First introduced to Job’s friends back in Job 2:11; given their names and hometown, very little more. Told only that their purpose in coming was to show Job sympathy and comfort him. Writer keeps many things to himself, lets the story unfold. We discover individual character of those around Job through their words and actions.
Eliphaz the diplomat, delivering pious-sounding questions, relying on nightly visitation from God for his authority – “God told me to tell you this”. Bildad, convinced he needed to defend God’s integrity, depended on tradition for his worldview. Life was simpler for Bildad, he thought Job and his children only got what God’s justice demanded.
Here finally get to see what Job’s third friend, Zophar, is made of. Bear in mind, “friend” is used much more broadly in Bible than in our conversation. These three men were acquaintances of Job, did not always act in friendly way. In fact, Zophar more a bully than a buddy; he was even meaner to Job than Bildad. His words have much less truth and much more poison than was in other two speeches. In fact, what Zophar said sounds right, almost, but offers little genuine hope to Job. Or anyone else who might be listening.
Would have been much more dramatic if God had appeared and answered Job; but, …since he didn’t Zophar took up the challenge. Zophar, like Bildad, thought Job talked way too much and needed God to put him in his place. But Zophar’s view of God and God’s requirements had some serious issues.
A. you talk too much v.1-4
can’t let silence imply approval – doesn’t take time or make effort to be courteous; ends up being as unjust toward Job as other two friends
looked around in disbelief – how could Eliphaz / Bildad just sit there, not respond to Job’s windyness
whole idea that maybe silence is best response totally escaped Zophar; wouldn’t necessarily mean Job was right, just that friends didn’t have the answers to his questions
much of Job’s real suffering escaped Zophar – probably because many of questions Job had weren’t even on Zophar’s radar
went way over the top in accusing Job – he talked far too much (2a), what he said had no substance (3a), ridiculed both God and his friends (3b), claimed to be sinless in life and doctrine
did Job go too far in some of what he said? sure; that’s why he said at the end “I lay my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4)
to someone with little or no spiritual understanding, Job’s speeches would make little sense; opening plea for help, responses to Eliphaz and Bildad would sound like empty attempts to justify himself
Zophar like an algebra function machine: put number in the top, multiply by 6, carry the 3, get the result; whatever goes in, same thing happens to it, spits out predictable result
put Job’s circumstances in the top, crunched the numbers, got the result out the bottom; did same with Job’s words – his complaints, his questions, his defense – got the same result out the bottom
things are bad, Job is wrong, end of story; no room for really listening to what Job was saying, no true attempt at sympathy – feeling Job’s pain and trying to understand from his perspective
don’t be like Zophar: use wisdom and discernment Holy Spirit supplies to know when silence is best; use spiritual understanding God gives to be truly sympathetic to those who are suffering
B. oh that God would talk v.5-6
you’ve had experience: minding your own business, trying to obey traffic laws, some idiot does something really stupid; wish there were officer in sight or at least around next curve, that would teach ’em
Zophar wished God would suddenly appear, put Job in his place, set him straight; he’d soon learn God had punished him far less than he deserved
funny thing is Zophar and Job both desired statements from God but that’s about where similarity stopped
Zophar wanted God to declare he was right about Job, put Job in his place; since God isn’t showing up Zophar will speak for him; Zophar like the playground bully who would be happy if his big brother showed up, really show ’em who’s who
Job wanted God to say something, anything, preferably explain what his purpose was in Job’s suffering; more than anything else, Job wanted reassurance from God that they were on good terms
Zophar happy to speak for God in his absence; Job would not be happy until God himself spoke; meanwhile kept pleading with God for answers, not settling for any less than God
true, God did know far more about Job than anyone else; Job’s sin did deserve far greater consequences
another serious problem with Zophar’s theology evident here – gives no weight to Job’s habits – Job 1:5 “So it was, when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”
perhaps this helps to explain problems of three friends: Eliphaz, Bildad Zophar had a lot to say about God; Job only one in entire book that talked to God; God was real to Job in way he wasn’t to other three
every time Job sacrificed he experienced God’s grace and forgiveness applied to him personally; for his three friends forgiveness was at worst a theoretical idea, at best a business transaction
Job knew business transactions wouldn’t cut it to secure right standing with God; knew he could never satisfy demands of justice in this life; was dependent on God’s mercy, concept far from Zophar’s thoughts and counsel
C. you can’t know him v.7-12
Zophar makes even greater leap now: because God is incomprehensible, he is unknowable
says some right things, reaches wrong conclusions – it is true that:
we cannot fathom the depths of God, cannot discover and understand the essence of God (7) – can make statements about what it is that makes God God, now fully explain it!
to start with, God is infinite (8-9); we can define infinite, now help a 1st-grader understand infinite
God is absolutely sovereign, doing exactly as he pleases and no one can prevent him; God obviously will deal with the deceitful and wicked (10-11)
and btw, “Job has just as much chance of comprehending the mysteries of God as a wild donkey has of being born human.” (12)
here’s where Zophar goes wrong: decides because you cannot know God comprehensively you can’t know him at all
God alone knows God exhaustively; but,… that doesn’t mean we can’t know God at all (husbands/wives; moms/children)
we will never know God the way he knows himself, but we can know him to the extent he has revealed himself
God wants us to know him – that’s why he has revealed himself in natural and special revelation, especially in his Son, the Lord Jesus
Deut. 29:29“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
God not only wants us to know him, he expects us to know him, to understand to fullest extent of our ability with Holy Spirit’s help “the things that are revealed”
anybody can memorize list of rules, follow them; God’s desire for his children is that they know him, obey God because they know and love him, not because they’ve memorized the rules
D. but you can satisfy him v.13-20
Zophar lays out simple set of conditions for Job to follow: straighten up and fly right
“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. Then your face will brighten in innocence.” NLT
sounds easy, simple: live a decent life, do your best, pray when you get in trouble, God can’t expect any more than that
you deal with what’s wrong, then God will bless you – Zophar’s best advice, matches counsel of all the self-help gurus on TV and in bookstores
that’s what passes for the Gospel in many places: do your best, what you know is right, go to church on Sunday, be sure to tithe, maybe a few more things on the list
if you do this and this, God will do that and that; if you jump through these hoops, your life will turn around
if you meet these conditions, there is hope for your future – what Zophar promises in v.18
Job wasn’t buying it, you shouldn’t either; Zophar’s message and that of many false teachers today has no Gospel in it
there’s no good news, only bad news; Job understood and so must you – that law Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy condemns us
Job knew as well as anybody – no way he could clean himself up; even said in his last speech:
Job 9:30-31 “If I wash myself with snow water, And cleanse my hands with soap, Yet You will plunge me into the pit, And my own clothes will abhor me.”
Zophar must have missed that line; also the one about no “mediator between us who may lay his hand on us both” Job 9:33
it’s in the Mediator that we find true Gospel, genuine good news, hope for the future
First, for yourself: do not try to follow Zophar’s advice. It matters not whether you are born again or not, you cannot cleanse yourself from sin. You can’t keep yourself from sin in your own strength once you’ve been cleansed. You and I are just as dependent on Lord Jesus as Job was. We need him not only for salvation, we need him as our mediator – the one who stands between us and God the Father with his hand on us both. We need Jesus there continually – it’s in his name we pray, it is in him we are accepted by the Father, it is because of Jesus’ sacrifice we can be forgiven and cleansed.
Second: when you have opportunity to give counsel to others, don’t leave out the Gospel. Too many in the world are like Zophar: believe in God, maybe even God of the Bible. Like him think they can do A and B and C and God will do his thing and they’ll be ok. Gospel is simple – salvation is found in no other than the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12). There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 2:5) Jesus is the only one who can make us right before a holy God; Jesus is the only one who can keep us right before his Father. Preach the Gospel first to yourself, then to others as God gives you opportunity.