Then Job answered and said,…
These words express Job's opinion of his friends. Nor is it a harsh judgment. These friends missed, and misused, their opportunity. They wanted to be at the philosophy of the matter. Many men now, when asked to assist a neighbour, are more ready "to trace the history of the ease," than to render assistance. Job's comforters deserved the epithet "miserable," because —
I. THEY FORGOT THAT AFFLICTION IS NOT NECESSARILY PUNITIVE. And, conversely, all exaltation is not blessedness. Job's comforters saw only the surface, and reasoned from what they saw. They did not discriminate between Job's circumstances and the man Job. They did not discriminate between the body of Job and Job. Allowing that the affliction of Job fell heavily on his soul, it was not necessarily punitive on that account. God subjects His people to tests and disciplines as well as to punishments. Christian men are in the school of Christ, and must accept its discipline.
II. THEY DID NOT DISCRIMINATE BETWEEN MEANS AND ENDS. Not to do so is grievously to err in matters religious; not doing so is practical superstition. A man regards church going, Bible reading, attendance upon ordinances, as ends instead of means. What then? He lessens the felt necessity for the broken and contrite heart. Nay, more, he will never rise into the region of the spiritual, so will never worship God acceptably.
III. WE SHALL NEVER BENEFIT A FELLOW MAN BY CASTING THE PAST IN HIS TEETH. Even if a child has been naughty in the past, we shall only harden it by dwelling upon the fact. Our Lord never twitted men about their past. Job's comforters gratuitously assumed that Job's past had not been well spent, and so they merited the epithet "miserable." We all need comfort; we can get it only in Christ. If we are seeking it in fame, money, friends, learning — anything appertaining exclusively to this world — the time will come when we shall exclaim of these things, "Miserable comforters are ye all," May that sentence not be uttered in eternity.
(J. S. Swan.)
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