Zophar’s response to Job’s outburst in chapters 9 & 10 expresses several truths of God’s nature – but does not in any way recognise ( as God later does) the anguish that Job is struggling with, or God’s love and mercy. As we read this book I am challenged to remember who God is, but not to dismiss another’s immense distress or their own understanding of their situation, when sickness, death of loved ones, loss of livelihood overwhelm them.
Jophar applies strict deductive logic to evaluate Job’s situation in a curt and insensitive manner. His logic is:
because Job is suffering so dramatically he must have sinned ch11:1-6. He even claims to speak as though he can read God’s assessment of Job which would be that Job deserves greater punishment than he is receiving, so he should be grateful!
he acknowledges God’s limitless wisdom – implying in comparison that Job is foolish ch 11:7-12. So, if Job would repent, God would restore the blessings he had once enjoyed ch 11:13-20. However Zophar did not know, or chose to ignore God’s assessment of Job in ch 1:8. ‘Have you considered my servant Job, there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’
Jophar twists what Job has said in ch 9:20-21 and ch10:7, taking his word ‘blameless’ and exaggerating it to ‘sinless’, as Daniel Estes in his commentary on Job claims ‘ this attempted counsel is really inaccurate, careless and even cruel.’
Listening to others, with discernment, is a great gift to anyone in trouble or as James encourages us ‘everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ James 1:19
Today we read of the growth of the church proceeding at a dramatic rate. We should notice that, as was a custom at the time, the believers met in a public place (Solomon’s colonnade v12) for teaching and learning. No doubt crowds would have gathered around, at a distance and would have heard.
The numbers of believers increased even though ‘no one else dared to join them.’ v Perhaps this was similar to the situation when Muslims convert to Christianity today.
The Sadducees, the political party from which the High Priests were chosen, were becoming alarmed
1)by the apostles’ popularity
2) because they were blamed for causing Jesus’ death
3) by the proclamation of resurrection which Peter was preaching and which they did not believe.
4) because of the increase in conversions.
When the order to give up preaching Christ was ignored, this resulted in imprisonment, but God acted. The apostles were miraculously freed and at daybreak were obediently preaching again in the temple court. On being questioned by the Sanhedrin, Peter strongly defended their calling to tell of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This was a clear demonstration of God’s enabling power through the Holy Spirit, as promised in Luke 12:11-12 ‘When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’
Gamaliel, an able Pharisee and teacher of St Paul, spoke up when the Sanhedrin, furious with the proclaimation of salvation through Jesus, decided to kill the apostles. His now famous speech v38&9 ‘if this purpose or activity is of human origin it will fail, but if it is from God you will not be able to stop these men; you will find yourself fighting against God.‘ They were beaten but freed – Jesus’ prediction of persecution was beginning.
Peter’s new courage in proclaiming Christ in the face of such strong opposition shows the Holy Spirit’s enabling presence and Gamaliel’s Godly wisdom focuses on a pure trust of God. Two wonderful models to encourage us.
Peter and Elizabeth Smart