Job 12

Sermon preached on June 11, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

One of my favorite cartoons ever is one where a man is standing on a conductor's podium, obviously getting ready to conduct an orchestra. On his music stand is a note with instructions on how to be a conductor. The note says,

"Wave the stick until the music stops, then turn around and bow."

I love it. It's hilarious. It shows such ignorance and disrespect for conductors. What's funny is that some people think that that's all there is to conducting an orchestra. When people like me see a conductor conducting an orchestra we instinctively think,

"I could that! It doesn't look that hard. All you have to do is wave your arms around."

There's obviously a lot more to conducting an orchestra than that. They don't pay conductors for nothing. Conductors don't become world famous by just waving their arms. They know the music intimately. They interpret the music and bring out its nuances. Orchestras couldn't function properly without a conductor. Conductors lead the orchestra. Conductors guide it and tell various sections when to play, to play louder, softer, slower etc. Without a conductor an orchestra would quickly descend into chaos. For orchestras conductors are essential, vital, indispensable.

And yet, people make jokes about conductors and minimize what they do. That cartoon shows that sometimes we believe things in spite of all kinds of evidence to the contrary. Job accuses his friends of doing that in our text. They believe something in spite of lots of evidence to the contrary. Job's friends believe that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked—that's the way that things are in this life and you can tell if someone is righteous or wicked just by looking at what is happening to them. Job is suffering. He has lost his possessions, his children and his health—what does that mean? To Job's friends that meant that Job must have been a great sinner. Such disasters don't happen to the righteous. Job needs to repent and if he repents, God will look kindly on him and bless him.

Here in chapter 12 Job refutes Zophar's arguments. The first thing Job says here is,

everyone should know that evil people often prosper.

Job mocks his friends and shows how irrational their position is. In verse 6 he says,

"The tents of marauders are undisturbed,
and those who provoke God are secure—
those who carry their god in their hands."

Job says to his friends,

"Open your eyes. Even the animals know this. The birds know it. The earth knows it. The fish know it."

The marauders Job speaks about are not ordinary robbers. They are 'professional plunders', men who live to destroy. David J. A. Clines suggests that perhaps Job is referring to the Sabeans and Chaldeans—who stole Job's oxen, donkeys and camels.

Some nomadic peoples live by plundering. One example in the Bible are the Amalekites. In 1 Samuel 30 we read how they raided the town of Ziklag in Judah. They attacked the city and burned it. They took the inhabitants captive, probably to enslave them. Among those who were taken were David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. When David and his men arrived at Ziklag and found the city burned they were greatly distressed. They wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David's men talked of stoning him because they were so bitter in spirit because of their sons and daughters.

Now David and his men went and rescued their families. When they caught up to the Amalekites they were, (1 Samuel 30:16)

"scattered over the countryside,
eating, drinking and reveling
because of the great amount of plunder
they had taken from the land
of the Philistines and from Judah,"

David fought against them and defeated them. He rescued his wives and the others that had been taken captive.

But that was an exception. In the ancient world many people were taken captive by marauders were not rescued. The marauders were not defeated. Because they're so strong, some of them have gone on for years, even generations before they are brought to account. Job's point is that evil marauders are often safe. Their tents are secure. They do evil things yet they are seemingly live in safety. There are two ways to understand the end of verse 6. Some see it as referring to idolaters. They craft idols and carry them with them and worship. As such they provoke God. Others understand the reference to those who provoke God by their trust in their own hands. Their god is their power, their strength—their two hands.

Some understand the end of verse 6 still another way. The reference to those who carry in the latter part of the verse is singular, others understand the latter part of the verse as God being the subject. The idea is that God holds them in His hand even while they provoke Him. Even then He doesn't destroy them.

Whichever interpretation is correct, the point is the same—evil doers often prosper. In spite of what Job's friends say, Job says that everyone knows the truth of what he is saying. God often lets the worst of sinners prosper for a time.

Psalm 73 confirms this. The psalm wrote, (verses 3–8, 12)

"For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens
common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds
know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance
they threaten oppression…
This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree,
they increase in wealth."

Think of Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin. Job is also speaking about men like them. For a long time they were secure. They perpetuated great evils with apparent impunity.

Confirmation bias.

But Job's friends didn't see that. They had what psychologists today call confirmation bias. That's a bias that favors information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignores information that is contrary to it.

One of the funniest things I read this week was an article poking fun at how people interpreted former FBI Director Comey's testimony. The article was a spoof and it's headline was a classic,

"Breaking: Comey Hearing Confirms Whatever You Already Wanted To Believe"

It was the same way with Job's friends. They didn't believe Job and his declarations of innocence. They were blind to the great reality in front of them—the best man on the face of the earth was suffering greatly. They totally closed their eyes to that. How blind they were to reality. I'm sure that Job wasn't the only innocent one in their experience who they saw suffering. Surely they had heard of marauders with killed and stole and didn't get punished for it. But they closed their eyes to such things. They believed you could tell if someone was innocent or guilty by what was happening to them.

That mean that they didn't have compassion on Job. It meant that they weren't kind to him. It meant that rather than helping Job, they hurt him. When David was suffering, his friend Jonathan helped him find strength in God. Job's friends made it more difficult for Job to find strength in God.

This shows us how blind we all can be. It shows how we can misinterpret reality. There are examples all around us. The prosperity gospel—how can people believe it when so many faithful Christians suffer? How can people believe it when the Bible gives us many examples of God's people suffering according to His will? People like Job, Joseph, young David, the prophets, the apostles. But some people today believe it.

But I'm really don't want to focus my application on politics are on other people. The great lesson for you is that

you are not to be fooled by confirmation bias.

It's a lie from Satan.

You need to be guided by God's word. Let me explain.

Did you ever do something good and have it backfire? Did you ever show kindness to someone and have them not appreciate it but rather have them take advantage of your kindness? Did you ever help someone who was poor and they didn't appreciate what you did for them? Did you ever forgive someone when they did something against you and have them turn around and do the same thing against you again, or against someone else?

Things like that happen. What's the lesson you should learn from it? The wrong thing to do would be to say,

"Well, I'm not going to be fooled again. I was wrong to be kind. I'm not going to do that again. He didn't appreciate it. I was wrong to forgive that person. He turned around and did it again."

No. No. No. Showing kindness is what God's Word tells us to do. You do it even if people don't appreciate it. Showing forgiveness is what God's Word tells us to do. You do it even if people don't appreciate it. Don't let confirmation bias fool you.

Consider Jesus. In Mark 1 we see that He healed a man with leprosy. Jesus said to him, (Mark 1:44)

"See that you don't tell this to anyone.
But go, show yourself to the priest
and offer the sacrifices that
Moses commanded for your cleansing,
as a testimony to them."

But what happened? Our text says about the man,

"Instead he went out and
began to talk freely,
spreading the news.
As a result,
Jesus could no longer enter
a town openly but stayed
outside in lonely places."

Or consider the crippled man that Jesus healed in John 5, near the pool by the Sheep Gate. Jesus healed him and when people asked him who healed him, he said he didn't know, because he didn't. But the religious leaders were angry because it was the Sabbath and he was carrying his mat, like Jesus told him. Later Jesus found the man and said to him, (John 5:14–15)

"See, you are well again.
Stop sinning or something worse
may happen to you."

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Now we're not sure about the man's motive but many people think that the man did something wrong in telling people that it was Jesus who healed him—that he did it to get Jesus in trouble.

If that's true, how should have Jesus reacted? Should He have said,

"Well, he didn't deserve to be healed. He didn't appreciate it. I'm not going to stop healing people."

No. Jesus came to do the Father's will. Everything He did was right. He didn't judge things on whether people appreciated them or not.

Or Jesus could have said,

"Healing people on the Sabbath is just getting people riled up. I'm going to do what people want me to do and just heal on the other six days. Anyone I see on the Sabbath, who is suffering, who needs healing—I'm just going to ignore."

How good it was for us that He didn't. Consider how often His disciples didn't appreciate Him, didn't believe Him, didn't trust Him. How often did He say to His followers,

"O you of little faith?"

How often did He say to the people He was ministering to—, (Matthew 17:17)

"O unbelieving and perverse generation,
how long shall I stay with you?
How long shall I put up with you?"

You Christians are called to be the light of the world. Just because the world is dark doesn't mean that you should hide your light. Quite the contrary, the darker the world, the more you should let your light shine.

The great lesson our text shows us is

how much we need the Spirit's help as we live our lives.

We need Him to lead us in all truth. We need Him to open our eyes to truths in the Scriptures. Without the Spirit we're as blind as Job's friends. We need the Spirit to guide us, to deal with our prejudices, our sinful attitudes, our cold hearts, our unwillingness to help. If we allowed our confirmation bias to guide us—we'd be like the uncaring people in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite who walked by the injured man on the other side of the road.

But there is another side to this as well. Did you ever do something bad and get away with it?

Did you ever sin and nothing bad happened to you?

What lesson are you to draw from that? The wrong lesson to draw is:

"Ah, sin is not going to hurt me. I got away with it once, I can get away with it again. It was only a little sin. I can continue to do it and it won't hurt me."

No. No. No. Proverbs 6:27 asks,

"Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?"

If someone does that a second or two may go by before they feel the fire. But that second or two is not indicative of what is going to happen.

When I was younger and my father and grandfather took me hunting they drilled it into me to never point a gun at anything you didn't intend to shoot. Even if you think the gun is unloaded, don't point it at something you don't want to shoot. That's a good policy. One day I was hunting with my grandfather and he went to shoot at a deer with his rifle. When he pulled the trigger, it went,


There was no shot. He thought he had forgotten to put a round in the chamber so he went to chamber another bullet when the first bullet came flying out of the gun. There was a bullet in the chamber. We examined it after and it had an indent on it from the firing pin. That bullet was a dud.

What lesson should we have learned from that? Should we have concluded that we don't have to be that careful with rifles? No. Should we have concluded that we could play Russian roulette safely, that even if the real bullet gets in the chamber, we don't have to worry because it might be a dud? No.

No sin is safe. No sin can be safely indulged. Sin seeks to take you away from God. The least sin seeks to destroy you, to cast you into hell forever.

If you ever sin and you don't suffer from it—you're reaction should be quite the opposite of thinking that you can get away from sin. Instead you should think,

"By God's grace I dodged a bullet. I need to smarten up. If that sin had got what it wanted I would be headed to hell. How good Jesus, the Good Shepherd is to me. He did not treat me as my sin deserved. He did not punish me as I deserved to be punished. God, don't let me be so foolish again. Keep me from sin. Teach me to hate sin. Help me to see sin for what it really is. Help me to understand fully where it wants to put me, what it wants to do to me—to take every shred of happiness and joy from me. God, help me to find sin abhorrent. Help me to despise sin. Help me to see that my sin nailed Jesus to the cross. Help me to love Jesus, my Savior. Help me to love His commands, His ways."

May God give us grace to do so.