At a certain point in the story of Job, several (three to be exact) acquaintances of Job came by to check in on him and give him their “sage” advice; although Job does not receive it very well. If it is hard to know what to say in the face of another’s suffering, two of these “friends” illustrate that very well. Biblical commentators could probably say more clearly what was wrong and distorted about their advice. The third friend, the youngest of the three, seems to have a better handle on Job’s situation. This is Job’s response to one of the two friends’ attempted words of comfort.
“Then Job answered:
“Today also my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling! I would lay my case before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would learn what he would answer me, and understand what he would say to me. Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power? No; but he would give heed to me. There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever by my judge. “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.” (Job 23:1-9)
When I think about Job’s two friends and their visit to him, it occurs to me it is like visiting someone in the who is very ill and speaking not to their physical ailment and suffering but giving “goodly/Godly” advice that would make the ill person instantly better if they would only follow the advise.
“God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!” (Verses 16 – 17)
But to my way of thinking, Job does not need advice but recognition of his situation and illness.
The other Old Testament passage is a section from the book of the prophet Amos. Prophets, amongst other things, gave advice . . . . and warnings. It is interesting to think about sinfulness as being an illness that prevents one from being in relationship to God. I wonder if we thought about sin as an illness, would the words of the prophet be as welcome?
“Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! . . . . They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins– you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time.” (Amos 5:6 – 7, 10 – 13)
The sin that Amos is speaking of is the actions of those who are higher up in society or more established and affluent in their circumstances. Do you think, beloved reader, that the selfish and callous actions of other is the result of some illness or deficiency in one’s being? Well, actually, if it is I don’t there is any medication or medical treatment that will cure such things.
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” (Verses 14 – 15)
Illness of the heart and soul – that what it is. The inability to sustain compassion, and the deficiency of caring. Job was not afflicted in this way, but may-hap his so-called friends were. Job’s friends might well have seen Job’s illness as a manifestation of the “sickness” of his inner spirit. (Again, biblical commentators might have a better grasp on understanding Job’s friends and their comments.) According to Amos’ assessment Job should be a well and healthy man. And if you skip ahead in Job’s story you will find out that health and well-being was returned to him.
On of the things that Job says is that he feels God has abandoned him – “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but I cannot see him” Job said. Amos says live well and the God of hosts will be with you. It may take a week to reconcile these two perspectives. Shalom!