FRIENDS OR TROLLS?
Lord, you are the God of sunrise and sunset. Let this day be a sunrise. Drive away any darkness in my life.
Read JOB 11
11 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:
2 “Are all these words to go unanswered?
Is this talker to be vindicated?
3 Will your idle talk reduce others to silence?
Will no one rebuke you when you mock?
4 You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless
and I am pure in your sight.’
5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open his lips against you
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.
7 “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
8 They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?
9 Their measure is longer than the earth
and wider than the sea.
10 “If he comes along and confines you in prison
and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
11 Surely he recognizes deceivers;
and when he sees evil, does he not take note?
12 But the witless can no more become wise
than a wild donkey’s colt can be born human.[a]
13 “Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
15 then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.
20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
and escape will elude them;
their hope will become a dying gasp.”
- Job 11:12 Or wild donkey can be born tame
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘My sin, not in part but the whole, / is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more; / praise the Lord … O my soul!’1
If Zophar had been on social media, just imagine what he might have done with it. In this day of internet availability, it is too easy to comment on other people’s lives in ways that are not always helpful. Zophar has fallen into the trap that awaits those who lecture others about their sufferings. He exaggerates the problem and over-simplifies the remedy. Job has not claimed that his beliefs are flawless or that he is pure in God’s sight (v 4). Crucially, although Job has been both honest and vulnerable in challenging God’s actions,2 he has not mocked God. Zophar’s scathing accusation of Job shows that he has neither listened to his heart, nor considered his situation closely enough. ‘Job’s bewilderment and his outbursts are natural; in them we find his humanity, and our own.’3
Through decades of chronic ill health, I faced similar reproach from well- meaning friends. Suffering is presumed to be linked either to hidden sin or else to lack of faith. That heaps pain on struggling believers who are waiting for God’s intervention and trusting him for grace to persevere.
Job’s friend longs that God would speak (v 5), but God had already spoken about Job4 – just not to him. Zophar also accurately foretells a little of what God would say in the future (vs 7,8),5 but without realizing the implications. His call for Job to repent might seem sensible at first, but sometimes our spiritual solutions to problems are limited. His rose-tinted outlook on the benefits of soul-searching and repentance are not realistic. We are not promised a life brighter than the noonday here, though there is one to come. Job was, instead, being called to trust in the dark.
Lord, help me to hear what you are saying. Open my eyes to the hurts and heart feelings of those who I know are suffering today.
Gracious Lord, I once heard empathy described as “your pain in my heart”. I need a big heart to enfold the hurts of others. Keep working on me Lord.
1 H Spafford, 1828–88, ‘When peace like a river’ 2 Job 10:9–22 3 Francis Andersen, Job, Tyndale, IVP, 1976, p169 4 Job 1:8; 2:3 5 Job 38–42
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