Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the June 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Application: “Down in the Dirt with Your Friends,” by David Faust
Lesson Aim: Be a comforting friend rather than a miserable comforter.
By Mark Scott
Karl Ketcherside said, “It’s one thing to have salt rubbed in your wound; it’s another thing to be billed for the salt.” That is especially painful when the bill comes from one of your friends. That was how Job was feeling by the time we reach chapter 16. All three of his original friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) have spoken to Job at least once—Eliphaz has actually made two speeches.
Job responded to his “friends.” In the Bible the word friend is used for an endearing relationship. We find this especially in the Gospel of John (John 15:15). But at times in Scripture the word friend is used as a synonym for buster. We find this especially in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 20:13; 26:50). However well intended they were, Job’s friends fell into that latter category. Job referred to them as miserable comforters (grievous or perverse). But that is not to suggest we cannot learn from even unjustified criticism. In these selected Scriptures we learn some positive truths from some negative people.
True Friends Empathize| Job 16:1-5
Job’s friends intended to empathize with him (Job 2:11-13). But when they heard Job attempting to justify himself, these friends became prosecuting attorneys. Job rebuked them by suggesting that they and he switch places. Perhaps then they would not be so quick to condemn. The long-winded speeches were not edifying. Job thought these friends were speaking out of what ailed them (i.e., made them sick).
Job made a bold assertion. If the tables were turned, he would act nobly. While he might be tempted to make fine speeches and shake his head (Psalm 22:7; Mark 15:20), he would, in fact, encourage (strengthen or make strong) and comfort (i.e., to cease quivering) them. Of course, Job’s argument is a hypothesis contrary to fact (logical fallacy). Since it did not happen, we cannot know what might have happened.
True Friends Affirm | Job 16:15-21
Job admitted that he wore himself out arguing against God. In verses 6-14, Job felt God had worn him out, torn him apart, given him over to the ungodly, and broken him. He admitted he had evidenced the sign of deep mourning (sewn sackcloth over his skin), buried his brow in the dust, and wept until his face was red and his eyes had dark shadows. He cried out for the earth not to cover his blood (Genesis 4:10) and for his cry not to be laid to rest.
In spite of Job feeling he had been mistreated, he maintained his hands had been free of violence and that his prayer was pure. In other words, unlike what his friends had done to him, he would have tried to affirm them if things had been reversed. Job longed for friends who would function as intercessors andwho would plead for a friend. Instead, his friends scorned him as his eyes poured out tears to God. Job so needed affirmation.
True Friends Are Kind and Dependable | Job 6:12-17
Job did not overestimate his ability to endure such pain. He admitted he did not have strength of stone. He admitted his skin was not made of bronze. He felt depleted of power and that any sense of success was not in the stars for him. He needed kindness and friends upon whom he could lean. What he received, instead, were friends (called brothers) who were as undependable (treacherous or faithless) as the ancient wadis of Israel. These riverbeds were dry most of the time until a flood came. Then they became white-water rapids. But then, as quickly as they had become full, they would dry up in the heat and vanish from their channels.
God is kind to the “ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35), and Job longed for that kind of friend. In fact, he said, “Anyone who withholds kindness (chesed, i.e., covenantal love) from a friend actually forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” True friends give away buckets of chesed (loving kindness).
One way to ensure that we are not miserable comforters is to become more like God. Tucked away in this passage is a very brief glimpse into what Job knew deep in his primal being. It is located in Job 16:19. Job knew his ultimate friend was the witness in heaven. God himself would be Job’s best advocate (mediator). Job knew down deep that God would have the last word (Job 19:25, 26), and that is why he could commit to him (Job 13:15).
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.