Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Job is an interesting book. Job is a righteous man: “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Yet, even as a good person, Job suffers much; here’s just a small example:
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” (Job 1:17-19)
Even Job’s health was taken away from him: “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7). More than that, the Lord doesn’t even give much of an explanation for all of it except, “It’s complicated, you wouldn’t understand.” The book of Job is also full of exceptions to presumed rules. Job reminds us,
You say, “Where now is the great man’s house,
The tents where wicked men lived?”
Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts-
That the evil man is spared from the day of calamity,
That he is delivered from the day of wrath?
Who denounces his conduct to his face?
Who repays him for what he has done?
He is carried to the grave,
And watch is kept over his tomb (Job 21:28-32).
Life isn’t like a movie, the bad guy doesn’t always get what’s coming to him, nor does the good guy. Job reminds us of that the whole time. Well, the Holy Spirit showed me something else interesting in the book of Job. In one of Zophar’s replies to Job he prophesizes…but to the wrong guy.
Ok, so let’s take a look at this “prophecy.” Zophar starts arguing with Job (as usual for Job’s friends). We read,
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).
This is pretty basic Zophar fare. At some points during his arguments he seems to completely ignore anything being said around him and speaks to nobody in particular; more of addressing the subject than the actual people in the conversation. However, later in this particular speech, Zophar makes an oddly specific note. He states,
In the middle of his plenty, distress will overtake him;
The full force of misery will come upon him.
When he has filled his belly,
God will vent his burning anger against him
And rain down his blows upon him.
Though he flees from an iron weapon,
A bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.
He pulls it out of his back,
The gleaming point out of his liver.
Terrors will come over him;
Total darkness lies in wait for his treasures.
A fire unfanned will consume him
And devour what is left in his tent.
The heavens will expose his guilt;
The earth will rise up against him (Job 20:22-27).
Weird, right? Now, fast forward maybe 1000 years or so; Israel has a king named Ahab, and he’s a total scumbag. History records of him,
In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him (1 Kings 16:29-33).
At least by Biblical standards, Ahab was a bad dude. He even considered God’s messengers to be his enemies,
Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”
“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:20).
But as evil as he was, Ahab was also very careful in all he did. That is, he was careful in all he did until one day when he went to war. The Bible tells us of Ahab’s plan,
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle (1 Kings 22:29-30).
He wanted to participate in the battle (as kings did in that day), but realized that he would be easy to pick out and kill. This was wise because sure enough Ahab had a target on his back; we know because the next verse reads, “Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, ‘Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel’” (1 Kings 22:31). This was a successful plan; because he was hiding, Ahab avoided the sword. However, he was not able to escape a random arrow:
But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died (1 Kings 22:34-35).
Hmmm, he got away from the swords and yet an arrow found him. This matches with Zophar’s prophecy oddly well.
So…what? What’s the point? The point is that you don’t know if you’ll be the exception or not. Yes, Job is absolutely right in the first paragraph when he notes that many people who deny God and step on people live great and fulfilling lives and die in their old age surrounded by friends and family. But that’s not true for everyone. Even if you’re careful, the Lord has promised to strike down the wicked. Job needed not worry about anything Zophar said to him because the Lord had already considered Job righteous. Why? Job had a saving knowledge of Christ before Jesus even existed. Check out one of the things he told his friends:
Even now my witness is in heaven;
My advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend
As my eyes pour out tears to God;
On behalf of a man he pleads with God
As a man pleads for his friend (Job 16:19-21).
At the time, Job’s friends probably didn’t know what he was talking about. However, later Scripture reveals this all to be true of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus does intercede for us daily. In fact, if Scripture is to be believed, that’s primarily what Jesus does these days; for it is written, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). And Job isn’t off calling his interceder his friend, for Christ called his followers as such,
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
Job also knew that only Christ’s sacrifice could pay for one’s sins. He cried in Job 17:3, “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else will put up security for me?” Job knew that nothing on earth could purify a man, but only the Lord. Therefore only the Lord could pay Job’s debt to God. This is the exact issue that required the Lord to step in (as Jesus) to purify us from sins. Hebrews 10:8-10 explains,
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And keep in mind, there is nobody without sin, and we therefore all deserve death and any bad things that happen; as it is written, “For the wages of sin is dead, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). While we have been buried in sin and can’t help ourselves, that’s when Christ steps in and saves us, doing what we cannot. It is written, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Like Job, all who believe in Christ and acknowledge him as Lord are exempt from the curses of sin (unlike Ahab).
Biblical prophecy isn’t dead. Scripture reminds us,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Everything is before the Lord, and he has given us a head’s up on what to expect through his Word. Although Ahab fulfilled Zophar’s prophecy, history tends to repeat itself. Besides, there are plenty of other curses in the Bible for someone avoiding the Lord to come up against; and of course there’s always hell waiting for those who refuse Jesus Christ. Repent now if you haven’t come to Jesus for forgiveness yet; and if you have, then impress strongly on your friends and family the importance of Jesus- lest you or someone you love comes under wrath: random occurrence or otherwise.