Job 11:1-20 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Zophar, Right and Yet Wrong
Comments for Study 5

Job 11:1-20
Key verse: 11:5-6


As a person follows Jesus' teaching by faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit, studies the Bible, listens to Sunday messages, read Christian books, and interacts with other believers he formulates strong beliefs and opinions. Often, as we go thru this life we meet people who have different opinions, and even no opinions at all. Some of the time this happens with unbelievers. But most of the time this happens with believers.

The more a person is eager to share the truth, the more this will happen. Ironically, the more we want to share the truth, the more zealous we usually become. The same is often true with the other believers, even though they have different opinions than ours. How then should we react in these situations? This study is a good example of this scenario. Of course there are other points that will be made.

The scenario mentioned above from today's study is as follows. From Job's point of view Zophar is a fellow believer. However, Zophar has made and stated errors because of the points listed below in notes on verse 1. How should Job react to Zophar? Further more, Job has questions that he cannot answer; questions on theological issues that were asked by all believers in his time. Because of this Job is making himself vulnerability to easy attack. His "believing friends" pick up on this and attack him on that level.

From the other point of view, that is of Zophar's; Job is a believer who God has shown is a sinner by suffering, and who has made and stated errors. Also Job's anger and the irreverence of his complaints is further evidence to him of Job's sins and are even added onto his sins. How should have Zophar reacted to Job? He reacts by saying repent.

I. What Did You Just Say? (1-4)

>1. Read the entire chapter noting possible errors in Zophar's theology. Read 42:7-9. As we study this chapter consider how he is at fault.

Job 11:1 "Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:"

* Zophar is an example of a man who speaks words of truth, and yet is totally wrong. (Read 42:7-9.) How can this be?
    First, Zophar's truth does not apply to Job's circumstances. Job is innocent and his suffering is the result of the spiritual battle in heaven. Even though Zophar doesn't know this, he is still guilty of speaking the truth and yet being wrong.
    Secondly, Zophar speaks the truth to attack Job in anger; not to assist Job in love.
    Thirdly, Zophar understanding of God is incomplete.
    Fourth, Zophar theology is incomplete and in turn tells half truths.
    Fifth, Zophar is self-righteous.
    Sixth, Zophar is speaking from his emotions, and even become irrational.
    Seven, Zophar made wrong conclusions based on true facts.

>2. Describe the spirit behind Bildad's response to Job's claims. (11:2-3) Did Job ever say "my beliefs are flawless" or "I am pure in your sight"? What does he imply by making these statements about Job?

>3. Consider how Zophar's interaction with Job contrasts with James 5:13-16, James 1:26-27, Hebrews 10:23-25, and Ephesians 4:15.

Job 11:2 ""Are all these words to go unanswered? Is this talker to be vindicated?"

* According to Zophar, everything Job has said is nothing but a lot of verbiage-mere words. He says Job is a "talker". In other words "Job is a man of lips". Thus Zophar begins his attack on Job with intent to make his change his mind and repent.

Job 11:3 "Will your idle talk reduce men to silence? Will no one rebuke you when you mock?"

* "idle talk"-In other words, "a mouth" who is full of "empty chatter".

Job 11:4 "You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.'"

* These are words that Job has not said. Why did Zophar then say that Job did? Zophar is using the old tactic that emotion that comes for self-righteousness often does, which is: setting up a "straw man" that is meant to represent a opponent and the opponents beliefs and then knock him down.

* James 5:13-16 "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

* James 1:26-27 "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

* Hebrews 10:23-25 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

* Ephesians 4:15 "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

II. If God Would Speak He Would Say... (5-20)

>4. What does Zophar say he wishes for and then fulfills himself? (5) What does he mean by "God has even forgotten some of your sins"? (Psalm 103:10, Ezra 9:13, Lam. 3:22) What do we know to be true of all of a believer's sins? (1 Peter 2:24)

Job 11:5 "Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you"

* In fact, Zophar insists he knows exactly what God is thinking and what God would say if he spoke. Thus he begins to tell Job what he knows what God would say.

Job 11:6 "and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin."

* Thus, here Zophar says what he knows God would say to Job. Paraphrasing it Zophar is saying, "Job, your suffering is not nearly as bad as you deserve." There is truth in this, but because it is said under the points mentioned above in verse 1, Zophar is wrong. (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Beware of anyone who claims to know the secrets of God's thoughts. Privileged information is a vicious weapon when used to protect our own self-interest. Worse yet, if privileged information is turned into an offensive weapon to press a personal advantage, truth becomes one of its victims.

* "God has even forgotten some of your sin" is an ironic statement. On the one hand Zophar says Job is a sinner. He even wants God to come and rebuke him. He says that all of Job's calamities are the result of sin (which by the way are some of the worst sufferings that anybody has gone thru.) And on the other hand, in this verse Zophar says that Job isn't suffering as he deserves. Thus Zophar, by suggesting that the sinner Job may not be getting all that he deserves, is admitting that God does not always act in absolute justice. Thus Zophar, in verse 6, unwittingly points out the flaw in his theology; suffering equals sin, prosperity equals righteous.

* Psalms 103:10 "he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities."

* Ezra 9:13 "What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this."

* Lamentations 3:22 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fail."

* 1 Peter 2:24 "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Job 11:7-9 "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens--what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave--what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea."

* Zophar speaks the truth. Everything he says in this description of God, God himself will later say to Job. But in truth Zophar is wrong because he uses truth to attack Job's efforts at understanding his situation. He belittles Job's urgent questions as impertinent attempts to fathom the unfathomable and to know the limits of the limitless.

Job 11:10 ""If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him?"

* Zophar scoffs at Job's foolish suggestion of going to court with a God that cannot be opposed. He also says Job's in prison, serving the punishment for sin.

>6. What does he imply about Job in verse 11? Is Zophar's theology wrong? Is his conclusion about Job wrong? What does he imply about Job in verse 12? Is Zophar's theology wrong? Is his conclusion about Job wrong? How does Zophar show that a person can be right and yet wrong?

Job 11:11 "Surely he recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?"

* Zophar accuses Job of dishonesty-as if all Job's attempts to understand are merely a cover up for his sins, which God has already exposed.

Job 11:12 "But a witless man can no more become wise than a wild donkey's colt can be born a man."

* Zophar insinuates Job is a "vain" or "witless" man who has as much chance of becoming wise as a donkey's colt has of being born a man. Zophar is calling Job "an empty-headed son of a wild ass."

Zophar knows facts about God, but his callous (hard heart) attitude toward Job demonstrates that he doesn't really understand God. He has not allowed the facts of God's greatness to change him, or even better yet, the fact change him in the wrong way that the fact were intended to work. In short, Zophar has misinterpreted God and God's ways from the facts before him. He is like many Christians who can tell you the truth about God, but who do it in a self-righteous, loveless way that forces you into lifeless religious conformity or condemns you to loneliness and confusion.

>7. What is Zophar telling Job to do in verses 13-14? How does this counter with what Job has been saying all along? Why would Zophar insist on making this statement anyway?

Job 11:13-15 ""Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear."

* After attacking Job, Zophar gives advice in a patronizing and saccharine tone. He has reason to believe that Job does not know God and says that Job must take four steps to be saved:
    1) He must prepare his heart (13)
    2) He must reach out to God in prayer (13)
    3) He must put away his sin (14)
    4) He must renounce wickedness in his family (14).

If the above is done then the following will happen:
    1) He will have no shame among his piers (15)
    2) He will be on solid ground with God and man (15)
    3) He will not have fear (15).

These points are right, but because they are made under the wrong assumption that Job has sinned, Zophar is wrong.

If a Christian comes across someone who claims to be a Christian but has different viewpoints than them, we tend to believe that they are not Christians and must be saved. The Bible teaches that confessing Jesus as Lord and believing God has raised him from the dead is the path to salvation (Rom. 10:9).

Similarly, many Christians "refuse to accept the legitimacy of the faith of people who came to Christ apart from traditional religious practices and customs... Many who confess and believe are considered targets for unnecessary and confusing pressure-even outright rejection-from Christians, simply because they have not gone through the rituals of evangelicalism, have not spoken precisely the right words (Christian jargon)," cannot come up with the right verses fast enough, "or have not conformed to other external patterns of predetermined modes of conversion." (Extracted from Christian Publication's Adult Teaching Guide (June-Aug. 1995). Same is true for points in quotes below.)

Also, those who are strong in faith (or strong in attitude, or unknowingly self-righteous, or just know a lot of Christian things) often look down on the weak in faith. Romans 15:1 says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." Paul actually delighted in weakness he said in 2 Corinthians 12:10, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

>8. What does Zophar say will happen if Job listens to him? (15-19) Is he correct?

Job 11:16-20 "You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor. But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp."

* This is just a continuation of what Job would benefit from according to Zophar. Adding to the list above:
    4) Trouble will be a vague memory
    5) Life will be bright.
    6) The darkness of his confusion will end.
    7) He will have security and hope.<
    8) He will rest in safety.
    9) People will look to him for leadership.

What Zophar has done is the mistake that some Christians make when witnessing. They do not mention the whole truth. "With all good intentions, witnesses often paint such a glowing picture of the benefits of faith that they leave the flawed impression that the Christian life is all joy, peace an fulfillment, and that the follower of Christ leaves all trouble behind at the point of conversion." This is truth that is not said in whole and is thus wrong. P. Scott Smith has some great witnessing tools on his web site. To visit it go to my "fun pages" and pick the "links" icon.

>9. What is his concluding remarks to Job? (20)

>10. How should have Zophar treated Job? (Rom. 15:1, and 2 Corinthians 12:10)