Job 2:11-13

Sermon preached on October 4, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. 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.

George Chuvalo was one of the toughest boxers who ever lived. He was the Canadian Heavyweight Boxing for many years in the 60's and 70's. He was never knocked down in the ring, in both his amateur and professional careers no one could knock him down. Although he is best known for his two fights with Muhammad Ali, he also fought powerful hitters like Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Although they both defeated him, they couldn't knock him down. Chuvalo was a tough guy.

He also had to be tough outside the ring. But he wasn't tough enough. His life was very tragic. He lost three of his sons. Two died of heroin overdoses and another of a suicide that I believe was related to drug use. Four days after his second son died of a drug overdose, Chuvalo's wife committed suicide, presumably from grief.

How do you deal with that? Chuvalo said he spent the following month and a half in bed. He was devastated and very depressed. He said that what got him through it was the love that his family and friends showed him. He said they would come over and tell him that they loved him and some of them would hug and kiss him. Chuvalo talked about the effect that their love had on him. He said,

"Love makes you feel strong. Love makes you feel tender. Love makes you feel secure. Love makes you feel appreciated. Love makes you feel important."

It was the love that got him through it.

How important love is. Yet how difficult it is. Love has many facets to it. It's more than a feeling. It involves actions. You can have the feeling, the emotion, and not have the actions, and that love is defective. Or like Job's friends, you can actually love and do some of the things that flows from love—yet you can totally mess up by doing things that are inconsistent with love.

In certain ways Job's friends are great examples to us here. When they hear that the disasters that have befallen Job—they are truly sorry. They consult with each other and decide to go to Job. We read, (Job 2:11–13)

"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.
When they saw him from a distance,
they could hardly recognize him;
they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes
and sprinkled dust on their heads.
Then they sat on the ground with him
for seven days and seven nights.
No one said a word to him,
because they saw how great his suffering was."

They were real friends. They truly loved Job. They had the best of intentions. In verse 11 we read that,

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

They all decided to go and be with Job. We're not sure, but there are some indications that they traveled from some distance to be with Job. Francis I. Andersen writes, (TOTC, Job)

"Job, as the leading person in his own country, was evidently an international figure, and his friends came from three different countries."

But what is clear is that they were going to sympathize and comfort him in his trouble. That's what they told one another. They wanted to help Job. They wanted to be a blessing to him.

Thus the first thing our text shows us is that

when people are suffering, you should go to be with them and share in their suffering.

If you truly love someone, that's what you will do. Job's friends went to be with Job and, as much as they could, took part in his suffering. Before the met with Job they agreed to 'sympathize' with him. The Hebrew word used here for sympathize means to 'console', literally,

"'to shake the head or to rock the body back and forth' as a sign of shared grief."

That's what they did. When they saw Job, (John E. Hartley, Job, NICOT)

"Overcome with grief, they wept aloud and rent their mantles. They threw dust, symbolic of disease and death, into the air. The Hebrew expression is curious; literally, 'they threw dust on their heads heavenward.' This gesture expressed the depth of their sorrow at such horrifying affliction. Then they sat in silence for seven days and seven nights. This length of time signified the intensity, of their sorrow, for such was the period of mourning at the death of a most notable figure."

They displayed great sensitivity and empathy. They mourned alongside of him.

It's a common for people who have gone through dreadful hardship to recall afterwards that some people, ones they never expected—helped them greatly, cared for them and were a blessing to them. They will also say that other people, people that they thought were friends—will not come near them. Job spoke about that in chapter 19. He complained that his affliction had alienated him from his brothers, (Job 19:13–19)

"my acquaintances are
completely estranged from me.
My kinsmen have gone away;
my friends have forgotten me.
My guests and my maidservants
count me a stranger;
they look upon me as an alien.
I summon my servant,
but he does not answer,
though I beg him with my own mouth.
My breath is offensive to my wife;
I am loathsome to my own brothers.
Even the little boys scorn me;
when I appear, they ridicule me.
All my intimate friends detest me;
those I love have turned against me."

Let us not be like that. When we see our friends suffer, let us enter their suffering as much as we can so that we can lift them up. Let us be compassionate and kind. In Romans 12:15 the apostle Paul told us to,

"mourn with those who mourn."

Go to people who suffer. Be with them. Mourn with them.

Secondly, we see how miserably Job's friends failed in their stated mission.

This is not stated in our text, but something happened to Job's three friends in seven days they sat with him. Before they came to him, they intended to 'sympathize' with him and 'comfort' him. As we have seen, they did sympathize with him at first. They entered into his suffering—but not like they should have. They had a change of attitude between when they first decided to go to Job and when they started speaking. This is evident from the text.

The Hebrew word that is used for 'comfort' means to,

"comfort (with words); 'to comfort does not mean to sympathize but to encourage…' "

This kind of comfort is sometime called, (Ash, Job, p. 59)

"speaking to the heart…"

We see this use in the well known passage of Isaiah 40:1–2.

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that
her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for, that she has received
from the LORD'S hand double for all her sins."

So when it says that his friends came to 'comfort' Job, it means that they intended to speak to him to lift his spirits. They probably intended to speak about the promises of God to Job and help him find strength in God.

But they failed to do that. After they came to Job and spoke to him, here's what Job said about them. In Job 13:4, after Job heard all of them speak, Job said,

"You… smear me with lies;
you are worthless physicians, all of you!"

And in Job 16:2-5 Job rebuked them sharply. He said,

"I have heard many things like these;
miserable comforters are you all!
Will your long-winded speeches never end?
What ails you that you keep on arguing?
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 said that they were doing him a great disservice. They were miserable comforters. In Job 17:10 Job mocked their efforts to comfort him. He said,

"But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you."

They were doing such a horrible Job that Job mocked them. In Job 19:2–3 Job complained about them. He said,

"How long will you torment me
and crush me with words?
Ten times now you have reproached me;
shamelessly you attack me."

In verse 5 of that same chapter he complained that they exalted themselves above him and used his condition against him.

Job was right! Near the end of the book, in Job 42:7–9, we read,

"After the Lord had said these things to Job,
he said to Eliphaz the Temanite,
'I am angry with you and your two friends,
because you have not spoken
of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
So now take seven bulls and seven rams
and go to my servant Job and
sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.
My servant Job will pray for you,
and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you
according to your folly.
You have not spoken of me what is right,
as my servant Job has.'
So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and
Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them;
and the Lord accepted Job's prayer."

John Calvin said of Job's three friends, (Sermons on Job: Chapters 1-14)

"They became like devils to him, tormenting him much more than he had been previously."

Their goal was to comfort Job—but they didn't do that. They failed miserably. They added greatly to his suffering.

There are three lessons from this. They all have to do with love.

First, it shows that

good intentions aren't enough.

The old saying is true.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. "

If you really want to help people, be a blessing to them, you need to do much more than have good intentions. Don't just say,

"I really want to be a benefit to people."

That's not nearly enough. In fact, in itself, it's nothing. You actually have to follow through and actually do good. You actually have to be a blessing. Saying that you're going to do something good and then not doing it is worse than not doing anything. It's hypocritical.

Christians, don't talk about the good you're going to do, or the good you intend to do. Don't talk about it. Don't boast about yourself. Just do it.

If your good intentions don't result in good deed toward those who are suffering—if you do nothing, or hurt them rather than helping them—your good intentions are worse than worthless.

The second lesson and third lessons flow from some questions we should ask.

Why did Job's friends fail to comfort him? Why did they fail so miserably?

It is quite possible that they didn't ask God to help them in this regard. In his sermon on this text John Calvin emphasizes the fact that

if we are going to be a blessing to others, we need God to help us.

We're not adequate in ourselves. Being a blessing to others by what we say is incredibly hard. To put Ephesians 4:29 into practice and actually accomplish what it says is very difficult.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk
come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful
for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen."

We can't do it on our own. Without God's help we will fail miserably. As Jesus said in John 15:4–5,

"No branch can bear fruit by itself;
it must remain in the vine.
Neither can you bear fruit
unless you remain in me.'
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. '"

Christians, as you seek to be a blessing to others—do it prayerfully. Ask God to give you wisdom. Ask Him to give you the sensitivity that you need. Ask Him to bless your words.

The third lesson to learn from Job's friends is that

they failed because they made certain false judgments about Job.

During seven days that they sat with Job, his suffering was so great that they concluded that the only reason for it was because he was a great sinner. To them that was the logical conclusion.

How wrong they were. Job was more righteous than they were.

The great lesson for us is that

we must not make judgments where we have insufficient evidence.

As the King James Version renders 1 Corinthians 13:5, love,

"thinketh no evil;"

Yet Job's friends didn't give him the benefit of the doubt. They thought evil of him.

We Christians are sometimes so sure of ourselves when we are completely wrong. We're like Job's three friends. They didn't have any evidence of wrong doing on Job's part—but they were absolutely convinced that he had to be guilty of a serious moral lapse.

There are many examples of people in Scripture making such judgments. Remember what Nabal, the fool, said about David? (1 Samuel 25:10)

"Who is this David?
Who is this son of Jesse?
Many servants are breaking away
from their masters these days."

David was the Lord's anointed. Yet Nabal judged him harshly.

Remember how Nathanael judged Jesus? In John 1:45–46 Philip found Nathanael and said to him,

"We have found the one Moses
wrote about in the Law,
and about whom the prophets
also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

Nathanael replied,

"Nazareth! Can anything good
come from there?"

Can you imagine judging Jesus like that?

Sometimes we Christians aren't even as good as Pilate in this regard. You'll remember when the Jews arrested Jesus and sent Him to Pilate, Pilate came out and asked them, (John 18:29–30)

"What charges are you
bringing against this man?"

The Jews replied,

"If he were not a criminal, we would not
have handed him over to you."

They wanted Pilate to take their word for it. But Pilate, to his credit, would have none of it. He demanded proof.

Christians, don't lean on your own understanding. Trust in the Lord. Follow His commandments.

Don't make judgments about people being great sinners just because bad things happen to them, or because others say bad things about them without cause.

So I ask you,

Do you really love others?

When you hear about their sufferings—do you have good intentions? Do you go to them, and, in a way, enter into their sufferings and mourn with them? Do you help them find strength in God? Are your thoughts toward them loving? Do your actions exhibit real love? 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 says,

"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not rude,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres."

Christians, Jesus loved you and died for you when you were a sinner. He calls you to love others, as He has loved you. Job's three friends loved him—but they really messed up in the practice of that love. Don't be like them. Show love, compassion, kindness, gentleness to those who are suffering—in your thoughts, in your actions. Point them to Jesus who is the greatest friend of sinners. Point them to the help and hope they can have in Him.