There is always a difference between when we choose to obey God naturally: from the depths of our hearts compared to when we choose to obey Him because of an intended gain. The latter can therefore be seen as using God to getting what we want. In other words, the latter presents an illustration of using God as a means to an end and not an end in Himself; while the former projects a genuine love for Him irrespective of what we get or what we don’t get from Him.
This was the case of the elder brother of the boy we have nicknamed “the prodigal son”. He said to his father, “for this so many years I have served you and you didn’t even give me a goat not to talk of the fatted calf”. All he did was observe the rules and regulations with the intention of getting something from his father. What he projected that he would get wasn’t forth coming and so frustration sets in, followed by a maligning of his younger brother as if he was there when the boy was in the far country. He wasn’t even happy that his lost brother was back rather he was occupied with self and the ambition he nursed in heart.
In the present day church, we have been caught in the web and the same attitude of the elder brother; we attend services because we have been given false hope about what God will give in return. So the premise of going there would be based on what God will give to us and not based on our genuine love for Him. The moment there is no promise or false hope, the people retract from attending services or they look for somewhere else where such false promises have been promised. So our relationship will have to be attached to something physical that the man feels we need or else no one will come for the service.
Zophar Job’s third friend came on the scene with his own idea of what he thought was the reason why Job was in that precarious state. He came in from a different angle and perspective. He also assumed Job had done something wrong and couldn’t see any further than what he knew. I can imagine the state of confusion Job would have been in hearing from his other two friends, Bildad and Eliphaz and here comes Zophar with his own opinion. What did Zophar say to Job?
Should this kind of loose talk be permitted? Job, do you think you can carry on like this and we’ll say nothing? That we’ll let you rail and mock and not step in? You claim, ‘My doctrine is sound and my conduct impeccable.’ How I wish God would give you a piece of His mind. I wish He’d show you how wisdom looks from the inside, for true wisdom is mostly inside. But you can be sure of this, you haven’t gotten half of what you deserve. He continued!
“Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, if you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, you’ll be able to face the world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. You’ll forget your troubles; they’ll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dayspring. Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again; you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy.
Zophar came from the standpoint of LEGALISMS, which is the strict adherence to a law or a formula. His words proved that he had no sense of divine character; he had no knowledge of God, neither did he know Him because there is no one who claims or possessing a true knowledge God could speak of Him as opening his lips against an afflicted soul. God is and would never be against us; He is not man, He is not a legal exactor but a generous giver. Zophar’s idea about God is completely different from the person of God; he sure is talking about someone else and not the maker of the heavens.
Ok lets assume Zophar was right, he should also have proposed a solution for his friend so that at least he has a way out of the problem. He couldn’t tell Job what to do. He only just slammed him more and more with his wrong doctrine and unkind words. I am not sure this is what Job needs at this time.
The idea behind legalism is such that when anything goes wrong, as in a challenge, rather than look to God, one would be forced to start to look at what they didn’t do right and therefore tend to make corrections. This takes God out of the question; we have totally forgotten that our faith in God must be tested whether we do something right or wrong. It just has to be tested. The danger of legalisms is that the focus is no more on God but on self. That’s why the Book says, we are saved by Grace through Faith; it is not of works because man can boast afterwards about it. It is a gift from God.
The story of the blind man in the book of John comes to mind. The man was blind from birth and the disciples thought either the man or the parents had done something wrong but on the contrary, they were wrong. In their thoughts, they were like Zophar who felt Job shouldn’t be going through the pain unless he had done something wrong and hence the punishment according to him.
This was the same issue the Galatian church had and the Apostle had to call them foolish. They had began in the Spirit and hoped to be perfected through the observation of some sort of law or creeds. They had been introduced to salvation by Grace through faith but some false teachers had gone back to the church with the doctrine of legalism and they changed their minds about the grace because they felt observing the laws looked more real than the grace of God which came as a gift.
Bildad, Eliphaz and Zophar were all wrong and one sided; Traditions, Experiences and Legalities wouldn’t do it. They are all defective, one sided and false. Not any one of them, or all of them put together could solve Job’s problem. They only darkened counsel by words without knowledge. None of them knew or savored the things of God but the things of men; rather than lead Job to God or introduce God to the scene, they succeeded in ministering to a spirit of self-vindication. Their counsel led Job to a field of discussion that seems boundless and rather than become broken, the opposite was the result.
Sometimes we might have good words to speak to the people around us who are somehow weary but we need to look to God for the right counsel, no matter what. To judge by experience, tradition and legalisms is to frustrate the Grace of God.