Zophar Speaks, Job Replies

Job 11-14

Zophar picks up where Bildad left off with another cold slap in the face:

“Is this talker to be vindicated?
Will your idle talk reduce others to silence?
Will no one rebuke you when you mock? Job 11:2-3

To add insult to injury, Zophar then mocks Job by reducing his arguments to the phrase: “My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight” (Job 11:4). No, Zophar, that’s not what Job said, but thanks for throwing that in his face! He’s not done yet: “But the witless can no more become wise than a wild donkey’s colt can be born human.” (Job 11:12).

As a software programmer, I can’t help but highlight Zophar’s if..then logical solution:

if ( ( you devote your heart to him ) && 
     ( stretch out your hands to him ) ) 
   if  ( ( you put away the sin that is in your hand ) && 
         ( allow no evil to dwell in your tent ) ) 
         free of fault, you will lift up your face;
         you will stand firm and
         without fear.
Job 11:13-15

Job Replies

Job’s reply goes something like this, “Isn’t it wonderful to know that you guys, my friends, are the wisest the world has ever known!! I’m so blessed to have such amazingly friends!” [the bright neon sarcasm sign is flashing]

“Doubtless you are the only people who matter, and wisdom will die with you! But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?”
“My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it. What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. Job 12:2-3, 13:1-2

The debate is really heating up now. In my imagination I see Job and his comrades in an open room stomping around as they take turns in venting frustration from the hand that life has dealt. His friends are confident that Job has committed some grievous sin that he simply will not confess so they turn up the rhetoric loud and clear.  Job affirms his understanding that God is the God of the land, sea and sky; he is the Lord of all: the good and those who are evil. God’s power and wisdom cannot be questioned, “What he tears down cannot be rebuilt; those he imprisons cannot be released” (Job 12:14). Then he slips in another jab:

He silences the lips of trusted advisers and takes away the discernment of elders. Job 12:20

Hint, hint my friends,

“If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom!”
“Will you argue the case for God?”
“Keep silent and let me speak; then let come to me what may.” Job 13:5, 8, 13

I’m reminded of Brennan Manning’s, The Ragamuffin Gospel, chapter 7, where the story moves to a rehab center. Max is on the hot-seat, refusing to admit his addiction to alcohol and the tragic consequences. It’s a compelling story that unpacks the notion of counterfeit grace and quite difficult to read without getting swept up in the pain Max must have felt. Job’s friends are convinced that their “tough love” is exactly what he needs right now. From their perspective, they are simply being great friends that are not afraid to call him out–he’s just in denial!

Job turns introspective again and paints a picture that vividly reminds us of Grace upon Grace:

“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” Job 14:7-9

What a wonderful picture of hope: “yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots…” I love the imagery and the affirmation that hope runs deep.

Job, once again, inadvertently points us to Jesus:

“If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.” Job 14:14

He puts his faith completely in God, though he is completely confused and frustrated by all that is happening around him.

At this point, we’ve just finished round 1 of the discourses. Job’s friends don’t know that they’re wrong and Job is himself pretty confused. Here’s the real challenge: would we be able to see clearly in this situation? At the very least I pray that we would be willing to lock ourselves in the room with our friends and tough it out, that we would have friends deep enough and strong enough in our lives to convict us, to show us where we have strayed. Lord I earnestly pray for discernment. I pray the Holy Spirit would guide my thoughts as I try to love my brothers and sisters, especially the ones I don’t know yet! Keep me humble, Lord.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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