Job 16:1-5

Sermon preached on February 25, 2018 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Sympathy. How sympathetic should you be toward other people? Is sympathy something you've got down pat—or is it something that you are horribly deficient in? In looking at our text I want to draw your attention to the kind of sympathy we are supposed to have.


sympathy is a characteristic that many people, who think they are godly, are sorely lacking.

Job's three friends thought they were godly. They thought that God was pleased with them. They worked hard in their attempt to follow God. Indeed, they thought that their good works were so good that they trusted in them for their standing before God. Their speeches tell you that.

Yet how they failed. Their stated purpose in going to Job was to help him in his troubles. In Job 2:11 we read,

"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 from their homes
and met together by agreement
to go and sympathize with him
and comfort him."

Yet when they spoke to Job they were often merciless. When they took turns speaking to Job they just about always began their speeches by insulting Job, by berating him. Yet, according to Eliphaz in Job 15:11, they were speaking,

"God's consolations"

to Job. Ha!

Job had a different view of their speeches. He said, (Job 16:2)

"miserable comforters are you all!"

Miserable comforters. What an indictment. But Job was right. His three friends failed miserably. They thought that they were bringing God's message of comfort to Job. Instead they were doing nothing but hurting him, adding to his misery. Satan was using them to hurt Job, to try to get him to despair and curse God.

How deluded they were! Are you like that? Do you think you're a sympathetic person? Are you sure you are? The real question is: What is God's judgment about your sympathy. Is He pleased with it? You may be just as deluded as Job's friends were. You need to make sure that you have the kind of sympathy that God wants you to have.

We have many examples of a lack of sympathy in people in the Bible.

The prophet Jonah comes to mind. God told him to go and warn the city of Nineveh. Jonah didn't want to do it. He took off in the opposite direction. He was afraid that Nineveh would repent and God wouldn't destroy it. Later in the book when the people of Nineveh did repent and God had compassion on them, we read, (Jonah 4:1–3)

"But Jonah was greatly displeased
and became angry.
He prayed to the Lord,
'O Lord, is this not what I said
when I was still at home?
That is why I was so quick
to flee to Tarshish.
I knew that you are a gracious
and compassionate God,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
a God who relents from sending calamity.
Now, O Lord,
take away my life,
for it is better for me to die than to live."

Jonah would have rather died than have sympathy on Nineveh. Can you imagine this behavior from one of God's prophets?

Another example of a lack of sympathy is in Sarah, Abraham's wife. She had a maidservant, Hagar. Since Sarah wasn't bearing Abraham any children, she said to him, (Genesis 16:2)

"The Lord has kept me
rom having children.
Go, sleep with my maidservant;
perhaps I can build
a family through her."

Abraham agreed. Hagar became pregnant But then Hagar started to despise Sarah. So Sarah rebuked Abraham even though the whole thing was her idea. Sarah began to mistreat Hagar, so much so that Hagar ran away.

Now we could say that Sarah had good reason to be unsympathetic toward Hagar because Hagar had begun to despise her. And that would be true. But it was Sarah who put Hagar in that position. Sarah's treatment of Hagar must have been terrible for it was a dangerous thing for a slave to run away from a master. Hagar was taking her life in her hand in more ways than one. She was a pregnant woman, vulnerable, defenseless and alone. She went out into the desert. Sarah must have really been angry with her. She showed her no sympathy.

Sarah, the mother of the faithful, had no sympathy toward Hagar. How unkind of her.

If you have a reason to be unsympathetic toward someone, does that mean that your lack of sympathy is justified? No. If that were the case you wouldn't receive any sympathy from God. We're sinners, rebels against God. Ephesians 2:3 tells us that by nature we are,

"objects of wrath."

And just like God is sympathetic to you, so He sympathetic to Hagar. He rescued her, made great promises to her. He was with her and cared for her.

Another example of a unbelievable lack of sympathy is how King David treated his loyal servant Uriah the Hittite. David determined that Uriah had to die. Why? Not because Uriah had done something wrong or proved himself disloyal. No. Uriah had to die in order for David to cover up his sin. What sympathy did David have for Uriah? None. In one of the greatest betrayals in history, David gave Uriah the letter containing his death warrant and told him to taken to Joab.

David didn't deserve any sympathy from God. He deserved that fire from heaven come down and consume him, or have earth open up and swallow him alive. But God showed him sympathy.

Also consider the apostles James and John in Luke 9. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and He sent messengers ahead of him. The messengers entered a Samaritan village to make arrangements for Jesus. But the village did not receive Him because Jesus was going to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this they said to Jesus, (Luke 9:54)

"Lord, do you want us to call
fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

Can you imagine? Jesus came to save sinners and two of His closest disciples want to destroy sinners? The Samaritans deserved to be destroyed. There was no doubt about it. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to die. He was deliberately going to His death. The Samaritans refused to receive Him. They didn't deserve sympathy—but Jesus gave it to them.

Now what do these examples teach us?

They show us, in a very dramatic way, that

sin has so damaged our capacity for sympathy that none of us should trust our instincts in this matter.

I would even hazard to say that if you go by your first instincts that you're almost always going to get it wrong.

We love ourselves too much. We easily overlook our own sins and faults. We are also naturally unsympathetic toward others. In Matthew 18 Jesus told the story of the unmerciful servant. He owed his master millions of dollars and couldn't pay. He begged his master to give him more time. His master forgave the debt. Right after that the servant went out, found another servant who owed him a few dollars, started choking him and demanded immediate payment. The other servant begged him to give him more time. But he wouldn't and had his fellow servant thrown into prison.

Although we don't like to think that we're like that—as we're born from Adam that's what we are like. Apart from God's grace that's what your own heart would have you do.

Secondly, we see

how different is God's sympathy toward sinners.

How unlike Jonah was God. God rebuked Jonah for being angry when Nineveh was spared. God said, (Jonah 4:11)

"But Nineveh has more than
a hundred and twenty thousand people
who cannot tell their
right hand from their left,
and many cattle as well.
Should I not be concerned
about that great city?"

In Matthew 9, just after the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons, (verses 35–36)

"Jesus went through
all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
preaching the good news of the kingdom
and healing every disease and sickness.
When he saw the crowds,
he had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd."

In Luke 13, the Pharisees came to Jesus and told Him to leave that place because Herod wanted to kill Him. Jesus replied, (verses 32-24)

"Go tell that fox,
'I will drive out demons and
heal people today and tomorrow,
and on the third day I will reach my goal.'
In any case, I must keep going today
and tomorrow and the next day—
for surely no prophet can die
outside Jerusalem!
'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
you who kill the prophets
and stone those sent to you,
how often I have longed
to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks
under her wings,
but you were not willing!"

Jesus knew that the people of Jerusalem were going to cry out for His death. When Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus, they all replied, (Matthew 27:22–23)

"Crucify him!"

Pilate asked,

"Why? What crime has he committed?"

"But they shouted all the louder, 'Crucify him!' "

Jesus knew what the people of Jerusalem were going to do to Him. Yet He mourned over them.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…"

When those cruel soldiers nailed Him to the cross, Jesus prayed for them to the Father. He said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them,
for they do not know
what they are doing."

Did they deserve sympathy? No. But Jesus was sympathetic toward them.

Or think of the criminal on the cross who turned to Jesus. Beforehand he had joined others in mocking Jesus. (Mark 15:32) If there was anyone who didn't deserve sympathy it was him. Yet when he asked for Jesus to merely remember him when He came into His kingdom, Jesus had the wondrous reply, (Luke 23:43)

"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."

What sympathy! What kindness! What compassion! What love!

So I ask you,

whose example are you to follow?

Are we to emulate Job's three friends? No. Are we to be like Jonah? No. Or what about Sarah, who had good reason to be unsympathetic? No. Or like David? No. Like the apostles James and John when he wanted to call down file from heaven? No. Jesus rebuked them and said, (NASB)

"You do not know what
kind of spirit you are of;
for the Son of Man did not come
to destroy men's lives,
but to save them."

Jesus has called you to a high calling. He said, (John 13:34)

"As I have loved you,
so you must love one another."

Stephen knew that truth. He said of those who were stoning him to death, (Acts 7:60)

"Lord, do not hold this sin
against them."

That's what we are called to be like.

What this means is that we all need to be praying for grace to have the sympathy that we need. As fallen human beings we need to fight hard against our old nature and ask for an abundance of grace in this area. Otherwise we'll be no better than Job's friends.

Christians, what an opportunity you have. In this fallen world there is no one else like you Christians. The world may talk and boast about their compassion and sympathy, but like the sympathy of Job's friends, it's hot air. When the time for real sympathy comes, when they get power over their enemies, there will be no sympathy. But you, you have the Spirit of God in you, the Spirit of Jesus. Through the power of God you can show sympathy to those who don't deserve it, indeed, to your enemies. You can shine like stars in the universe—and show this world, the love, the sympathy and the compassion of God Himself.

Try to excel in this grace of sympathy. There's so little of it in this world. Excel at it—and bring glory, praise and honor to Jesus.