Amos 4:6–5:27, Acts 9:20–43, Job 20:1–11
God continues to speak to me about the different ways He deals with people, particularly concerning harsh events. Amos describes how God used adversity to turn His people back to Him. They were without food, rain, or had spotty rain, with blight, mildew and locusts in their gardens and vineyards, as well as pestilence, and wars. Many died, but the sad words “yet you did not return to me,” follow each description.
Continually Amos says, “Seek the Lord and live” yet their worship had become ritual and they were disobeying God in all areas of their lives. Finally God says, “I will send you into exile beyond Damascus.” (Amos 5:27)
Solitude is usually voluntary and often peaceful; exile is not, more like being put in prison. They would be among foreign people, languages, customs, and without their temple and their homeland. This is severe yet God allowed it so their relationship with Him would be restored.
Job’s friends thought this is what was happening to Job. They didn’t spell it out, but their answers to his cries for understanding always brought their descriptions of what happens to wicked people. They didn’t even consider the “chastening to restore” kind of disaster that might happen to God’s people. Most of their ‘comfort’ seemed to focus on the eternal punishment reserved for the godless.
One of them, Zophar, said, “Therefore my thoughts answer me, because of my haste within me. I hear censure that insults me, and out of my understanding a spirit answers me. Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment?” (Job 20:2–5)
Poor Job. He wanted encouragement. He wanted to hear that God had other reasons for his situation, not to be told he was wicked because he knew otherwise. These accusations added more pain to his misery.
I can relate just a little. I shared with someone that I was not seeing God at work and was frustrated. I was told that I wasn’t doing what I should, that I should try harder, that I should insist of God that He open my eyes, blah, blah, blah. All of that hit me like arrows of accusation. Later, when I was alone, God gently said to me, “You must walk by faith, not by sight.” Instantly, my frustration was gone. Those were the words He wanted me to hear.
Now, as I read Zophar, I have to wonder which “spirit” had answered him and why he said these were his thoughts because of his haste. I’m not sure what that means for him, but I do know that if I am in a hurry to solve the problems of others or to answer their pressing questions, I might not take time to seek God’s mind on the matter. To be honest, sometimes I just want them out of my face. So I answer in haste and when doing that, I am in danger of missing the will of God for what I should say. Zophar did, and instead of being a blessing, he was just another “miserable comforter.”
Paul was misunderstood too, at least in the beginning of his ministry right after he was saved. The other Christians thought he was faking it . . .
“And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:26–28)
Note that Paul didn’t defend himself or try to prove he was a believer to other believers. He proved himself by simply continuing to obey God. Hooray for Paul!
This also answers my unspoken question about the person who was a ‘Job’s comforter’ to me. I don’t need to explain to that person that the advice given me was wrong, nor should I even think it was given in haste, or suppose it could have been from a spirit other than the Holy Spirit. I just need to obey God. As He dealt with Job’s friends, He is able to take care of anyone else who thinks their judgment about what He is doing in another person’s life is correct when it is not right, and that includes me when I do the same thing.