Lately, I’ve been studying the book of Job and leading a group through it on Wednesday nights. We realized that although we routinely feel like we are sharing in the sufferings of Job, we are often more like Job’s friends then we are like Job.
There is inherent danger in this likeness because we too can respond to a Job-like trial or difficulty in the lives of others in same ways that Job’s three friends did. With this in mind, the speeches of Job’s friends serve as warning signs for us. In Job 20, Zophar is speaking for the second time in the book. He is the youngest to speak up to this point. He basically urges Job to admit his sinfulness and more or less preaches a sermon to Job. His sermon subject is the wicked person and his text is based in the traditions of old.
His speech specifically provides us with a huge warning sign pointing out six dangers or hazards that we must avoid when helping others through trials and difficulties.
- BEWARE OF HASTE
In 20:2 Zophar says, “Therefore my thoughts answer me, because of my haste within me.” In answering another or responding to them as they go through a difficulty we must beware of answering them or responding to them in haste. Haste is almost alway spurred on by feelings rather than facts. Wisdom has plenty to say about the dangers of haste: Proverbs 14:29, 16:32; 19:2; 25:28.
- BEWARE OF PRIDE
Notice 20:3, “I hear censure that insults me”. Watch out for answering or confronting out of personal offense! Again consider wisdom: Proverbs 16:18; 18:12.
- BEWARE OF HYPOCRISY
I am always leery about quoting the book of Job, especially when it comes to the words of his friends. This can be dangerous if we forget the context of those words…there may be truth spoken but in the wrong context! But one verse that I’ve been encouraged to remember is 16:4 when Job says, “I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place…”. The critical condemnation of his friends fails to remember their own sinfulness. Remember the words of Christ in His kingdom agenda in Matthew 7:1-15, 12.
- BEWARE OF MEANNESS, RUDENESS, AND EXAGGERATION
Notice Job 20:6-7, “Though his height mount up to the heavens and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung…”. It is good to employ discipline in the words that we choose, especially when we’re confronting someone that we think is in error. Rudeness accomplishes little and actually unveils the next warning sign.
- BEWARE OF ERRANT GOALS
What really seems to be Zophar’s goal in his speaking? Judging from verse 3, it seems to be more about saving face than anything else. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:12 reminds us, “Thus, sinning against your brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.”
Whenever we deal with friends going through difficult times, or confront them when they are in error, let’s measure our goal in terms of: the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31); the Gospel of God (1 Cor. 9:23); and the Growth of God’s people (1 Cor. 10:23-24).
- BEWARE OF POOR THEOLOGY
The rest of Job 20 reveals the heart of Zophar’s problem–bad theology! His only theological explanation for what was going on in Job’s life was the sin of Job. Yet, we know that there was much more to the situation than Zophar knew. So, it’s good to take time to seek out good theology as the foundation for any comfort or confrontation that we may find necessary.