What is man, that he could be pure, or one born of woman, that he could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water!Job 15:14-16
Eliphaz returns, as all the friends do, to their narrow and worn-out theology. Of course, Eliphaz has Job in mind here:
Vile and corrupt, who drinks up evil like water. I hope you have seen the fault in this line of argument. It is not that their theology is wrong; it is right. Eliphaz is pointing out the general nature of the fall and its effects upon human life, particularly the depravity of man. And he says rightly that there is nobody who is clean, nobody who is righteous before God. But what he fails to do is to point out to Job specifically what it is that he has done. How can you deal with evil if you do not know what it is? The great revelation that God is seeking to help Job understand is the nature of the corruptness of his heart. But God never charges Job with fault until he begins to see what is wrong, while these men come ready to charge him with every ugly thing in the book, though they have no proof at all. Job's life makes all their charges a lie. As a matter of fact, they themselves are guilty of the very things that they set before Job because they too are part of the human race. Eliphaz is a man born of woman, so he is guilty along with Job based on this fact, but you never hear a word of self-condemnation from him.
This is the terrible fault of these friends, and I hope it teaches us a very needed lesson. When we talk with somebody who is suffering or living in an obviously sinful state, we must never take the position of priggish smugness or a complacency that pictures us as being right and true and the other one as wrong.
Eliphaz goes on in a long passage to argue again from experience. He goes back over all the past and says,
My thesis is true; everything proves it: God will not let a man get by with wickedness. The wicked are going to be punished. Therefore, if you are being punished, you must be wicked! He says in verses 34-35:
For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes. They conceive trouble and give birth to evil; their womb fashions deceit (Job 15:34-35). It is the same old tired thrust at Job: He must he guilty of some terrible sin.
Lord, deliver me from worn-out theology, which does not come from the study of Your Word but from my own pride.
Do we use our theological smugness to accuse and wound? Are we learning instead that truth spoken in Christ's love and compassion is a gateway into newness of life?