For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you, 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. (Job 11:4-6)
In chapter 11 Zophar, Job’s third friend of woeful comfort speaks. Sometimes the dialog can be difficult for us to follow; I means much of what Job’s friends say seems right. It helps me to think of Job’s friends as prosecuting attorneys who are quick to accuse and tear Job down rather than provide him with any real comfort.
As we read this tug-of-war of words it’s also good to remember the wisdom of Solomon; “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.“ (Prov. 18:17). You might remember that when Job’s friends first come to comfort him they all sit for seven days and night without saying a word because Job’s “suffering was very great” (Job 2:13).
Job was first to speak in chapter 3 expressing the depth of his grief by wishing he had never been born. He says nothing about his integrity or innocence before the LORD, nor does Job question why these things have happened to him. Job simply expresses the intensity of his sorrow.
Eliphaz is the first to state that Job’s confidence is in the fear of God and the integrity of his ways was Job’s hope. Yet Eliphaz uses this to build an argument that Job must stand condemned before God because “those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.“ (Job 4:8) Thus when Job begins to speak of his innocence it is to defend himself against his accusers.
And so we come to Zophar who twists Job’s words; he states that Job has claimed that his doctrine (that is Job’s words and conduct) is pure and is therefore clean before God’s eyes. However, Job actually stated his place before God in the midst of his suffering saying, “Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, He would prove me perverse” (Job 9:20). Job does not say that he is without sin; rather he defends himself as not being the hypocrite his friends would make him out to be, fawning innocence but acting in evil.
Yet Zophar is unrelenting in his attack against Job. He goes on to say God has not treated Job according to his iniquity doing far less to Job than his guilt deserves.
How often are we like Job’s miserable comforters? We too can be quick to point a finger of accusation when we see people going through difficulty. It’s easier to try to find fault than give comfort.
I need to be careful the next time I am tempted to think someone is reaping from the wild oats they have sown. While this may be true it is not my duty to condemn those who are hurting; Jesus will be their final judge. Instead, I need the Holy Spirit help me to have the compassion of Jesus for those “harassed and helpless, like sheepwithout a shepherd” (Mat. 9:36).
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, I am thankful for Your mercy; You have not treated me according to my guilt, but have been patient and full of lovingkindness. Holy Spirit fill me with the compassion of Jesus to provide comfort to those going through trials and hardship. Forgive me for being hard-hearted and even at times judgmental; make me more like You.