In the foregoing chapter, Job concluded his answer to Bildad; and one would have thought that such an excellent confession of faith as he had made would have satisfied his friends. But it seems that they did not take any notice of it, and now he was presented with a new address by Zophar. But all that Zophar said here carried the same idea as what had been said before, and it all ran upon the same mistaken idea – namely, that misery and suffering only mark the character of evil people.
Zophar spoke of the short-lived nature of the wicked person’s triumph and the hypocrite’s joy. The pleasures and gains of sin bring disease and pain; and they end in remorse, anguish, and ruin. He also fully illustrated the miserable condition of the wicked person in this world. Verse 12 describes how he hides wickedness under his tongue – denoting concealment of his beloved lusts, and his delight therein. But the same Lord Who knows what is in the heart also knows what is under the tongue, and He will discover and expose it. The love of the world and its wealth is also wickedness, and people too often set their hearts upon these things. Violence and injustice are other sins that particularly draw down God’s judgments upon nations and families.
Zophar also gave a description of the punishment of the wicked for these things. The sins that are regarded as sweet in the sinner’s mouth are turned into gall, which is very bitter; and not only do they turn out to be bitter, but they will also prove to be poison, like a viper’s venom. Even in his fullness, the wicked man finds himself in straits and difficulties, through the anxieties of his own mind. The things that he thought would be an enjoyment to him, and which he violently oppressed the poor to obtain, will eat up his conscience; and he will be obliged to make restitution to those whom he stole from. It is a great mercy to be led by the sanctifying grace of God (as Zacchaeus was) to restore what was unjustly gotten, but to be forced to restore wrongful gain by the horrors of a despairing conscience (as Judas was) has no benefit or comfort attending it.
It is noteworthy to observe that Zophar and his friends had now exhausted themselves; their only power of continuance was by vain repetitions of what they had already said, which had been answered over and over again by Job. Their understandings seem to have been confined as if by a tether, keeping them going around and around in a narrow circle. We do believe that these men are now saints in glory; but at this time, they seem to have been dead in trespasses and sins, although they were afterward justified and ransomed by the blood of Jesus – of which the seven bullocks and seven rams, which were offered at God’s command for them in chapter 42, were a picture.
Having described the vexations which attend wicked and hypocritical practices, Zophar showed their ruin from God’s wrath. There is no fence to protect anyone from this Divine wrath, except in Jesus! He is the only refuge from the storm and tempest (Isa. 32:2). Zophar concluded that such Divine judgments and ruin are “the portion of a wicked man from God.” But never was any doctrine better explained, or worse applied, than by Zophar; for in doing so, he intended to prove Job to be a hypocrite. Let us take his good explanation and make a better application of it, by taking a warning to ourselves.
The main intention of Zophar’s preaching was to show the misery of the wicked and the prosperity of the righteous. And if he had connected the subject as referring to both this lifetime and eternity; and then insisted upon it that wickedness, sooner or later, must produce misery – then all would have been well. But by confining his observations to the limits of this lifetime only, and by going upon the grounds that the Lord never did nor ever will afflict the righteous, he miserably mistook the truths of God and the universal experience of the faithful in all ages. If Zophar had read about the history of the Patriarchs, the cruel treatment of Joseph, and the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt; or if he had known what we know of Jesus and His sorrows – then he would have realized the fallacy of his arguments. If we keep this in mind as we read the words of Job’s three friends, then we shall learn many suitable lessons from them; and we shall find many striking observations which deserve our attention.
How beautifully did Zophar illustrate the wretched state of even the most prosperous sinner! How short are his triumphs, and how fleeting and unsubstantial are all his joys! Although he makes his nest on high, and his head reaches to the clouds, yet this is only to make his fall even more grievous and heavy. His conscience, his thoughts, and his whole heart are always in alarm. His sins lie down with him in the grave; and his name, his dwelling-place, and his memory – how soon are they forgotten! Then, too, what a descriptive representation of misery did Zophar give of the miserable state of wicked persons while they live on this earth, as well as of the terrors in which they often die. But as this discourse was personally directed to Job, how unkind and unjust were the entirety of Zophar’s reasonings! How much sweeter are those short but decisive words of the Lord from the mouth of the prophet Isaiah: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him!” (Isa. 3:10-11)
Lord, we pray that whenever we face trials, we may remember how Jesus endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself, so that we may not grow faint. Amen.
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