Gaining Hope Through Suffering
March 4, 2019
When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He made an incredible promise concerning the burdens of this life. Though Jesus calls for those who believe in Him as the Son of God and Messiah to deny self, pick up the cross, and follow Him, He doesn’t expect His people to perform works of spiritual superiority to impress Him or others. He doesn’t call for His people to strive and labor to gain His approval. Denying self and picking up the cross doesn’t require us to undertake tasks to burden ourselves with the work that Jesus has vowed to do Himself. He will use us as He sees fit. Jesus’ promise was this:
"Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light." – Matthew 11:28-30
There, Jesus promised to make the weight of life lighter for us. This means that the burdens of life will not be sufficient to bury us when we put our trust in the Lord. This doesn’t mean that problems will go away, but we will be able to bear them as if they are not as heavy as they truly are. Jesus promised that our focus on Him, our trust in Him, our dependency on Him will provide a quality of peace that makes the issues seem lesser, enabling us to persevere unto the glory of the Father. Keeping the mind stayed on the glory, majesty, righteousness, holiness, and great sacrifice of our Savior is enough to fill the mind, distracting it from the trials and pains that life can bring. When we fill our minds and hearts with the things of the Lord by faith, He is merciful, gracious, and faithful to provide comfort despite trouble, peace despite chaos, and hope despite despair.
Zophar’s response to Job elaborated on this principle of God. Though Zophar began his address to Job in a harsh manner, he finished his address by providing the truth of God’s restorative power, providing Job with an opportunity to receive hope. Zophar gave good insight concerning the power and faithfulness of God. Though Zophar still felt that Job was likely guilty of sin as a hypocrite, the truths that he spoke concerning God would have been helpful to Job either way – whether a hypocrite or not. In Job 11:13-20 Zophar reminded Job that our humble pursuit of the Lord’s mercy works wonders! When our minds acknowledge the weaknesses of our flesh to seek the awesome mercy of God’s forgiveness, H eis faithful to provide the benefits that Jesus promised.
Zophar exhorted Job to prepare his heart and stretch out his hands toward the Lord. Still figuring Job to be guilty of hypocrisy, Zophar was encouraging Job to get rid of his hypocrisy and submit to the Lord’s righteousness in humility. Even though Zophar’s thinking was wrong, his advice was still good. Even though Job wasn’t guilty of hypocrisy, it would have still benefitted Job to prepare his heart and stretch out his hands. The preparation of the heart refers to purification. No one can purify their own hearts, but to “prepare” the heart refers to the work of confession and repentance that enables God to purify the heart. This preparation requires self-examination, self-denial, and a pursuit of God’s righteousness. This mindset takes our thinking off of the pain of our trials and circumstances as we bow the head and lift the hands unto submission unto the Lord and His purposes. In that sort of spiritual posture, we should anticipate the work of God, trusting in His faithfulness to cleanse our hearts and add unto us the ability to serve His needs. We should surrender our lives unto God, remember His eternal nature and sovereign control for eternally-centered and spiritually-centered purposes.
Zophar told Job, that if iniquity was in the hands that he was lifting up, to let it go and walk far away from it. This is a very important concept. Jesus taught that if we have an offense with another person or a quarrel, to resolve it before giving sacrifices, because the spite and malice in our hearts will corrupt the offering, making it useless to God. In other words, our service, prayer, and pursuit of the Lord needs to be without sin. We cannot bring sin with us to the altar and expect God to receive our offerings. We cannot bring sin to the conversations we have with the Lord in prayer and expect Him to hear us. We cannot harbor sin in our hearts and expect to draw closer to the Lord. God is holy and pure; He is glorious above all creation. When we seek Him, we need to remember who He is, and approach Him with the understanding that no corrupt thing will be able to enter His presence. It is by the grace of God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus that we have access to God just to know Him and thank Him. If we lift our hands in surrender to God, we cannot also hold our personal ambitions and sinful habits and expect God to produce the promises He swore. To seek God requires us to forsake sin. We cannot have both. Though Job was not guilty of hypocrisy, this was good advice nonetheless.
Zophar continued in that point by exhorting Job to ensure that his house was purged clean of sin too. Here, Zophar might have taken a small jab at Job again, accusing him of fault against God. It was already stated that Job’s friends felt that God destroyed Job’s family because of some sort of sin that was dwelling among them. This was not true. It is true that Job’s family were sinners like all other people, but scripture never states that they were killed as consequence to specific conduct. Still, Zophar’s point is a good one. In order to receive the benefits of the Lord during times of suffering, we need to ensure that our homes are as clean as our hearts. Often times we may desire to do well within ourselves, but have possession of many things in our home that cause us to stumble and fall. If we don’t get rid of these things, it doesn’t matter how strong our resolve might be to do well. We are setting ourselves up for failure when we don’t seek to cleanse our homes of corrupt things like our hearts. Our unwillingness to purge the home is an indication that we are still harboring desires for sin deep within our hearts. God knows, and this will corrupt our connection to Him and the benefits He seeks to provide.
Zophar then spoke about the benefits that come to those who are willing to make their life’s purpose about a pure pursuit of the Lord God Almighty. First, Job would be able to lift his face without spot. Those who humbly seek the Lord, confessing inadequacy and fault, are able to receive the forgiveness of God, which comes by the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse the soul, turning our crimson clothes into clothes that are spotless and white as wool. If that is true of our garments, how much more our face and the expressions of it! When we seek the Lord in faith, acknowledging the extent of His holiness and righteousness, the assurance of God’s forgiveness provides a quality of hope that lifts our heads beyond our circumstances. When we trust in the sufficiency of God’s cleansing of the soul, what difference does it make concerning our physical condition?
Zophar assured Job that he would be made steadfast and without fear. Recall that Job felt like he was an enemy of God, wishing he had never been born. He felt that he was despised by all and the most pitied on the earth. A pure pursuit of the Lord enables God’s people to remain strong in the faith, not wallowing in self-pity. God enables His people to endure without fear. Again, if God’s forgiveness, cleansing, and mercy is sufficient to cleanse the soul, what do we have to fear? Is death really that terrifying if it brings the fulfilment of God’s eternally unconditional promises? Is pain really to be despised to the point of depression if it enables us to relate to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, having the opportunity to walk in His shoes to bring Him glory? How bad can it be to identify with the Son of God in some capacity?
Zophar encouraged Job, that he would forget his misery and remember them as though it was just another season of life that comes and goes. Resting in the grace and mercy of God allows the mind to consider the eternal and spiritual nature of God’s promises so that our physical infirmities seem less. We realize that the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared to the glory that awaits us. Why? God is glorious and faithful to do what He promised to those who seek Him! Zophar tried to comfort Job by reminding him about the restorative power of God. He is able to restore well beyond our imagination. Sometimes that happens in this life. It will certainly happen in the next! That is for God to determine, but history shows that God is able to do far beyond our expectations. Job expected to be buried by God to the point of his utter ruin. Yet the truth of the matter is, those who pursue God’s mercy by faith, seeking His glory rather than focusing on our issues, are able to receive His restoration. Zophar was confident that god could cause Job to shine brighter than he did when he was prosperous; that he would have more influence and favor with people than before; that his darkness would be far brighter than the brightness Job had before Satan waged war upon him. The end of Job’s testimony proves that Zophar was absolutely right about God!
In the end, those who seek the Lord humbly, rather than wallowing in circumstances, complaining about difficulty are restored by the hope and confidence that God gives by His Spirit. The Bible shows that God doesn’t need to change circumstances to provide hope and confidence. The Apostle Paul was beaten, imprisoned often, and persecuted all of the time. The difficulties of his ministry only intensified over time, all the while dealing with “a thorn” in his side. Still, Paul remained hopeful and increased in confidence. The touch of God’s mercy and grace comes from within so that our hope and confidence in Him transcends the circumstances we might deal with. Job would receive the rest that he desired at night. He would feel secure instead of feeling like an enemy of God. He would be engaged in the service of the Lord to “dig around,” enjoying the fruit of his labor and service with confidence in God’s protection and peace. This goes to show that when we pursue the Lord this way, the means by which we experience the goodness of God’s mercy and grace through forgiveness, is by laboring for His purposes, by which He produces fruit and satisfaction. It is that satisfaction that builds our confidence and hope in Him.
Lastly, Zophar also mentioned the contrary situation. Job had the opportunity to receive the rest and peace of God if he were to forsake his complaints and humbly pursue God’s mercy and forgiveness. Still, thinking Job to be guilty of hypocrisy, Zophar warned Job that if he didn’t repent, those who are wicked will fall. There is no hope and no escape for those who refuse to seek the Lord. There is no light for those who deny the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. There is no life for those who pursue death, figuring their lives to be worthless and purposeless in the eyes of God. There, Zophar laid out two options for Job. Job could try to change his perspective and seek the Lord in humility instead of complaining and defending himself, thereby receiving the benefits of God’s goodness. Job could also continue in his misery, focused on the pain of his life, and forfeit God’s benefits. Job was a blameless and upright man, so he was not going to perish as condemned like Zophar suggested, but that doesn’t mean that Job couldn’t also forfeit the benefits that God could have given at that time.