I stumbled on this verse in the book of Job.
Job 6:14 ESV He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.
Of course, Job is in the Old Testament; therefore, the verse reads as it should within the Old Covenant context. The Old Covenant? Short refresher. The Old Covenant was the basis of the relationship God had with the nation of Israel. It read as follows. If you pay, you play. If you obeyed, God would bless you. If you disobeyed, God would send on you curses.
Job hears that all he has and owns is gone. But Job, the ever trusting in God person that he is, shaves his head and falls on the ground and worships. And then he becomes very sick. He develops boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. On seeing all these, Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die. His three friends come to visit him after learning of the horrible things that have happened. On arrival, they are so shocked, they sit still for seven days. He begins his lament, and in chapters 4 and 5, his friend Eliphaz answers him.
In chapter 6, Job responds to Eliphaz, and this is where this verse 14 is.
On a surface reading, it reads this way. If you don’t show hesed, Hebrew word for grace to your fainting friend, you lose the sense of awe or reverence of God. In the Bible, the fear of the Almighty does not mean to be “afraid” of God as to have a loving, joyful wonder before God. In verse 14, it seems to read that if you don’t give your friend undeserved grace, the consequences are that you lose the love, joy and wonder before the greatness of God. Because this verse falls within the ambit of the Old Covenant, then yes, if you don’t give grace to your fainting friends, you lose the love, joy and wonder before the greatness of God. Remember, under the Old Covenant; it’s quid pro quo. You pay to play. If you do what is right, God will bless you.
I then read the same verse in the New Living Translation, and it brought to light a different meaning of the verse.
The NLT reads like this
Job 6:14 NLT One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty.
Notice the difference in the NLT translation?
Job says to Eliphaz, “Now that I am fainting, you should kind to me. Bad things have indeed happened to me. Even if it’s true that these bad things have happened to me because I deserved them, instead of kicking me, you should encourage me. You should speak life where you see death. You should lift me instead you accuse me.” Job was in despair. Job had lost everything. His friend, Eliphaz, came to him with accusations, rationalizations, justifications, philosophies and religious musings instead of giving Job hesed, grace.
This scene in Job’s life focuses on the need to have friends in our lives that give us hesed, give us grace.
Isaiah and Paul wrote these words
Isaiah 50:4 NKJV The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning. He awakens My ear to hear as the learned.
Colossians 4:6 ESV Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
These two men explain what Job needed at that moment and what we need when we are in despair. Job needed a friend who would speak a word in season. Job needed a friend whose speech always seasoned with salt, knew how they ought to answer.
This is the kind of friend we all need. When you have lost everything, you don’t need a ‘truth-teller’, ‘say it as it is’, ‘black and white’ friend. You don’t need rationalizations, justifications, philosophies and religious musings. What you need is a grace-giving friend. A friend who will sit still, and when they speak, they have a word in season, their words are gracious, seasoned with salt.
I am a fastidious student of human nature and relationships. I have discovered that most people are lonely, guilty and wallow in shame because they don’t have friends who give them grace. Most older people I know are parched, bitter, angry and lonely because all their lives they searched for grace and got law, do more, be better, fight harder, etc. If they had grace giving friends, they might have bloomed and blossomed. They might have just dared to live lives full of adventure.
You need this grace-giving friend when you lose your job, and the reason for your sacking was you were not performing.
You need this grace-giving friend when you get pregnant out of wedlock.
You need this grace-giving friend when you lose your marriage because you were caught in the act.
You need this grace-giving friend when you lose your home and car because you couldn’t make the payments.
You need this grace-giving friend when you lost the opportunity because you fumbled at the interview.
You need this grace-giving friend when you were the disloyal one.
You need this grace-giving friend when you disregarded their advice, and you did it anyway.
You need this grace-giving friend when you lose everything.
Frankly speaking, as I wrote this blog, it dawned on me only one person fits this kind of friend.
We are like Job. We have lost everything – mostly our fault. Yet Jesus comes to us and gives us grace. Jesus does not condemn nor accuses us. “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you.” In giving us grace, Jesus reveals the love, joy and wonder before the greatness of God. How do you know God is awesome and worthy of your worship? It is from from seeing God giving you grace – what you don’t deserve every single time. There is no way you can experience God’s grace and not respond in worship – and not fall on your knees or lay flat on the ground in worship. Ask Isaiah and Peter.
So how does Jesus become this friend to us?
Hey, you have to remember, on the cross Jesus was in utter despair and needed a grace-giving friend but we deserted him. His father turned his back on him and abandoned him. He had no friend. The gospel of grace says this, Jesus lost his friends, so when we are despairing, he would give us hesed. He would give us grace. This is the gospel. Jesus then makes us friends who will give our friends grace when they need it – when they are despairing.
That’s what grace looks like.