*Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment in a 9-part series on the book of Job by Dr. Tom J. Nettles. As more installments are released, each part of the series will be linked to each post.
To read part 1, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/have-you-considered-job-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 2, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/the-heavenly-origin-of-earthly-events-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 3, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/the-name-of-the-lord-is-to-be-blessed-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 4, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/it-is-your-fault-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 5, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/it-is-very-difficult-to-discuss-a-matter-with-god-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 6, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/if-god-will-just-listen-to-me-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 7, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/if-god-be-against-us-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 8, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/if-god-be-for-us-tom-j-nettles/
To read part 9, click here: https://cbtseminary.org/write-my-words-tom-j-nettles/
Job has not relented in his resistance to the rather stilted and detached form of absolutism that informed the words of his counselors. Nor have they changed their approach or allowed Job’s resistance to sway them for what is becoming a personal attack on Job. Zophar now joins the parade of accusation against Job. His is the shallowest. His words are repetitive of other ideas already mentioned both by Job, Eliphaz and Bildad, and the most aggressive yet. While Job looks to God and says, “You know that I am not guilty,” (10:7), Zophar countered, “God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (11:6b ESV). In the network of conflicting ideas in these theological exchanges, both assertions are right, and both are wrong.
Zophar accused Job of arrogance. “Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you?” (11:3 ESV). Job, so Zophar contended, holds to his righteousness in defiance of God’s obvious righteous judgment on him. In fact, the punitive measures poured on him fall far below what he deserves. Since his present trouble is the immediate result of his badness, if Job will repent, then all will be well. “You will forget our misery, … you will feel secure, … many will court your favor” (11:16, 18, 19 ESV). If you simply come clean on your sin, you will feel good and everyone will like you.
This simplistic and accusatory tirade makes Job decide that he should take his case directly to God. This shows that he is reaffirming his trust in God’s integrity. As for his friends, their reasoning is utterly worthless; they “whitewash with lies” and they all are “worthless physicians” (13:4 ESV). Job affirms that his understanding is not inferior to theirs, Theirs does not probe the immensity of this problem but only repeats commonly affirmed platitudes. “Who does not know such things as these?” (12:3).
Job began to lay out the complexity of the problem. He who had formerly been seen as blessed because righteous, now, though he has done nothing other than the good he had done before, is a laughingstock. Even though he is still, in the same way as formerly, just and blameless, he is now a joke. At the same time, the tents of robbers are at peace and idolaters are secure. Something doesn’t add up.
None can boast of virtue and wisdom simply because they presently are secure. Those now at peace or in positions of authority and power might be thrust into deep darkness at any moment. “He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth and makes them wander in a pathless waste” (12:24 ESV; NKJV). “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people, etc” (NASB). Job has observed all this, so he probes a new explanation for these events. He warns his accusing friends to beware for they are worthless physicians and might be arguing a case for God that God himself does not embrace. “Your maxims [or platitudes] are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay” (13:12).
Job reaffirms his trust in God but also asks that God be willing to let him argue his case before him “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face” (13:15 ESV); or, “even so I will defend my own ways before him” (NKJV). Job asked God to stop oppressing him by his mere power and be willing to listen to him argue his case. (21, 22) He wants to know what is going on. Why does God hide from him? If his problem is sin, then make it known. Unless God is pleased to show himself to man, he perishes as a mere nothing (14:1-12). But if God will deal with a man’s sin in such a way as to provide for the forgiveness of iniquity, fellowship could be restored (14:13-17). As it stands, however, death will come before any satisfactory answers are given. God is powerful, has all the prerogatives, and seems content to let man pass with no hope. (14:18-22). “Man breathes his last, and where is he?” (14:10 ESV). A godless man would not be willing to lay himself open to such a confrontation.
Job’s friends, in Job’s opinion, provide nothing that can help him in his struggle to find the purpose of God and see the face of God in this situation. They are worthless. He, however, has moved from abject despair and bitter hopelessness to a renewed confidence in the final goodness of God. He needs to find some way to come before him and set forth his case. If sin is the cause of these calamities, then he asks God to show it for what it is and open up the way for forgiveness and restoration. But what a meaningless and hopeless tragedy it would be for God to have a creature that yearned to see his face, to know him, to be reconciled to him, and for silence to be the only response. Job would not wait long until God showed up with a series of questions of his own. These would shut Job’s mouth while expanding Job’s grasp of divine sovereignty, justice, and mercy to an extent that Job had never contemplated even in his most intense meditations.
Dr. Tom Nettles is widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America. He joined the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary after teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was professor of Church History and chairman of that department. Previously, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He received a B.A. from Mississippi College and an M.Div. and Ph.D. from Southwestern. In addition to writing numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles has authored or edited nine books including By His Grace and For His Glory, Baptists and the Bible, and Why I Am a Baptist.
Courses taught: Historical Theology of the Baptists, Historical Theology Overview, Jonathan Edwards & Andrew Fuller.