Romans 15:4 says “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Above is Deuteronomy 6:7. Both are talking about meditating on the Word. Well, then let’s discuss Job more.
I’m an angry person. Not always, but I have a hair-triggered temper. If the Lord was into analytics I’m certain he’d tell me some variant of the phrase “pissed off” is my most frequently uttered. I get mad if you cut me off in traffic. I get irked if you use your turn signal and get in front of me legally. I get mad if you go too slow. I get mad if you go too fast. I get mad if you don’t hold the door for a woman or if you say something grammatically incorrect. I get mad if they preempt my TV show or if they don’t preempt to warn me about hail. I get mad if you do something stupid or I do something stupid. I get angry if you correct me, or if you don’t. I get mad at the short-sighted and the 20,000-foot strategists. I get mad if I stub my toe or spill my water. I get mad if my phone doesn’t pull up a web page in 0.00004 seconds or my computer has to reboot to install updates. I get mad if I stay up too late writing or if I go to bed without writing anything. I really, really don’t like being called out on my flaws, and I am really, really mean in a fight. I can get downright cruel at times.
I want to say that was just the unsaved me, but that’s not true. Even with the peace of God inside me I tend toward annoyance, irritability, impatience, intolerance, frustration, and anger at myself and/or others. I would also like to say I inherited it from my parents, both a little rage-aholic as I was growing up, but that’s also not true.
My anger is a character flaw born of self-righteousness. So I can empathize with Job quite a bit. After he’s left childless, penniless, homeless, diseased, and abandoned by his wife his friends come to sit in mourning with him. They all sit in silence for an entire week before finally Job breaks his silence. I know that break. It is the “No, I’m done” break. It is the point where many things, small and large, each of which angers you, combine to send you into first sorrow, then self-pity, then rage. The sorrow and self-pity give you time to mull over the various avenues of “why me?”, “I don’t deserve thIs”, and the inevitable “I am doing my best”. But all that can ever be borne of that is the “realization” of impotence, which always breeds rage. After some grieving period you snap into attack mode. You know those days: the ones where every single thing you try to do goes wrong. You wake up late, smack your head into the shower door, your hair won’t cooperate, you pick up a nail on your way to work after getting nearly side-swiped by some moron on a motorcycle only to find yourself being yelled at by your boss about something you forgot to do that you then get a major paper-cut doing, etc. Those days, in the still of the night when you get home, there is always that moment where you sigh, but instead of relief you feel that urge to scream.
On the seventh day of Job and friends sitting there he finally speaks and curses the day he was born. How’s that for self-pity? His friend Eliphaz is first to speak up in response. Eliphaz’ name means “God is gold”, but that’s not quite the idea of his name. The gold in reference is gold leaf which, in addition to being far more valuable, is agile, meaning it can be applied to just about anything as a covering to make it more valuable. In that context his name says that God is glorious and flexible to cover us in every situation, that He makes us worthy. This is critically important to understand his portion of the conversation, as is where he’s from.
We are told that Eliphaz is a Temanite, meaning he was of the tribe of Teman. Here’s where it gets interesting. The tribe of Teman lived in Idumea, which is the Greek name for Edom, Edom being the land named after Esau, eldest son of Abraham’s son Isaac (so brother of Jacob), who was a redhead (Edom means “red”). Esau’s eldest son was named Eliphaz, whose eldest son was named Teman, who founded a town in which his father then lived. Now the Bible doesn’t outright say he lived there, but Teman was a duke where Eliphaz was not, which makes it seem likely. Why does any of that matter? Well, it would mean Esau’s son was a Temanite. Which may mean that the Eliphaz speaking to Job is actually Esau’s son, which means Job takes place not in the Dispensation of Law, but the Dispensation of Promise. If that’s true it shakes the entire underpinning of the book that we’ve come to accept. See, if it occurs during the age of Promise then he was not a Jew, and he had no Law to guide him. The chosen of God were the children of Jacob, Esau’s brother. It means Job didn’t just live in Uz, which was in Edom, but was a proto-heathen. His friend’s great-grandfather was Abraham, so you can imagine he spoke with as close to authority on the subject of God as anyone in the land could have.
Eliphaz’ first response to Job is that God is never unjust, that accusing Him is folly. He claims that God visited him in a dream and revealed the nature of divine justice. He claims firsthand knowledge of God’s justice, and you can imagine how much of his dad’s struggle with Jacob was riding in that bus. But his message is loose, hard to grasp. He’s trying to be subtle to his friend, but what he is saying is “Job, be careful, bro. If you are seriously cursing the day of your birth you are a fool who will perish, and if not then you are speaking from wrath and your arrogance will cost you dearly. Trust God and walk it off.” It was a sincere, and sincerely impatient, message and deadly accurate. It rings in my ears often.
Job’s response is predictable; it is the initial war cry of any wallowing in self-pity who are given advice: “You just don’t understand the depth of my troubles, and why would you say that to me? How is that supposed to help me? I don’t fear God?! You don’t fear God! How dare you talk to me like that!” It’s the perfect trap to set. Not only does it insult the impatient friend, which prevents them from getting any more patient, but it increases your own sense of self-validation by convincing you that truly no one else can understand your passion, your anger, your woes. So typical. Haven’t you had that moment with your spouse? Where you are in a rage about something and they respond as though you have no right to be mad and are being silly? Our response is always to get mad at them and say they don’t get it.
We can all look at this story and say Eliphaz should have been gentler and Job should have listened more openly, but when we’re in their shoes we make the same choices. We don’t extend patience and understanding to enraged friends nor do we accept any attempts to snap us out of it when we are enraged. Why? It’s that tarnish of the enemy, the corrupt mentality that you should be allowed a period of wallowing or that you should be able to berate people who act stupidly. We have a right to annoyance and aggravation, we think. We’re certain that surly attitudes and sarcasm are virtues, the highest signs of intelligence and sophistication. And you know what? They are.
All intelligence can ever bring you, and forgive my arrogance but I’ve got a decent chunk of intelligence to speak on this one, is an understanding that everyone else is stupid and you need to rule them. It brings us the self-righteousness to hate other people, to say we can’t stand people or we prefer the company of dogs to humans. That is all the fruit this corrupt tree can ever grow, because intelligence without Love is hollow, vain. We cheapen Love because we don’t have enough of it, but we blind ourselves to the fact that we don’t have enough of it because we don’t give enough of it. We create a vicious, self-fulfilling cycle of isolation and segregation. We refuse to give Love to the unworthy and we isolate from any we don’t Love. When we do let someone in we hawkishly watch for them to show that we were right back when we didn’t Love them. Do unto others before they can do unto you. Self-preservation, completely blind to the truth that isolation is death. Because that is how he wants us to be. The enemy stalks about, seeking whom he may devour, and whom he may devour is the lone elk split off from the herd. Doesn’t that sting? It does me.
God is teaching me about rage this week. My whole life I have known I have a seemingly endless reservoir of it. Lately I seem to tap that pool far more than is rational. Enraged about a losing streak in a video game. Enraged about a project at work that’s off-kilter or a coworker who annoys me. Engaged about where I live or don’t live, what I make or don’t make. There is a common thread to it, He tells me. All the things I am mad about are masks for the thing I’m really mad about. So it always is with us. I like to use the analogy that there are a lot of couples getting divorced because he can’t load the dishwasher right when, in fact, the dishwasher has nothing to do with it. It is not irreconcilable differences, it’s “I want to undo ever trusting this idiot.” It is our tendency to mask the thing we don’t want to work through with a papering of other things we’d rather deal with. Certainly that is the path Job chose: to be angry with his friends and dig in to his pity. It’s also the path his friends fell into: instead of helping Love Job out of a clearly horrible circumstance they chose to berate how he responded to it and to them.
What we always have to ask Him is: what am I hiding? What is the thing I’m refusing to see that needs to be dealt with? That thing is the core from which a wellspring of healing may flow, but only if we bring it out into the light. I am desperately searching for that core right now. I don’t want to be an angry person, a disconnected person. I want to live in Love at all times, to respond with open Love regardless of consequence because I trust that Love allows no bad result. The simple, surface answer is that I don’t trust God enough. I am following Satan’s suggestion that perhaps He doesn’t care about me as much as I think, that I’m not truly worthy of His Love.
But that’s the simple explanation. The truth, the core, the thing we must all work out, is the practical reversal of it. What was the first bad, untrusting decision that set us on this path? Because we have to see that to change it, to make a better choice this time around. I don’t know what that is for me or for you but, oh, how I pray we find it.
Father, this message is incomplete because I am still in the midst of this anger. I don’t know how many can identify with it, but I pray, I so deeply implore, that You show us, the ones who do connect, the way out. I want to live in Love and follow Your every whim, but I have stuck myself in this indignant rigidity. Get me out of my own way. Unbind my heart from being Job, from seeing everyone else as Eliphaz. Free me from being Eliphaz and seeing everyone else as whiny Job. Help me choose Love always. I Love You so desperately, Father. Show me the way out. In the name of Your Word, and my brother, Jesus, I pray. Amen.