We’re continuing our survey of the word “hope” in the Bible and now we come to Job 4:6:
“Is not your fear of God your confidence,
And the integrity of your ways your hope?” (NASB).
These words are spoken by Eliphaz to Job, obviously in the book of Job. As Eliphaz speaks, Job is sitting on the ground in physical and emotional torment. His body is racked with pain and all his family have been destroyed except for his wife who told him to just die and get it over with. Not a pretty sight. Job is just about in as much intense pain, physical, emotional, spiritual, and mentally, as anyone can imagine. He has lost everything: those he loves, his wealth, his purpose in life, and his health. There’s really nothing left.
Eliphaz’s words at first glance seem true. And the first statement, “Is not your fear of God your confidence,” is actually a truth that can buoy any of us up at any time in our lives: trust God through having a healthy fear of him because of who He is and this will give you confidence. But then Eliphaz adds, “And while you’re at it, keep the integrity of your behavior which will give you hope.” It seems correct.
The first premise does makes sense. Confidence comes from trusting in, and believing that God is God and knows what He’s doing. Fear of God as meant in a right and healthy way, means acknowledging that He is God and I am not. And because our God’s every characteristic is wonderful, I can fear Him because He’s holy and I don’t deserve His goodness. And yet I can have confidence in His goodness because He’ll do only what is good for me.
At first light, Eliphaz’s second premise seems correct: if you do right things, you can have hope to know things will go well. If you live a life that has integrity, you can place your hope in that integrity. By the way, integrity can be defined as adherence to a set of values.
But the problem is, is it our integrity or is it the Lord Jesus Christ that we’re supposed to place our hope in? I think the answer comes from looking at this verse in context. Read the two verses after verse 6:
6″Is not your fear of God your confidence,
And the integrity of your ways your hope?
7″Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
Or where were the upright destroyed?
8″According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it.”
Eliphaz’s philosophy of life is that if you do right things you’ll reap right things. It’s the upright who always have a good life and those who are wicked always reap trouble. This is “what I have seen” Eliphaz says. This philosophy is based on Eliphaz’s experience, not on God’s guidance.
But what planet is Eliphaz living on? It’s an astounding assumption. I find it hard to believe that in every case of every life he has ever observed that premise holds true. Now, maybe he’s a young man and hasn’t experience much life. But if he’s Job’s friend and evidently Job was a little un-wet behind the ears, you’d expect his friend would be about the same age and having the same breadth of life experiences.
Let me ask you: have you observed that every Christian who lives a fairly right life has experienced a trouble-free life? And those who aren’t trusting in God have experienced a trouble-filled life? I certainly haven’t. Even the Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. No life is perfectly trouble-free or trouble-filled—whether you’re a Christian or not.
So connecting these dots with what Eliphaz says to Job that the integrity of his ways will be his hope, Eliphaz is really slamming Job. Job has expressed a belief that he is righteous and doesn’t deserve the woes that have come upon him. Eliphaz accuses Job of dishonesty. Eliphaz is saying, “Job, you can’t be right about your righteousness because you’re having hard times. Confess! You’ve actually done bad things behind closed doors—or tent flaps. Your troubled life proves it. Only the wicked reap troubles like what you’re experiencing. If you were really righteous, God wouldn’t have brought this upon you.”
How sad. When Job is most needy of some encouragement, his friend slams him with not only misunderstanding, but accusations of his dishonesty and unrighteousness. One more strike against Job, and he’s out.
What does this hold for us?
First of all, that a troubled life doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something wrong. And a trouble-free life doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done something right. I’m so glad because right now I’m in trouble with chronic pain!
Secondly, don’t place your hope in your own righteousness but in God’s gracious and merciful salvation that is available to the just and the unjust. I’ve experienced that in 43 years of living in God’s grace.
Thirdly, read verses in context. Don’t quote a verse without finding out the background. And compare it with the totality of Scripture. I’m still trying to remember to do this. It’s a lot easier to not do my homework.
Is integrity good? Absolutely. Does it glorify God? Oh, yes. Does God want us to live in integrity? Yes and yes! Amen! But is it something to place your hope in? No, for that leaves God out. And you end up having to be good enough to earn God’s love and His salvation. The great news is that salvation and God’s love are free gifts. And we then are motivated to live in integrity out of gratitude and Holy Spirit motivation.
Sorry, Eliphaz, you got it wrong. I’d much rather place my hope in Jesus than in my integrity because guess what? I don’t always live perfectly right. How about you? What’s your hope in?