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The Basics of Bad Counsel

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Eliphaz is the first of Job’s three friends to respond to Job. He must have sat there and stared at Job is disbelief. What Eliphaz had expected to come out of Job’s mouth, and what actually did come out of Job’s mouth were two very different things. Eliphaz was not shocked simply because of how dark Job’s hour was- that he wished for death to come. Eliphaz was shocked because he expected to hear a penitent Job, openly confessing and weeping over his sin. He expected to hear Job acknowledge that he had gotten what he had deserved from God. To Eliphaz, the case of Job was an open-and-shut case of divine judgment of sin. Yet quite the opposite Job is longing for death because he has been walled off from the favor of God for no apparent reason.
Preconceived notions can get us into trouble. One of the most dangerous things to do to a pastor is to come up to him right before he is about to preach, and say, “I need to talk to you sometime in private.” What instantly goes through the mind of the preacher? Something bad is about to happen. Now, I spend the entire time I am preaching thinking in the back of my mind, “O boy, what do I have in store for me? It’s going to be terrible news, and it’s going to hurt a lot.” Then, the person in question pulls me aside and says, “Your messages have really been a blessing in my life lately. I just wanted you to know that.” I don’t know whether to hug em or strangle em! Be kind to your preachers, and wait until after the service to talk to them. But, it is our preconceived ideas as pastors that can get us into trouble.
Job’s three friends came with preconceived ideas. Job’s friends came expecting to hear Job cry, “Have mercy on me O God for my many sins.” Instead this is what they heard, “O that the day of my birth and the night of my conception would have been removed from the creative event. O that I would have died in child birth, or had been born a stillborn and been hidden in the grave, O that I would die soon- I would rejoice as one who has found great treasure. Because my way forward is hidden, and God has walled me off from His blessing and his favor and I have no idea why. Why is God doing this to me? I am miserable, I cannot rest, I cannot relax, I cannot settle.”
To Job’s friends they must have though that Job was out of his mind. How could Job refuse to acknowledge his great sinfulness? Was Job is denial? Or worse rebellion?
Why would Job’s friends have such serious preconceived notions about Job? Because of their firm believe in Retribution Theology.
“Retribution theology holds that there is an automatic connection between a person’s deeds and state of being.”
I would add- the connection operates in this life, not just in eternity.
If you do good God will bless you, if you do evil God will punish you.
So according to Job’s three friends right now in Job’s life he is experiencing what? God’s judgement therefore, Job must have done what? Evil. To them it is a forgone conclusion. They are shocked that Job is giving any other kind of explanation to his situation. Their theology will not allow for any other alternative.
Due to his flawed preconceived notion Eliphaz models for us some basics of bad counsel.

I. Bad Counsel May Be Given with the Best of Intentions

A. He Tried to Soften the Blow

Job 4:1–5 KJV 1900
1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said, 2 If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? But who can withhold himself from speaking? 3 Behold, thou hast instructed many, And thou hast strengthened the weak hands. 4 Thy words have upholden him that was falling, And thou hast strengthened the feeble knees. 5 But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.
V. 2- Job if I attempt to counsel you will you be impatient? But I’m going to talk with you anyway because did you just hear what you said?
Now don’t be offended, but … I am going to say something really offensive anyway.
VV. 3-5 Look Job you, yourself have many times been in my position. You have instructed many, you have strengthened those who are weak, You have upheld those who would stumble. Now you are in the position of being weak, and needing instruction, and having fallen to the ground- but you are impatient. Pain and sorrow have touched you, God’s judgement has come upon you, and now you are dismayed.
Look Job you already know what to do for someone in your position. But you are unable to help yourself, because you are not applying your own teaching to yourself. The idea is- let me help you!

B. He Gave a Mild Reproof

Job 4:6 KJV 1900
6 Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, Thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?
Here Eliphaz asks Job two rhetorical questions.
Is not your reverence or your fear of God your confidence?
The word “Fear” refers to the inner response of reverence toward God, expressing itself in devotion and in deeds of compassion.
The word “Confidence” has the idea of genuine faith in God, and one who has such confidence remembers what God has done for him and is careful to keep God’s commandments.
In other words, your fear or your reverence towards God produces a genuine faith in God. Should this not give you the inner strength necessary from falling into evil? Eliphaz is responding to Job’s previous statements, “I want to die.” And Eliphaz is offering a mild reproof of Job here- shouldn’t your reverence and genuine faith give you the inner strength necessary to not say these evil things?
2. Is not the uprightness or the integrity of your ways your hope?
Your past display of uprightness or integrity shows the reality of your hope in God.
“The wholeness of such a faith should provide the one who serves God with the resolution to face every obstacle.” (Hartley, 107)
So Eliphaz earnestly wants Job to avoid speaking in such negative terms- because he knows Job’s faith and hope should give him the strength to avoid such evils.
So it seems that Eliphaz has good intentions. He tries soften the blow, and he asks Job rhetorical questions (which is the best method to get people to stop and think). He does all this as kindly and tactfully as possible.
Is any of this helpful to Job right now? Not really. Eliphaz has not really listened to Job’s situation. And what’s more he is about to suggest retribution theology as the answer to Job’s problems. In v. 3 when he states that Job used to help many people who were is a similar situation to his, what counsel do you think Job used? Probably the same as Eliphaz is about to use- retribution theology. The problem is that Job’s theology no longer works. His entire theological framework is crumbling around him, and what does Eliphaz try to do? Help him with the very same failing theology.
It would be like a doctor who for years prescribed to his patients margarine to help deal with their cholesterol. Now that doctor is dying from using too much margarine (because as it turns out it is bad for you). Then one of his friends comes and in order to try to help give the dying doctor what? More margarine. He may do it kindly and tactfully, but is it helpful? No!
If the basis of our theology is wrong, if our fundamental thinking about God is bad then our counsel will be bad as well. Even if we do it with the best intentions, it is still wrong.

II. Bad Counsel May Seem Scriptural

A. The Positive Side of Retribution Theology

Job 4:7 KJV 1900
7 Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?
Again Eliphaz asks two rhetorical questions which both expect a negative answer.
Have the innocent ever perished? No the innocent have never perished. God’s justice would not allow that.
Have the righteous or the upright ever been destroyed? No the righteous have never been unjustly cut off.
With these questions Eliphaz hopes to rebuild Job’s confidence by asserting the positive side of retribution theology. Righteousness always brings a reward.

B. The Negative Side of Retribution Theology

Job 4:8–11 KJV 1900
8 Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, And sow wickedness, reap the same. 9 By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. 10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, And the teeth of the young lions, are broken. 11 The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, And the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.
V. 8- Here Eliphaz states that from his own eyes he has seen those that plow iniquity- those that purposely and diligently pursue a course of wickedness reap nothing but trouble. If you sow trouble you will reap trouble. In other words you reap what you what? sow. Wait a minute isn’t this a Scriptural principle?
Galatians 6:7 KJV 1900
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
So then, why is this counsel from Eliphaz wrong? It sounds pretty Scriptural to me. Hold on to that thought.
V. 9- These wicked ones will be destroyed by the breath of God Himself. Notice how he intensifies the second part of V. 9- by the “breath of his nostrils” the idea here is by the blast of God’s anger they are consumed.
V. 10- Even the mighty lions cannot escape the judgement of God. Have you ever been near a lion when it roars? You can literally feel the power of its voice slam into your body. Even the mighty lion cannot stand against God’s judgement. His teeth will be broken, he will perish for lack of food, and his cubs will be scattered.
This is the negative side of retribution theology. The wicked will be punished. Sin brings consequences.
So, is his argument Scriptural?
Look at V. 9 again.
Job 4:9 KJV 1900
9 By the blast of God they perish, And by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.
It is possible that Eliphaz is making a subtle allusion to the tragedy of Job’s life.
Job 1:18–19 KJV 1900
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: 19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
What was it that killed Job’s children? A great wind from the wilderness. How does Eliphaz describe the judgement of God on the wicked? By the breath of his nostrils are they consumed. What is the implication? Job you and your children got exactly what you deserve. You must have sowed wickedness because you reaped what? Judgement. This is the law of retribution. God does not punish without a cause, so you Job must have sinned. There is no other option.
What’s the problem?
Job 2:3 KJV 1900
3 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
What are the last two words of that verse? Without cause. God himself states that Job’s children were destroyed without a cause. In other words it was not an act of divine judgement on Job that his children were destroyed.
This does not mean that God is capricious or mean spirited. Rather, that God works according to his own sovereign purpose and plan that we just do not always have the ability to understand. God is still perfectly just, and righteous, and good, and we must have faith in His mysterious ways.
So where does Eliphaz go wrong? His argument seems so scriptural, yet clearly he is mistaken.
We must be careful with our hermeneutic, that is our method of interpreting God’s Word.
The problem here is that Eliphaz is taking a proverb (a general truth), and making it into an absolute truth.
Prov 22- Two main types of verbs in Hebrew- perfect and imperfect. Perfect indicates universal truth. Imperfect implies things might happen a lot, but not always.
Proverbs 22:2 KJV 1900
2 The rich and poor meet together: The Lord is the maker of them all.
V. 2- Rich and poor meet together- Perfect verb- whether rich or poor God is your maker
Proverbs 22:6 KJV 1900
6 Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.
V. 6- Will not depart- imperfect, often true but not universally
Proverbs 22:8 KJV 1900
8 He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: And the rod of his anger shall fail.
V. 8- Sows injustice will reap calamity- imperfect
Proverbs 22:12 KJV 1900
12 The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, And he overthroweth the words of the transgressor.
V. 12- Eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, perfect universally true
Eliphaz in most of his statements is using imperfect verbs, but he is universally applying those truths to Job’s situation.
He is also failing to consider other alternatives because he is so locked in to his particular interpretation of the events.
We should never get to the point to where we think we know everything.
What about Gal 6.7?
Galatians 6:7 KJV 1900
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
What do we do with this passage? Is it wrong like Eliphaz was wrong? No, it is generally true in this lifetime.
Hebrews 11:35–39 KJV 1900
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
This these saints reap what they sowed in this lifetime? No. What happened to them was really bad. But will they be rewarded for their faith in eternity? Absolutely.
So we must be careful of applying the idea of sowing and reaping universally in this lifetime.
Even then, will we get what we deserve in eternity? Some of us will. Those that have not placed their faith in Christ will suffering eternal punishment. What about those that have placed their faith in Christ. Will we get what we deserve? Not really. We will get way more than we deserve, not because of our own effort, but because of what? God’s grace. So we must be careful to universally apply general truth.
Do we still follow retribution theology today?
Health and wealth gospel / prosperity gospel. I remember my grandpa saying to me, “you can’t out-give God” That might be true, but it doesn’t mean if you send all of your money to an evangelist on TV that God will make you rich.
Legalism- If you have your devotions, and pray, and dress a certain way, and part your hair a certain way, and go to church, and knock on doors then God will richly bless you and your life will be roses.
All of it stems from wrong thinking about God. Eliphaz could not conceive of a God who would allow what happened to Job, unless Job was guilty of some kind of terrible sin. But Job was not guilty, and God did allow it. Our preconceived notions can get us into trouble and wrong thinking about God will always lead to wrong theology and wrong living- not to mention bad counsel.

III. Bad Counsel May Come From Personal Experience

A. His Vision

VV. 12-16 He describes how this vision came to him.
Job 4:12–16 KJV 1900
12 Now a thing was secretly brought to me, And mine ear received a little thereof. 13 In thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falleth on men, 14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones to shake. 15 Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair of my flesh stood up: 16 It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: An image was before mine eyes, There was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,
It came in a low volume,
It came at night in private (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph received important revelation in dreams).
Made him afraid
Included a spirit apparition
Its presence was detectable
It gave him goose bumps
The form, however, could not be discerned
V. 17- Indicates what the spirit said. No man can be righteous before God.
Job 4:17 KJV 1900
17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?
Again Eliphaz uses rhetorical questions.
Can a man be more just than God? Or Can a man be in the right before God? Both are possible translations. Obviously man cannot be more just than God. But can one even stand before God and be in the right?
Can a man be more pure than his maker? OR Can a man be pure before his maker?
Both questions are “quite unfair; for Job has not questioned the ways of God, let alone claimed to be better than God. All he has done so far is to say how miserable he feels, how he wishes he were dead.” (Andersen, 114).
VV. 18-21 Human frailty precludes the possibility of one being righteous before God.
Job 5:18–21 KJV 1900
18 For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and his hands make whole. 19 He shall deliver thee in six troubles: Yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. 20 In famine he shall redeem thee from death: And in war from the power of the sword. 21 Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.
As Longman notes, “If God does not trust his angels, who are presumably closer to him and more powerful, then why would he trust human beings?”
V. 18-God does not even trust his spirit being servants with his most important tasks (whether he is referring to angels or demons here is difficult to tell).
VV. 19-21-Humans are far lower than angels, so he does not trust them either.
(i) They are made of dust.
(ii) They are as fragile as the moth.
(iii) They are like a tent held up by a single strand.
He may or may not have actually had a vision. In that dispensation, it is possible that the Holy Spirit appeared to him.
Vs. 18-21, however, seem problematic. Hartley, 113, notes: “whereas the usual basis in the OT for this thought of human unworthiness is humanity’s sinful disposition, Eliphaz grounds the doctrine of human insignificance on humanity’s inferiority before God.”
(1) If they are just his commentary, then he is making an inappropriate application.
(2) If they are part of the report of the vision, then whatever he experienced was not from God.

B. His Observation

Job 5:1–2 KJV 1900
1 Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; And to which of the saints wilt thou turn? 2 For wrath killeth the foolish man, And envy slayeth the silly one.
Eliphaz supports the argument through personal observation.
V. 3 – though the fool seems to prosper, Eliphaz wastes no time in uttering the curse/destruction that will come upon him.
Job 5:3 KJV 1900
3 I have seen the foolish taking root: But suddenly I cursed his habitation.
V. 4 – even though his heirs might expect justice in the gate, they find none. They do not even have a defender for themselves.
Job 5:4 KJV 1900
4 His children are far from safety, And they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.
V. 5 – they lose both new wealth (harvest) and accumulated riches.
Job 5:5 KJV 1900
5 Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, And taketh it even out of the thorns, And the robber swalloweth up their substance.
VV. 6-7 This destruction is not a result random natural causes
Job 5:6–7 KJV 1900
6 Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, Neither doth trouble spring out of the ground; 7 Yet man is born unto trouble, As the sparks fly upward.
“These verses imply that man’s troubles are innate and inevitable.” (Andersen, 119).
All is a result of the cause-effect chain of the law of retribution
Since all sin he can say that a man is born for trouble.
I recently listened to a sermon by a pastor for pastors. In that sermon, the preacher gave an illustration of how their church started out with nothing, and through hard work and a lot of prayer they grew and were able to build a new building. One of the ways there were able to build was because they got a grant of a very large sum of money through guess what foundation? The Lasko foundation. This is the same foundation that we have applied for twice and been denied twice for a grant to build our new building. Now, what was the impression I could have taken away from that sermon? Well, we must be doing something wrong at our church because God blessed them, and not us. We must not be praying enough, or have enough faith, or there must be some kind of wickedness going on. That is what retribution theology would say. But it may not be. Now is not God’s timing. Now is not God’s plan, and I can trust God, and remain faithful even though I don’t understand the mysterious ways of God.
Be careful about the tendency we have to channel advice through our personal experiences. Personal experience can be easily misunderstood or misapplied. Eliphaz might have had a prophetic vision from the Lord, he may have seen certain instances of the wicked being punished, but it did not apply to Job’s situation.

IV. Bad Counsel May Have a Respectful View of God

A. His Encouragement

Job 5:8 KJV 1900
8 I would seek unto God, And unto God would I commit my cause:
Here, Eliphaz is taking a much more positive tone. We can almost see him trying to encourage Job.

B. God’s Deeds

Eliphaz advises a repentance and trust in God as the solution to Job’s troubles.
Vss. 9-10-This is the God who controls the weather.
Job 5:9–10 KJV 1900
9 Which doeth great things and unsearchable; Marvellous things without number: 10 Who giveth rain upon the earth, And sendeth waters upon the fields:
b) Vs. 11 – he controls human affairs
Job 5:11 KJV 1900
11 To set up on high those that be low; That those which mourn may be exalted to safety.
c) Vss. 12-14 – He unravels the well-laid plains of evildoers.
Job 5:12–14 KJV 1900
12 He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, So that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. 13 He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: And the counsel of the froward is carried headlong. 14 They meet with darkness in the daytime, And grope in the noonday as in the night.
d) Vs. 15-16 – he helps the weak
Job 5:15–16 KJV 1900
15 But he saveth the poor from the sword, From their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty. 16 So the poor hath hope, And iniquity stoppeth her mouth.
There is still a tone of retribution theology, but overall it seems that through a respectful view of God Eliphaz is trying to encourage Job to turn to God in repentance over his sin.
The TV evangelist may be very respectful of God and may be very encouraging as well, but they are still going to tell you to call in and give them your money.

V. Bad Counsel Makes Promises It Cannot Keep

A. Righteousness Guarantees Deliverance

Deliverance from distress comes according to the law of retribution
Vs 17-18 - Distress is meant to be therapeutic.
Job 5:17–18 KJV 1900
17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: 18 For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: He woundeth, and his hands make whole.
Vs 19 – Though many troubles may come, God will deliver from them all.
Job 5:19 KJV 1900
19 He shall deliver thee in six troubles: Yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.
Vs. 20 – troubles may include those of nature or those from man.
Job 5:20 KJV 1900
20 In famine he shall redeem thee from death: And in war from the power of the sword.
Vss 22-3 – God, however, delivers from even the most common of possible threats to one’s life (beasts, rocks in field, drought could all threaten the food supply).
Job 5:22–23 KJV 1900
22 At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. 23 For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.

B. Righteousness Guarantees Reward

Vs 24-6 – This deliverance leads to peace and prosperity.
Job 5:24–26 KJV 1900
24 And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; And thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin. 25 Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, And thine offspring as the grass of the earth. 26 Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, Like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.
As a final touch, Eliphaz assures him that what he is saying has been searched out and is true (27)
Job 5:27 KJV 1900
27 Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.
What is the problem with Eliphaz’s counsel?
The problem with Eliphaz, of course, is that he cannot deliver any of what has been promised.
Again, that TV evangelist what does he promise? Give us (I mean God) your money, and you will be what? Rich. O really can you guarantee that?
Are we guilty of this?
If you pray long enough and hard enough then God will give you what you want. Now should you pray. Absolutely, to walk with God, and to know Him. But not to make God bless you because of your “righteousness”
Give your life to God and He will richly bless you and make everything OK. Should we give our lives completely to God? Absolutely, because Jesus has paid the price of our redemption, and because God is worthy of our adoration and praise. We should not do it to force God into blessing us because of our “righteousness”
Do not promise anything that you cannot deliver.
All of this bad counsel from Eliphaz, good intentions, seemingly Scriptural, based on personal experience, seemingly respectful to God’s person, and making promises he cannot keep, all of it stems from a faulty premise. A preconceived notion of retribution theology cause this bad counsel. Wrong thinking about God will lead to wrong living. We must be careful, accurate, and entirely Scriptural in what we believe about our God so as to avoid the error of Eliphaz, and God forbid counseling others into the same error.
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