Something that we readily recognize as most extraordinary has taken place in the previous chapter. In the face of groundless accusations against him, Job brought forth a wonderful prophetic utterance concerning the coming resurrection of the dead. The opening question as Zophar begins his second speech is this: Will Job’s friends recognize that they have heard a word from heaven through Job’s lips? Will they value Job’s great solution to the problem of humanity and to the fallen condition of this creation?
Zophar does not seem to have heard any of the glory of resurrection in Job’s powerful oracle of truth. He has heard a message, but he has not received it well. He says, “I hear censure that insults me.” Job’s friends needed correction, and God himself would have a word about them at the end of the book, but if they could have listened to Job and received the truth that he proclaimed, they could have received not only correction, but also a deep and blessed hope.
In order to hear the hope, a person must listen beyond the correction. Those who are well don’t need a doctor, and some who are convinced that any correction is too much to bear will miss the joy that comes from the healing touch of the best physician. When a person refuses to acknowledge the disease, there is no point in talking about a cure. But pretending that one does not have cancer is not the same as being cancer-free. These “comforters” had a serious disease, but they were deeply offended by Job’s rejection of their wisdom and could not rightly hear what he was saying.
When someone needs to hear correction but feels offended, he may not only miss out on the benefit of the word of reproof, he also may continue to listen to and pursue the lies of his own heart, lies which take him further and faster in a wrong direction. Zophar was persuaded that out of his own impeccable understanding, a spirit was bringing answers to him that needed to be expressed. Informed by this inner light, he presumed to continue to instruct this great man Job.
What were his insights, his wondrous thoughts of old? The rejoicing of the wicked is brief, and though he seems to have prosperity, it will only be for a moment. Can anyone miss the fact that he refers Job as wicked and godless? If that is not blunt enough, Zophar reminds Job that the wicked man will perish like his own excrement. He will be forgotten like a bad dream. When he dies, there will be nothing to pass on to his children. They will be forced to beg from the poor, for the bones of their father will lie down in the dust.
What else does Zophar have to say? He speaks about the evil of the wicked man and his destruction. Why doesn’t he plainly identify Job as the wicked man? But then what evidence does he have of any wickedness beyond the man’s suffering? This is not wisdom. It is evil presumption and is made far worse by the fact that it follows one of the most astounding revelations in the Bible about the life to come.
But Zophar is insulted. He will not listen, and he must share more of his supposed spiritual brilliance. Evil may be hidden deep within a man, like food within the stomach that has gone bad, and it will come out again. This is how Zophar makes sense of Job’s troubles. They are the vomit that has finally come from the hidden evils within this surprisingly wicked man. Is this what you are tempted to think of your own suffering, rather than remembering the love of God, and considering how he may have entrusted you with a special opportunity that of necessity included your present pain?
These thinly-veiled accusations simply do not fit this situation. Job has not “crushed and abandoned the poor,” so why are such words spoken to his face? Yet Zophar continues his colorful rhetoric. Job, if Job is the horrible man he is talking about, is just a wicked imposter like so many hypocrites, and thus he has become a target of God’s holy anger. God hates him for his evil ways, and that is why the Lord’s sword has come against him. For Zophar it is as simple as that. No fancy talk of Job about knowing that his Redeemer lives will turn Zophar away from his self-appointed spiritual task of reminding Job that the wicked will quickly perish.
Our Savior lived a brief life. He was cut off from the land of the living. Many would think of Him as being cursed by God, presumably for some secret faults. They thought for certain that God would deliver Jesus from the horror of the cross if God really delighted in Him. Yet He was wounded for our transgressions. The answer to the dilemma of the suffering of Jesus is not discovered by presuming that our Lord had his own secret sin and that He was hated by God. To get to the truth about Jesus, we need to hear the prophetic Word that informs us about the love of the Father for His sinless Son, and of the salvation that has come to us through the wounds of our perfect Substitute. To hear this word we need to first hear the truth of our own sin. But if we are too offended by the correction that comes to us from God to listen to Jesus and His ambassadors, then we will miss the good news of the dying love of our righteous Redeemer, who has sent forth His Word for our salvation and encouragement.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, not every event that happens in Your providence is easily understood by us. Some men who are very wicked live unusually long lives. They may have many descendants, and people mourn their loss when they die. A righteous man may die in the prime of His youth and no one knows what to say. Who can fathom the loss of the unborn child? There is so much that we do not understand. One man dies with such a wonderful life story of achievement and joy. Another has been witness to so many horrors. They both go to the grave. We are given no answer to these facts. They cause us to wonder about You. Yet You are the everlasting God, and You are worthy of our full and everlasting trust. We believe in You. We know that You are in control. Help us, O Lord.