In the book of Job, God allowed his servant Job to suffer hardship at the hands of Satan to test his faith and prove Job’s devotion to God (Job 1:8-12).
In the aftermath of losing his children, servants, livestock, and livelihood, Job and his friends are wrestling with the question “why?” – trying to understand the cause of this suffering. As the reader, we have an incredible vantage point knowing exactly what happened to cause his trials.
We don’t have to wonder why Job suffered – we know. God allowed Satan to afflict Job for the testing of his faith for the glory of God. In fact, God is the one who put Job on the enemy’s radar. Satan wanted to weaken Job’s faith, but in the end, it was strengthened.
We also have the vantage point of the entire rest of Scripture to test the claims of Job and his friend’s words. We can examine their words against the rest of the Bible to see whether their view of God – and suffering – is right.
At the beginning of the book, Job is truly blameless. In the end, God rebukes him. Why? When was that turning point and where did Job stray? I would argue it was in chapter 7, where he moves from biblical lament to despair and begins to question God. He lost hope and questioned everything because he did not rightly understand the battle he was in.
Spiritual warfare is fought in three arenas: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
For the reader to better understand his battle, you have to recognize that the first friend to speak about the situation openly bases his opinion on an untrustworthy source – a secret supernatural encounter.
In Job 4:12-21, Eliphaz describes a harrowing encounter with a spirit.
15 “A spirit glided past my face;
the hair of my flesh stood up.
16 It stood still,
but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
there was silence, then I heard a voice:”Job 4:15-16
To my dismay, I couldn’t find a single commentary that explained this passage as it reads. Some commentators dismissed his claims of an encounter by saying he made up the story to bolster his authority to speak on the subject.
Though this explanation is perhaps more palatable to our Western minds, I don’t think it’s an honest interpretation of the text. We know the supernatural nature of Job’s situation given the context of the first two chapters which set the stage for the entire 40-chapter book, so why would we turn around and explain this away? It doesn’t line up.
Other commentators glossed over the account altogether. The most helpful commentary was Matthew Henry’s which acknowledges this was a real spirit encounter, but that it was a good spirit. On this point, I disagree.
When we evaluate the claims of the spirit, we see that it is not good. In verses 17-21, the spirit speaks lies to Eliphaz.
17 ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?
18 Even in his servants he puts no trust,
and his angels he charges with error;
19 how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed like the moth.
20 Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
21 Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
do they not die, and that without wisdom?’Job 4:17-21
Eliphaz allowed this deceptive message to shape his opinion about Job’s suffering.
In verse 17, the spirit is asking a rhetorical question – whether man can be right before God, leading Eliphaz to believe the answer is no, when we know from Job 1:8 the answer is actually yes. Job was right before His maker. That’s the whole reason he got into this mess in the first place.
The spirit claims that God can’t trust his servants– WRONG! God did trust Job. Again, that’s why this all happened. As evidence for this claim, the spirit says, “even his angels he charges with error” – I mean yeah, Satan and the other angels who rebelled against God were charged with wrongdoing and cast out of Heaven. That’s not to say there aren’t any good angels or faithful men. There are.
In verse 20, it says men die without anyone regarding it, but we know that God does regard the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15). He even watches over sparrows (Matthew 10:29). With this lie, the spirit wants to convince Eliphaz that God doesn’t care – that He’s distant and cold to man’s struggles, but the opposite is true. God cares deeply for mankind – so much so that He would eventually humble Himself to the cross
(Philippians 2:8) in order to reconcile us to Himself.
So, what can we learn from Eliphaz’s mistake of listening to this spirit to form his opinion?
- First, alleged “angelic encounters” may in fact be demonic. We have to test everything against Scripture. Multiple cults were born out of private encounters with spirits who preached a different gospel – in fact, that’s how Mormonism came about. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8 ESV
- Next, we must see that theological perspectives can just as easily be built on lies from the enemy as they can the truth of God. The enemy wants to deceive God’s people. In order to combat this, we must abide in the Word of God – and pray for the Spirit to revive our hearts, showing us truth.
- Finally, we must recognize that the most convincing lies contain elements of truth. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and a cunning deceiver, so we must be careful to discern what is true using the Bible.