Friday, January 24, 2020

Job 11


Job 11:5-6 (ESV)
[5] But oh, that God would speak
and open his lips to you,
[6] and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For he is manifold in understanding.
Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.

Job 11 is an interesting chapter. Eliphaz, in chapters 4-5, spoke based on a vision he had experienced. Bildad, in chapter 8, appealed to tradition. Now Zophar speaks up. He is a no nonsense sort of guy. “God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” Zophar argues that there is clearly sin in Job’s life. Job’s sin deserves even worse than he is experiencing. If only he would come clean about his sin, God would make everything right.

Job 11:13-15 (ESV)
[13] “If you prepare your heart,
you will stretch out your hands toward him.
[14] If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and let not injustice dwell in your tents.
[15] Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
you will be secure and will not fear.


Zophar’s problem is that his understanding of the world, and the workings of God are too narrow. “You sin. God judges. You repent. God forgives and blesses.” For Zophar it is as simple as that. But Zophar’s conclusions are skewed. It is certainly possible that Job’s suffering is the result of sin, but that is not necessarily the cause. Zophar has assumed that he can reason backward from condition to cause. He doesn’t realize that there are things he cannot see. He cannot imagine that Job’s pain could come from any cause other than his own sin.

How often do we hear Matthew 7:16 quoted? “You will recognize them by their fruits.” We quote that passage and argue that we can know a person’s heart by their deeds. But that is hardly the context. Matthew 7:15-16 read, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” We will know false prophets by their fruit. The passage does not say that we will know a person’s heart by what they do. It does not say we will know a person’s motives by what they do. Yet that is too often what we conclude. We make the same mistake as Zophar. How much better if we would start quoting what God told Samuel when he went to find a king to replace Saul.

1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
[7] But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

In the first chapter of Acts, when the disciples chose the man that would replace Judas as an apostle, they knew that they could not read hearts. “And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen’” (Acts 1:24 ESV). Psalm 7:9 says that God is the one who tests “the minds and hearts.” In 1Kings 8 Solomon prays to God, “You, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind” (1Kings 8:39b). At least three times Jeremiah makes note of the fact that God sees “the heart and the mind” (Jer 11:2; 17:10; 20:12).

How much better off we would be if we would quit trying to read people’s motives, hearts, and minds. Only God can see that deep. We can guess, but we are often wrong. We cannot know a person’s motives for certain. We cannot read hearts. Only God can do that. To argue from circumstances to motives and heart conditions is arrogant at best, and almost always dangerous and destructive.

Zophar thinks he has Job figured out. He doesn’t have clue. Zophar argues that the cause of Job’s pain is obvious. All one has to do is reason back from Job’s experience to the obvious condition of his heart. Zophar is wrong in his assessment, and we are almost always wrong when we try to do that as well. Only God sees the heart. Zophar would have been much better off if he had listened to his own words, “Can you find out the deep things of God” (Job 11:7)? The obvious answer is, “No. No one can find out the deep things of God.” Zophar understood that Job could not “find out the deep things of God.” He forgot that he couldn’t either.

It is time we stop quoting Matthew 7:16 so much, and start taking to heart 1Samuel 16:7. How much better off we would be if we would pray for discernment rather than assume we know someone’s heart. How much better off we would be if we would walk humbly with others rather than arrogantly assume we know their heart. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1Samuel 16:7b).

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