Job 16:4-5

Sermon preached on March 4, 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.

Shortly after the school shooting that took 17 lives in Parkland, Florida, President Trump spoke to a gathering of governors at the White House. I'm not sure of the context but I think it was in reaction to the report that at least one of the safety officers didn't enter the school even though he knew there was shooting taking place. President Trump said,

"You don't know until you're tested, but I think I really believe I'd run in there even if I didn't have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too."

The President was widely ridiculed for saying that and many people doubted that he be brave enough to do it. But then someone dug up a news story in the New York Daily News from November 20, 1991 which had the headline,

"Mugger's TrumphedDonald Stops Attack"Bat-Weilding Thug Takes Off

According to the article Mr. Trump ordered his driver to stop when he saw a man beating another man with a baseball bat. Trump got out of the car and verbally confronted the mugger. The mugger then took off.

In his speech the President said that he wouldn't be the only one brave one, that most of the people he was speaking to would have done that.

Thankfully there are brave people like that. I remember reading an article about the shooting on Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014 where a person heard the shots and was running away from the scene. I couldn't find the article but if my memory is correct as he was running away, he saw two or three unarmed civilians running toward the sound of the gunshots. I believe it turned out that the people running toward the shooting were medical personnel, I think one of them was an off duty nurse. Stories like that are amazing.

Some others are not able to do that. They'd be overcome with fear. Until we're tested we don't know how we'd react, but most people would like to think that they would react heroically in such a situation. They think,

"If I was in such a situation I'd act bravely."

I hope they would. I hope I would.

Job says something like that in our text. He tells his friends that if their roles were reversed, he would actually comfort them. He said, (Job 16:4-5)

"I also could speak like you,
if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches
against you and shake my head at you.
But my mouth would encourage you;
comfort from my lips
would bring you relief."

Job criticized his friends and said it is easy to make fine speeches against someone when he's down and out. It's easy to be condescending and shake your finger at someone like that. But Job said he wouldn't do that. He would encourage and comfort them.

Our text is an interesting one from a number of perspectives. It contains lessons about how we should rely on God, lessons about our speech, lessons about our hearts, lessons about how we should read the Bible.

So let's look at them.

First of all, consider what our text teaches us about

our attitude about our abilities.

We have to be careful in thinking too highly of our own abilities to do the right thing, to provide comfort when it is needed. We must not be self-confident.

Peter boasted of the fact that he would never desert Jesus. Peter loved Jesus so much. When Jesus told His disciples that they would all desert Him, Peter said, (Matthew 26:33)

"Even if all fall away
on account of you, I never will."

Yet right after that Peter denied Jesus, not just once, but three times. Peter had good intentions. Peter loved Jesus, but he failed miserably. His boasting was nothing but hot air. It came to nothing.

In Matthew 18 Jesus told the story of the unmerciful servant. He had been forgiven much. Who would have thought that he would go and be so unmerciful? But he did. That's the way our natural hearts work.

At least one commentator suggested that Job may have been deceiving himself here—that he really was being like Peter in thinking that he would do the right thing, but in reality would fail.

That may or not be. But what is certain is that Job's friends failed to provide comfort to him.

This show us an important truth—

how much we need the help and grace of God.

We are weak in ourselves. We dare not rely on our own strength. Like Peter, we can love Jesus and have good intentions. But that is not enough. We must rely on God and His strength. As Jesus said in John 15:5,

"I am the vine;
you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing."

All our strength comes from God. Not most of it, but all of it. In ourselves we are weak. In Matthew 26:41 Jesus said,

"Watch and pray so that
you will not fall into temptation.
The spirit is willing,
but the body is weak."

Not only are we weak in ourselves, but our enemies are strong. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but,

"but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly realms."

Paul goes on to tell us that in order to stand we have to put on the whole armor of God. We need armor that God provides—the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.

If we use that armor effectively, we still have no reason to have confidence in ourselves. In 1 Corinthians 15:10 the apostle Paul wrote,

"But by the grace of God
I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them—
yet not I,
but the grace of God that was with me."

It's God who makes us stand. In Philippians 4:13 the apostle Paul said,

"I can do everything
through him who gives me strength."

The wonderful truth is that if we rely on God, we will be able to stand and succeed. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, after Paul asked God to take away his thorn in the flesh, God said to him,

"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness."

As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

"No temptation has seized you
except what is common to man.
And God is faithful;
he will not let you be tempted
beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out
so that you can stand up under it."

We must never take pride in our own abilities. Proverbs 16:18 says,

"Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall."

Peter failed when he denied the Lord. Job's friends failed him.

This shows how much grace we need and how much we need to rely upon God. Indeed, we're often blind to our failures. Eliphaz said he was giving 'God's consolations' to Job. (Job 15:11) Yet in reality he was only hurting Job.

Job repeatedly warned his friends about their folly, but his warnings fell on deaf ears? Why? Because his friends were relying on their own wisdom and not on God's grace.

Indeed, if you look at what Job says here—he says that they can't stop speaking. Its like something evil is compelling them to continually harass Job. He said, (Job 16:3)

"What ails you that you
keep on arguing?"

David J. A. Clines writes, (Job 1–20, WBC 17; p. 378)

"It is a matter of some wonderment to Job that Eliphaz has chosen to speak again if he has so little to say. In ironic mood, Job determines that Eliphaz himself must be experiencing some inner agitation, some nervous complaint, that compels him to open his mouth; what can it be that 'disturbs' him or 'makes him ill' "

Job's three friends couldn't leave Job alone. They had to continually harass him. They seemed to be totally devoid of grace.

Secondly, this passage teaches us much

about what our speech should be like.

According to Ephesians 4:29 our speech is to be a blessing to others. We are to speak what is helpful, to build others up according to their needs. Our speech can be a great force for good and also a great weapon for evil. In the New Testament James wrote, (James 3:5,6,8)

"Consider what a great forest
is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire,
a world of evil
among the parts of the body…
It is a restless evil,
full of deadly poison."

Job knew about that. Rather than helping him, his friends, through their words, were greatly harming him. They were making his suffering worse. Job called them,

"miserable comforters"

Christopher Ash refers to this phrase as, (Job: p. 188)

"the ultimate oxymoron"

John E. Hartley calls it, (The Book of Job, NICOT; p. 257)

"a pungent oxymoron; i.e., the more words they speak to comfort, the more pain they inflict."

Notice how Job continues. He says that if their roles were reversed he would comfort them.

This shows us an attitude that many Christians have, what our hearts should be like.

As Christians we are called to comfort others.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3ff the apostle Paul praised God,

"the Father of compassion
and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort
those in any trouble with the comfort
we ourselves have received from God."

Because God has comforted us, we should comfort others. Christopher Ash writes, (Job, p. 189)

"But it is wonderful that in the heart of every true believer longing for comfort, there is also a longing to comfort others. What is more, only those who have known the longing for God's comfort and then felt that comfort are able to comfort others.These two longings, to receive and to give comfort, are wonderfully fulfilled in the Lord Jesus who, even as he hung dying, cared for his mother (John 19:26, 27). It is a mark of a disciple of Jesus and an heir and successor to Job that even as we long to be comforted, our hearts contain a matching longing to bring comfort to others in pain. Faith turns us outward even in pain."

I mentioned earlier how Job said that if their roles were reversed, Job would comfort them. I'm inclined to think that Job was speaking truthfully. It's the calling of the people of God. One thing about not receiving sympathy teaches you is how important it is. A heart that belongs to Jesus seeks to comfort others, not berate them.

David J. A. Clines adds, (Job 1–20, WBC 17; p, 379)

"Strengthening… is what comforting is all about"

Job's friends failed to strengthen him. They failed to apply the promises of God to him.

We see an example of real comfort in 1 Samuel 23:16–18. We read,

"And Saul's son Jonathan went
to David at Horesh and helped him
find strength in God.'
Don't be afraid,' he said.'
My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.
You will be king over Israel,
and I will be second to you.
Even my father Saul knows this.' "

Jonathan reminded David of God's promise to him. That's how you can comfort others.

Lastly, our text shows us

how to properly read the Bible.

We must not read it proudly, thinking that it affirms our current condition.

When I was young and inexperienced and I read the Bible I often thought more highly of myself than I should have. When I read in the Bible about people committing moral failures, I wouldn't ever imagine myself with the people that were doing bad. For example, many times the people of Israel in the wilderness rebelled against God. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron. When Moses took a long time to come down from the mountain and the people made a golden calf. I never pictured myself as being like them. I would think,

"If I had been there, I would have been one of the faithful ones."

Ha! What a mistake. That's truly the way not to benefit from Bible reading.

Once I became older and more experienced I realized that I couldn't take for granted that I would be one of the faithful ones.

When you read the Bible you need to read it with a realization of what your natural heart is like. You need to read it prayerfully, continually asking for insight, for humility, for grace, for illumination to see your faults and to see the glory of Christ.

Job was confident that if their roles were reversed he would comfort his friends. I think he was right in saying that. Job had trained himself in godliness. Before these disasters had come upon him he had comforted the widow and the orphan. He had walked with God and relied on His grace.

As you read the Bible, you are to put it into practice. By doing so you'll train yourself in godliness, and though God's grace—never fall. (2 Peter 1:10-11)