Job 4:12-18

Sermon preached on May 29, 2016 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2016. 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.

If you follow technology news you'll know that industry giant Intel missed the transition to mobile. The vast majority of mobile phones and tablets are powered by energy efficient ARM microprocessors. In recent years Intel made a great effort to get into mobile. But after spending an estimated 10 billion dollars they have little to show for their efforts. A common assessment is that they waited too long, they were too late to the mobile party to gain a foothold. Why was that? There was no one reason. They made a number of mistakes.

One of the turning points they made was when Apple was in the planning stages of the iPhone. Apple CEO Steve Jobs asked Intel CEO Paul Otellini to fabricate an ARM chip for the iPhone. Otellini declined. He thought that Intel wouldn't be able to make much money on doing that because the volume wasn't there. It was a low cost part and he didn't think they would be able to break even. But years later he said that they overestimated the cost, but they underestimated the volume by about 100 fold. In retrospect it was a huge mistake. Otellini said,

"The lesson I took away from that was, while we like to speak with data around here, so many times in my career I've ended up making decisions with my gut, and I should have followed my gut,' he said. 'My gut told me to say yes.' "

Two or three yeas ago Apple hired Angela Ahrendts to lead their retail division. I think in 2014 she was the top paid female executive in America, making something like 70 or 80 million dollars. She gave the following advice to her employees in retail.

"Also, trust your instincts and emotions. Let them guide you in every situation; they will not fail you."

So we have very smart people telling us to follow our gut, our instincts and emotions. The problem with that is that sometimes our gut is wrong. Some people's instincts are much better than others. I've had people tell me that they're self-destructive. That's their instinct. My advice to them would be,

"Don't follow that instinct."

How should we make decisions? I'm not saying that we should never trust our instincts, our gut, our emotions, but the sad fact is that they can lead you greatly astray.

What about listening to wise friends? I once did a study on John Calvin and how he made decisions and what I found was that sometimes he gave himself over almost completely to the counsel of his friends—even when his gut told him to do the opposite. One example was when Farel convinced him to stay in Geneva. Calvin was just passing through, staying one night because on an unexpected stay because of a necessary detour. Farel became very animated and even though the last thing Calvin wanted to do was stay in Geneva, he harkened to Farel's words. It was a different age but I found it remarkable how often Calvin placed himself in his friend's hands. It was almost like he let them make some very important decisions for him. He did that not because he trusted them completely—but because he recognized that they were showing him God's will for his life. Calvin's decision making was much different from the independent, self-centered and narcissistic decision-making we see so much in ourselves and others.

But can we always trust our friends?

In the context of our text Job was in a very bad way. Tragedy after tragedy had befallen him. He was suffering greatly. His three friends came with the purpose of comforting him. When Job pours out his grief to them, Eliphaz is the first to answer. He gives Job some advice. In the first part of his speech he told Job that Job wasn't righteous—that the innocent don't perish, that those who sow trouble reap it. He was basing some of his words on his own experience.

Then, to press his point home,

Eliphaz claims to have a divine revelation.

He tells Job about a revelation he received. Christopher Ash writes, (Job, p. 106)

"Until now Eliphaz has been appealing to Job to be consistent with the shared wisdom of the ages, the settled convictions of all morally serious and religious people, the great traditions of the wise. But now a strange thing happens: 'I want to tell you what happened to me, Job. I want to tell you about a message given specifically 'to me,' a supernatural message. It came to me 'stealthily,' secretly, in a 'whisper' so that I could scarcely discern it [v. 12].' It happened (v. 13) in what seems very close to a nightmare, 'thoughts from visions of the night' (NASB, 'disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night').11 It happened in a 'deep sleep' of the kind Abraham experienced in Genesis 15:12–21, a stupor induced by God himself, a time of complete human passivity, or so Eliphaz seems to imply. It was very frightening (v. 14). 'Dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake' (v. 14). This is like a horror movie. And then (v. 15) a breath, a wind, 'a spirit [the words are the same] glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up.' This is like a horror movie. And then (v. 15) a breath, a wind, 'a spirit [the words are the same] glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up.' This is terrifying. We are in the presence of the numinous, of the supernatural world, of a world beyond our comprehension, of a scary dimension of the universe. And then, when our pulses are racing, 'it stood still' (v. 16). You can feel the tension. 'I could not recognize its appearance; a form loomed before my eyes. I heard a quiet voice' (v. 16 HCSB)."What an extraordinary buildup. And yet it is deeply ambiguous. Unlike the oracles given to some of the prophets in visions of the night, there is no clear indication of the source of this vision or of the one who speaks. Eliphaz may imply that this is supernatural and therefore authoritative, but the author of the book subverts that claim and makes us suspect that something less positive is going on here."

In Job's day Eliphaz's claim had some weight. In the Old Testament God spoke to people in dreams, visions, with voices, with writing on the wall. As we read in Hebrews 1:1–2,

"In the past God spoke
to our forefathers through the prophets
at many times and in various ways,"

But was Eliphaz's vision really from God? There is some debate about that but I come down on the side that Eliphaz's vision was not from God. There are a number of reasons for that. The main one is that the thrust of what he said to Job was not helpful to Job. If God had given an Eliphaz a word, you would think that it would be something to comfort Job, something to help Job. Job was at the end of his rope, in a desperate situation. He needed help. He needed words of comfort from God. But God was silent.

Indeed, God's own evaluation of Eliphaz's words, taken as a whole, is negative.

Near the end of the book of Job God said to Eliphaz, (Job 42:7)

"I am angry with you
and your two friends,
because you have not spoken
of me what is right,
as my servant Job has."

Eliphaz and his two friends said a lot of things that were true. But overall, he and his friends misjudged Job, they misjudged his situation, and they didn't give him good advice. Job was right when he said to Eliphaz and his two friends, (Job 16:2)

"miserable comforters are you all!"

Job was also correct when he said to them in chapter 13:4,

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

One of the other reasons I believe that Eliphaz's vision was not from God was from the fact that some of what he said was not true. In verse 18 Eliphaz says,

"If God places no trust in his servants,
if he charges his angels with error…"

Most commentators take this as referring to the unfallen angels, the angels who never rebelled against God. If Eliphaz was referring to the angels that fell into sin, his argument would have little force. Eliphaz is urging Job to be patient under suffering. What do fallen angels have to do with that? There is no salvation for them. Jude 1:6 says,

"And the angels who did not keep
their positions of authority
but abandoned their own home—
these he has kept in darkness,
bound with everlasting chains
for judgment on the great Day."

But if Eliphaz's argument has to do with unfallen angels, he states that even they cannot be relied upon, how much less can human beings. Eliphaz is emphasizing the frailty of human beings.

But God charging his holy angels with error?

At least we think that's what Eliphaz said. This is the only place in the Bible where this particular Hebrew word is used. We're not exactly sure what it means. Scholars suggest it's derived from a word that means, 'to make a mistake', or possibly 'to wander', corresponding to 'to make around aimlessly, and also 'craziness'. (Halot)

Are the unfallen angels really charged with error by God? Some suggest that what Eliphaz means in that the unfallen angels depend on God's power to stay pure. That is no doubt true but that doesn't seem to be what Eliphaz is saying here. He seems to be saying that they are full of error, that they make mistakes.

Not only that, but some think that what Eliphaz says in verse 17 is also not true. I think that there is a sense in which verse 17 is true and a sense in which it is not true, depending on how you take it. Eliphaz uses it against Job, telling him that no one, not even him, is in a right relationship with God. Verse 17 reads, (ESV)

"Can mortal man be
in the right before God?
Can a man be pure
before his Maker?"

Christopher Ash tells us that Eliphaz means, (Job. p. 107)

"Nowhere on earth is there a man in the right with God."

But Ash continues,

"This is the answer of human religion. But it is also the Satan's answer. The substance of the Satan's challenge in chapters 1, 2 is that no human being on earth is genuinely in the right with God. And so, quite unwittingly no doubt, and meaning well, Eliphaz becomes here the spokesman for the Satan. This strange visionary word emanates not from the God of the Bible but from the enemy and the accuser of the brethren."

But in Christ we can be right with God. In Genesis 15:6 we are told of God's covenant with Abraham. God told him that his offspring would be like the stars of heaven. It says,

"Abram believed the LORD,
and he credited it to him
as righteousness."

Abraham was in a right relationship with God. In a very real way, even then, he had the righteousness of Christ. As Jesus said in John 8:56,

"Your father Abraham rejoiced
at the thought of seeing my day;
he saw it and was glad."

This applied to Job as well. In chapter 1, God said to Satan, (verse 8)

"Have you considered my servant Job?
There is no one on earth like him;
he is blameless and upright,
a man who fears God and shuns evil."

Job, in a very real sense, was right with God. God was keeping him. Satan was trying to destroy Job's faith—but God gave grace to Job and Job never fell away.

All this leads us to the fact that Eliphaz, even though he thought he had a revelation from God—was mistaken. Job rejected his words and argued against him. He consider Eliphaz's words as being useless. In his reply to Eliphaz, in Job 6:15–17, Job said,

"But my brothers are as
undependable as intermittent streams,
as the streams that overflow
when darkened by thawing ice
and swollen with melting snow,
but that cease to flow
in the dry season, and in the heat
vanish from their channels."

Ultimately, we can't depend on hunches, on instincts, on our own limited experience, on friends, even on friends who claim they have a special revelation from God. No,

in our time we should trust God's Word.

John Calvin says, (Sermon on Job 4:12-19)

"God speaks to us. But how? Through the prophets, who are organs of the Holy Spirit. We have the gospel, in which God makes himself known inwardly. That is the way God speaks to his church today. He has fully revealed his will to us in holy Scripture."

I'll now finish my quote from Hebrews 1:1–3,

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets
at many times and in various ways,
but in these last days
he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
and through whom he made the universe.
The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word."

And in 2 Timothy 3:16–17 the apostle Paul wrote.

"All Scripture is God-breathed
and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and
training in righteousness,
so that the man of God may be
thoroughly equipped
for every good work."

We need to know Scripture and what it says. We need to have it in our minds, thoughts. We ought to be studying on how to apply it to our lives. Some give Eliphaz the benefit of the doubt here and believe that it really was a vision from God that he had. They believe that he spoke many words that were true. But even they acknowledge that Eliphaz totally misapplied the truth to Job's case.

But either way, our text shows us that we need to be asking God's guidance and we study the Word and seek to understand it.

But more than that we need to be asking that God would give us guidance and lead us. How thankful we ought to be for Jesus. He is the light of the world. He came to save us from our sins. He came to reveal the Father to us. He came to give us the Spirit, who leads us in all truth. How thankful we ought to be for Jesus and the revelation He has brought. In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6 Paul wrote,

"The god of this age has blinded
the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light
of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
who is the image of God.
For we do not preach ourselves,
but Jesus Christ as Lord,
and ourselves as your servants
for Jesus' sake.
For God, who said,
'Let light shine out of darkness,
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God
in the face of Christ."

I saw an interesting video this week of the testimony of how Jesus opened the eyes of a man who worked on Wall Street. He had just about everything money could buy, but he wasn't happy. He was looking for happiness in all the wrong places. At his lowest point he reached out to a Christian for help. God worked in him and the really interesting thing was that he said when he started reading the Bible, it was alive. It was living. He saw that it was truth and though God's grace it transformed his life.

If you're not a Christian, you need to ask God to take away your blindness, to see the glory of Jesus and to enable you to go to Him for salvation.

You who are Christians should realize what a treasure you have in God's Word, in the leading of the Spirit. Cherish the Word. It's the Word of Christ our Savior.