Monday, April 7, 2008

Zophar the Bombast

If someone was to hand me the contents of Job 11 out of context, I don’t know that I’d see a whole lot wrong with it. There is much that sounds like what any Christian speaker or writer might say—or even David in the Psalms. What is wrong with statements like, “If you devote your heart to [God] and stretch out your hands to him…you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm without fear”? (v. 13, 15) Who can argue against the idea that we cannot fathom the mysteries of God? (v.7) Who would disagree that there is security and hope for those devoted to God?

And yet we know from the end of the book that Zophar was, as Oswald Chambers suggests, full of bombast—defined by dictionary.com as “pompous or pretentious speech or writing.” I love Chambers’ alliterations. Check out the four section headings for his discussion about Job 11:

Stirring of Self-Respecting Indignation
Schemes of Spurious Invocation
Self-Consciousness of Serious Instruction
Self-Complacency of Sentimental Integrity

I wonder how long it took him to create titles like that? The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers is 1486 pages long—large pages with small print—and every page has its own set of alliterating headings. But I digress.

Chambers obviously has no use for Zophar or the pompous, self-important Christians who are full of their own knowledge. I cringed as I read what Chambers had to say because I could see a lot of who I used to be in his denunciations and I wonder how much of Zophar is still in me. I hope not much. Today I want to quote a few of the sentences I underlined.

We use terms of righteous indignation to condemn the thing we are not guilt of, while all the time we may be guilty of tenfold worse.

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Another trick of bombastic religion is to appeal to God in order to back up a position which is obviously questionable.

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When we are facing problems we must see to it that we are reverent and silent, for the most part, with what we do not understand.

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God uses children, and books, and flowers in the spiritual instruction of a man, but he seldom uses the self-conscious prig who consciously instructs…. The very nature of spiritual instruction is that it is unconscious of itself; it is the life of a child, manifesting obedience, not ostentation.

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If you are a religious person of the “Zophar” type and can work up sufficient religious indignation, you will come to the conclusion that you and God must go together, it is quite impossible for you to be mistaken; then you will begin to instruct others on the same line, and will inevitably end by placing things in a totally false light.

God, I don’t want to be a Zophar—a self-righteous prig full of herself and empty of you. Keep me on the path of childlike obedience and keep my focus on you, not myself or what I know. Thank you, Father. Amen.

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