John T. Willis

Monday, September 28, 2009

God Would Say What I Say--Zophar's First Speech--Job 11

As we continue through our study of the Book of Job, now we come to Zophar's first speech, recorded in Job 11.

Job has experienced tremendous losses of wealth. Job has suffered great physical pain. Job's wife has urged Job to curse God and die. Job's friends have come to console and comfort Job, but were so astonished at Job's great suffering that they could not speak for seven days. When Job broke the silence, and sought God to let Job die. Job yearned for his friends to empathize with Job, comfort Job, have compassion on Job. But, instead, Job's friends attack Job's with ARGUMENTS. They have their minds make up. Tradition!!! Tradition!!! Our great grandparents believed it; our grandparents believed it; our parents believed it; and SO, we are not going to budge an inch: ALL righteous people prosper, and ALL wicked people suffer. Hence, since Job is suffering, Job MUST have committed great sins. Zophar stays in this same rut.

Zophar's speech in Job 11 falls into three parts. Here are the three segments with comments.

I. If God spoke, God would say the very same thing we are saying, namely, YOU [Job] are a great sinner. Job 11:1-6.
a. Zophar sarcastically accuses Job of filling the air with a multitude of useless words, of being full of empty talk, of babbling, and of mocking Job's friends and God himself. Verses 1-3.
b. Zophar "quotes" Job's position: "I am pure; I am clean in God's sight."
Verse 4. This is correct, as indicated by Job's speech in Job 9:15, 20, 21.
c. Zophar PRAYS that God would speak and open God's lips to Job and tell Job God's wisdom. Such a statement ASSUMES that Zophar KNOWS UNDOUBTEDLY what God knows and what God would say. Have YOU ever known someone who is absolutely certain that: "When I speak, God speaks?" This is Zophar's attitude. Then Zophar proceeds to "set Job's straight," since God has not spoken himself:
"Know then that God exacts of you [Job] LESS than your guilt deserves."
Verses 5-6. Not only does Zophar claim that God is JUST, but also that God is MERCIFUL. According to Zophar, Job SHOULD suffer MUCH MORE than Job is now suffering. How would YOU feel if you were suffering like Job is suffering, and your friend told you that you should suffer more than you are suffering now?

II. No human being can understand God. Job 11:7-12.
a. Zophar now teaches a great truth. It is obvious. No human being could ever "find out the deep things of God, the limit of the Almighty." The difference between God and human beings is too vast for human beings to understand God at all. For human beings, God's power and wisdom is higher than heaven, deeper than Sheol, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. Verses 7-9.
b. God continually works on earth in the lives of human beings. God imprisons some people, God brings people into judgment, God knows people who are worthless, God discovers human sins. It is as impossible for a human being to understand God or control God's activities as a wild ass is born as human being. This is preposterous. Verses 10-12.
c. YES, these are indeed great truths. But there are two problems here.
1. Does not Job himself agree with all this? These are great truths, but they do not apply to this situation at this time to this individual. Often, a person teaches a great truth, but it is irrelevant to a specific situation.
2. If Zophar is correct, does not these truths ALSO apply to Zophar himself--and his two friends? It is very easy to point one's finger at another person--but what happens when the SAME IDEAS point one's finger to HIMSELF?

III. Job--REPENT, and everything will be well. Job 11:13-20. If you will remember, Eliphaz in Job 5:17-26 and Bildad in Job 8:5-7 have EXTENDED THE INVITATION to Job to repent--then God will take away Job's suffering, and Job will have a wonderful life. Many people ASSUME that all one needs to do is extending an invitation to OTHERS who are LOST, and all will be well. The position of Job's friends expose the fallacy of such an idea.
a. Zophar advises Job to do four things: (1) direct your heart rightly; (2) stretch our your hands toward God [this is indeed the biblical way of praying to God
--see for example, Isaiah 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:8]; (3) put your iniquity away from you; and (4) do not let wickedness continue to abide in your tents. Verses 13-14.
b. THEN--Job promises Job THE MOON. Job, when you REPENT, here are the promises of God: you will be secure; you will forget all your losses and suffering; your life will be brighter than the noonday; you will have confidence; you will have no fear from others; in fact, many people will entreat your favor; the wicked will fail.

AH--This SOUNDS so easy, so perfect. But it just does not work this way. Life is very complicated. TIT FOR TAT feels so comfortable. BUT, this is just not true. This is just not biblical. This is just not godly.

Now, remember. I am not defending Zophar's position. I am simply attempting to faithfully present Zophar's views. Job 42:7 makes it very clear that Zophar is wrong. But our task now is to try to understand Zophar's thoughts.

What are YOUR responses? Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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