Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Miserable Comforters (Job 16-17)

“Miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:2).

When Job’s friends first came to visit, they had every intention of comforting him in his distress. As it turned out, though, comfort was the last thing they delivered. Instead, they became a source of compounded suffering and misery for poor Job. He had already lost his family, his livestock, his riches, and his health—now to add to his suffering, his friends accused him of being a hypocrite and impious, and they labeled him a fool for expressing his grief.

Just as in everything that had happened to him, Job saw God as the cause of all his grief. God brought about the death of his children and the loss of his livestock through Satan’s schemes, and in like manner, God surrounded him with miserable comforters: “God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked. I was at ease, but He has shattered me; He also has taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces …” (16:11–12). From this passage, we learn that the suffering God brings upon us can involve more than the death of loved ones, the loss of wealth, and the pain of sickness. Suffering can come in the form of being surrounded by ungodly companions.

David understood this form of suffering, and often in his psalms he complained of being surrounded by wicked men, by “friends” who brought no comfort, by traitors who sought to torture him by their ungodly counsels. David longed for the comfort of righteous men, to be in the company of those who loved God. More than once he proclaimed how he was a friend to those who loved God’s law, that he found more joy in the assembly of the righteous than in the company of worldly men. Job, too, tasted the bitterness of ungodly company and preferred even death than to be subjected to their pitiless accusations and unjustified reproaches.

Because Job’s “friends” did not understand grace, they could bring no comfort to the Job. They did not comprehend the mercy of God, and therefore, they were incompetent in showing Job any grace and compassion. Only God’s people can reflect this facet of their heavenly Father’s glory. Only those who love God, who seek to be conformed to His image, can bring others the divine comfort they themselves have found in the grace of God.

Are you cold or compassionate? Pitiless or merciful? Harsh or gracious? If you tend to be insensitive when someone is in pain, could it be that you do not understand God’s grace? Look up verses on grace, mercy, and compassion in your concordance. How do you need to reflect these attributes of God?