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A Saint in the Hands of an Angry Counselor

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Job 22–24

Wise words of counsel and encouragement are blessings welcomed by any believer. But words are helpful only to the extent that they are true to reality and consistent with the Word of God. How Job could have used humble friends who offered such comforting words.


Job 22 begins the third and final cycle of speeches from Job’s counselors. This time, only Eliphaz and Bildad will speak. And here in chapter 22, we are about to listen to Eliphaz deliver one more condemnation of Job.

Eliphaz is actually angry at this point. He is offended because his supposedly great wisdom has been ignored. You have heard of sinners in the hands of an angry God? Well, here we see a saint in the hands of an angry counselor.

Perhaps you are in the same position Job is in right now. Your actions have been misinterpreted, your motives have been questioned, and you are being condemned for no fault of your own. Well, if so, this chapter is especially for you. In fact, this chapter is for every believer who gives any kind of counsel to another person.

Eliphaz actually becomes an example here of how not to counsel. I want to point out four errors of Eliphaz. The first error he makes is to condemn Job without understanding the context. He says here in chapter 22:

“Can a man be profitable to God? . . . Is it any pleasure to the Almighty if you are in the right, or is it gain to him if you make your ways blameless?” (verses 2-3)

In other words, he is saying, “Job, do you think you benefit God in any way? Do you think God even cares about your claim to be godly? Why don’t you look around? Where is any evidence that you even matter to God?”

What condemning, uncaring words to a suffering man. The truth is, Job is under the watchful care of God as he is being tested. Why, the angelic world is bending over the balcony, so to speak, watching this great battle take place.

Eliphaz is the one who doesn’t care about Job. Eliphaz cares only about being right.

Second, Eliphaz counsels Job on the basis of outward appearances. He asks Job in verse 5, “Is not your evil abundant?” He looks merely at Job’s outward appearance and concludes that he is suffering abundantly because he has sinned abundantly.

Again, we know from chapter 1 that Job is suffering, not because he is in trouble with God but because he can be trusted by God to remain faithful, in the face of Satan’s attacks.

A third error of Eliphaz is that he invents sins that justify Job’s punishment. Here is where Eliphaz goes out on a limb. If Job is being punished for sins, where are they? Well, Eliphaz doesn’t know, so he just makes some up.

He accuses Job with taking advantage of the poor, claiming in verse 6, “You have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing and stripped the naked of their clothing.” No, he hasn’t. He accuses Job of turning away the needy (verse 7) and mistreating widows and orphans (verse 9). That’s not true either. He even puts words in Job’s mouth in verses 13-14: “But you say, ‘What does God know? . . . he does not see.’”

Now the fourth error here is that Eliphaz misrepresents God by making shallow promises. Eliphaz promises Job that if he confesses his sin, God will remove every problem from his life. He says in verse 28: “You will decide on a matter . . . and light will shine on your ways.” That’s his solution: “Confess, Job, and your life is going to be filled with sunshine and roses.”

Frankly, many counselors and preachers make this same claim today. They present Christianity as a quick cure for everything. This is a false gospel. The Bible actually promises that a godly person is going to experience suffering and even persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Becoming a Christian just might make your life more difficult, not less difficult.

Well, Job responds in chapter 23. He knows he is suffering, and he knows God is behind it all. He says in verses 3-4:

Oh, that I knew where I might find him . . . I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.

He is convinced that if he can just get a fair trial, he will be “acquitted forever” (verse 7).

Job then makes this astounding statement of faith in verse 10: “When he [has] tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”[1]

Job still believes that God has a reason for his suffering—that God is purifying him like refined gold for His own purposes. He does not know what they are, but Job amazingly—faithfully—trusts the hand of God.

I am reminded of that great hymn of the faith, “How Firm a Foundation” by John Rippon, who wrote:

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Now in chapter 24 Job catalogues some sins that are all around him—sins like greed and theft (verse 2), oppression (verse 3), murder and adultery (verses 14 and 15), and more.

This is a clever answer to Eliphaz by the way. Job implies that if God always punishes people because of their sin, why are so many sinners going unpunished?

That probably only makes Eliphaz angrier than ever. Frankly, Eliphaz is working on Satan’s behalf, not God’s. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He wants the believer to live under a cloud of guilt and a sense of displeasure from God.

How different is the counsel that finds its source in Satan from that which comes from God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of specific sin and when we confess it, He doesn’t bring it up again. Satan, on the other hand, constantly throws our sin back in our face. He loves to remind us of sins that have already been confessed and forgiven and no longer need our attention.

I’ve heard it said that the devil is like a dishonest mechanic. Even if he can’t find something that needs to be fixed, he will tell us he did. As a result, we end up paying for things to be fixed that aren’t even broken.

The truth is, we can all play the role of Eliphaz. As spouses, we can refuse to forgive; as parents, we can remind our children of their failures; as teachers and colleagues, business partners, and classmates, we can withhold words of approval and thanks and commendation.

Like Eliphaz, we can become an angry counselor, more interested in being right than in bringing hope. Eliphaz, the angry counselor, brings no hope to the heart of Job.

To this day, the believer who is on the verge of losing heart often believes God has forgotten him. But He hasn’t. Job says here in verse 23, at this low moment in his life, that God’s eyes are on the ways of His people. He knows where they are and what they are going through.(@end and add “2 Chronicles 16:9)

John Rippon wrote further in that great hymn these words:

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.

Beloved, when you are in the dark, when you don’t know which way to turn, even when you’re in the hands of an angry counselor, you are still, ultimately, in the hands of your all-wise, ever-loving, gracious heavenly Father.

[1] King James Version

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