Friday, March 31, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 27, Zophar Feels Insulted

As Job finishes up his more recent speech this morning, his friend Zophar speaks up because he feels insulted.

Job concludes, "If you say, 'How will we hound him, since the root of the trouble lies in him,' you should fear the sword yourselves; for wrath will bring punishment by the sword, and then you will know that there is judgment." (Job 19:28-29) Job says, "If you think my troubles are a result of sin, and that this is how God rewards the sinner, then you should watch out for yourselves. I know I'm not perfect, but you're not perfect either. If God saw fit to let these things happen to me, what might He allow to happen to you?"

"Then Zophar the Naamathite replied: 'My troubled thoughts prompt me to answer because I am greatly disturbed. I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply.'" (Job 20:1-3) Zophar begins his speech in a reasonable tone of voice, as if he is going to patiently and calmly explain why Job's words have offended him, but he ends up cutting Job to the quick.

"Surely you know how it has been from old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment." (Job 20:4-5) We know that when Zophar talks about the godless he means Job in particular. He says, "You had some fun times and it was good while it lasted, but your sins have caught up with you."

"Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, 'Where is he?'" (Job 20:6-7) Wow! With a friend like this, who needs enemies? He declares Job is as useless as human waste.

"Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found, banished like a vision of the night. The eye that saw him will not see him again; his place will look on him no more. His children must make amends to the poor; his own hands must give back his wealth. The youthful vigor that fills his bones will lie with him in the dust." (Job 20:8-11) Zophar insinuates Job was once wealthy because he defrauded people. He states that the man who becomes rich by dishonest means will leave this earth in disgrace, with his heirs having to pay back what he stole.

"Though evil is sweet in his mouth and he hides it under his tongue, though he cannot bear to let it go and lets it linger in his mouth, yet his food will turn sour in his stomach; it will become the venom of serpents within him." (Job 20:12-14) This principle is true, although it doesn't apply to Job's case. The Bible tells us that sin is enjoyable for a season (Hebrews 11:25), but it also says that sin gives birth to death (James 1:15) Who would ever commit a sin if we found no pleasure in it? Who would cling to sin if it didn't satisfy something carnal in us? Zophar understands that men and women are easily trapped by sin, holding onto it, savoring it, until the day comes when it turns into a deadly poison.

Zophar says that the sin that was once so attractive suddenly becomes too bitter to keep down, "He will spit out the riches he swallowed; God will make his stomach vomit them up. He will suck the poison of serpents; the fangs of an adder will kill him. He will not enjoy the streams, the rivers flowing with honey and cream. What he toiled for he must give back uneaten; he will not enjoy the profit from his trading. For he has oppressed the poor and left them destitute; he has seized houses he did not build." (Job 20:15-19) There is no proof whatsoever that Job has ever done any of these things. We know he didn't because God said in Chapter One that Job was the most righteous man on the earth in his days.

"Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure. Nothing is left for him to devour; his prosperity will not endure. In the midst of his plenty, distress will overtake him; the full force of misery will come upon him." (Job 20:20-22) The Lord's brother James spoke of "the patience of Job" (James 5:11) and it never seemed to me as if he was all that patient with his troubles and unanswered questions. But it must have taken the patience of a saint to endure the foolishness of these three friends. Long before now I think I would have told them to leave and never come back. Job sets a beautiful example of how to show respect for others when we don't agree with them. He shows us how to maintain our dignity even when we are being falsely accused.

"When he has filled his belly, God will vent His burning anger against him and rain down his blows on him. Though he flees from an iron weapon, a bronze-tipped arrow pierces him. He pulls it out of his back, the gleaming point out of his liver." (Job 20:23-25a) Zophar thinks Job is running from God, so he warns him he won't be able to hide.

"Terrors will come over him; total darkness lies in wait for his treasures. A fire unfanned will consume him and devour what is left in his tent. The heavens will expose his guilt; the earth will rise up against him. A flood will carry off his house, rushing waters on the day of God's wrath. Such is the fate God allots the wicked, the heritage appointed for them by God." (Job 20:25b-29) Zophar is a vengeful man and he can only relate to a vengeful God. Yesterday Job spoke of the hope he has in his Redeemer, but there is no room in Zophar's theology for a Redeemer. He doesn't believe in grace or in second chances. Even if he had been right about Job living in sin, he doesn't feel Job deserves mercy even if he asks God for it. If Job had been living in sin, Zophar should have been lovingly leading him back to the Lord. But instead his attitude is, "You're only getting what you deserve. You might as well resign yourself to it. There's no hope for you."

We don't serve a God who gives us no hope. We serve a God who gives us our only hope. God loved us so much He thought no price was too high to pay for us. Will He not also hear our prayers of repentance and our cries for mercy? Of course He will! The God who thought us worth dying for will never turn His back on anyone who seeks Him.

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