Who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?
When I was a freshman in high school, I had Mr. Seiler for Freshman Physics. It sounds more daunting than it probably was for most students (although I found it extremely challenging because of all the math involved).
One of the things I do remember learning from Mr. Seiler was Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
We learned this by pushing on a small car. The harder we pushed, the further the car went.
Unfortunately, I also learned about the Third Law of Motion while driving my own car when I was 19. No one was hurt, but the other car also went pretty far when I hit it from behind!
The idea that one action leads to another action runs through nature and is not relegated to just motion.
If I hit my big toe hard on the edge of the couch, I will hurt it and be tempted to say bad words.
If I climb a ladder onto the roof my garage and it slips out from under me on a warm February day, I will fall to the ground and break my wrist requiring surgery, pins and a metal plate.
If I study diligently for a test in a Gospel of Matthew Class – after listening intently, doing all my homework throughout the semester, asking questions, and talking often with the professor – I will get an “A” on that test.
But the idea of “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” isn’t universal. And that’s part of the lesson of the Book of Job.
Job lost his wealth, his health, and his ten children. He had gone through a seven-day mourning period.
Three of his friends came and Sat Shiva with him. They followed the protocol of Sitting Shiva by not speaking unless Job spoke first.
Job finally speaks after seven days. He curses the day he was born.
This allows his friends to respond.
Eliphaz is the first to speak.
And what Eliphaz says is not comforting to Job nor would it be to anyone.
He says, and I’m paraphrasing, “If something bad happened to you, you must have deserved it.”
His words: “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8).
I imagine that if my child had died and one of my friends came up to me and said, “You must have done something bad to deserve this” then that person wouldn’t be my friend anymore.
In Job’s case, his friends are dupes. They are being used by Satan.
Remember, all this is happening to Job because God allowed Satan to do all this. Satan didn’t stop with the taking away of wealth, health, and progeny.
Satan is still at work trying to get Job to give up his faith in God. Or in the words of Job’s wife (also a dupe of Satan), “Curse God and die!”
I don’t think these dupes know they are being dupes, but they are using the words of Satan to try to bring down Job.
Interesting! St. Peter said, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan uses similar tactics on us!
Eliphaz might have realized that his words to Job came from a demonic realm if he were listening to himself, “A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice: ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:15-17)
Sounds like a demon to me! And the questions about God? Sounds awfully familiar to Satan’s questions of Eve in the Garden of Eden!
When something bad happens to us, I pray that a man or woman of God will come to comfort us with the sure and certain words of hope that come from God’s Holy Word alone.
Words like, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16-17).
And, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).
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