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FIRST SPEECH OF ZOPHAR
Zophar follows in the same train with his companions. Misled by the same false principle—great sufferings prove great sins—he acts the part, not of a comforter, but of a reprover and an exhorter.
I. His reason for speaking (Job 11:2-4).
“Should not the multitude of words be answered?” &c. His reason involves Job’s censure. Bitterly reproves him—
(1) As a mere talker (Job 11:2). “Should a man full of talk be justified?”
(2) As a vain and lying boaster (Job 11:3). “Should thy lies make men hold their peace?”
(3) As a proud despiser of others; “When thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?”
(4) As a self-righteous pretender to perfection, both in his principle and his practice (Job 11:4). “For thou hast said, my doctrine (speech, teaching, principles) is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.” Observe—
(1) Even good men can speak and act towards others like the carnal and unconverted.
(2) Religious professors very often misunderstand and misjudge God’s tried people.
(3) Believers’ greatest trials sometimes from their own brethren in the faith. Christ a merciful as well as faithful High Priest, touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15).
II. Zophar desiderates Divine teaching for Job’s conviction (Job 11:5).
“But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee!” God speaks with a strong hand (Isaiah 8:11). “None teacheth like Him.” Such teaching needed alike by saint and sinner. Necessary—
(1) for conviction;
(2) for consolation. Divine teaching imparts—
(1) the knowledge of ourselves;
(2) the knowledge of God. God opens his lips—
(1) “against” the sinner, for his conviction;
(2) for him, for his consolation. “Spake in time past to the fathers in divers manners.” Speaks now—
(1) In His Word;
(2) By His Spirit. The Spirit’s office to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). The Word of God sharper than any two-edged sword—a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Its office to pierce, to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Hebrews 4:12).—Two things desired as the result of Divine teaching in Job’s case; both important for shutting the mouths of complainers against God:—
1. The discovery of God’s transcendent and unsearchable wisdom (Job 11:6). “That he would shew thee the secrets (hidden depths) of wisdom, that they are double to that which is” (or, “for they are manifold,” or “there are doublings,”—complications or intricacies—“in his understanding”).—All complaints against the Divine procedure and our own lot proceed from ignorance of God’s designs. “What I do thou knowest not now.” God’s judgments a great deep. His way in the sea. “Depth of riches,” both in “the wisdom and knowledge of God.” His ways past finding out, yet all just and true. God not to be traced but trusted. “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,” &c.
2. The discovery of Job’s own sinfulness as much greater than his sufferings. “Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth” (or “consigns to oblivion in thy favour,” or “remits to thee [a part] of thy iniquity,” or “punishment”). True, even in Job’s case, on the supposition that his sufferings were the punishment of his sins. Any affliction in this life only a part of what all sin deserves. The rich man in torments probably no worse than his neighbours (Luke 16:19-23). His sin not even mentioned by the Saviour. Probably only worldliness and self-indulgence, with its natural consequence, heedlessness of the wants and woes of others. His belly and the world his God. To offend in one point of God’s law makes a man guilty of all. Sin, knowingly committed, nothing less than rebellion against God; causeless anger and hatred against another, equivalent in God’s sight to murder. Equally subjects a man to the penalty of hell-fire (Matthew 5:22; 1 John 3:15). Covetousness a species of idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). Earth a place of mercy and forbearance. The full punishment of sin reserved for another state.
III. Zophar chides Job’s presumption, and enlarges on the unsearchableness of the Almighty (Job 11:7-9).
“Canst thou by searching find out God” (or, “wilt thou find out the search,” or “deep wisdom” of God?) Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection (or “wilt thou find out perfectly,” or “penetrate to the perfection of the Almighty?”) It is as high as heaven (margin, “the heights of heaven”); what canst thou do [in attaining to it, viz., the deep wisdom or perfection of the Almighty]; deeper than hell (Sheol, or Hades, the invisible spirit-world, supposed to be in the lower parts of the earth), what canst thou know? (or how wilt thou understand it?) The measure thereof is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” Poetical description of the Divine wisdom and knowledge, and in general of
The Unsearchableness of God
God unsearchable to finite creatures—
1. In His Person. His Nature or Essence beyond creature ken. As easy for an insect to comprehend man’s nature as for man to comprehend his Creator’s. The more the Grecian sage studied the question, what is God? the more he felt himself lost in it. Hence the altar of Athens with the inscription: To the Unknown God. In God is both “that which may be known,” and which may not be known (Romans 1:19). That He is, and what He is, may be known; how He is, and how far He is, is beyond a creature’s capacity to know. God capable of being apprehended, but not of being comprehended. A little child may apprehend God; a seraph cannot comprehend Him. God is incomprehensible in His mode of being as the One God; still more as the Three in One. To know that God is and what He is, necessary for an intelligent creature’s happiness: to know how He is, were it possible, could only gratify his curiosity. God only known as He is pleased to reveal Himself. Reveals Himself—
(1) In His works;
(2) In the human consciousness;
(3) In His word;
(4) Most of all in His Son Jesus Christ. Christ the image of the invisible God; He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father (Colossians 1:15; John 14:9). The incarnation, life, and death of Jesus Christ,—the final, full and authentic exhibition of the Divine character and perfections. Eternal life, to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent (John 17:3).
2. His Perfections. God’s Perfections or Attributes are—
(1) Natural or essential, as His Omniscience and Omnipotence;
(2) Moral, as His justice and goodness. God unsearchable in both kinds. The universe a theatre for the display of His perfections. A God everywhere present, and everywhere working,—sustaining the vibrations of an animalcule and the revolutions of a planet; watching over a sparrow, and giving orders to an archangel; and doing all in infinite wisdom, and justice, and goodness,—may well be unsearchable.
3. In His Purposes. The history of the world and of the universe, as well as of each individual, the evolution of these purposes (Acts 15:18; Acts 2:23). His purposes unsearchable (Romans 11:33; Psalms 92:5). “Deep in unfathomable mines,” &c.
4. In His Performances. God unsearchable in His works of creation. Examples: The contents of a drop of stagnant water, as examined with a microscope; the starry heavens, as seen through Lord Rosse’s telescope. Modern astronomy gives a meaning to the “heights of heaven” undreamt of in the days of Zophar. Geology, on the other hand, reveals displays of Divine power and wisdom in extinct worlds or creations far beneath our feet.
5. In His Procedure. God’s dealings in providence both in regard to angels and men, the human race and the individuals composing it, unsearchable. Evil permitted in His own universe. The incarnation and death of His own Son an atonement for it. Man the object of that merciful provision; sinning angels excluded from its benefit.
Lessons from the unsearchableness of God:—
1. Modesty and humility in judging of God’s person or perfections, His works or His ways.
2. Submission to His will, and acquiescence in His providence.
3. Implicit trust in His wisdom and goodness.
4. Reverential, loving, and admiring adoration. The result of the contemplation of God’s works and ways in the apostle (Romans 11:33-36), and in the glorified in heaven (Revelation 15:3-4).
IV. Adduces God’s resistless power and all-seeing eye as arguments to move Job to repentance (Job 11:10-12).
1. His Almighty power (Job 11:10). “If He cut off” (margin, “make a change,” as He has done in Job and his family; or, “if He seize” as a criminal, as He has done in Job’s case), and shut up (as in prison; or, “deliver over,” i.e., to an officer for trial), or gather together (an assembly or court to try the criminal)—who can hinder him? (margin, “turn him away.”) Awful picture of a sinner arrested by Divine justice. A sinner in the hands of an angry God! Escape or rescue equally impossible. The only hope of safety for a sinner lies in submission. Same sentiment uttered by Job himself (ch. Job 9:4; Job 9:12-13). Argument used by God (Psalms 50:22); by Jesus (Matthew 5:25-26); by the Apostle (Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 10:31).
2. His Omniscience (Job 11:12). “For He knoweth vain men; He seeth wickedness also; will He not then consider it?” Another weighty argument for a sinner’s repentance. To elude God’s eye as impossible as to escape from His hand. “No darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” “All things naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Further considerations, however, necessary to bring a sinner to repentance. Felix “trembled,” and said to the preacher: “Go thy way for this time.” Only the apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ able to soften and subdue the sinner’s heart. As addressed to Job, these arguments were—
(1) Inapplicable; Job not the sinner Zophar supposed.
(2) Useless; Job probably more keenly sensible of these truths than Zophar himself. Arguments, in order to move and benefit, need to be not only sound and solemn, but suitable and seasonable.—One important part of a preacher’s duty to consider the character and condition of those whom he addresses.—Zophar’s application of the foregoing arguments (Job 11:12). “For vain man would be wise (or ‘but let a vain, or empty, hollow-headed man become wise’) though man be born as the wild ass’s colt,” (or, “and let the wild ass’s colt be born a man”). The latter part of the verse, as thus read, an Arab proverb. “Wild ass,” used by the Arabs as a term of reproach. Probably the whole a proverbial maxim of the ancients. Apparently an exhortation rather than a statement. Contains truth in reference to man in general.
1. Man left to himself, ever since the fall, is “vain”. Empty of real goodness and sound spiritual understanding. “There is none that understandeth; there is none that doeth good.” Even the sages of antiquity “professing themselves wise became fools” (Romans 1:22).
2. Man is now by nature froward and self-willed “as a wild ass’s colt.” Like that animal, man’s disposition is to be free and uncontrolled. The child, like the man, wishes to be its own master. “Our lips are our own. Who is lord over us?” “Who is the Lord, that I should serve Him?” “Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” Frowardness, self-will, and intractableness, God’s frequent complaints against Israel. “All day long have I stretched out my hand towards a disobedient and gainsaying people.” “The heart of man fully set in them to do evil.” “Madness in men’s hearts while they live.” The constant tendency of man’s fallen nature to break loose from the restraints of Divine authority. Apart from grace, man, after his hardness and impenitent heart, treasures up wrath against the day of wrath (Romans 2:5).
3. A change of character and disposition necessary in order to man’s well-being either here or hereafter. The vain man must become wise. The wild ass’s colt—froward, self-willed, independent—must become a man, thoughtful, submissive, obedient. The second part of Christ’s call in the Gospel: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
4. Such a change nothing less than a new birth. The wild ass’s colt must be “born” in order to become a man. A new birth necessary to froward, self-willed, independent man, in order to his entering the kingdom of God, whether on earth or in heaven. The teaching of Jesus (John 3:7). The promise (Ezekiel 36:26). The prayer (Psalms 51:10). The experience of it (Titus 3:5). The exhortation, as addressed to Job, was—
(1) Inapplicable. Job neither a fool nor, except perhaps in his trouble, especially when worried by his friends, a wild ass’s colt.
(2). Uncharitable, because inappropriate. “Charity thinketh no evil; hopeth all things.”
(3). Rude. No part of wisdom in a preacher or monitor to apply harsh terms and ill names, even indirectly. “Be courteous.” Hearers neither to be flattered on the one hand nor libelled on the other.
(4). Unfeeling. No consideration made of Job’s intense sufferings and accumulated trials. Zophar pours vinegar instead of oil on Job’s wounded spirit. Sympathy in a preacher necessary to success. Want of sympathy argues want of sense.
V. Persuasion to repentance, on the ground of personal advantage (Job 11:13-20).
The whole passage a noble strain of moral Oriental poetry. Perhaps quoted from the ancients by Zophar, from its supposed applicability to Job’s case. Exhibits the views prevalent at the period. The teaching that of the Old Testament or pre-Evangelical platform. Holds forth more especially the promise of earthly comfort and prosperity as the result of repentance and piety. Similar sentiments expressed by Eliphaz (ch. Job 5:8; Job 5:17-26); and by Bildad (ch. Job 8:5-7). Frequent in the Psalms and Proverbs; as Psalms 1, 37, 128; Proverbs 3:4, ,
8. In order to personal profit, the passage to be read in the light of New Testament truth. The lamp of the New Testament to be carried with us in exploring the dark chambers of the Old. In the New Testament, the promises of future good are mainly connected with the Lord’s second appearing (Acts 3:19-21; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Titus 2:11-13). The posture of New Testament believers that of “strangers and pilgrims on the earth;” the object of their desires and affections, the “things that are above;” their spirit, contentment with “such things as they have” (Hebrews 13:5; Hebrews 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11; Colossians 3:1-2; 1 Timothy 6:8). The passage contains—
1. The terms proposed, or the duty recommended (Job 11:13-14). The condition a true turning to God. Three steps indicated—
(1). A preparation or right disposition of the heart (Job 11:13). “If thou prepare (or set right) thine heart.” Always represented as the first step in seeking God (1 Samuel 7:3; 2 Chronicles 19:3; 2 Chronicles 30:19; Ezra 7:10; Psalms 78:8; Psalms 78:37). Implies—(a) Serious consideration; (b) Firm purpose; (c) Suitable frame and disposition; (d) Removal of secret sin. The heart naturally biassed, and needs to be made straight; unstable, and needs to be made steadfast. Sincerity and earnestness essential in seeking God.
(2). Earnest prayer. “If thou stretch forth thine hands towards Him.” A common attitude in Old Testament devotion (Psalms 36:9; Psalms 143:6; Isaiah 1:15). Examples: Moses (Exodus 9:33); Ezra (Job 9:5); Solomon (1 Kings 8:22). Includes—(a) Confession of sin; (b) Supplication for mercy.
(3). Amendment of life (Job 11:14). “If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles” (or tents,—Arab chiefs required more than one for their household;—wickedness—not to be allowed in any of them. Several copies and ancient versions, however, read the word in the singular). Sin to be put away both from our persons and our premises. “Iniquity,”—injustice or wrong doing not to remain in our hand; “wickedness,”—any kind of open sin—not to remain in our house. Zacchæus an example of the first (Luke 19:8); David of the second (Psalms 101:7). A man is greatly responsible for what is done in his household. Domestic, as well as personal sins, to be looked after and put away. The commendation of Abraham (Genesis 18:19); The neglect of Eli (1 Samuel 2:12; 1 Samuel 2:17; 1 Samuel 3:11; 1 Samuel 3:14); The resolution of David (Psalms 101:2; Psalms 101:7). Observe—
(1) A striking gradation in the putting away of sin;—from the heart, from the hand, from the house.
(2) True religion begins with the heart, and ends with the life.
(3) Sin not only to be put away, but “far away.” Present impressions not to be trusted. All occasions and temptations to relapses to be avoided.
2. The promises annexed (Job 11:15-19). The promises suppose pardon and acceptance of the penitent, with his consciousness of it. This promised in the Old as well as in the New Testament, upon sincere confession and repentance, with faith in the Sacrifice (See Psalms 32:1; Psalms 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 55:6-7.) The promises here are—
1. A cheerful confidence before God and men (Job 11:15). “Thou shalt lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear.” Sense of pardon gives serenity of aspect. A purged conscience makes an uplifted countenance. “Without spot,”—either of guilt or its consequences. A face unabashed by guilt or shame, unsullied by grief or tears. Spots on the conscience transfer themselves to the countenance. Spots of guilt removed by the sprinkled blood; spots of grief by the consciousness of it. Conscious guilt makes the countenance to fall; sense of pardon and acceptance lifts it up (Genesis 4:5-6; Luke 18:13; 1 John 3:21.) The face sooner and better lifted up by pardon than by prosperity.
2. Deliverance from present suffering (Job 11:16). “Thou shalt forget thy misery and remember it as waters that pass (or, have passed) away.” Inward, if not outward misery, removed by sense of pardoning mercy (Psalms 32:1; Psalms 32:5; Psalms 51:8-14). Inward suffering sooner or later the fruit of sin. The remembrance of previous sorrow swallowed up by present joy. Trouble forgotten through long continued triumph. Remembrance of grief often only an enhancement of joy. No trace left of the winter-torrent that has passed away. “Your joy no man taketh from you.” The desolating flood that has disappeared only remembered with thankful joy. So the pardoned soul has still in remembrance, “the wormwood and the gall.”
3. Abiding peace and joy (Job 11:17). “Thine age shall be clearer than the noonday (or, “a period, or happy age, shall arise to thee, brighter than, &c.”); and thou (or it) shalt shine forth, thou (or it) shalt be as the morning” (or, “now thou art in darkness, but then thou shalt be as the morning”). Light out of darkness, the experience of a penitent and pardoned soul (Hosea 6:3). The light and joy of acceptance like “the noonday” for brightness; like “the morning” for increase. “The path of the just,” the justified and sanctified in Christ, a light increasing in brightness “unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). The believer’s joy not diminished by manifold trials (1 Peter 1:6). Like oil poured on water, comes always to the surface. At times unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).
4. Safety and security (Job 11:18-19). “Thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt aig about thee (making preparation, according to patriarchal custom, for a new abode; or, ‘now thou art ashamed but then, &c.’), and thou shalt take thy rest in safety; also, thou shalt lie down (as a shepherd with his flock), and none shall make thee afraid.” Hope in God’s mercy through Christ, the only foundation of real security. Divine protection one of the sweetest of new covenant blessings. Christ’s sheep safe in His hands and in those of His Father (John 10:28; John 10:30). “Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Preservation of the soul an Old as well as New Testament promise (Psalms 121:7). Oriental tents and travellers exposed to danger from robbers, wild beasts, and reptiles; believers’ souls exposed to no less peril (Colossians 2:8; Colossians 2:18; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:3).
5. Influence among men (Job 11:19). “Many shall make suit to thee.” The mark of a great, if not a good man. “Many entreat the favour of the prince” (Proverbs 19:6). The same promised to the Church or Bride of Christ (Psalms 45:12). So Abimelech made suit to Abraham, entreating his favour and alliance (Genesis 26:26-29. Pardoned people are praying people; and praying people are Israels,—princes that have power both with God and men (Genesis 32:28). God’s presence with a believer the ground of true greatness. He that has power with God likely to have influence among men. “We will go with you for we have heard that God is with you (Zechariah 8:23). Believers are kings and priests to God. Their duty so to walk as to gain respect to their profession. An ill sign with a professor when nobody seeks the favour of his prayers. A believer’s privilege so to carry Christ about with him that men shall feel his influence, as those who sought only to be in Peter’s shadow. The true character of a pardoned and accepted person is to have so much of Christ’s loving spirit as to carry with him a constant benefaction. Made sweet and gracious by God’s favour on them, and His spirit in them, believers carry with them the unconscious influence of a sweet and gracious atmosphere. A pardoned man, walking with Christ and imbibing His spirit, as sure to be perceived as a bag that carries sweet perfume. The privilege and duty of believers to exhale so much of Christ’s loving nature as, like modest and half-hidden violets, to attract others to them by their fragrance. This, as well as the other promises, realised in Job’s after experience, but not in the way imagined by Zophar (ch. Job 42:7-9).
VI. The contrasted case of the ungodly (Job 11:20) Includes—
(1) “Anxiety and disappointment. “The eyes of the wicked shall fail,”—anxiously looking in vain for the possession of good and deliverance from evil. A time when it is too late to knock even at mercy’s door. “They shall seek me early, but they shall not find me (Proverbs 1:28.
(2) Perplexity and hopelessness. “They shall not escape.” (Heb. “Refuge has perished from them”). Calamity, sooner or later, overtakes the Christless and impenitent, from which escape is impossible. “Because I called and ye refused,—I also will laugh at your calamity” (Proverbs 1:24-26). “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 10:26-27).
(3) Ruin and despair. “Their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost” (margin, “as a puff of breath”). The hope of the impenitent and Christless proves as vain and unsubstantial as a puff of breath. Their expectation terminates with their life. Having chosen death rather than life, they obtain their choice. “All they that hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:36.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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