Zophar’s first speech
God is kind
v1 Zophar, who belonged to the people called Naamathites, replied. He said:
v2 I must answer Job’s many words. I cannot agree that his long speech was right.
v3 Job, no man should be silent when he hears your foolish words. Someone must stop you when you laugh (at our words). v4 You claim that you are innocent. You claim that you are right. v5 But if God spoke, he would accuse you. v6 He would tell you the secrets of wisdom that are hard to discover. You need to realise this:
· God does not punish you for all your evil behaviour.
Zophar was unhappy when he heard Job’s words. Job’s explanation in Job 10:13-17 suggested that God may be cruel. So Zophar wanted to remind Job that, in fact, God is kind. Zophar was not sure that Job was a good man. So, Zophar encouraged Job to stop any evil behaviour. Then, Zophar said, God would help Job.
Zophar’s words seem angry. Job’s speech upset Zophar. Eliphaz wanted to encourage Job (Job 4:3-6). Bildad wanted to correct Job (Job 8:2-4). But Zophar wanted to warn Job.
At the start, Job’s friends believed that Job was a good man. But they could not explain why God would allow an innocent man to suffer. So they started to think that Job might, in fact, be evil. In the end, Eliphaz would accuse Job clearly (Job 22:4-9).
Zophar’s explanation shows his doubts about Job’s character. Zophar said that he was wise enough to understand a secret about God. This secret was that God was really kind, even to Job. This seems a strange statement because Job was suffering so much. Zophar explained that Job deserved punishment for his evil behaviour. But God was kind. The punishment would be much worse if God punished Job for every evil deed.
When Job heard this, his attitudes changed. He became bolder. He realised that his friends’ words were in fact evil (Job 13:7). He warned them not to accuse him unfairly (Job 13:10). He told them about God’s deeds (Job 12:13). And Job realised that he needed to trust God (Job 13:3). Job knew now that nobody else would help him.
God is very great
v7 You cannot search for God. And you cannot find him.
You cannot measure his greatness. v8 You would need to measure heaven and hell. So, you know nothing. v9 You cannot even measure the sea and the land.
v10 Suppose that God comes to arrest you. In his court, nobody could oppose God. v11 God knows when people lie. God watches evil men.
v12 But a stupid man will not become wise. A wild donkey (animal) is not born tame.
Zophar’s words in verses 7-9 are like God’s words in Job 38:4-5 and Job 38:19. God said these things to teach Job about God’s greatness. But Zophar wanted to frighten Job. Zophar was saying, ‘God is very great. He would not do anything wrong. Job, you are suffering. So, you are clearly an evil man. You have no right even to speak to God. You do not deserve to ask God why you are suffering.’
Zophar did not even think that Job would learn anything. You can read more about wild donkeys (animals) in Job 39:5-8. Nobody controls such animals. And Zophar thought that Job’s attitudes were entirely wrong.
Zophar’s advice to Job
v13 So, change your attitudes! Pray to God! v14 Stop all evil behaviour! Even in private, do not do anything evil!
v15 Then, your face will have no spots. You will be confident. You will not be afraid. v16 In time, you will forget your troubles. Your troubles will go by, like water in a river. v17 You will feel stronger than the sunshine at noon. Even the night will seem like the morning. v18 You will have hope. So, you will be safe. You will see that it is safe to rest. v19 When you lie down, nobody will make you afraid. And people will want to be your friends.
v20 But wicked people will suffer. They will not understand what is happening. They will be unable to escape. They will wish that they could die.
Job was well-known for his good character (Job 29:11-12). So Zophar thought that Job’s evil deeds must be secret. Jesus also taught that God sees our private behaviour (Matthew 6:1-4).
Zophar’s words here were clever. Job had spots on his face because of his illness (Job 2:7). But the first sentence also means, ‘Then, you will not be ashamed.’
But this sentence also shows Zophar’s errors. Zophar only spoke about Job’s face. Job had spots over his whole body. In other words, Zophar was too simple. He thought that good people suffer no troubles. And he thought that evil people suffer great troubles. Job’s other friends believed Zophar. They liked his simple explanation. But his explanation was not correct.
These are beautiful words. In heaven, our lives will be like this. But in this world, sometimes good people must suffer, like Job. And sometimes our friends, like Job’s friends, will give us the wrong advice.
When we suffer troubles, we, like Job, must trust God. Even when our troubles are terrible, we must continue to praise God (Job 1:20-21). We must be careful that our troubles do not cause us to do evil things (Job 2:10). Even when we have no food, we should still praise God (Habakkuk 3:17-18). He will give us the strength to continue to serve him (Habakkuk 3:19).
Perhaps, even in this world, God will rescue us from our troubles. This happened to Job (Job 42:10). We know that God is able to help us in any situation.
But even if God does not rescue us, we should still serve him (Daniel 3:17-18).
Even if death seems likely, God will be with us. And he will help us (Daniel 3:24-25; Acts 7:56). God will have a wonderful reward for us in heaven (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Zophar thought that wicked people always have terrible lives. In fact, this was his explanation for Job’s troubles.
Job’s troubles were so terrible that he wanted to die (Job 7:15-16). Job did not know about heaven (Job 10:22). He only knew about this earth. He had not seen that God’s servants gather in heaven (Job 1:6). He did not realise that God made many wonderful places as well as this earth (Job chapter 38).
And Job did not even realise that God was proud of Job (Job 1:8). The three friends also did not realise this. When God told them about their error, they asked Job to pray for them (Job 42:7-9).