The Word Made Fresh
1Then Zophar the Naamathite spoke up and said, 2“Should all this go unanswered? Should a man be vindicated for his verbiage? 3Should we keep quiet while you babble, and not challenge your mockery? 4You say you are innocent, 5but I wish God would speak and respond to your diatribe, 6and teach you what really constitutes wisdom, because wisdom is a complicated thing. Admit that God punishes you less than you deserve.
7“Do you think you can uncover God’s secrets, and discover the limits of the Almighty? 8God’s wisdom is higher than the highest heavens, so what do you think you can do? It is deeper than the grave, so what can you know? 9God’s wisdom is wider than the earth and broader than the sea. 10If God should come and put you in jail and convene a court to judge you, who could interfere? 11Doesn’t God notice when worthless people are corrupt? 12An idiot cannot become a genius any more than a wild donkey can become human.
13If your heart is right you will reach out to God, 14but if sin is in your hands cast it away and don’t let sinfulness come anywhere near you. 15Surely then you will look up without a smudge on your character, and you will be safe and will not be afraid. 16You will forget about your suffering; it will be to you as turbulent waters that have been calmed. 17Your life will brighten as the day, and any darkness will be no more than daybreak. 18And you will be confident because there is hope. You will be able to rest in safety, 19and you can lie down without fear. Others will look to you as an example, 20but the wicked can’t see the path ahead of them and will not be able to escape their fate; their only hope is in death.”
1-6: Eliphaz and Bildad have had their say, and now it is Zophar’s turn. Like so many people he is afraid to simply let Job speak out his angst, perhaps because he, like all of us, sees that the fate of a friend who is suffering is only one step removed from his own downfall. He has to challenge Job’s anger at God, and even goes so far as to tell Job that he probably deserves even worse than he’s getting! With friends like these…
7-12: He says that Job doesn’t know anything about God and has no right to judge God’s judgment.
13-20: All you have to do, Job, is admit your guilt and God will forgive you. You’ll be well again and everything will be alright. You’ll forget all about this and you’ll be confident and hopeful again. God will take care of you, Zophar tells him, but if you persist in your wickedness, it’s all over for you.
Job’s friends simply cannot comprehend Job’s suffering except in the context of sinfulness. They are like those people today saying of a friend who is suffering, “I wonder what she or he did to deserve this?” But the truth is that even good people suffer sometimes. That is a difficult truth to accept, but God does allow faithful people to suffer. That’s life. Earthly life, that is. The trick is to refrain from asking ourselves, “Why has this calamity befallen me?” and ask instead, “What does God want of me in this situation?”