Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:
2 “Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
and a man full of talk be judged right?
3 Should your babble silence men,
and when you mock, shall no one shame you? Job 11:1-3
Through the Bible: Job 10-13
We often hear about “the patience of Job,” But this morning I was convicted about the impatience of Zophar, one of Job’s friends.
As I read Zophar’s response to Job’s third cycle of complaints, I noticed that Job’s friends seem to be getting more and more impatient and aggravated with him the more he complains.
They start off tentative, walking on eggshells, worried that they are going to say something offensive. Listen to Eliphaz as he opens the first series of speeches:
2Should anyone try to speak with you when you are exhausted?… 4 Your words have steadied the one who was stumbling and braced the knees that were buckling…6 Isn’t your piety your confidence,Job 4:1-6, CSB
and the integrity of your life[a] your hope?
But as days pass and there seems to be no breakthrough, the gloves come off, the niceties fall away, and the frustration comes out. Bildad is up next, and he begins with, “How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind” (Job 8:2).
And then there’s Zophar:
Job 11:2-3, CSB
2 Should this abundance of words go unanswered
and such a talker[a] be acquitted?
3 Should your babbling put others to silence,
so that you can keep on ridiculing
with no one to humiliate you?
I love the heading in my ESV Bible: “Zophar Speaks: “You Deserve Worse.”
I have an ugly truth to admit as a pastor: I’m not nearly as nice as members of my church think I am. I start off full of compassion and concern for someone. I listen well. I pray fervently. But as time goes on and the situation doesn’t improve (or gets worse) my compassion can turn to aggravation.
You have probably realized the same thing about yourself from time to time. Have you ever groaned and gritted your teeth when you saw a call from a particular number? Have you ever seen someone in the break room at work and decided to take your break somewhere else? Not because the two of you don’t get along; just the opposite. You’ve been trying to help this friend for weeks with a personal issue, but there’s been no progress, no resolution, and you are out of answers.
Maybe its a reaction against feeling helpless. Nobody wants to feel like they can’t solve a problem. The helplessness first wearies, then irritates, then repels. So we begin going out of our way to avoid certain people. We find ourselves actually feeling angry at them for not getting better. We want to give comfort, but it’s uncomfortable.
Job’s criticism in 12:2 could be said of us: “No doubt you are the people,
and wisdom will die with you.”
We realize how far we are from the heart of Jesus (sorry for the dad joke in the title of this post). I am a callous counselor; Jesus is a wonderful counselor (Isaiah 9:6). I’ll say, “Well, I will sure be praying for you,” as a way to communicate “We’ve gotta wrap this up. I’ve got things to do.”
Contrast this with Jesus, who “always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25).
How do you do it, Lord? How do you patiently hear the prayers of everyone in the world, when I can’t even pray consistently for one person? I want to be more like you, and less like Zophar.
If there is one prayer to pray over your pastor, pray that his heart stays tender toward those who are suffering without relief. Pray that as the Lord renews His mercies to us every morning, our mercy toward others would be renewed.