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Job 20, Zophar Speaks

Saturday, July 23 (July 19 – July 23 Daily Devotions written by Daniel D. Maurer)

Job 20, Zophar Speaks

Job’s buddies don’t seem to take a hint—Zophar’s ranting of how the wicked will “perish forever like their own dung” (v. 7) doesn’t seem to be very comforting. It also doesn’t seem to be a word of grace. This is the reason why it’s important when reading scripture to understand that no passage—by itself—should be taken out of context with the rest of the story.

Still, something speaks to me when I read Zophar’s words. I can perceive again the truth of the matter—I am dust and life ain’t easy! It is better to understand that a word of condemnation can be “good news” to us. How? To remind us that we are mortal and that, “… the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless is but for a moment.” (v. 5)

I’m not naturally a person who thinks beyond my own circle of influence. Often I find that when I read the news online I have a knee-jerk reaction: “Well, that doesn’t concern me, so I don’t have to worry about it.” I’m only being honest with myself to admit this.

I need to have a word that reminds me that other people matter, and that people other than me matter. The recent phenomenon Black Lives Matter is one example. Within social media, there is an ongoing argument whether “Black Lives” or “All Lives” matter. What I need reminding is that, as a white male of privilege, I do not know what it’s like to live as an African American person today.

Scripture is effective spiritually because it breaks into our lives; it cuts like a sword to excise out that which is not helpful for our spiritual development. In this sense, Zophar’s words are both a warning, but also like a preventative measure: we do not know everything, only that to be “wicked” is a fruitless endeavor.

Daily Reading for Today: Job 20

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered: “Pay attention! My thoughts urge me to answer, because of the agitation within me. I hear censure that insults me, and a spirit beyond my understanding answers me. Do you not know this from of old, ever since mortals were placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless is but for a moment? Even though they mount up high as the heavens, and their head reaches to the clouds, they will perish forever like their own dung; those who have seen them will say, ‘Where are they?’ They will fly away like a dream, and not be found; they will be chased away like a vision of the night. The eye that saw them will see them no more, nor will their place behold them any longer.

Their children will seek the favor of the poor, and their hands will give back their wealth. Their bodies, once full of youth, will lie down in the dust with them. “Though wickedness is sweet in their mouth, though they hide it under their tongues, though they are loath to let it go, and hold it in their mouths, yet their food is turned in their stomachs; it is the venom of asps within them. They swallow down riches and vomit them up again; God casts them out of their bellies. They will suck the poison of asps; the tongue of a viper will kill them. They will not look on the rivers, the streams flowing with honey and curds. They will give back the fruit of their toil, and will not swallow it down; from the profit of their trading they will get no enjoyment. For they have crushed and abandoned the poor, they have seized a house that they did not build. “They knew no quiet in their bellies; in their greed they let nothing escape. There was nothing left after they had eaten; therefore their prosperity will not endure. In full sufficiency they will be in distress; all the force of misery will come upon them.

To fill their belly to the full God will send his fierce anger into them, and rain it upon them as their food. They will flee from an iron weapon; a bronze arrow will strike them through. It is drawn forth and comes out of their body, and the glittering point comes out of their gall; terrors come upon them. Utter darkness is laid up for their treasures; a fire fanned by no one will devour them; what is left in their tent will be consumed. The heavens will reveal their iniquity, and the earth will rise up against them. The possessions of their house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God’s wrath. This is the portion of the wicked from God, the heritage decreed for them by God.”