1 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:
2 “Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
and a man full of talk be judged right?
3 Should your babble silence men,
and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
4 For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure,
and I am clean in God’s eyes.’
5 But oh, that God would speak
and open his lips to you,
6 and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For he is manifold in understanding.
Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.
7 “Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
8 It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
9 Its measure is longer than the earth
and broader than the sea.
10 If he passes through and imprisons
and summons the court, who can turn him back?
11 For he knows worthless men;
when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?
12 But a stupid man will get understanding
when a wild donkey’s colt is born a man!
13 “If you prepare your heart,
you will stretch out your hands toward him.
14 If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and let not injustice dwell in your tents.
15 Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
you will be secure and will not fear.
16 You will forget your misery;
you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
17 And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
18 And you will feel secure, because there is hope;
you will look around and take your rest in security.
19 You will lie down, and none will make you afraid;
many will court your favor.
20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail;
all way of escape will be lost to them,
and their hope is to breathe their last.” – Job 11:1-22 ESV
After Job finished his gloomy response to Bildad’s less-than-encouraging speech, he had to hear from the third friend who had been waiting in the wings and eagerly biding his time until he could put in his two cents. And Zophar wasted no time in delivering a stinging indictment against Job, filled with carefully worded one-liners that he hoped would shake his friend out of his self-righteous self-denial and force him to confess his obvious guilt.
Zophar, like his friends before him, had taken a look at Job’s circumstances and concluded that Job had done something terribly wrong. He was being punished by God for his sins and all Job had to do was confess and change his behavior. According to Zophar, if Job follows his advice, God will forgive and restore him.
Sounds great, but there’s only one problem. Job is innocent. He has done nothing wrong to deserve all that has happened to him. He has done nothing of which to repent. He is confused, hurt, alone, and suffering from unimaginable grief. And all he gets from his friends is accusations of his guilt.
Zophar takes the rhetoric to a whole new level, accusing Job of being deceitful, evil, and witless.
“Surely he [God] recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note? But a witless man can no more become wise than a wild donkey’s colt can be born a man.” – Job 11:11-12 NIV
In Zophar’s mind, Job is nothing more than a dimwitted, stubborn sinner who refuses to admit his guilt. In Zophar’s world, all pain and suffering were tied to sin. Righteous men don’t suffer. Good men don’t lose all their worldly wealth. Sinless men don’t have all their kids killed in a single freak accident. Therefore, Job was NOT a righteous man. Case closed.
But once again, Zophar didn’t have all the facts. He was operating off of conjecture and faulty conclusions. The one thing he should have known or at least assumed is that God is in control. But the issue was not whether God had caused what had happened to Job; it was that God was aware and that He cared. Zophar would have been much more helpful if he had simply reminded Job that only God knew the real reason behind his suffering. He should have counseled Job to take his situation to God because only He could provide answers and assistance. The simple truth is that if Job had sinned, God would reveal it to him. If Job was innocent, God would ultimately disclose the reason behind his suffering. Bottom line? There was a purpose behind it all, and God was the key to discovering that purpose.
But instead, Zophar continued to berate and belittle his friend, accusing him of mocking God with his false claims of innocence. Zophar was completely convinced that Job was an unabashed liar who refused to acknowledge his obvious guilt. And he is so self-assured in his assessment that he has the audacity to tell Job, “Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!” (Job 11:6 NLT). His analysis of the situation has produced an iron-clad guilty verdict.
Zophar had reached what to him was a logical conclusion. God was all-wise and could see into the lives of all men. There was nothing hidden from His sight. While Job’s life had given the outward appearance of righteousness, it must have contained hidden secrets of which only God was aware. Now God was exposing Job’s sins by inflicting judgment.
“If God comes and puts a person in prison
or calls the court to order, who can stop him?
11 For he knows those who are false,
and he takes note of all their sins.” – Job 11:10-11 NLT
Convinced that his conclusion was the right one, all Zophar could recommend was repentance.
“If only you would prepare your heart
and lift up your hands to him in prayer!
Get rid of your sins,
and leave all iniquity behind you.” – Job 11:13 NLT
But Zophar couldn’t see into Job’s heart. He had no way of knowing what Job had done or said that might have led to his fall from grace. In fact, he had no proof whatsoever that Job had done anything worthy of God’s judgment. Yet, on nothing more than flimsy facts and faulty conclusions, he labeled his friend as a babbler and an empty-headed person. When Job needed love, Zophar delivered demeaning labels and callous calls to repent or suffer further judgment from the hand of God.
But despite all his pain, Job knew that God was there. He called out to Him. He appealed to Him. He acknowledged that God had created him (Job 10:8-9). But Job was confused. He clung to his innocence but was having a hard time understanding why he was having to endure all this pain. He was going through a terrible time of questioning and doubt. He needed comfort and all he got was caustic counseling from those who claimed to be his friends. He needed empathy but all he got was impatient demands that he confess his hidden sins.
Job’s suffering was so intense that he longed for death. At this point in his life, he needed friends who would point him to the mercy, grace, and sovereign power of God. He needed guides to God, not the grand inquisition. He needed to be reminded that God loves him, not loathes him. The only remedy for anyone’s pain and heartache is God. We need to point them to Him.
When darkness falls
And all around me seems undone
You hear my pleas
Supply my needs
And tell me of Your wondrous love
You are the joy in my morning
You’re my song of praise
Just like the new day dawning
Flooding my world with grace
Though trials come
And every one
Can take me further from Your truth
You calm my fears
Dry all my tears
And draw me closer, Lord, to You
In You there’s no shadow of turning
Constant in all Your ways
You’re growing my faith
And I’m learning to lean
On You all of my days
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Ministries
Reading the words of Zophar reminds me that I need to be a friend who points others to God, instead of always trying to point out their faults or their sins. He alone knows their hearts, and only He can diagnose their condition and heal their hurts. I am simply a guide who can point them to God as they wander in the darkness of their circumstance.
The other lesson to be learned from this passage is to take my pain and suffering to God. In the midst of the pain that enters my own life, I should always turn to Him first. And when I find that difficult to do, I pray that God will bring friends into my life who will remind me of His love, grace, and mercy.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.