As a child, did you ever find yourself on the painful side of discipline when you opened your mouth, not so much for what you said, but for how you said it? Even when our words may be acceptable, the tone of our voice and our attitude when speaking reveals what’s really in our hearts.
I think this is the point our friend Eliphaz makes today in chapter 15. A careful read gives us a bit of insight. When I think about Job, I often picture an old man, bald, skinny (after a few weeks of suffering), and hunched over a dying fire. His cranky, discouraging wife is in the background shaking her head at him, and his three younger friends sit nearby pondering what they can say to help. But Eliphaz’s words lead me to believe that Job is not such an old man and that it is his friends who are older. “What do you know that we do not know? What insights do you have that we do not have? The gray-haired and the aged are on our side, men even older than your father.” (15:9-10).
The fact that Job is a younger man speaking to his elders helps me understand his friends’ attitude a bit more. Job’s questions aren’t wrong; it’s the attitude that keeps creeping into his voice that concern them. Eliphaz asks Job, “Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash, so that you vent your rage against God and out such words from your mouth?” (15:12-13) Job’s pain and confusion in trying to understand what God is doing in his life have led him to speak to his elders in a disrespectful way.
In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul tells us that “momentary light affliction” produces an eternal weight of glory far beyond comparison. That word for “affliction” is thlipsis, and its literal meaning is a “pressing together, pressure.” When we are “pressed” or “squeezed,” what is in our heart comes out. That’s the purpose of affliction. The weight of the suffering is meant to expose those things in us that we don’t know are there, so that as they are revealed, we can confess and repent. Job probably surprised himself with the attitude and tone of voice that came out of his mouth. The physical affliction and the spiritual and mental weight of what he was going through revealed the flesh. God was purifying him, and it was painful to face.
Let’s not forget the hope in Paul’s words. Affliction (the weight of suffering) produces an eternal weight of glory. Part of that glory is the image of Christ that is being produced in human flesh. God is squeezing out all that “old nature,” so that His image is what remains and is revealed. What a great picture.
What’s the takeaway? We should be grateful when God decides to “squeeze” us so that we can see what’s really in our heart and be thankful if we have friends who are true enough to call us on it, even if it’s hard to face. God’s got glory in mind.