“Such is the fate God allots the wicked,
the heritage appointed for them by God.”
Job 20:29 (NIV)
Zophar now responds to job, and there is a subtle yet major twist to the rhetoric. Up to this point, the three amigos have been making the case that, in this life, the righteous are blessed and the wicked suffer. Job continues to argue that he has done nothing to deserve the calamities he is suffering.
Zophar now expands the rhetoric and introduces the theme of death into the mix:
Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens
and his head touches the clouds,
he will perish forever, like his own dung;
those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’
Like a dream he flies away, no more to be found,
banished like a vision of the night.
The eye that saw him will not see him again;
his place will look on him no more.
His children must make amends to the poor;
his own hands must give back his wealth.
The youthful vigor that fills his bones
will lie with him in the dust.
Their appeals are clearly not working, and the self-righteous trio are hell-bent on satiating their judgmental blood-lust. Zophar decides on escalate things to another level. It’s time to pull out the big guns. He brings out a little hell-fire and brimstone from the rhetorical arsenal to convince Job to repent before he dies and returns to the dust and remembered no more.
I remember seeing a story on CBS Sunday Morning several weeks ago (the show is part of the Sunday morning ritual for Wendy and me) exploring our concepts of heaven and hell. They interviewed an old hellfire and brimstone preacher and included a clip of his fear inducing rants from the pulpit. It seems to me he must be a spiritual descendant of Zophar. I sometimes have a hard time reconciling the appeal to fear with the example of Jesus who said He didn’t come to condemn, but to save. At the same time, even Jesus was known to utter a stern warning now and then, and I have come to realize along the journey that God uses all sorts of messengers and messages to reach the ears of His lost children.
Today, I am thinking about Zophar and his friends, who seem more concerned with proving themselves right than about loving, comforting, and easing Job’s pain. It’s as if their spiritual world view carries more importance than a simple act of kindness. They seem like the good religious folks who passed by the mugging victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It wasn’t the righteous, religious folks who acted in accordance with the heart of God, but the unrighteous, on-his-way-to-hell-in-a-handbasket bloke from the other side of the tracks in Samaria who simply acted with compassion and kindness.
Job needs a Samaritan. So do a lot of other hurting people. That’s who I want to be.