Tag Archives: Zophar

40: Put it Away!

giraffe

if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. 16You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.” Job 11:14-16 NIV

So here is some of the rest of Zophar’s speech to Job, who is sitting, sick, boil-covered and grief-stricken on the dungheap of terrible suffering. Zophar’s logic is that Job couldn’t possibly be suffering this much as an innocent, he must have done or be doing something terrible. As soon as he turns from his wicked ways and repents, everything will suddenly go right with his life.

Sadly, this is still a nonsense that gets thrown around at the sick and the hurting today in church. I know, because I’ve had this boomerang hurled at me enough times. Put the sin away from yourself and suddenly all will be well. Well I say, put that self-righteous, ignorance away and I might be more inclined to listen to you!

Of course habitual sin is bad for us, and of course no-one is without sin. But when Jesus’ disciples see a blind man begging at the roadside, and ask, “Teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus treats the question as the nonsense it is. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3 NIV To the Lord, every piece of suffering is an opportunity to put things right. It is an opening for grace to be encountered, not a time to talk of blame or sin. God answers Job’s suffering with encounter, and Jesus does the same with the man born blind. Encounter for this man brings healing, but it also (maybe even more importantly) allows this man to become an evangelist. He turns out to be a very vocal and courageous supporter of the gospel, defying the leaders of the synagogue and even his own parents to tell the truth about Jesus.

I don’t pretend to know a great deal about healing, it’s a very complicated subject often, but I believe that with God, encounter and healing are always about wholeness. God doesn’t deal with us in bits, the way that our modern medical systems are geared to do. If God heals you physically, he will most likely heal your purpose and your being, and I think this is why he says to so many that he heals, “Your sins are forgiven you,” not because it was their sin causing the harm, though sometimes holding in hurts can cause us great bodily, mental and emotional grief, but because the transformational work he does treats us as entire, complex and spiritual beings.

In any case, most of us who are genuinely seeking God, like Job, and hopefully those of us in church, find one of the toughest things to do is forgiving ourselves (hence perhaps Jesus’ reassurance), we really don’t need any help looking for inner or “hidden” sins. If you are sick a long time, believe me, you’ve done a lot of soul searching already.

Equating sin with punishment in this life is to not understand the grace and the goodness of God. The Lord is all compassion and mercy and loving kindness. The greatest barrier and the greatest help to healing in the gospels is faith or lack of it, and usually this is the faith of the person or people praying for the sick, as it is also in James’ letter. We are scripturally more at liberty to blame our intercessors when healing doesn’t come, rather than those being prayed for. But blame in all its forms is to rather miss the point. Zophar and the rest of Job’s “friends” do this rather spectacularly. Suffering that presents an opportunity for God to be given glory is just not on their radar. I wonder if it is on ours?

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Artwork “Put it Away!” by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

 

39: Witless

39 witless danielemusella mf

But the witless can no more become wise than a wild donkey’s colt can be born human.” Job 11:12 NIV

Here is a verse that seems rather hopeless. Change is not possible, then, nor education? But we need to look at who is speaking here, for it is not God. Time and time again we see the habit of prooftexting, a tool of the witless if ever there was one, when, solely in order to prove their point, a person lifts a verse out of context without thought or consideration. The Bible is a collection of holy books, alive by the working of the Holy Spirit, and yes, it is in many ways the Word of God. But it is also the history of humanity’s relationship with the Lord and so also contains our own falseness, stupidity and wickedness. This particular verse is spoken by Zophar, one of Job’s annoying, self-righteous friends.

More on the folly of his speech tomorrow. Zophar so good (sorry couldn’t resist that one). For now we are focussing on this verse which tells us that a leopard cannot change its spots, and a fool must always remain so. We might be tempted to say that under the Old Testament and its set in stone legalism, this was most likely believed. But how then did Solomon become more and more wise if we are born with such traits? And is a fool always a fool? And in any case, isn’t there a difference between intelligence and wisdom?

James tells us in his letter that if we don’t have wisdom it is because we haven’t asked for it. Solomon was asked by God what gift he wanted, and he chose wisdom, proving perhaps that it was something he already had. And as the rules of God’s kingdom go, when you have the capacity already for a spiritual richness, more and more can be given to you, if your motives are right and your heart belongs to the Lord. But we can also ask for and be granted things which we do not have at all in the earthly. And brainpower is rather different from understanding, if you ask me, as often the most intelligent people are the most likely to refute the existence of God. (More about my thoughts on this can be found on my Golden Apples blog, here )

Zophar would have us all predestined to our fates, unable to change or learn, and yet then goes on to proclaim the changes God could make in Job’s life if only he will repent. Seeing God work, we know that transformation is possible in everything. It can take a very long time. It can be painful. Did you know that a caterpillar in a cocoon or chrysalis has to totally dissolve in order to become a butterfly or moth, apart from its wings, which are already waiting inside? Sometimes it feels like God is turning us inside out. I can testify to that! But if we have given over ourselves in prayer, even our foolishness can be turned into wisdom. Prayer, relationship with God, is always the catalyst for change. We have already seen on this year’s blogging journey, that a drowning prophet can be rescued and in turn rescue a whole city, that a zealous religious persecutor can end up dying for the very church he wanted to destroy, and that the Lord delights in turning things upside down. We should rule nothing out with our small thinking. Any leopard who gives her spots to the Lord as part of her living sacrifice, may well end up stripy!

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile.com