The Folly Of Platitudes

A daily devotion for December 9th

Read the Scripture: Job 11-12
Job 11-12

1 Then Zophar the Naamathite replied:

2 "Are all these words to go unanswered?
Is this talker to be vindicated?

3 Will your idle talk reduce men to silence?
Will no one rebuke you when you mock?

4 You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless
and I am pure in your sight.'

5 Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
that he would open his lips against you

6 and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
for true wisdom has two sides.
Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.

7 "Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?

8 They are higher than the heavens—what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths of the grave —what can you know?

9 Their measure is longer than the earth
and wider than the sea.

10 "If he comes along and confines you in prison
and convenes a court, who can oppose him?

11 Surely he recognizes deceitful men;
and when he sees evil, does he not take note?

12 But a witless man can no more become wise
than a wild donkey's colt can be born a man.

13 "Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,

14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,

15 then you will lift up your face without shame;
you will stand firm and without fear.

16 You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.

17 Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.

18 You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.

19 You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.

20 But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
and escape will elude them;
their hope will become a dying gasp."

1 Then Job replied:

2 "Doubtless you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you!

3 But I have a mind as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all these things?

4 "I have become a laughingstock to my friends,
though I called upon God and he answered—
a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!

5 Men at ease have contempt for misfortune
as the fate of those whose feet are slipping.

6 The tents of marauders are undisturbed,
and those who provoke God are secure—
those who carry their god in their hands.

7 "But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea inform you.

9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?

10 In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.

11 Does not the ear test words
as the tongue tastes food?

12 Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?

13 "To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his.

14 What he tears down cannot be rebuilt;
the man he imprisons cannot be released.

15 If he holds back the waters, there is drought;
if he lets them loose, they devastate the land.

16 To him belong strength and victory;
both deceived and deceiver are his.

17 He leads counselors away stripped
and makes fools of judges.

18 He takes off the shackles put on by kings
and ties a loincloth around their waist.

19 He leads priests away stripped
and overthrows men long established.

20 He silences the lips of trusted advisers
and takes away the discernment of elders.

21 He pours contempt on nobles
and disarms the mighty.

22 He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings deep shadows into the light.

23 He makes nations great, and destroys them;
he enlarges nations, and disperses them.

24 He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason;
he sends them wandering through a trackless waste.

25 They grope in darkness with no light;
he makes them stagger like drunkards.

New International Version
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If you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame, you will stand firm and without fear (Job 11:14-15).

Zophar the Naamathite comes onto the scene. (I call him Zophar the Zealous.) He moves up to bat, and he opens with a scorching rebuke to Job's sinful folly, as he sees it. You can almost see Zophar shaking his fist in righteous indignation in Job's face. He accuses Job of wordiness, of foolishness, of mockery, of self-righteous smugness. He says that Job's punishment is richly deserved, that he is only getting what is coming to him—and not even all of that. What a lack of compassion this man shows!

He goes on to describe Job's stupid ignorance in contrast to God's deep wisdom and inscrutable ways. Anybody as stupid as you, Job, will never get any help. He lays it on, heavy and hard. Then he closes with a vivid description of the shining possibilities that can be ahead, if only Job will repent.

Once again, there is no identifying with Job's hurt. There is no sense of empathy, of trying to feel with him the awful torment of mind and spirit that presses him, squeezes him, and drags from him these agonizing cries into the darkness around. These men just lay it on him. They see only the cold, analytical logic of it. Zophar, of course, speaks with a great deal of passion and force, but there is no sense of offering understanding help. He simply lays on a passionate invective.

This is the difference between theology and the experience of a man taught by the Spirit. Theology can be very clear and right, but it is all in the head. When you are dealing with a person who is hurting, you must add a deeper dimension—that compassion that Jesus manifested, His sympathy for and identification with hurting people that would prompt them to open the door of their spirits to receive the light He gave through His words.

The first round ends with Job's sarcastic defense in chapters 12-14 and his answers to his friends. Job points out that they deal with elementary truths, things that anybody could know: You haven't helped me. Anyone knows this. You don't understand because you've never been here. You tell me God always punishes unrighteousness, but look around you. There are open idolaters who carry their idols in their hands. There are robbers living at peace who dwell secure. God is not punishing them. Life itself testifies that you are wrong.

Surely, if nothing else, this book of Job should help us to be careful in our approach to the suffering of others, so that we do not add to it. These friends of Job are so rigid in their theology and so blind to the great dimensions of God that they do not yet understand that they are only increasing the torment of this poor man. This is why Scripture exhorts us to Rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15 RSV).

Father, help me to understand more the majesty of Your being and the compassion of Your heart.

Life Application: How do we humbly present ourselves to those who are suffering or in difficult circumstances? Do we seek to offer them Jesus' compassion or theological theories?

We hope you were blessed by this daily devotion.

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