Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The ending to the Book of Job can be confusing for a Christian. We know that Paul tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). However, it seems that the Lord discounts the words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar in Job 42:7 where we read,
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”
These three guys get a lot of ink though, so to cut out such a large chunk of Scripture seems to go against what Paul wrote. I asked the Lord about this and the Holy Spirit helped me to come to a better understanding of how to use what otherwise seems like large portions of useless text (since the Lord discounts their arguments): we need to consider the situation. Job’s friends are accusing him of sin when he hadn’t done anything wrong. God is upset because instead of comforting Job in the Lord, they are ganging up on their friend in need. However, they still give a great deal of wisdom, especially relating to sin; it’s just that they were giving it to someone who didn’t need any wisdom in that area. Today, let’s take a look at what Job’s friends have said on the topic of sin and learn from their wisdom.
First of all, sin is short-lived. Zophar tells us,
Surely you know how it has been from of old,
Ever since man was placed on the earth,
That the mirth of the wicked is brief,
The joy of the godless lasts but a moment (Job 20:4-5).
Sin is immediately gratifying, however its effects usually last only a short time. This works both on a micro and macro scale. A sin, when engaged in, offers fast pleasure that wears off quickly. Likewise, a sinful habit will often only feel like a good idea for a short time before side-effects or guilt start to set in. Moses understood this as well, and so when faced with the ease of Egypt versus following the God he knew to be true, he abandoned the temptation of sin. Now he is considered a hero of faith. We read in Hebrews 11:24-25,
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
Aside from being short-termed, giving into sin-while seemingly a good idea at first- is generally unfulfilling. Zophar explains, “Surely he will have no respite from his craving; he cannot save himself by his treasure” (Job 20:20). Look at the times in your life when you’ve given into sin, hoping to find happiness. In the end, did it work? Likely sinning left you feeling just as empty as before doing whatever you did. Giving into temptation may make you feel better for a little bit, and maybe satisfy the temptation momentarily; but on the whole you will not end up feeling any better.
Next, we should always remember that sin usually turns bad. This seems obvious, and yet I think we all know that during times of temptation, we don’t usually consider the repercussions of acting outside of God’s will. Zophar sums it up very well as he says in Job 20:12-14,
Though evil is sweet in his mouth
And he hides it under his tongue,
Though he cannot bear to let it go
And keeps it in his mouth,
Yet his food will turn sour in his stomach;
It will become the venom of serpents within him.
Although it may feel good now, later sin will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. I would expand on this, but the effects are different for everyone. You yourself know that when you’ve done things you know are wrong, there’s usually some sort of consequence, from feeling deeply guilty to having your whole world turned upside-down.
Probably one of the most well-known attributes of sin is its addictive qualities. Temptation sucks you in, causing you to sin, then after a short while the craving set in again and so you become trapped. Bildad says of the sinner in Job 18:8-9,
His feet thrust him into a net
And he wanders into its mesh.
A trap seizes him by the heel;
A snare holds him fast.
Often, after becoming trapped in a sinful habit, a person cannot even remember how it happened. Sin is a trap that will lock onto a person, believer or not. Using the example of anger and sin stemming from it, Paul writes, “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). We are encouraged to avoid temptation so as not to allow the devil to get a hold on our lives. When angered, it is very easy to not only give into anger-related sins, but also- as our emotions run wild- it opens the door to other temptations and habits we had been keeping at bay. Many people in the world are addicted to something. Addiction is not only unsatisfying in the long-run, but it is also destructive to a person’s life.
Sin also has a tendency to create difficult situations. Bildad, speaking f the sinner, says, “Calamity is hungry for him; disaster is ready for him when he falls” (Job 18:12). Consider when a person loses a job due to substance abuse, or when a marriage is broken due to some sort of immoral activity. But there’s more, think about how many people are completely humiliated when their friends find out what they’ve done in the shadows (as even in today’s world, most sin is considered unacceptable by the general public). There are often health risks associated with various sins as well. It should also be noted that when one engages in sexual sin or internet porn, there is always a risk of viruses.
Because of the already assumed bad things that result from sin, one caught in sin finds that, “Terrors startle him on every side and dog his every step” (Job 18:11). That is to say, there is the fear of getting caught. We can read in Isaiah 48:22, “’There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’” Indeed this is true, as someone who is acting outside the will of God usually knows they are doing wrong (socially, ethically, morally, or legally). What will happen when they get caught? Jesus tells us,
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs (Luke 12:2-3).
Everything will come out!? No wonder the sinner feels dogged constantly. There is an ever-present threat that they will get caught in what they are doing. People who are away from God often have difficulty sleeping, which makes sense; for how can someone sleep when they could be exposed at any minute?
Aside from the physical or humanly understood effects of sin, there is also a supernatural effect of repeated sin: it eats away your soul. Bildad tells us that for the sinner, “His roots dry up below and his branches wither above” (Job 18:16). Chasing after sin is like digging your own grave. Many people, when caught in sin will only go deeper into it and avoid any discussion of the Lord. They become terrified, “What if this God guy is real?” With this, they begin to mistakenly assume they are unforgivable, and continue to go deeper into self-destruction. In the end, hell awaits.
Sin has consequences, and it ends in death. Zophar tells us rather coldly that for all of the previously mentioned effects of sin, “Such is the fate God allots the wicked, the heritage appointed for them by God” (Job 20:29). Therefore, Paul advises us in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Run from sin! Don’t just avoid it! Run! Run after Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Pray to the Lord to help you with your struggles, for Hebrews 12:1 says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Give yourself to Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit work in your life. James tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Turn from evil and seek the Lord, brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter how deep you may be in sin, the Lord will forgive you and set you on a new path; for the Lord says in Ezekiel 18:21-23,
But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
No matter how much you’ve sinned (or even if you’ve fallen back into sin after being forgiven), God will forgive you because he loves you. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How is this possible? How can the Lord forgive someone drenched in sin? God is love and he hates the spiritual death of anyone. Believe and be saved! Nobody is clean, but through the blood sacrifice that was the death of Jesus we may be made clean. For it is written,
But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24).
Sin is futile, but forgiveness is worth more than gold. Repent, dear friend, repent!