The words we are about to read were spoken by one of Job’s three friends, — or what if I call them his three tormentors? These men did not speak wisely, and their argument was not altogether sound; but, for all that, in the instance before us, Zophar the Naamathite spoke that which was truthful. Although he made a great mistake in turning it against Job, yet what he said was in the main correct, and we may learn from it as we read it. Remember, dear friends, that whenever you read the words of these three men, you must take them with a good many grains of salt. They are not to be accepted as if they were God’s Word, because they are not. Those three men were mistaken in many points, yet very much of what they said was weighty and valuable, and is still worthy of our careful consideration.
Job 11:1-3. Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
This was a very bitter and cruel speech, and Zophar was not using the language of friendship, or even of common courtesy. First, he charged Job with being a great talker, “a man full of talk.” No doubt Job did speak well and eloquently; but to retort upon him that he was a man abundant in words, was a very cruel thing, especially when he was in such a condition of distress and suffering. Yet, dear friends, it is an evil thing to be men of tongue, and not of hand; it is a dreadful thing to be men — or, for the matter of that, women either — who are “full of talk,” and therefore have no room for anything else. There are some people who seem to think that, simply by their volubility, they can carry all before them I In such a case, we may say with Zophar, “Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?” But he went beyond these questions, and charged Job with downright lying because he had pleaded his own innocence: “Should thy lies make men hold their peace?” Zophar also insinuated that Job fumed and frothed, as it were, and spoke folly, which he certainly did not do, for he spoke in solemn, sober earnest if ever a man did.
Job 11:4. For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.
Job did not say that; at least, he did not say it in so many words. He did endeavour to prove his own innocence of the false charges that were brought against him; but he never said that he was clean in God’s eyes.
Job 11:5-6. But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee; And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is!
Oh, that God would enable you, dear friends, to see your sin, and make you perceive that there is a double meaning in his law, — a deep, underlying, spiritual meaning, as well as that which is apparent on the surface, so that a man may be guilty of transgression even when he thinks it is not so! Oh, that God would unveil the secrets of his wisdom so as to make you see that he is wiser than all his works, that his hidden wisdom is double that which you have been able to perceive in nature, or in providence, and infinitely greater than he has ever made to appear before men’s eyes.
Job 11:6. Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
That was a hard thing for Zophar to say to Job; but, still, it was true, and it is true in the case of all of us: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Even when a man sits down among the ashes, robbed of all his property, and bereaved of all his children, and when he has to scrape himself with a potsherd because of his many sore boils, even then it may be truly said to him, “God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.”
Job 11:7. Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection!
What wonderful questions these are! How they ought to convict those who glibly talk of God as if they could measure him with a foot rule, and understood exactly what he ought to do and ought to be. We are constantly meeting with statements that such-and-such a thing, which is revealed in Scripture, cannot be true, because it is inconsistent with the modern idea of the benevolence of God. Our only answer to the cavillet is, “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?”
Job 11:8-9. It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know! The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
God is incomprehensible by any finite mind; and he is omnipotent, too.
Job 11:10. If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him!
If he sees fit to destroy men, or for a while to make them prisoners; or if he pleases to gather them together, and multiply them like the hosts of heaven, who can hinder him?
Job 11:11. For he knoweth vain men he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?
Wickedness hidden under the veil of night, God sees as clearly as in the blaze of noon. Wickedness which never comes out of the heart, but tarries there, and does not lead into overt action, God sees it: “Will he not then consider it?” Of course he will.
Job 11:12. For vain man —
That is just what man is by nature; the best of men are vanity — emptiness:
“For vain man” —
Job 11:12. Would be wise,-
He pretends to wisdom; he wishes to be thought wise; he likes to wear a wise man’s title: “Vain man would be wise,” —
Job 11:12. Though man be born like a wild ass’s colt.
As untamed, as ignorant, as willful as a wild ass’s colt, are we by nature. Zophar seems to think that he has sufficiently rebuked Job for pretending to be wise, and for complaining that God was dealing unjustly with him; so now he begins to admonish him to repent: —
Job 11:13-18. If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him; If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear: Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away: And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning. And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.
It is a great mercy when God enables men to pursue their daily callings, and to take their nightly rest in safety; and it is a still greater mercy when they feel secure, whether they live or die, because they have a good hope concerning the hereafter. It is an unspeakable blessing when sin is washed away, and a man can lift up his face to God without spot, and walk in the light of Jehovah’s countenance all the day long.
Job 11:19-20. Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee. But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, —
Carefully notice this very solemn prophecy, — the eyes that have looked upon sin with pleasure, — the eyes that have flashed with lascivious desire, — the eyes that have dared to look towards God with defiance or derision, — “the eyes of the wicked shall fail,” —
Job 11:20. And they shall not escape, —
To what place could they escape from God, when he is everywhere? During the days when the Roman empire extended all over the world, people said that the whole earth was one great prison for Caesar’s enemies; and the universe itself is a vast prison for those who are condemned of God. Where shall they go to avoid arrest? Whither shall they fly to get beyond God’s reach? They cannot escape anywhere. There is neither hole nor corner, even in the bowels of the mountains, or in the flinty hearts of the rocks, where a sinner can hide himself from the hand of God: “They shall not escape,” —
Job 11:20. And their hope —
The last thing that ever dies, “their hope” —
Job 11:20. Shall be as the giving up of the ghost.
Like death itself, their hope shall be. Then, if “their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost,” what hope is there for them? Let us not have our portion with them, else we shall be as hopeless as they are.