November 12, 2018: Wipe Away Every TearJosh Moody
Now comes Zophar. We have just seen Bildad, the second of “Job’s comforters.” Bildad had argued that Job had done something wrong; otherwise, why would the good God have caused Job to suffer as he was suffering? Job had replied that though he was a sinner in general, so were we all, and there was no reason why God had caused him specifically to suffer as he was, no reason that he could discern.
And now along comes Zophar. Zophar ratchets up the pressure somewhat. After Job has apparently effectively answered Bildad, Zophar now begins by saying, “Are all these words to go unanswered? Is this talker to be vindicated?” In other words, he will not sit idly by while Job answers Bildad without giving a further follow up reply to Job’s answer. You sense that Zophar is annoyed. Whereas Bildad had begun more generally to attempt to correct Job, now Job has refused to respond to Bildad, and at this point Zophar wants to “rebuke” Job: “Will no one rebuke you when you mock?”
But Zophar has completely misunderstood what Job is going through. So often this is the case when someone is suffering. The language of suffering is not precise and it is not pristine. It is the language of pain and trauma, and it does not help to judge it legalistically. Surely Zophar will have compassion on Job’s pain?
But for Zophar, as for Bildad, the issues are simple. God is good. Job is suffering. Therefore, Job must have done something wrong to suffer as he is. Therefore, the right advice to give Job is that Job should acknowledge his sin, repent, and God would restore him.
But what if Job has not done anything specifically wrong? The accusers gather around Job and add the weight of false guilt to his pain. May we not be like that! Mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.
But Zophar is seeking to convict Job, and in doing so heaps false condemnation upon him. “God has even forgotten some of your sin.” In other words, Job has so many sins that – if it were possible, which it is not – God could not simply keep a record of all the sins. What a terrible thing to say about someone, especially someone suffering. You’re not only a sinner, your sins are so bad and so many that even God finds it hard to keep track of them all!
What should Job do then, according to Zophar? “Put away the sin that is in your hand, and allow no evil into your tent.” Repent! Turn over a new leaf, get rid of that sin, that sin that we all know you are hiding somewhere.
Zophar warns us against intemperate and ill-conceived zeal. Zeal without knowledge. Finding someone in difficulty and accusing them of having done something to deserve it. That is not the path of a gospel-hearted person. Instead, we are to listen. We are to preach the gospel, not lecture legalism.
And if you are suffering, and if you are surrounded by a Zophar, take heart. God has a better word for you than that of Zophar. In Christ and in his suffering, you are accepted. You are accepted in the Beloved. Your pain, your tears, will one day all be gone; He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, for the old order of things will have passed away. And in the meantime, your suffering has a purpose. Your suffering is achieving an eternal glory that far outweighs all these momentary troubles. Keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your eyes on the cross of Christ. Put aside false guilt and senseless shame. See the Love of God for you. And in this suffering, find your opportunity to experience and witness to the love of God, the peace of God that passes all understanding.