Again, Job is rebuked for his answer. Zophar tells Job that he can’t help but answer him, because Job is trying to place the sin on his three friends, rather than accepting his own (20:2-3). This has become a blame game. Doesn’t Job understand that those who sin as he has will lose everything they have (vv. 5-11)? Zophar then goes a step further by accusing Job of enjoying sin (vv. 12-13). But God will turn the “good” he has into “evil” – He will turn the food he has eaten into poison, He will take his riches, He will kill him (vv. 14-16). He will take everything that is good away from him because of his sin (vv. 17-19).
And Job’s sin, according to his friend, is that he was never satisfied with what he had, though God had given him much (v. 20), and that what he had, he believed he had earned (vv. 21-22). God will therefore repay him with judgment (v. 23). Then Zophar offers a very gruesome analogy – God’s judgment is like an arrow that pierces the gall bladder and goes through him (v. 25). This is likely a reference to Job’s complaint in 16:13. Zophar is saying, “yes, Job, what is happening to you is terrible. But you deserve it!” He drives this point home in verses 26-29. Job is getting what he deserves.
Job begins by basically calling Zophar ignorant for his claim that the wicked are punished in this world. In verse 4, Job essentially tells Zophar that he has no part in the conversation. The evil most certainly do prosper in this world (21:7-13)! And they give no thought to God and his provision (vv. 14-15) believing they have earned what they have gotten (v. 16).
Job asks how often this claim of Zophar holds true (vv. 17-18), and then wishes it were (vv. 19-20). All men learn the truth, when they lose what they value, including their lives (v. 21). Job is reaffirming his statement from 1:21 – we leave this world the way we come in. And that goes for the rich and the poor, the happy and the miserable (vv. 23-26).
in verses 27-30, Job tells Zophar that he is just being mean, because everyone knows that prosperity in this world has nothing to do with sin or righteousness. And in a very Solomonic “turn, turn, turn” way, Job declares that this is the way it has always been, and this is the way it will always be (v. 33). So, Zophar, shut up (v.34)!
In Job’s defense to his friend, he speaks the truth. Our prosperity or hardships, plenty or lack, “good” or “bad” cannot be equated with righteousness or sin. There are evil men that prosper. There are righteous men that suffer. But Job’s view here is an eternal one. He knows that true profit is found in serving God. In fact, Job says that prosperity in this world is a detriment, because it takes our eyes of God (vv. 14-16). And he knows that, though in this world we cannot make the correlation, in the world to come, everyone gets what they deserve.
And we see that Job does not complain about his circumstances in this answer. His focus is earnestly on God and the world to come. True prosperity, for Job, is not found in the things of this world. His friends, on the other hand, are trying to limit God to this world. They make the temporary and fleeting their ultimate reality.
The question for us is, how often are we on the right side of this debate? How often do we hold loosely the things of this world, and how often do we grasp them tightly? How often to we look to God as our reward, and how often do we look to this world?
Consider Christ. He had everything, in heaven and on earth. Literally. And He did not hold onto them. In fact, while in this world, Jesus looked only to God, never to His worldly circumstances. And the only righteous One in history took on suffering we can’t even imagine. And He gained for us anything and everything that matters.
What, then, should we do?
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:1–11 (ESV)