Now it is Job’s third friend who comes to speak with him. Zophar wasted no time dealing with the issue of sin and its consequences. He is the harshest of Job’s critics, dealing only with the issue of sin. He has precious little compassion for Job. It seems with all three of his friends, none of them have taken the time to consider the life Job has led, the good that he did, and his prior faithfulness. All that has been tossed aside by these three. It is quite likely that Job’s friends are older men and they spoke in the order of their age and importance. Zophar then is the youngest of the three. Zophar’s speech is not long but what it lacks in length it makes up for in animosity. Zophar is angry, but Job needed a helping hand, not a slap in the face. He makes three accusations against Job. He is guilty of sin. He is ignorant of God. He is stubborn in his refusal to repent. In Job’s response, Job answers all three accusations by affirming God’s goodness and his own innocence. But Job has no hope so why should he repent?
You would think that after listening to Eliphaz and Bildad, Zophar would have had enough sense and compassion to take a different approach. But Zophar began by calling Job a windbag. Worse yet, Zophar also called Job’s words chatter or lies, and mockery. He viewed Job’s words about God’s justice as sinfully sarcastic. In Zophar we see a fair amount of righteous indignation. But Job was not defining doctrine. He was defending his own integrity. It seems that Zophar wanted Job to grasp the height, depth, breadth, and length of God’s divine wisdom. But in saying this, Zophar was hinting that he himself already knew the vast dimensions of God’s wisdom and could teach Job if he would listen. It is too bad Zophar didn’t know the vast dimensions of God’s love and share some of that with Job. This is followed by Zophar telling Job that God was punishing him less than he deserved. O what comfort that must have brought Job! After all, God knows all about Job and could punish him way worse.
Zophar laid out three conditions for Job’s restoration. He had to prepare his heart, an inward act that is not just a ritual. Job had to lift up his hands, which is a symbolic gesture of prayer, both an appeal and surrender. And Job was to leave all iniquity, not by sacrifice or remorse but by quitting the sins. By doing these things Zophar told Job there was hope. God would bless him abundantly, and his troubles would be over. Job could lift up his head again and his fears would be gone. He could forget his misery like water running over a dam. God would give him a long life and it would be the dawning of a new day for him. He would dwell in the light and not in the darkness of Sheol. But if Job wanted these blessings, he had to get them on Zophar’s terms. Yes, there was hope but only if Job would repent and confess all his sins. Zophar is tempting Job to bargain with God so he can get out of trouble. And this is exactly what satan wanted Job to do. He accused Job of having a commercial faith that promised prosperity in return for obedience. If Job had followed Zophar’s advice he would have played right into the hands of the enemy. Job did not have a commercial faith that made bargains with God. Job had a faith that said, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.”
While Zophar’s speech was brief, Job took a long time to answer each of his accusations. He began with Zophar’s second accusation that Job had no knowledge of God. Job maintained he had wisdom and understanding just as they did. That is chapter twelve. In chapter thirteen Job addresses Zophar’s allegations that Job was a guilty sinner, and he once again affirmed his integrity. Chapter fourteen is where Job challenges Zophar’s point that there is still hope. Here Job admits his hope is almost gone.
Job argued that he did in fact have wisdom. Just because they were older did not make them any wiser. Age is not a guarantee of wisdom. Next Job rebuked them for being so unfeeling to him and turning him into a laughingstock. From verses 13-25 in chapter twelve Job described the wisdom and power of God. He reminded them that God is completely sovereign over people, no matter what their status. God is in control. God is also sovereign in nature. In 12:17 Job speaks of how God leads counselors away stripped of good judgement. This is a reference to taking away their abilities or being stripped of the symbols of their office or to becoming captives. When God removes royal robes of kings, he is taking away the symbols of their authority. It could also refer to God loosening the bonds of the kings which is another way of saying the bondage the kings have put other people into has now been loosened. God disarms people and weakens them as they prepare for battle. Finally, in chapter twelve Job told Zophar that God uncovers the mysteries hidden in darkness. This may point to Zophar’s words that God’s knowledge is deeper than the underworld.
Chapter thirteen finds Job on the defensive. First, he expresses his disappointment with his three friends, then his declaration of faith in the Lord, and finally his desire that God come to him and get the issue settled once and for all. Job’s friends were not helpful at all. They had taken superior attitudes of judgement, assuming they knew God way better than Job. Job called them forgers of lies, physicians of no value, and deceitful defenders of no value. He also calls them forgers which also means whitewashers. They smeared whitewash all over their lies. False witnesses were forbidden even if speaking on God’s behalf. (Exodus 20:16). They never went deep into God’s truth, or Job’s feelings. As physicians their diagnosis was way wrong and that meant their remedy was useless. As far as being defenders of God, they would be better off if they said nothing because they had no idea what they were talking about. Job wanted God to summon him, and then Job would answer in his own defense; or Job would speak to God and then God would reply to substantiate the charges against Job. Since God did not take the first option, Job proceeded with the second. Eventually God did summon Job and Job was unable to reply.
Job had some questions for God. He wanted to know why God had turned away from him, like he didn’t exist anymore. Job felt like he was God’s enemy. He saw himself like a dry leaf blown by the wind or dry straw, which would be the chaff that blew away when someone was threshing grain. The chaff had no value whatsoever. Job has prepared his case and he is sure he will win! Why does Job want to meet God in court? So that God can once and for all state His case against Job. This would let Job know the sins in his life that have caused him so much distress.
This brings us to chapter fourteen and Job’s hopelessness. Job speaks of the brevity of life, using both a flower and a shadow. Flowers bloom and die and a shadow passes quickly. That is how Job sees his life. All Job had to do was repent. That was Zophar’s solution. But Zophar was not in Job’s situation. Job lamented that God’s surveillance was relentless, like he was being watched every minute of every day. He spoke of what God knows of our lives including their length. And he asked God to leave him alone so he can rest and have a moment of peace before he dies. To show his desperation Job stated that a tree has more hope than he does. He saw no chance at any redeeming or rebirth, and he looked at the heavens which will be no more. This is not a look forward to more life but to the eternity of the heavens. His phrase refered to the eternity of death. In a nutshell, Job wanted to curl up in a ball and hide. But he knew that he could not hide, even temporarily in a grave.
Finally, Job asks that God would guard his steps. He is asking for God’s providential care, rather than his surveillance. By hiding sins in a pouch where they will be hidden forever, Job is asking for an acquittal. He no longer saw Sheol as a haven. The Old Testament usually depicts the dead as being without feeling but Job sees only suffering and grief forever. Then as now, when people are experiencing intense grief and pain, it is easy for them to feel that the future is hopeless, and that God has forsaken them.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W