…After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Job 42:7
Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If He puts no trust in His servants, If He charges His angels with error, How much more those who dwell in houses of clay, Whose foundation is in the dust, Who are crushed before a moth? They are broken in pieces from morning till evening; They perish forever, with no one regarding. Does not their own excellence go away? They die, even without wisdom. Job 4:17-21
The above passage is only a snippet of a larger discourse, but in it we see how Eliphaz took a fundamental truth of God, added his own words, and then used the mixture to verbally assault Job. There is some legitimacy in his remarks; it had an appearance of godliness, but because he contaminated it with his own worldly doctrine, it was powerless. Being half right made him totally wrong and watering down God’s word was hurtful rather then helpful.
I do however find it intriguing that Eliphaz reminded us that we ‘dwell in houses of clay’ although I doubt if he recognized the relevance of his phraseology. The fact that the Lord formed man out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and that the Apostle Paul likens us to earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7) puts forward the notion that we are clay houses and not merely casual inhabitants of them. But that’s not the end of it—we are clay houses with a purpose!
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
If we listen to the false teacher Eliphaz, we might believe that our brokenness is without function; that we live, we die, and we suffer in-between, and rarely, if ever does anyone care to take notice. While that is a gross exaggeration, there is a tiny morsel of truth within it. However, the world would be well served to remember that God does not exist for us, but rather we exist for Him and even in our suffering God can be glorified.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. Colossian 1:16
Therefore, our wholeness and (as it pertains to this story) our brokenness serves a Greater purpose. Let’s go back to the earthen-vessel analogy for a moment. Do you remember the story in Judges of Gideon and his triumph over the Midianites? How he, by God’s direction, took an army of three hundred, armed with trumpets and earthen vessels, and went against a Midianite force of over one hundred and thirty thousand. Do you recall what happened next?
Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers–they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing–and they cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” And every man stood in his place all around the camp; and the whole army ran and cried out and fled. Judges 7:20-21
The light shone when the vessels were broken!
Therein lays our doctrine. In our brokenness the light of Jesus can shine! If we don’t understand the devise of brokenness or refuse to yield to the work God wants to do in it, we become troubled and miserable. But when by faith we chose to see the bigger picture, we are blessed—we recognize God’s divine plan and His purpose for it. We are refined, God is glorified, and non-believers are drawn to His light. For further examination let’s consider the Exodus story.
Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” Exodus 14:1-4
God purposely put His people between a rock and a hard place, or more precisely, between two mountains and the Red Sea. Why? Because in so doing His Divinity and supremacy became known to the Egyptians. Did it work? Yup. Were any of the Egyptians saved as a result? It wouldn’t seem so, but that’s not the issue—God revealed Himself to non-believers and gave them a choice to make—the fact that they chose unwisely isn’t germane to my point.
What if Israel protested; what if they said to Moses, “How dare God bring us to this place of brokenness. This is not fair!” Would that have changed their predicament one iota? No, they still would have had to endure it. Wasn’t it better to understand that in their brokenness God was doing a good work of some sort? Isn’t it a better testimony for us to bear our trials joyfully rather than mournfully?
Can we see God’s hand in our troubles? Is there a bigger picture that we’re not seeing in the loss of a job, the diagnosis, or the death of a loved one? We might never know why bad things happen, but we can find our hope, peace, and assurance in knowing that God’s ways are always righteous and true.