STUDY SEVEN: THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATES

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

Those from whom Job expected sympathy and understanding added to his suffering. And unwittingly, they aligned themselves with Satan. Along with him, they cast doubts on Job’s integrity. Unwittingly, or perhaps deliberately in their attempt to hold on to their wrong beliefs, they told lies about both Job and God. They joined the accuser, and in doing so ranged themselves against Job and against God. They have become the enemy.

As noted earlier, it is interesting that the name ‘Job’ is derived from a verb that means ‘hated’, ‘persecuted’, ‘shown enmity’. Job’s wife and his three friends join Satan in his opposition to Job and in his accusations. All of them add to his suffering. All of them fail to give him the compassion and support he so desperately needs.

A. JOB’S WIFE

Read Job 1:9 – 11; 2:3 – 4, 9
What is Satan’s accusation against Job?

How does God describe Job’s response to the first round of suffering?

What aspect of Job does his wife attack?

Suggest how the wife, whether she realizes it or not, is doing Satan’s work for him.

 

His wife’s unfeeling ‘Are you still unshaken in your integrity? Curse God and die!’ indicates that she had already decided that there was no such thing as true faith. That no one, not even Job, could love God for God’s sake and for God’s glory, and not for personal gain and blessing. No one could still have faith in God after all that has happened to him. She clearly personally identifies with Satan’s allegations that enough suffering would expose Job’s faith as fake. A fair-weather, self-centred faith that disintegrates when the going gets tough.

 

B. THE THREE FRIENDS

Much of what the three friends say has the sound of truth about it. Much can be supported by verses in other parts of the Bible. This should not surprise us.

Study these verses. What do they say that indicates that Satan (and his servants) hides his lies and his destructive purpose under a veneer of truth?
Genesis 3:1 – 5

 

Matthew 4:1 – 11

 

Matthew 7:15

Matthew 16:22, 23

2Corinthians 11:13, 14

Colossians 2:4

 

But always, when it comes from the enemy’s mouth, God’s truth is misused in some way. Minimized. Over-stated. Misapplied. Misrepresented. With wrong inferences drawn. And always the deep background intention is destructive, whether Satan’s human agents realize this or not.

 

B.1 Eliphaz – Job 4, 5, 15, 22

In this section we look more closely at what Eliphaz said in his three speeches. If we had not already read the prologue (chapters 1 & 2) and God’s statement in 42:7 & 8 (see the Summary at the end of the previous study), we would find ourselves agreeing with Eliphaz, not only in his ‘theology’ (his understanding of God), but also in his opinions about Job. But we have read what God said, so we know that the conclusions drawn by Eliphaz are incorrect.

From these verses, identify:
[1] Eliphaz’ initial confirmation of Job’s previous goodness – 4:3 – 6

[2] His inference that Job thinks himself more righteous than God – 4:17

[3] His inability to even consider that God would accept/acquit a human being – 4:18ff; 15:14 - 16

[4] His assumption that God is correcting Job for some misdemeanor – 5:17

[5] And that when Job has been corrected God will restore him – 5:18 – 26

[6] What he thinks about Job – (the first of which he hinted at in 5:2 – 3).
15:2

15:3

15:4

15:5

15:6

15:7 – 10

 

15:12 – 13

 

[7] His application of the general principle - that ‘the wicked suffer’ – to Job – 15:17 – 35

 

[8] His assertion that God gets no pleasure from the integrity of human faith – 22:2, 3

[9] His allegation that God is punishing Job for extreme wickedness – 22:4, 5, 10, 11

[10] His outright lies about Job’s life – 22:6 – 9

[11] His assumption that what Job has said is the same as the wicked say – 22:13 – 17

[12] His affirmation of the general principle that ‘the righteous prosper’ – 22:21 – 25

[13] His assumption that Job has been harbouring wickedness – 22:23

[14] His failure to perceive that what he is offering to Job, on the basis of Job’s repentance, is the very relationship with God that Job had already enjoyed prior to his suffering – 22:21 – 30.

 

Eliphaz, although at first affirming Job’s prior goodness, began by thinking that Job most likely had some small sin for which God was punishing him, and that if Job would simply acknowledge that, then his suffering would end and his life would be restored to what it had previously been. However, Job’s refusal to accept Eliphaz’ view of what was happening to him really offended Eliphaz. He seriously altered his opinion of Job. His charges against Job in 15:2 – 13 and 22:4 – 11 are extreme. They are also false. He has here become the devil’s advocate. In addition, he tries to coerce Job into compliance with his assessment, and to admit his huge guilt that deserved this great punishment, by promising Job a restored relationship with God.

In this he mimics the methods used by Satan in pressuring both Eve and Jesus:

Eat the fruit, and you will be like God. [But Eve was already ‘the image of God’.]

Worship me, and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world. [But Jesus was already the King of kings.]

And now to Job: Admit your wickedness, and the Almighty will be your gold. Repent, and God will be your delight. [But Job already held God in the highest place. God was Job’s delight. Indeed, it was because the Almighty was the centre and joy of Job’s life that his present suffering, inflicted by God, hurt so much.]

Satan, and those who do his work for him, use ‘fine sounding arguments’ (Colossians 2:4), cleverly disguising error to look like truth, and at the same time actually denying the real truth. (And also cleverly presenting themselves as the keepers of God’s truth.)

Neither Satan nor Eliphaz understand the relationship between a person of faith and God – a guaranteed relationship that is not based on human merit, but depends entirely on God’s mercy.

 

B.2 Bildad – Job 8, 18, 25
Bildad is not as long-winded as Eliphaz, but like Eliphaz, some of the things he says have a sound of truth about them, and we could point to other biblical verses that support some of his statements. But we must not lose sight of the fact that God deemed what he said to be wrong (42:7, 8), so wrong that God was angry with him, and so wrong that a sacrifice was needed to atone for it.

From these verses identify:
[1] Truth cruelly distorted by error – 8:3, 4 (read 1:4, 5)

 

[2] The accusations against Job inferred in Bildad’s comments about what happens to the wicked – 8:13; 18:5 – 21

 

[3] His denial of God’s affirmation of Job – 25:4 – 6 (remember 1:8 and 2:3).

 

Just like Satan’s historic practice, Bildad states, but misrepresents and misapplies, truth. Of course it is true that God does not pervert justice (8:3). He is the Judge of all the earth who does what is right (Genesis 18:25). But the application of this truth to the death of Job’s children (8:4) is completely wrong. We know from the Prologue (1:4, 5) that Job made a regular practice of interceding and sacrificing on behalf of his children, just in case they had sinned. By this God’s justice, if any was called for, was satisfied. It would have actually been a perversion of his justice for their deaths to have been God’s judgement upon them for some personal sin.

Bildad, like Satan, accuses. He makes both overt and hidden accusations. Most of what he says in chapters 8 and 18 is the repetition in various ways of the traditional belief that suffering is the lot of the wicked. His constant barrage of such thoughts is clearly intended to accuse Job of similar wickedness. In addition, his words also accuse Job of misplaced faith (8:14 – 19), paralleling Satan’s accusations of non-genuine faith in chapters 1 and 2.

Bildad, like Satan, does not understand that a human being can actually be right with God. He has no idea of a ‘righteousness’ that is not related to human merit. God has twice affirmed Job as ‘blameless and upright’. Satan derided God’s affirmation. Bildad deemed it impossible: ‘How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?’

Bildad is at one level stating truth. Romans 3:10 states ‘there is no one righteous, not even one’, quoting Psalm 14 and 53. But that is not the only thing that is true. In God’s eternal gospel ‘a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last’ (Romans 1:17). The Lamb of God, through whom this gospel righteousness is obtained, is ‘the Lamb slain from the creation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8).

It is this ‘righteousness that is by faith’ that is affirmed in God’s statements about Job. And it is this ‘righteousness’ that renders both Satan’s and the three friends’ accusations wrong. God, in his pure justice, does not exact punishment from those whom he has already acquitted.

But Bildad, like Eliphaz and Zophar, does not understand this grace-based relationship with God.

 

B.3 Zophar – Job 11, 20
Zophar, trapped in his limited perspective, doesn’t really have much to say that hasn’t already been said. He has nothing to say in the third round of speeches.

How does Zophar align with the enemy in the following?
He suggests that Job is even more sinful than the suffering/punishment indicates – 11:6b

He says that no one can know God – 11:7 – 9

He fails to see that what he promises to Job if he repents is what Job had actually enjoyed prior to his suffering – 11:13, 17 – 19.

He believes that God is punishing Job for sin – 11:14; 20:12 – 29

 

Zophar looks at the extent of Job’s suffering, and accuses him of massive sinfulness, so massive that it deserves even more suffering than what Job is experiencing. He obviously denies the integrity of Job’s faith. He sees it as an outward cover-up hiding a sinful life.

Even though he denies that anyone can know God, he cannot tolerate Job’s refusal to kowtow to the commonly held beliefs. In his initial response to Job he affirms those beliefs even more heatedly than Eliphaz and Bildad.

But, like Satan whose cause he unwittingly supports, he is left with nothing to say.

 

C. AND WHAT ABOUT US?

It is easy for us to criticize Job’s wife and his three friends; and it is right for us to reject their perspectives because God also distanced himself from what they said. But this is one place where Jesus’ warning about judging is quite significant:

‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you’ (Matthew 7:1, 2).

How often do we also act as the devil’s advocates?

In accusing?
In speaking the truth, but in such a way that we misinterpret, misuse or misapply it?
By our twisted understanding of truth?
In destructive comments, rather than supportive, compassionate comments?

For a study on how easily humans cause other humans to suffer go to Sections D and E in Study 5 in Suffering Revisited.