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Counsel Without Comfort

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Job 11–14

Life is not always pleasant, and as Job learned, sometimes even those from whom we expect support and encouragement offer neither. The one constant, though, is our unchanging, compassionate God. And Like Job, even when we are confused by what He is doing, we can trust Him.


As we have visited Job, living down here at the town dump and trying to get comfortable on the ashes of burned-over trash, his three counselors have only made his life more uncomfortable.

Frankly, we are a lot like Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. No matter how wise and godly a person may have been in the past, when misfortune strikes that one, we tend to wonder whether the person deserved it. We wouldn’t say it out loud, but:

  • A child runs away, and we wonder if the parents were less committed or loving in the home, behind the scenes, than they appeared in public.
  • A neighbor goes bankrupt, and we assume he had it coming through reckless financial misjudgments.[1]

We naturally assume that some kind of error, failure, or even sin is the reason for reversals in life.

Well, that is the opinion of Job’s friends. And now as Zophar speaks, he is going to express that very opinion with even less grace and kindness than Eliphaz and Bildad.

He immediately accuses Job of willful ignorance in verse 6 telling Job, “God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.”Can you imagine that?  He is saying, “Job, you’re getting off easy!”

Zophar claims to know with certainty that Job is guilty of secret sin. He says in verse 11, “[God] knows worthless men;when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?” In other words, “God knows you’re a hypocrite, Job!” And in verse 12, he essentially calls Job an empty-headed idiot.

Warren Wiersbe writes on this conversation, “What Job needed was a helping hand, not a slap in the face. . . . How sad it is when people who should share your misery end up creating misery.”[2]

Zophar then delivers his solution for Job in verse 14:

“If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure and will not fear.”

His message is, “Repent, Job, and God will put you back on your feet.”

So, here Job sits in despair, having lost everything. He has been unable to eat or sleep for months; his skin is itching uncontrollably; high fever and running sores have made him ache and suffer in agony. But he is still lucid and very much aware of his counselors’ accusations.

And now in chapter 12, Job responds; and he has some rather strong words for Zophar and these other counselors.

With biting sarcasm, he says in verse 2, “No doubt . . . wisdom will die with you.” He is mockingly saying, “I mean, you guys must be the only wise people left on the entire planet.”

He says in verse 3, “I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you.” In other words, “Go ahead and mock me and call me an empty-headed idiot; but I know as much about God as you do!”

With that, Job launches into this incredible description of God’s character. He speaks of God as the creator and sustainer of life, saying, “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (verse 10). And in verses 13-14, he says, “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding. If he tears down, none can rebuild; if he shuts a man in, none can open.” He is declaring that what God does has divine reasoning and purpose, even though we may not understand Him.

Job turns to these men now in chapter 13 and gives his assessment of them. He says in verse 4, “Worthless physicians are you all.” The medicines they are prescribing for his soul are only making him worse.

Now starting at verse 13, Job turns his attention away from his friends and focuses on the case he wants to plead before God. He begins with a surprising declaration of faith here in verse 15: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”

Even here at this most painful moment in his life, Job refuses to curse God. He also proves to us that it’s possible to trust the Lord without having answers; it’s possible to have faith in the Lord without healing or prosperity; it’s possible to trust the Lord even in the most difficult trials of life.

Job is trusting the Lord in silence, but he still wants some answers. So here in verse 18 he says, “Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right.”

Job asks the Lord, “How many are my iniquities and my sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin” (verse 23). His plea is this: “If I am suffering because of sin, lay out my sins in front of me. Let’s see them!”

But God remains silent. And with that, Job falls deeper into despair, which is what we often do, beloved, when we demand an answer from God and no answer comes.

In hopelessness, Job begins to dwell on the brevity and the trouble of life itself. As chapter 14 opens, he says:

“Man . . . is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not.” (verses 1-2)

One author writes:

Job has come to a pessimistic view of life. . . . Because of his pain, he’s unable to see [any of] the goodness of life and the blessings of God’s grace. Let’s not fall into the trap of Job’s thinking, [and let’s not be quick to] judge Job for feeling this way.[3]

Job prays in verse 13, “Oh that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath be past.” He is actually voicing hope in a future resurrection, but in his present situation, he thinks God is just pouring out His wrath on him—all he can feel is pain and suffering. He thinks it would be better to hide out in the grave until God’s wrath runs out of steam.

Now we need to understand that Job cannot pull out his Bible and his commentaries—and certainly not any kind of Bible software. He can’t even turn to the New Testament to find out more about life beyond the grave.

The subject of life after death was more confusing for him. We have the New Testament and God’s full revelation of what lies beyond. The Hebrew word Job uses here is sheol, which is a general term for the place of the dead.

Job doesn’t understand that death offers immediate joy and peace in God’s presence. To him what lies beyond death is cloudy and murky. He has more questions than answers.

Frankly, I can’t imagine facing the trials of life without the entire Bible. What a blessing it is to turn to passage after passage that gives us insight and comfort. We have so much more to look forward to than old Job could have imagined. And that reminds me that we, of all people, ought to be hopeful about life and certain about life after death. (place at the end)

The Bible tells us that that we have peace with God now through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). We are not facing God’s wrath; we are under His care. The Bible says that suffering and pain have a purpose in the plan of God for our lives, conforming us into the character of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29); and we are told that when we die, we immediately go to be with our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Death is the hand that opens the doorway into heaven—forever.

[1] Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job (Crossway, 1994), 141.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Patient (David C. Cook, 1991), 59-60.

[3] Ray C. Stedman, Let God Be God (Discovery House, 2007), 94.

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