I have a lovely miniature schnauzer (she looks like Tramp from the Disney film). She is full of character and she makes me laugh. If you were to ever visit me, you would be greeted by her barking at the door and then an abundance of jumps and licks … we have tried to train this out of her but she just gets very excited! She is often waiting with her tug or ball in her mouth when I have been out for a while and always very happy to see me. She often sleeps next to me when I write and loves our walks together. She even tips her head to one side when I chat to her as if she is trying to understand what I am saying. She has many human type characteristics but she is far from being human.
Humans are complicated. Humans are even more complicated when they are with other humans.
I couldn’t ignore the relationships in Job any longer, and it appears Job and his friend couldn’t either.
The book of Job is mostly a conversation between Job and each of the friends who are meant to be comforting him. But, as is common when humans are together, things aren’t running very smoothly. Job has had enough of the comments and accusations coming his way and needs to speak up …
How long will you torment me and crush me with words? Job 19:1
You see, words have power. They have the power to create (see Genesis) … but they can create good and bad, to build up and tear down.
Job is being frank with the friends. Their words are crushing him. Please stop! He even says, ‘Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of GOD has struck me. Why do you pursue me as GOD does?’ (19:21) Give me a break! But as soon as Job stops talking, Zophar replies. ‘I hear a rebuke that dishonours me and my understanding inspires me to reply.’ (20:3)
Really! What a friend?! Job has just made himself very clear, he is hurting, he wants some sympathy and kindness … and what he gets is neither. Powerful words … Job’s friend is offended by Job. Job had been saying that his friends are miserable comforters. He tells them in 16:4-5 that although he might want to shake his head in their position, he would not, he would speak encouragement. Zophar only hears that Job has told him off, told him that the suffering Job is in needs to be comforted. Sadly, Zophar doesn’t agree. What Zophar sees is the punishment of GOD on Job. He takes Job’s plea for comfort and throws it away only hearing a rebuke about his own actions and words towards Job. He is not a happy man! How dare Job tell him that he is wrong! His understanding is that he is right … have you ever been there?! The thing is, Zophar’s understanding is not GOD’s understanding. Right back at the beginning of Job we see that GOD is not punishing some secret sin or evil in Job. Zophar’s inspiration to reply is tainted by offence and not by being right to reply.
Taking offence is such an easy thing to do. It often occurs when we feel dishonoured or relegated in some way. This can be at the hands of a person, a group of people, a situation or even GOD. But when we look at offence, in reality it stems from fear. Fear that my words and actions won’t be as valued as others, that I won’t have it my way, that I will be less important … Everything gets tainted when we do anything with offence in our heart.
So what do we do then? Recognise when we are offended, examine the offence and find the root. Ask yourself, why am I offended by this? The answer that you find will probably be quite ugly … but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. Taking it to GOD, even if it is Him we are offended by, is the best place to go. Ask Him what his thoughts are, repent and align yourself with Him.
If Zophar had been slower in his response, if he had checked his motives for speaking he would have known that his offence-driven understanding had inspired his reply. I know that if Zophar had addressed his offence, Job would have met with a very different response.
It is a challenge to me (and I suspect you too) to respond out of the heart of GOD for a person or situation when we have been offended. Imagine life without offence … What your prayer life would look like if you weren’t offended at the lack of answers? … How you would love, pray and serve if you really saw that person that way GOD saw them? … What the office, home or school would look like if discussions weren’t based on being offended? … How your relationships with family and friends would be transformed?
It would be quite a shock, wouldn’t it?! The thing is, we have the ability to make those changes. Perhaps it is time we faced up and were honest with ourselves about the offence we have taken. Perhaps we really can change the world by knowing and believing we are loved by GOD and by loving others in the same way.