedience does not mean that to do so will always make sense. Does it make sense to place yourself and your life in jeopardy for the likes of the worst wretch in the world? Jesus did. Does it make sense to suffer the full judgment of the Father for the likes of a child molester? Jesus did. Does it make sense that God would subject Himself to the ridicule, persecution, degradation and complete indignity of mankind’s worst? Jesus did. Does it make sense that the God of the universe would subject Himself to the authority of men of antipathy and utter disregard for life? Jesus did. God subjected His Son to this world and its worst, then took God’s holy wrath upon Himself so we would never have to. We truly serve the most glorious of Beings.
We begin in Job 2 today. When we consider Job, we often see the suffering one endures while remaining faithful to God. We look at Job and understand he had the perfect perspective concerning possessions. All that he worked for on this Earth was taken from him in a matter of minutes. Job lost not just his material possessions, but his children and servants. His wife was so grief stricken she struck out at him and told him to “curse God and die.” She believed he had to have done some great evil to bring this upon them.
Job relinquished all he had and all he was to God’s control. As believers, we should see that all we have and all we are belongs to the Lord. Every thing we own is His and we are simply to glorify Him through these possessions. This church and all these lands are the Lord’s. He will dispose of them as He desires and He orders things for His good pleasure. Our duty is to honor Him with our superintendence of them. Job took care of his people, his lands and all his possessions to honor the Lord. As Job did, we too should care for all of God’s things as though they were our own.
Friendship can be defined in many different ways. However, true friendship always boils down to selfless sacrifice and compassion. To maintain a friendship, people must be willing to compromise with one another. Many believe this is done through silence as if speaking about challenging things might be judgmental. Others believe that one must voice everything and air all things out in order to ‘clear the air’ and provide for a completely open and communicative relationship. Both of these can be true but what is most often more successful is a combination of the two. Silence may be the best tact at times. Communication may be the best option at other times. Friends seek to reach a mutual understanding in both situations.
There is an aspect of Job’s plight that is all too often neglected. Many scoff at Job’s friends because all they seem to want Job to do is admit to some great sin he has, according to their theology, committed. They repeatedly argue that he has to admit to sin, be forgiven and he can receive his life and health back. Today we would call this the “health and wealth” gospel. If you’re good enough and have enough faith, you’ll be a millionaire and live forever. The entire book of Job debunks this abhorrent distortion of the scriptures. Job repeatedly tells them there is a much greater purpose for his suffering; he just does not know what it is. We too should face the fact that our suffering may have far greater motive than our small sphere of belief. Job gives a great testimony of the characteristics of God, but he maintains his innocence before God. God Himself called Job blameless so we know Job is telling the truth. Therefore, Job is right. He gets off track eventually when he expects God to tell him why. He is humbled by God’s response. God never tells him why, either.
Today we talk about friends. Who are these men described as “friends of Job?” Many have wondered. Were they as much a friend as the scripture says? Although the scripture calls them friends in 2:11, does the rest of Job’s book detailing their arguments against Job and the stern admonishment they receive from God in the later chapters bear them out as something less? Does the weight of their words and the apparent dissatisfaction God displays in His monologue (Chapter 42) disqualify them as friends of Job?
We may be able to apply the lessons in Job to our friendships if we understand his friends and their association better. We also find in these scriptures a very surprising testimony. Let’s crack open the book of Job just a little and consider these friends and how their relationship in these few verses can be a tremendous lesson for us in our lives. Let’s “consider” the servant Job as God requests in chapters one and two. Let’s also consider Job’s friends and their reactions. Christ is here in many ways. It will surprise you to find out where He is.
I. Friendship is Selfless (Job 2:11-13)
What do we know about Job’s friendship with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar before they arrive to comfort him? Nothing. There is no indication of their relationship, the basis of their friendship or their association. We do not know, for instance, whether each has a relationship with Job based solely on worship. Their relationship could be strictly for business. They could have grown up together, and now as adults they have remained good friends. We simply do not know. Some commentators believe the phrases used to describe these men indicate they may be kings. Though they are from other countries, there is no real indication that they are rulers of any sort. Job was the wealthiest man in the East; therefore, they would be aware of one another through this association. However, there is no reason to believe they are kings.
Where are their homes compared to Job? Eliphaz is a Temanite. Teman is a place near Edom (Jer. 49:7, 20). Eliphaz also named one of his sons Teman (Gen 36:11; 1 Chron 1:36). Teman is also linked with the province of Tema in Arabia. Interestingly, Teman is the only place of these three friends that can definitely be identified. All of the scriptural references to activity in Teman involve judgment for gross sin. This may or may not reflect upon Eliphaz. If Eliphaz were a priest, there are challenges with his leadership or teaching, as the city seems to be repeatedly judged. There is indication that Teman was a place of great counsel or wisdom though in Jeremiah 49:7. God asks, “is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished?” There is certainly a call to exhortation here, that Edomites should be looking to Teman for such things. However, in Amos 1:12 we find that “I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the places of Bozrah.” It is clear that Teman was a place of wisdom and strength but they fell away to displease God. Nothing tells us the time Eliphaz lived in Teman, however since Job was a very early book and Amos a much later book we can safely presume Teman was still a place of wisdom. We can say Eliphaz lived in the province of Edom, and Job living in Uz beyond the Euphrates,[i] meant they could have been as much as 500 miles apart.
What of Bildad the Shuite and Zophar the Naamathite? The truth is that neither of them can be identified with any certainty. No people or location is clear from their names or the towns the scripture records. Of the two, we may come closest to understanding Bildad. He may have come from a region of the Middle Euphrates where some cuneiform texts were found connected to Genesis 25:2 and a son of Abraham. Zophar from Naamah is completely unknown in the scriptures other than in Job.
We can only presume that these puzzles are intentional by the Lord. If this is the case, the entire purpose of the passage is to communicate something outside those facts. They are Job’s friends. Knowing the distances they are willing to travel may add veracity to their relationship. Apparently, it is enough to know they did come from other locations. Their friendship is a simple fact with which we must come to terms. I believe we find in these passages just the kind of attributes God desires in His definition of friends. They may be in the wrong arguing against Job, but they certainly are right in their loving comfort and support for him for these seven days. Consider their actions alone.
First, Job’s friends heard and immediately responded. They were attuned to the activity in their area and they obviously lived close enough to discover all the devastation, destruction and death surrounding Job. We can only speculate, but apparently these men were unconcerned with suffering the same fate. Job’s friends either disregarded or had no reason to fear the danger posed by the Sabeans and Chaldeans in the region. They also did not care about the obvious condemnation in being association with the uncleanness Job suffered, having been driven out to the trash heap as a leper. These three companions left their homes, families and businesses traveled by foot for an unknown distance just to be with Job.
This goes further. They knew one another and coordinated their visit. They “made an appointment together” in order to meet with him. These close friends of Job were close friends among themselves, and they came together to mourn together, and comfort him together. They actually coordinated their efforts to provide the best possible support they could muster for Job.
We find an alarming statement in verse 12. When they were coming upon Job, he was so disfigured with disease and depression that they did not even recognize him! His appearance actually elicited a verbal response from all three of these men. They prayed and cried for him. They tore their clothes and threw dirt into the air in a ceremonial mourning as if Job had died. Indeed, his ostracized existence on the trash heap had in effect ended his life with others. Many see the testimony of his unrecognized state in Isaiah 52:14 and 53:3 where our Lord’s “visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” This was an extremely traumatic moment for these friends. It was equally traumatic for Mary and others to see Jesus on the cross. Tearing of their clothes may have been ceremonial, but the impact this appearance had on them is certainly not the sum of the act. This action was one of pure mourning for their friend. To them this was an act of great compassion as well.
Finally, we consider verse 13. Without concern for their own welfare or how they might be perceived, they join Job. Not only do they join him, they join him just to be there with him. At first, their only concern is to comfort him. In this sense, these men commit themselves to be with Job, identified with him and given over to him. In the technical sense, if a Jew were outcast in this way, anyone who identified with him would be considered equally unclean. Only Jesus could match this compassion and ministry with the leprous. These three mourned with Job there for seven days and seven nights. This is the legal period of mourning the dead. However, they did not view him as dead, else they would not be there. There was a greater reason. They sat down because “they saw that his grief was very great.” They sat and would be willing to sit with Job as long as he grieved. Anderson wrote:
“Attention is focused, not on the abstract mystery of evil, not on the moral question of undeserved suffering, but on one man’s physical existence in bodily pain. There was nothing to be said. These wise men are horrified and speechless. They were true friends, bringing to Job’s lonely ash-heap the compassion of a silent presence.”[ii]
These verses point to Jesus and His suffering for us; they are striking. Like Job, everything was taken from Jesus in a single night, including those closest to Him. Only Jesus’ mother remained. Just as Job’s own wife turned against him in her grief, when His followers saw Jesus on the cross, all were disillusioned with seeing Him torn and beaten to be unrecognizable. Jesus was falsely accused of many wrongs just as Job was with his friends.
Job’s friends displayed Christlikeness in their mourning as well. What a friend we have in Jesus. Jesus is selfless and compassionate. He traveled a great distance from Heaven to Earth to be with us. Jesus sits there with us in our grief when we are stricken, and comforts us with His understanding, empathy and words. He sent the Comforter to help us. He has made an appointment for each one of us to meet with Him. Jesus brought the best friends we could have with Him: the Holy Spirit and the Father. Jesus looks at us from afar off, knows our grief, and He knows our suffering.
Therefore, in many ways, we find both the friends’ response and Job’s station to be like that of Jesus. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar had no concern for themselves. They simply gathered, mourned with and comforted Job. Jesus made His friends with publicans and sinners (Luke 7:34). What greater comfort can there be than “God with us” in times of tremendous grief.? Friends like these – friends like Jesus – are immeasurable. Our test of friendship is to be as compassionate as Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. Be as understanding, mournful and comforting as our best friend Jesus. Love as He loves, give as He gave (Deut 16:17; Jn 15:12).
Finding our Savior in those who grieve, as well as those who care for the grieving, should be a tremendous comfort to us all. Jesus suffered and ministers through that suffering. Jesus comforts us from an empathetic position. We saw just how much Jesus suffered for us, in our message last week. We know Job went through a lot, but Jesus suffered all the more. We also see Jesus ministering to people ostracized by everyone else. Jesus did not care about other’s attitudes or concerns. Jesus cared for the soul of man. What a friend we have in Jesus.
Just as Jesus gave up everything for His friends, so too we find Jonathan willing to sacrifice greatly for those he loved. David had a great friend in Jonathan.
II. Friendship Transcends All Else (1 Sam 20:1-42)
When we read about David and Jonathan, we often skip over Jonathan and his testimony and simply talk about David’s preservation through Jonathan’s friendship. It is as if that is all there is to say. We might only gather that the line to Christ through David is intact. Though that is important, what is the principle the Lord teaches us in conveying this history? Why was this entire event preserved in scripture? There are 162 words spoken in our King James translation, from verses 11 through 42. Most are spoken by Jonathan. This passage is about Jonathan’s relationship with David, which is set against his father the King.
There is certainly a parallel with Jonathan and David, and Jesus and us, respectively. Like Jonathan, Jesus participates in a relationship with us that separates Him from His Father, the King. Like David, we are set against God the Father, King of the universe although in different respects.
David saw four attempts made on his life in one day. There should have been no doubt that Saul was trying to kill him. Still, he needed to make sure. It is clear here that he also needed Jonathan to see the truth. David wondered what we all wonder in times when we are targeted by others undeservedly. He needed to know if he had personally done something wrong. He needed to make reparations and repent if he was at fault. David wondered if he committed some transgression that separated Saul and him. David received the answer that many have received, and it does not always seem to help. David did nothing personally to the King; David committed no sin. Though our natural man loves to point at others and say it is their fault, that they sinned. We should act like David and not want to say, “Well then, that must be sin on their part.” It seems arrogant to approach things that way especially when we know we are capable of the same gross sin. David had to know more.
If anyone would know what was going on in the King’s mind and his challenges, it was certainly Jonathan, the King’s son. Verse two tells us the King “will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me.” Still, David saw what Jonathan could not see. Saul’s wrath was kindled against him out of pure jealousy. Jonathan had to be convinced too, and David was not about to slander the King.
In verse four, we find a stunning admission. Saul’s son vows loyalty to David. Jonathan would not tell Saul David’s location. Instead would work to verify his father’s desire to shed David’s blood. David’s plan included many things, not the least of which was that Jonathan would have to lie to his father. David did not want to set one against the other for his sake.
To eliminate all these challenges, David offers himself to Jonathan’s sword. David asks Jonathan to look carefully at him, and if he is at all guilty, to take his life himself and bring him to his father. David would give his life to maintain his friend’s relationship with his father. David certainly did not want to come between father and son on his account. Jonathan’s response to this was, “Never!” (v9) David’s selflessness clearly displays Jesus’ relationship with the Father on our behalf, as He offered Himself to restore any broken relationship.
At this point, Jonathan becomes the focus of the story. He has to deceive his father. He has to protect David. He has to see his father’s true hatred. He places his relationship and life in jeopardy and direct opposition to the King. In return, David would show the perfect kindness of the Lord to Jonathan (v14).
Reading 1 Samuel chapter 20, we find the testimony of a wonderfully loving friend. Jonathan knows David has been harshly and unjustly dealt with. Ultimately, both men know the true reason they are to take the actions they are planning. In verses 22 and 23, Jonathan tells us it is the Lord’s will. David had to concede to that and hid himself as they planned.
Jonathan placed his relationship with his father and his life in the kingdom in jeopardy. David’s life was already potentially forfeit. Jonathan had to choose to forfeit his own for David’s sake. Even if neither David nor Jonathan initially knew for sure what Saul was planning, once they found out, David was the only one in peril until Jonathan willfully cooperated.
Jonathan’s devout friendship, placed above that of father/son or servant/king relationship shows us that when we are in the Lord’s will, friends serving Christ are friends we should covet above all else. We can and should make covenants with these friends. We can and should submit to these friends. We can and should even conspire to do God’s will with these friends. We should not assume we can ever lie as Jonathan did, but we should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Like Jonathan, friends within the will of God display Christlike attributes. God uses them and we can see His glorious work through them.
In both instances, friendship with those who love God is a friendship we should cultivate. We should comfort our friends in Christ and care nothing for appearances. Our efforts to mourn with and love others should be a mirror of a loving relationship with our Savior.
One of my favorite verses for friends and brethren in the Lord is Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Friends give selflessly and simply devote themselves to the comfort and compassion of Christ. True friends are reliable and seek to help their friends. They are moral and act with a consistent manner regardless of circumstance. In this verse, “brother” is synonymous with “friend.” Therefore, this kindred spirit is born for adversity. They are there and will remain with their dear friend through the most difficult of times.
What a friend we have in Jesus.