With summer here already, I can’t help but recall one particular trip as a camp counselor. It was a waterpark field trip, and this park had a game-changing invention for kids and counselors alike – a lazy river. You pair each kid with a partner and an inner-tube, and they go for hours, no problems necessary. It’s built-in enjoyment and ease, and it reminds me too much of our spiritual lives.
We hop on our floaties, and life drifts like a lazy river. We forget about the spiritually important things, trying to live comfortably in the physical and finite. It’s easy to lay back and forget things as the lazy river treats you well, but you hit a little current and have to hang on. In life, you might need to holler for a lifeguard, and God’s like a genie in a lamp to you. We let our lamps sit there collecting dust, and we live our charming lives. Prosperous days pass by, and you only pull out the lamp when you think you’re hitting a rough current. I’ll warn you, though, you’re not really in control of the lamp at all.
We might feel a little in-control when life is smooth, but we feel the plummet when it’s hopping off a cliff against our will. When life goes sour, calling on God is the first step to fixing the downward spiral, but we also still pretend that our lives are swell. We put on a pure white porcelain mask, claiming that our hearts are clean and pure, and we cry out to God with our sins still held in hand and muck still hiding within. That’s clinging to God on our terms, and we’re not letting go of the things that hinder us. I’ve been reading Job 11 like I’m the first cupcake meeting frosting. I. Can’t. Get. Enough.
Job had three friends by his side, and like most people – they had their own opinions to share. One well-meaner was named Zophar, and Zophar was the one friend who had great advice in the wrong place and the wrong time. Zophar was encouraging Job to repent, and he didn’t know that Job’s struggle had nothing to do with personal sin. From Zophar’s experience, such a tussle indicated that Job had not humbled himself before God. This advice wasn’t what Job needed to hear, but for us, it might just be in the right place at the right time.
I encourage you to read all of Job 11, and dive in deeply. There are a few key points that Zophar makes to Job, and they’re timeless.
#1: Job 11v4-6 says, “You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.’ Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.”
We can come to God like a Pharisee, wearing our porcelain masks that whitewash our sin. It makes the dirt in our hearts hide under a rug, but lift the rug and RUN! In Matthew 23v26-27, Jesus tells a Pharisee what He sees, “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” We keep things within us, bottling up and hoarding the sin that entangles, and we are tied up in lies. We’re wound up trying to look beautiful, while being strangled by our sins inside. In Verse 28, Jesus just lays it on by saying, “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Zophar’s first point is this: God sees everything. Job 11v11 says, “Surely he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?” Despite your desire to sometimes hide from yourself and sin, God wants you to take off your mask. You know when your kids pretend they didn’t do it, but you know that the dog can’t color on the wall? Well, God sees that you’re painting on your walls, and you’re horrible at pretending that you, “didn’t do it.” In fact, God’s already extended grace to you, as Zophar reminds us, and it’s time to wash off the paint.
#2: Job 11v7-10 says, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him?”
This goes back to hitting a rough patch and rubbing a genie lamp. We like to compartmentalize and separate everything in life. We even distinguish between the good times and bad. Unfortunately, we also do this with our spiritual lives, and the consequences lead us into compartmentalizing our relationships with God. When times get hard, humans turn to God, as though He will swoop in upon our beck and call. Now, don’t think that we can’t call on Him in times of trouble. He will be there. Psalm 18v2-3 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.” This passage defines that God is your rock, your stable foundation, and He is a place to stand and find refuge in during times of trouble. He is our place to dwell.
But, there is a condition to believers calling out, and you can’t put God in a box. Hebrews 5v7 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” If you cry out to God for help, you must be humbled before Him. You must repent and recognize how unendingly sovereign God is over you. Jesus isn’t just a “Sunday Morning Savior,” and God is not a genie waiting in a lamp. He is unfathomably great; thus, He cannot be compartmentalized at other things may be. You must cry out in submission, and this is where we drop our genie lamps. In contrast to our thinking, God says that you are the vessel, and He is the one who pours us out.
2 Corinthians 4v6-7 says, “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Christ. But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” So, you’re the lamp the He’s holding. He is the potter, and we are His clay. He has made us as earthly lamps, and it is He who works through us. Hold up, though! We do have one task in this: We must empty ourselves to be his servants. Philippians 2v5-7 says, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” You might ask, “What should I be emptied of?” 2 Timothy 2:22 explains, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
Zophar’s second point is this: You must empty yourself of earthly things, because God fills us with all things good. He is sovereign. He is infinitely searchable, and infinitely unknowable. You can’t fathom Him, and it’s time to realize that you’re finite. He holds you as an earthly vessel, and you can choose to serve and be filled by Him. Or, you can be left empty. Amazingly, that choice is in your human hands.
#3: Job 11v20 says, “But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp.” Without adding water to bring this down a notch, by choosing sin over Christ, the inevitable end is hopeless failure. Zophar said it. That’s that. But, as the cheesy commercials always blast, “But wait! There’s more!”
Zophar’s third point is this: The choice to stay in sin ends in hopelessness; however, there is a remedy.
#4: Job 11v13-19 says, “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 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. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning. You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety. You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid, and many will court your favor.”
God says that we can find Him when we’re looking for Him. Jeremiah 29v13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” So, you have to put your whole heart into this, and it’s a search. I’ll remind you, it’s really not as easy as rubbing a lamp and making a wish. You have to seek for Him with your whole self. To do this, Zophar reminds us that we must stretch out our hands to God, devote our hearts to Him, and drop the sins that we cling to like cellophane.
I had a recent experience with this, and I promised the Lord that I’d share it with my dentist (I heard that laugh). So, I’ve always taken the right steps to take great care of my teeth. But, do a few fillings on a kid, and you’ve made someone who both hates and fears going to the dentist. Flash forward, I just went for my first checkup in two years, and I was SO sure that nothing good would come of it. Thus, I turned to prayer. I’ve never liked going to the dentist, and I wanted this to be a great experience – something that was covered in God’s grace and presence. So, I did as Zophar suggests. I gave it to God, in prayer and repentance, asking that He would let me be cavity-free. As I was sitting in the lobby beforehand, I just kept reading Romans 8v37-39 over again, which says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Or cavities. Yes, cavities.
I got in the chair, and even the hygienist said my teeth looked great for a cleaning that’s two years late – not a single cavity was there, and I truly felt blessed. I know it’s simple, but if you give even the simple things like fears up to God, He will give you rest.
Zophar’s fourth point is this: God is your ultimate hope. Only in Him, will you find true rest. In Him, you will be filled. You have to empty your hands of the sin that leaves you empty, and lift them up to the One who fills your soul with life.
Let’s bring this into perspective – I hope you have a sense of urgency. Ecclesiastes 9v12 tells us, “Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” You never know when tragedy, weakness, temptation, sorrow, or struggles will hit. From one to four, Zophar is stressing that it’s time to leave the floaty life – the life of comfort versus the times of crying out. He says that each day, God sees your sins, and He is jealous for you. There’s not a thing that slides past Him. So, you need to empty yourself for God’s purposes. He’s the only thing that truly feeds your starving appetite for purpose and joy. You might be tempted to stick with sin, but it doesn’t end well. In the end, you have a choice to make. In Christ, by dwelling in a relationship with your Father and serving Him, you will truly find rest. And, you will delight your Creator by relying on Him for your hope. Turn from your sin. Seek the Lord with all your heart. Rest in His unfailing love.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. – Psalm 147v10-11