Today: [Job Eleven] Can God Break His Own Word? In this chapter we meet the 3rd of Job’s friends who have come to “comfort” him in his suffering. Zophar insists that God is not knowable because one can never anticipate what He will do next. Is this true? Does God answer our prayer one time and choose not to answer another time even though we have the plain promise of His word? Will God EVER say NO to what the cross says YES to? Many theologians and teachers believe that God can and does violate His own promise as an expression of His sovereignty? Is this true? It is important to answer this question in order to strengthen your faith in a time of trial.
[Job 11:1-20 KJV] 1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, 2 Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? 3 Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? 4 For thou hast said, My doctrine [is] pure, and I am clean in thine eyes. 5 But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee; 6 And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that [they are] double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee [less] than thine iniquity [deserveth].
In this chapter we hear at long last from Zophar – the third of “Job’s comforters”. Zophar’s first words carry great force and insult without any of the feigned kindness or reasoned debate of Bildad or Eliphaz’s comment. Zophar intends to finish Job off and expose him for the hypocrite and sinner that all three of the men are deeply convinced must be true about Job. They don’t believe this because the know first hand Job is an offender but they extrapolate this must be true solely on the basis of Job’s deep suffering. All four men (including Job) apparently don’t believe in a personal devil and attribute all that Job has experienced to the hand of God. Job’s friends believe God is punishing him, Job believes God is toying with him for sport – but all believe that the torment originates with God which is refuted in the first two chapters in two behind the scenes looks at what transpires at the throne of God between God and Satan regarding Job.
What do we know of Zophar? Like Elipaz and Bildad Zophar is descended from a disenfranchised people with ancestral hatred of the Semitic tribes. Elipaz was descended from Esau who despised his birthright and lost out with God. Bildad was descended from Abraham’s 3rd wife whose children were slighted in the inheritance and sent away by Abraham. Zophar (based on the name of the region where he is from) is descended from Noah’s son Ham who mocked Noah and was subsequently cursed. The city where Zophar lived was named after Naamah – the mother of Canaan who was the patriarch of the arch enemies of Israel in the Promised land – because Noah prophesied that Shem’s descendants would rule over them. So all three men are descended from family lines that deeply despised the line of Abraham and that hatred shows up in their mockery against Job and the vitriol they heap upon him in his sufferings.
7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? 8 [It is] as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? 9 The measure thereof [is] longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. 10 If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him? 11 For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider [it]? 12 For vain man would be wise, though man be born [like] a wild ass’s colt. 13 If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him; 14 If iniquity [be] in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
Zophar rebukes Job because he wants an explanation of his suffering. He declares that Job is being impious in even suggesting that he can know God because (in Zophar’s view) God is completely unknowable and what can be known of God is unreliable because one can never anticipate what God will or wont do in a given situation. For many theologians this reflects their ideation of the sovereignty of God. They understand God’s sovereignty to be expressed in the purported view that God may make a promise indeed but He may likewise break His own promise in pursuit of a higher, esoteric agenda and thus not violate His own character.
Is this true? Is God truly unknowable? Is it true that God may break His own promises if He does so for a higher purpose? It is true that Paul wrote the following:
[Rom 11:33 KJV] 33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
But Paul also wrote this in 1 Corinthians:
[1Co 2:16 KJV] 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
John confirms the same in the following verse:
[1Jo 2:20 KJV] 20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.
So yes God is unsearchable to the finite understanding of man but at the same time WITH GOD’S HELP we can understand His dealings and His heart in our situation – and therefore know Him as a reliable strength in time of trouble that we can anticipate will be found faithful in our behalf.
What about Zophar’s suggestion that God can break His own word without violating His character? The writer of Hebrews addresses this:
[Heb 6:13-14, 17-18 KJV] 13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, 14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. …
Zophar and the other men suggest that God never obligates Himself to man and that man cannot expect God to be consistent in His dealings. In fact they suggest that it is blasphemous to think that one could dare to expect God to be faithful because (in their view) we are not capable of understanding what God does what He chooses to do. Yet when God made promises to Abraham He sealed His promise with an oath and a covenant ratified in blood. Now when men take an oath they are bound by it – what about God? Is God bound by an oath that He might take?
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed [it] by an oath: 18 That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
V. 17 in fact tells us that God is bound by His own word. Psalm 138:2 says that God honors His word above His own name. He emphasizes in v. 17 that His oath establishes the immutability of His promise. In God’s view to break an oath is to tell a lie and God is not capable of lying. Based upon this we are told we can have great consolation in knowing that when we take our refuge in His we will never be disappointed. There may be times that things don’t seem to be working out but that does not justify leaping to the absurdity of unfounded theological conclusion that God is at fault or responsible. There are reason why at times we experience a contradiction to God’s promise in our lives but it is not because God hates us, (or loves us and wants us to suffer), and not always because we are in sin.
15 For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear: 16 Because thou shalt forget [thy] misery, [and] remember [it] as waters [that] pass away: 17 And [thine] age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning. 18 And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig [about thee, and] thou shalt take thy rest in safety. 19 Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make [thee] afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee. 20 But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope [shall be as] the giving up of the ghost.
Zophar contend with Job that if he will simply confess his sin and repent of hypocrisy that things will get better. Bildad and Elipaz have insisted the same. In other words their view is “Job if you will simply agree with us then your situation will turn around…” Many times in the midst of difficulty friends will offer counsel whether solicited or not. In so doing they will often expose (as these 3 men did) hidden attitudes of despising toward you and toward God Himself. Never accept counsel that offers relief in terms of claiming God is inflicting suffering upon you for some higher purpose. This is contrary to what we know of God’s character. How can out of the same source come blessing and cursing? God has promised to bless. We are heirs with Abraham of the promise given. God has made an immutable promise backed by an oath that “Surely in blessing I will bless you…” This includes you as the writer of Galatians insists. You are the blessed with faithful Abraham. What God did for Abraham He will do for you because in Christ you are heirs of His promise to Abraham. Abraham was blessed above all the peoples of the earth. That is your portion as well and God will not alter or change that covenant for any lesser reason.
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