Job having in the foregoing Chapter closed his answer to Bildad; he is appealed to in this, by a new address of Zophar. But the whole of what he advanceth is to the same amount as the former, and runs all upon the same mistaken idea, that misery and suffering can only mark the character of bad men.
(1) ¶ Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, (2) Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste. (3) I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer.
The Reader should observe in the very opening of Zophar's sermon, that notwithstanding all his violence in support of what he calls good men, and the punishment of the wicked, he gives no testimony of goodness in his own heart, for he shows not the least compassion to Jobadiah Surely had he felt as a good man, he never could have added misery to a heart that was afflicted like Job's, nor when the poor man cried out, Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends, as he had just done, have instantly insulted him as he doth in this chapter. Reader! depend upon it there is no true source for morality, and the common charities of life, but in the grace of GOD in JESUS CHRIST and the only dependence for the exercise of the love of man, must be found in the love of GOD.
(4) Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, (5) That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? (6) Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; (7) Yet he shall perish forever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? (8) He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. (9) The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place anymore behold him. (10) ¶ His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods. (11) His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust. (12) Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; (13) Though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth: (14) Yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him. (15) He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly. (16) He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper's tongue shall slay him. (17) He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter. (18) That which he laboured for shall he restore, and shall not swallow it down: according to his substance shall the restitution be, and he shall not rejoice therein. (19) Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not; (20) Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired. (21) There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods. (22) In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him. (23) ¶ When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating. (24) He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through. (25) It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors are upon him. (26) All darkness shall be hid in his secret places: a fire not blown shall consume him; it shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle. (27) The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him. (28) The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath. (29) This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God.
I have not interrupted the perusal of the whole discourse of Zophar's, for there is no break in it from beginning to end. The observations arising out of it, therefore, are general observations, which may as well be taken in one point of view as separately. The chief scope of his preaching is, to show the misery of the wicked, and the prosperity of the righteous. And if Zophar had connected the subject as referring to this life and another, and then insisted upon it that wickedness, must sooner or later, produce misery, all would have been well. But by confining his observations to the limits of this life only, and going upon that ground, that GOD never did, nor ever would afflict the righteous, he miserably mistake's the truths of GOD, and the universal experience of the faithful in all ages. Had he read the history of the Patriarchs, the cruel treatment of Joseph; the bondage of Israel in Egypt, and the like, he would have found the fallacy of his arguments; or had he known, what we know, of JESUS and his sorrows. And the Reader will take notice I hope, that to this ignorance, must be ascribed all the ill reasoning of all the discourses of Job's three friends. If we keep this therefore in view as we read their sermons, then we shall learn how to make the suitable improvements from them, and under this restriction, we shall find many striking observations, well deserving our notice and regard. How beautifully doth Zophar describe, the wretched state of even the most prosperous sinner. How short are his triumphs; how fleeting and unsubstantial all his joy. Though he maketh his nest on high, and his head reacheth the clouds, yet this is only to make his fall more grievous and heavy. His name, his dwelling place, his memory, how soon forgotten. His sins lie down with him in the grave. His conscience, his thoughts, his whole heart always in alarm. What a finished representation of misery, doth Zophar give of the miserable state of wicked men while they live, and of the terrors in which they often die. But as the discourse of Zophar was directed personally to Job in all this, how unkind and unjust was the whole of his reasonings. How much sweeter is that short, but decisive passage of GOD by the prophet; 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. Isaiah 3:10-11.
READER! instead of following Zophar's sermon with the conclusions he draws, let you and I look at the subject of the trials and exercises of GOD'S faithful servants, according to what the gospel teacheth us; and what the blessed author of the gospel in his bright example proved, that great exercises imply great grace bestowed, and the fullest evidence of divine love in the appointment of both. What prophet, what apostle, what martyr of GOD hath been truly eminent as GOD'S servant, but hath been as truly distinguished in suffering? Nay, thou blessed holy LAMB of GOD! what was thy life when upon earth, but that of a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief?
Reader! let us learn properly to estimate these things. Whenever sinful staggerings would arise at any of the little exercises we are called to; Oh! let us be looking to holy men gone before, and especially looking unto the LORD JESUS. Let us remember the gracious advice the HOLY GHOST gives by his servant the apostle. 'Consider him (saith the apostle) that endured such a contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be weary and faint in your mind.' One view of JESUS directed by GOD the HOLY GHOST, and by him suitably impressed upon our souls, will quell a thousand carnal reasonings, on the subject of the exercises of the faithful. And while we eye JESUS going before us in the path of trouble, and hear GOD'S faithful promises and covenant engagements to his exercised people under him; this will make us strong in the grace which is in CHRIST JESUS. We shall then feel some of Paul's animated spirit; like him be furnished from the LORD with all suitable grace for the trial; and say as he did, I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Job 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany