Taking down the barriers… (Job 11-12)
November 22, 2010
It’s all getting a bit heated in Job 11-12. Job’s mammoth moan isn’t even half way through but his friends are starting to lose their patience. Zophar speaks for the first time and he’s not pulling and punches;
3 Should your babble put others to silence,
and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
4 For you say, “My conduct is pure,
and I am clean in God’s sight.”
5 But O that God would speak,
and open his lips to you,
6 and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For wisdom is many-sided.
Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. (11:3-6)
Ouch. Job claims to be blameless (and we read in chapter 1 that he’s God’s favourite!) but Zophar wishes God would have a word with him; put him in his place. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Zophar will get what he wishes for by the end of this book.
Job’s dry wit rings out in his reply; “No doubt you are the people and wisdom will die with you.” (12:2) . The last thing he needs, he reminds his friends, is a lecture about wisdom. He’s bereaved, forlorn, hopeless. He’s been made a “laughing-stock”. Zaphor means well but perhaps he could have found a nicer way to say it!
The thing is, that the telling off was not all Zaphor offered Job. Yes his opener was rather biting but then he offers these wonderful words of comfort;
13 ‘If you direct your heart rightly,
you will stretch out your hands towards him.
14 If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away,
and do not let wickedness reside in your tents.
15 Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish;
you will be secure, and will not fear.
16 You will forget your misery;
you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
17 And your life will be brighter than the noonday;
its darkness will be like the morning.
18 And you will have confidence, because there is hope;
you will be protected and take your rest in safety.
19 You will lie down, and no one will make you afraid;
many will entreat your favour.
Your misery will be remembered as waters that passed away; even your dark times will be like the morning. Zaphor is attempting to remind Job that this, too, shall pass. To offer him hope. But Job doesn’t seem to hear this, he heard Zaphor’s reproaches and locked onto them. He can’t hear the hope; only the shame.
Do you recognise this mind-set? I do. Job has a much better excuse than me too; I’ve never experienced anything like what’s he’s going through. But still I know what it is to be so wrapped in my own suffering that I can’t accept any comfort that is offered. I brush it off saying “I know that! I don’t need you to tell me, thanks very much!”. Even the gentlest words of correction feel like attack. Someone telling me that this will pass is useless; what do I care about the future? It’s now that I feel like rubbish.
When we are suffering it’s hard to be vulnerable. Our barriers are up to ensure that we don’t fall apart. The only problem is that these walls keep comfort out and lock our insecurities and self-pity in. While I continue not to ask for or accept help I continue to suffering.
Sometimes we need to indulge our self-pity, our anger, our despair. Job needs to feel his feelings and ask his questions. But if we allow others to be a part of this process the weight of it seems to lift a little.
So I guess the question is; Do I want to be vulnerable? Or do I want to miserable?
Chosing the former is brave and pretty counter-culture… It’s also, for me at least, a step closer to freedom.
We have the choice.