By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sermon, 16th June, 2012)
Spiritual Medicine never caused an Overdose!
In what can be likened to prescribing an efficacious drug to a healthy person who does not need it, Job’s friend, Eliphaz, gives a piece of sound advice to an upright person who did not really need it.
That "upright" man was Job (1:1, 8; 2:10). Eliphaz gave him the advice in the mistaken belief that Job did not have right standing with God, hence the predicament he had gotten into.
However, prescribing a healthy person an otherwise effective drug does not make the prescription unworthy in itself–it might well bring relief to a sick person who really needs it.
So is Eliphaz’ advice. The fact that he gave his advice to the wrong person does not invalidate it or detract from its worth. It’s a masterpiece of sound Biblical advice all who seek blessing and approval from God should take to heart. The advice is found in Job 22:21-30:
"Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace [with Him]: thereby good shall come unto thee.
"Receive, I pray thee, the law from His mouth, and lay up His words in thine heart.
"If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up; if thou put away unrighteousness far from thy tents.
"And lay thou thy treasure in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks;
"And the Almighty shall be thy treasure, and precious silver unto thee.
"For then shalt thou delight thyself in the Almighty, and shalt lift up thy face unto God.
"Thou shalt make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee; and thou shalt pay thy vows.
"Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee; and light shall shine upon thy ways.
"When they cast thee down, thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and the humble person He shall save.
"He shall deliver even him that is not innocent: yea, he shall be delivered through the cleanness of thine hands" (RV).
What’s Eliphaz seeking to put across by his advice to Job?
The message is that reconciliation with God brings a blessed life of grace.
Reconciliation: Place your hand in God’s outstretched Hand
Now, how do we make peace with God? What does Elipaz recommend?
An important first step is to familiarize ourselves with God; we need to get to know God better and better. It may come as a surprise, but some people ‘strive’ with their Maker, they may even claim to follow Him but they grumble within themselves and nurse resentment against Him. They are not on good terms with their Creator and Sustainer of their lives.
The LORD always takes notice and bewails their fate.
“Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
1 Cor. 10:10
“Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer”.
Thankfully, reconciliation is what God has set in motion through Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. But the reconciliation is never an end in itself. It’s a means to a higher life in God in which we are created anew in Christ and therefore the old things we did have given way to ‘new things’ which please Him:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
“To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-19).
Thus reconciliation should logically lead to knowing God and His ways better than ever before because our fundamental nature has been changed to conform to His will.
Like every knowledge acquisition, it takes some effort to know God and know Him well. So, what steps does Eliphaz recommend?
First, we need to receive instruction (the law) from His mouth by storing His words in our hearts (v. 22). Although the Book of Job is set in the early patriarchal age (of Abraham, Isaac, etc) before the birth of Moses and even before Israel became a nation, it’s instructive that Moses would later record that God declared the law to the Israelites with His own mouth on Mount Sinai (Deut. 4:13, 5:22). Definitely, this is not a law to lightly esteem. As it is precious things that are stored, the Words of God must be precious to be stored in our hearts. And indeed they are infinitely precious.
David declared: “The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps 119:72; 19:10). To Job, the words of God are of immeasurable value to him than even his daily bread which sustains in his physical life (Job 23:12). And why not? What created food in the first place? And what will continue to assure us of our daily bread as long as we remain on this earth? It’s the Word and the Word. The Lord Jesus sustains our life and all things by “the Word of His power” (Heb. 1:3; cp Ps 104:10-18, 21-23). Since the Word is the divine Power that brought all things into being (John 1:1-3), once we have Him (1 Cor. 1:24) we have everything. We shall never lack; we shall never hunger.
The words of the Lord are not valueless things to discard, but a treasure to store in the vault of our hearts. It is the most precious treasure in the whole of the universe a person can lay his hands on, a treasure whose value does not depreciate over time for all time. It abides forever, and it’s “the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:23-25).
However, we need to create space for the Word in our hearts by emptying the place of all moral and spiritual filthiness which clog the heart and prevent the Word from taking root in our lives. James 1:21 exhorts us, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls”. Similarly 1 Peter 2:1-2, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby”.
Just as our surroundings generate filth when we stop cleaning because we have grown lazy, so moral and spiritual filth dominates our lives when we grow spiritually slothful and allow the flesh to control us by default. When we neglect Bible study, prayer and fasting and hear but do not listen to the Word, the spiritual vacuum created in our lives is quickly filled with the shameful desires of the flesh. The Word is crowded out of our lives. So do “not [be] slothful in business; [be] fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11).
Rather than restrict the ‘operational space’ of the Word, we should “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”. This is a devoted life rich in spiritual activity, rich in the things of the Lord: teaching and mutual exhortation “in all wisdom” and the singing of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with grace in our hearts to the Lord”. What a beautiful life!
We read in Prov. 6:20-24:
“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
“Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
“When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
“To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman”.
Here, God is personified as a parent playing the dual roles of a father and a mother who disciplines, guides and nurtures us by His law. Because of this all-important function of God’s law, we need to esteem His law greatly and make it part and parcel of our life as our constant companion and guide in life. Since “light” answers to the colour white which stands for righteousness, the law of God as our guide in life will always keep us in the path of righteousness wherein is life (Prov. 12:28), while rebuking our waywardness as and when necessary. And it works. It keeps the seducer and the seductress at bay!
The outcome of obedience is a transformed life where the old things of our pre-reconciliation life have been exchanged for the things of our new godly life. That is what it means to return to God: “If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up; if thou put away unrighteousness far from thy tents” (v. 23).
A credible “return” to the Almighty entails putting away iniquity from our "tabernacles"–our life in entirety. It is a complete spiritual and moral overhaul in which we purify our thoughts, speech and actions—even our body language—from all iniquity so our body, soul and spirit will be sanctified (Jam. 4:8; cp 1 Thess. 5:23). It’s a call to true conversion:
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.
“Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ez. 18:30-31).
The result of true conversion is that we shall be established, for "in righteousness shall you be established" (Isa. 54:14). The enemy will fight us, but they shall fall because no weapon formed against us will prosper (Isa. 54:15-17).
Only then will we be able to regard worldly riches and the pursuit of them as worthless (‘dust, brook stones’) in relation to God. Yes, we will now be in a position to trade worldly riches for the riches of knowing God and His will (vv. 24-25). Henceforth God will be our delight, and we’ll focus on Him exclusively because we are no longer preoccupied with a demanding rival interest (v. 26). The Almighty tells us in Jer. 9:23-24:
“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD”.
That was why the Apostle Paul “suffered the loss of all things” in exchange for the invaluable knowledge of Christ:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8).
As the Lord Jesus makes clear in the Sermon on the Mount, it’s impossible to serve God and worldly riches equally (Matt. 6:24). Unless the latter is de-emphasized in our lives, we will tend to love worldly riches at the expense of love for God. But once we love God with all your heart, He never fails to reimburse us a hundredfold:
“Then Peter began to say unto Him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel’s,
“But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:28-30).
If we trade the world for God, we will surely have “plenty of silver” (Job 22:25) in this life and “in the world to come eternal life”. What trade-in will yield such an eternally rewarding dividend?
The Gains of a Restored relationship with God
Having reconciled with God through sincere repentance and ingestion of His word as life’s greatest treasure, the promise which awaits us is that “good will come our way” (v. 21b). This tells us that, first and foremost, God is the source of all goodness. Thus if we do His will, God will release goodness into our lives. His Word does good to those who walk uprightly (Mic. 2:7). But what specific acts of divine goodness does Eliphaz have in mind?
First, God will grant our prayer requests so we can pay our vows in fulfilment of our pledge to God and as an expression of our gratitude to Him (v. 27). He’s a God who hears prayer, but not the prayer of the disobedient who refuses to keep His law or harbours iniquity in his heart (Prov. 28:9; Ps 66:18). But blessed is he whose prayer the Almighty answers. He will heal you when you fall sick, He will deliver you from the hands of your enemies, and He will restore you when you suffer a misfortune. David wrote in Ps 40:
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
“He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
“And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.
“Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
“Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Ps 40:1-5).
Because God answers our prayers, “the requests of our heart” will not remain unfulfilled (Ps 37:4). What we shall purpose and ‘decree’ will happen (v. 28). The secret is that God will be behind your every thought and word to bring it to pass.
“Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established”.
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen”.
Moreover, we will have acquired the divine nature whereby we will be able to replicate (albeit on a smaller scale) God’s ability to command things into being.
“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
“If He called them gods [people having the divine nature], unto whom the word of God came, … the scripture cannot be broken”.
What is more, the light of His law which we have received into our hearts will illuminate our activities and general course of life (Ps 119:105; Prov. 6:23). God will direct our paths (Prov. 3:6) and order our steps in the right way (Jer. 10:23; Ps 37:23). In His light shall we see light (Ps 36:9). We will never be in darkness, for “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18).
Jesus says to us in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”. Jesus is the light because He’s the Word—the Word that guides men as a lighthouse directs ships: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
No part of our lives will be darkened because we are no longer under the influence of the prince of darkness, the devil. Begotten by “the Father of lights” (Jam. 1:17), we are now “the children of Light” and are supposed to live, think and behave as such (Eph. 5:8). In effect, we have become “lights” ourselves and therefore “shine as lights” in a crooked, perverse world through our irreproachable and pure conduct (Phil. 2:15).
But who never falls on occasion? People are prone to fall, but when we are cast down as believers, we should encourage ourselves in the LORD, "There is a lifting up"! However, we should understand that the "lifting up" will not happen unless we humble ourselves before the Lord (v. 29). As it’s written in James, “He giveth more grace. Wherefore He saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (Jam. 4:6). Therefore “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (Jam. 4:10). It’s never the destiny of the righteous to remain permanently on the ground when they stumble. There’s always a lifting up for Him!
“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief”.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in His way.
“Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with His hand”.
It might not easily cross our minds, but we have won the friendship of God by reconciling with Him. And God has a high regard for His friends—such a high regard that He may even spare the guilty on our account because of our uprightness (v. 30). An example is how the LORD was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah when Abraham, His “friend forever” (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; Jam. 2:23), pleaded with Him on their behalf, although they were “wicked sinners” and “the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD” (Gen. 13:13, 19:13). The cities were eventually destroyed because the bargain Abraham reached with God—no destruction if 10 righteous people are found, from an initial bargain of 50 righteous people—failed (Gen. 18:20-33). Not ten righteous people could be found in Sodom and Gomorrah!
Thus, as a friend of God, you plead for an unbelieving family member, and God hears your cry and heals him. You pray for an unsaved friend, and she lands a well paying job (see Luke 11:5-10). Sometimes the Lord even reveals the looming danger to you, and your prayers successfully avert it. If you need further convincing, cast your mind back to how God blessed Potiphar because of Joseph, and you will realize that he whom God loves and blesses is himself a fount of blessing to others.
Turning back to God and His will opens the door to blessings you have never imagined possible in all your wildest dreams! It’s a supernatural, wonderful life of grace. Although he was imperfect and not as spiritually mature as he made himself out to be (Job 42:7-9), Eliphaz’ advice is a spiritual gem. If anyone practices it, it will not fail to yield the amazing results he mentions. Halleluiah!