False Security

False Security

Job 11:18 (ESV) ~ And you will feel secure, because there is hope; you will look around and take your rest in security.

 

Zophar concluded his speech with an arrogant call for Job to repent. Zophar had no idea yet just how wrong he was about Job, that he himself would be the one who must later repent because of his mistreatment of his friend (Job 42:7-9). For now though, he was overly-confident, rash in his judgment, and wise in his own eyes—just as Bildad and Eliphaz had been.

 

What Zophar says in these verses about repentance is true. But, tragically (and foolishly on his part), what he said had nothing to do with Job’s situation. It was Zophar’s words that turned out to be vain and empty, not Job’s. And though his words sounded eloquent and persuasive, they were no less lacking in substance—and no less hurtful to Job.

 

Zophar’s counsel was for Job to prepare his heart and pray (v.13). In his opinion, Job needed to be silent and to listen; then he needed to devote his heart to God and plead for mercy (stretch out your hands). Together with this, Job needed to put away sin, that is, to sin no more. He needed to admit his wrongdoing, stop questioning the Lord, heed His discipline, and allow no more evil in his life or home (tent, v.14). In short, Job must repent. Only by repenting could he be delivered from his suffering, delivered from God’s judgment and punishment, and either have his wealth restored or his heart prepared for death.

 

Zophar’s next words were perhaps his most hopeful and positive. Nevertheless, they were still useless since they did not apply to Job. They provided no comfort or hope for him. Notice the seven points Zophar made about repentance—the seven results Job could expect if he repented:

 

  • Job would be made spotless—free of shame and guilt (v.15a). God would forgive and blot out his sin and remember it no more. Job would be healed spiritually; he would no longer bear the shame and guilt of sin, nor the disgrace of his dreadful condition.
  • Job would be made strong and fearless (v.15b). He would be healed physically and emotionally—restored to health and have nothing to fear.
  • Job would forget his troubles and misery (v.16). All of his difficulties and pain would vanish or float away like passing waters.
  • Job would be given a brighter life, a life with no darkness (v.17). In other words, he would experience no more problems—or at least not the pain, loss, and agony he now experienced. Rather than gloom and despair, Job’s life would be joyful, meaningful, and full of God’s presence and light.
  • Job would be given security, hope, and rest (v.18). He would enjoy both physical and spiritual rest (see Heb.4:1-13). No longer would he be hopeless, insecure, or restless.
  • Job would be able to lie down and sleep without fear (v.19a). He would no longer toss and turn in pain during the night, robbing him of his sleep. Instead, he would lie down in peace and safety; he would sleep in comfort and with confidence. Rather than feeling discomfort and dread, he would feel safe and secure. He would live and sleep without fear—the fear of pain and of further tragedy.
  • Job would be sought after for help and counsel (v.19b). In other words, he would be completely restored to his former condition. Strength, health, and wisdom would return to him. As in days past, neighbors from near and far would seek his wise counsel, his generosity, and his aid.

 

Zophar was probably proud of himself for listing all the benefits of repentance. After all, there was hope for Job! If Job would only repent, the Lord could save and restore him. If Zophar had stopped here, his speech would have ended on a positive note. Perhaps he would even have given Job a glimmer of hope or encouragement despite his earlier insults. For whatever reasons, however, Zophar felt compelled to continue on and end on a negative note.

 

Unlike the repentant, the unrepentant could not expect restoration. Again, Zophar felt obliged to warn Job. If Job failed to repent, he would die (eyes fail). He would get no escape from his suffering and all hope would be lost. Job would die in agony and his last hope would vanish along with his final, dying breath.

 

What dramatic and dismal words! Zophar had been so harsh and judgmental in his rebuke of Job that he most likely held little hope that Job would take his advice and repent. This is only speculation, of course, but it fits with Zophar’s general attitude—his arrogance and cynicism toward Job. If he had been gentler, it would be easier to give him the benefit of the doubt, to assume that he was feeling intense sympathy for his dear friend. Rather, Zophar seemed more intent on sounding wise and proving his point than in offering true comfort and support.

 

Zophar is like so many people who quickly offer words of wisdom and act as if they had special insight into God’s ways. How sad it is when we make ourselves feel better at the expense of others in complete despair! Think how much better it would have been if Zophar’s words had been spoken in love, even if they were not immediately relevant to Job’s situation. At least then he would only have been wrong, not arrogant and mean-spirited. As it stood, his words were neither loving nor relevant. Zophar comes across as rude and disrespectful; yet note how eloquent and wise his words sounded. Tragically, this is similar to so much of the teaching that goes on today, even good teaching.

 

This is a critical lesson for us: just because words sound noble and ring true does not necessarily make them right. Nor does it make God’s Word apply to every person in every situation. Claiming to have God-given insight into another person’s needs is simply unwise, even arrogant. Indeed, God’s Word can speak to every person in every situation. It is alive and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. But specific Scriptures—and specific truths about God and about how He acts—cannot be applied haphazardly and indiscriminately to every situation. Prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit are required to discern God’s Word, what He wants to say to a person in a particular situation. When counseling another person, we must pray, trust, and wait on the Lord for guidance. And until we receive such guidance, we must be very careful about what we say. Offering no advice is better than offering bad advice. It is better to listen, to be understanding, and to offer words of comfort than to presume to speak for God and possibly speak falsely. God’s Word actually instructs us to listen for God’s voice and to seek His guidance:

 

Matthew 7:7 (ESV) ~ Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

 

Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV) ~ You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

The integrity of our counsel often determines the outcome for those who hear and heed our advice. It can help or destroy those who follow it, as these examples and warnings, in Scripture clearly show:

 

Psalm 1:1 (ESV) ~ Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

 

Proverbs 12:5 (ESV) ~ The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
 
Pastor Andy Lambert

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