The Book of Job-Chapter Eleven:
There are times, even in the study of the God's Word, where the Truth is found only between the lines. That is the case here and it always scares me. It seems to me it scares many away from detailed Bible study, including Pastors sometimes! The words recorded here are in fact falsehood through and through, beloved, so don't ever quote them as literal instructions for us. They only reveal God's Truth by contrast. The account of Judas in the New Testament does instruct us on the importance of loyalty, but only as an example of what NEVER to do! And so it is with the words of another of Job's friends, Zophar:
Verses 1-5: "Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes. But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;"
Like Eliphaz before him, Zophar seeks to correct Job. That seems OK in a way for we have just seen Job fall into some bad theological statements in chapter 10. The problem is that while Job was driven off his course of true faith by a storm of suffering, Zophar is just off. His errors will only compound Job's problems and certainly won't comfort him or lead Job back to the Truth.
Verse 6: "And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth."
MORE insensitivity from Job's friends. After witnessing all that had been happening to Job, Zophar says you deserve worse punishment from the Lord. Isn't it a major failure of Christianity today (that's means you and me, believer), the way we treat the suffering and confused among us. And it's not just those poor or sick or far off. Why do we often make it so hard for our Christian leaders and their families and look down on them for even trivial weaknesses or problems that may come to light? One of the best pastors I ever worshipped under went through a divorce while I was attending that church. Worse still, the wife who left him was an ordained pastor herself. It's very hard to remember much of the sermons you've heard, but I'll never forget the grace that man showed under pressure and the love he demonstrated to me, my family and all of us. He also had custody of a teenage daughter who sang in the choir that I directed back then. She likewise turned out to be a delightful person to get to know. O, I would have missed so much if I had passed judgment on him and stormed out of that church at that time!
We're going to let Zophar keep talking here (only because God does!) and he sounds righteous and confident at times, but don't be swayed. The self righteous life is, in the end, empty and very lonely.
Verses 7-15: "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him? For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it? For vain men would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt. If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him; If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:"
This is a theology that has persisted in Hollywood and the main stream media for my entire life. This is the philosophy quoted against Christ today by many atheists. And, after all, they can even find it right here in the Scriptures! But it's so bad. This kind of religion is equivalent to never knowing God. It belongs to and with atheism. To our modern world and to Zophar (so maybe it isn't so modern?) God is at best like a cruel machine, sort of a scale, or a check out counter where good works are exchanged for happiness. And so God can be reduced in this way to sort of a crass merchant and cosmic thug. No, Zophar's advice won't bring Job or anyone, EVER, closer to God. Even when he tries to emphasize the false rewards of compliance:
Verses 16-19: "Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away: And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday: thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning. And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety. Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee."
This is a false view of Heaven really. This sustainable "Heaven on Earth" of Zophar's is not the truth at all. It is the falsehood, but its shadow (its antithesis) is the real Truth of God. Namely, real joy comes from the Love you share with God, and from the overflow of Love that He allows you to share with others. And this is quite independent of physical circumstances or promises of comfort. That's why Christ could worship and show real concern and compassion from the Cross. That's why Paul could say to the Jews, his brethren, who hated him so after his conversion to Christ, "I would go to Hell myself, in your place, if that could save you from it."
Maybe Job wasn't looking submissive to Zophar at this point. At any rate he ends his speech with this threat:
Verse 20: "But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost."
Zophar knew nothing of Jesus or his followers or even of King David or Daniel or Shadrach. They all forsook blessings by faith in God, and even were willing to give their lives out of Love for Him.
Perhaps Zophar's best hope for a Godly example is standing right in front of him. Job has been knocked down hard, but he keeps getting back up. He still has real faith. Confused yes, but he has not abandoned God. Not yet. And he hasn't embraced this cheap and simple religion his friends (and Satan) keep pushing on him. Job will now answer back to Zophar with everything he can muster. Could Job be a Hero in the making?