Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. 12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. 13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. Job 2:11-13
There’s nothing like dear friends surrounding you with their love, prayers and wisdom during the difficult times in life! As I read Job’s account, I noticed several things that I would like to share.
Job’s friends must have been close friends. Who else would run to their friend’s side for a couple of weeks in order to encourage him? These are the actions of someone who is close to him – notice verse 11 says they came to mourn with him AND to comfort him. They were so distraught at what they saw when they approached Job! They did not recognize him, they tore their clothes, sprinkled dust on their heads and sat with him. Those are the actions of a good friend, don’t you think?
I found it interesting, however, that all three of Job’s friends sat in silence for seven days and seven nights! Really? I say this for a reason. My dearest friend and I each lost a parent three days apart from each other. Although we were separated by a thousand miles, we mourned the other’s loss over the telephone. Had a telephone operator been listening in, they would have heard two women crying openly, talking about their parents and trying to encourage the other. As I look back on that time, it was quite pitiful, to be honest. 😦
So with that thought in mind, I wondered why Job’s friends sat in silence for seven days? How could they sit in silence? Was it a tradition of the people at that time? I don’t know. The scriptures say it was because of his grief (Job 2:13). I just find it interesting that they could even keep silent, let alone for seven days and nights!
With tradition as the reason set aside, shouldn’t there have been encouraging words spoken at the end of those seven days? I would have stood up, gone over to him and hugged him, cried with him, and comforted him. I wonder what would have been Job’s reaction if his friends had comforted him – if they had spoken uplifting words – if they had prayed with him? Would this next verse have happened?
After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. 2 And Job spake, and said, 3 Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Job 3:1-3
It’s so important to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. There are times to keep silent and there are times when we must speak. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) There are times when we must correct as an adult and there are times when we must speak as though we are speaking to a child.
Job’s friends, however, didn’t seem to exercise good judgment, in my opinion. Instead of lifting up and encouraging, they began to pass judgment. Not just one friend, but all three! They had seven days and nights of silence to mull around in their heads all the finger pointing that we read about in the chapters following. It was so bad that poor Job admitted:
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty. Job 6:14
What kind of friends are these? All three were pointing a finger at Job. In essence, they were saying, “You had to have done something wrong or you wouldn’t be the recipient of all these curses!” Before we get all pious, I’m sure we can think of specific incidents in our own lives where we have been such a friend! 😦 (Matthew 7:3)
As we read on, we see that the three did not mince their words. Job was feeling overwhelmed:
Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend. Job 6:27
Despite his friends’ passing judgment, despite the trials of family, possessions and physical health, Job came through it all. How?
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. 11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. 12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. Job 23:10-12
Job considered God’s words more valuable and more necessary than food! It was God’s words that kept him alive. It was God’s words that Job lived by before all the tragedies and it was God’s words that sustained him through them all. Job’s friends, and their lack of encouragement, only managed to cause Job to curse the day he was born. However, it was God’s words that brought him through what is considered today the best account of patience and trials! Job is spoken of even today and is used as an example by many: the patience of Job; the trials of Job.
Job lived Psalm 119:92! We have heard the old saying, “Silence is golden.” But it isn’t in all cases. Oh that the believer would rely on the work of the Holy Spirit when it comes to “being there” for those in need!! Would Job have cursed the day he was born if he had been surrounded by friends who would have encouraged him in the Lord instead of being silent? Silence sometimes leads to obsessing over our circumstances rather than overcoming our circumstances. It’s a good thing that Job was spiritually stronger than his friends or we would not have this magnificent book to glean from! I know that I need to turn to and surround myself with Christians who will not sit around and let me fall into the pit of despair but will encourage my heart and lift me up! In turn, I know what kind of friend I must be to others!