May 23rd, 2021 - Job 20-21
Next up is the second round of speeches for Zophar and he is addressing the topic of wicked men. Like Eliphaz, he is offended by what Job had to say. They believed Job’s perceptions of his suffering were way off base and they did not want to hear about some redeemer that Job was placing his hope in. Zophar’s response is sarcastic. Since Job supposedly knew so much about his redeemer, surely he also knew the wisdom teaching that said the wicked only prosper for a short time. The implication is, Job your short time is up. Now you are being punished for the sins and wickedness you have committed. Not only does Zophar see Job as a sinner but he views him as proud. The wicked may be great for a period of time, even towering up into the heavens, but eventually they are as worthless as dung. This is a scathing comment on Zophar’s part. And then the proud disappear and people wonder where they went…but not for long. Their riches are ill gotten and their children have to repay what they have stolen. Zophar believes that even though evil may be sweet to the wicked for a period of time, the consequences of their behavior will bring about their downfall. The wicked savor their evil, taking time to enjoy it. Zophar is pointing to Job and looking at what Job once had and comparing it to Ill gotten riches because he was wicked. He enjoyed their sweetness but then Job’s evil caught up with him and he lost everything.
The wicked will be struck by vipers, cobras, asps…poisonous snakes. The snakes will afflict the wicked, Job included, but in the end the wicked will no longer be deadly to others; only themselves. Zophar also makes references to rivers flowing with milk and honey. That was the promise God made to his people about the promised land. They would know rivers flowing with milk and honey. This is another jab at Job. Streams of olive oil, and rivers with milk and honey were signs of super abundant blessings from God. Job no longer knows these blessings, so that must he is wicked and has angered the Lord. Zophar reminds Job that like the grave of the dead, the wicked are always greedy and never satisfied. In stating that the wicked person knows no quietness, Zophar implies that Job has received what he deserved. That the well being or prosperity of the wicked will not last, fits Job’s circumstances. He has lost everything. In essence, Zophar is confirming for Job what he said back in 7:7, that he will never again see good. The wicked will never escape trouble and when they try to escape they fall victim to a different trouble. In escaping they are subject to God’s wrath and Zophar describes that like soldiers pursuing the wicked. They will be shot with bronze tipped arrows that when removed from their bodies will glisten with their own blood, a sign of a fatal injury. These are the terrors of death. Deep darkness and wildfire are often associated with God’s presence and especially with his judgement.
Back in chapter 16 Job asks that the earth and heavens might vindicate him. Now Zophar argued that the earth and heavens will bear witness against Job’s innocence and point to his iniquity. Even nature is involved in disciplining the wicked, here by the flood waters that will destroy the everything. Zophar summarizes his verdict by stating that it is way too late for job to repent. God would have no clemency for such a wicked person as Job. Job was dismayed not because of his friends accusations but because of the horrible task of complaining against God. It was so bad he found himself shaking and trembling.
As before, Job responds. His friends had insisted that they were delivering God’s own message of comfort but Job found no comfort in their words so, he asked for the consolation of their attentive silence. He told them that if they listen carefully they might finally be of some comfort to him. We see that Job still has a bit of spunk in him. After he asked his friends to please listen and give him the courtesy of being silent, then they they could go on mocking him. This may have been pointed directly at Zophar, the most offensive of his friends. In 11:3 Zophar had mocked Job’s words and then again in 20:9.
Jon reminds them his complaint is not with them but with God, and he has reason to be impatient. What follows next is a discussion many of us may have had. Why do the wicked continue to prosper.
The light of the wicked never seems to go out. Job countered Bildad, and standard wisdom. With a rhetorical question, Job begins exposing the loopholes in the retribution dogma…the belief that suffering always indicates God’s punishment of a person. The prosperity of the wicked is still a mystery to believers today. Both the Psalmist and Jeremiah agonized over this as well but the scriptures affirm that in all things God is working out His purposes. He controls everything to accomplish what He has set out to do.
Job also reacts to Eliphaz’s argument in 15:21-24 that although the wicked live peacefully for a while, they live in terror of inevitable destruction. Job contradicts saying that the wicked even live in their houses safe…without fear. The wicked simply deny God’s existence, so they live without any fear of his judgement. The wicked even enjoy children and grandchildren, which should be the reward of the righteous. But apparently this would not be the case for Job. It is clear Job has been listening because in chapter 21 much of what Job says is rebuttal to what his friends have tried to beat him up with. He asks rhetorical questions that begin with ‘how often’ expecting the answer ‘not very often’. In verse 17 Job challenges both Bildad and Zophar. And his remark in verse 19 he is again quoting his friends. You say God will punish the children of the wicked. These were the words of both Eliphaz and Zophar. But Job thought God should punish the ones who actually sin, not the children. He takes his own jab at his friends who have grown more and more pompous. To Job it seemed they had put themselves over and above God so Job asked “Who can teach a lesson to God since he judges even the most powerful?” The most powerful may refer to angels, but more likely it refers to the powerful on earth. And Job is pointing out that his friends are not them!
Job’s friends have repeatedly accused him of sinning, of being wicked, of deserving the ills he has received. And Job asks once more…how can the nonsense you have shared with me be of any use. What they have said are lies. The friends have told lies about Job which was bad enough, but they have also told lies about God. And that never ends well.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W
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