“Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said: ‘Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right?’” (Job 11:1–2, ESV)
Sometimes we speak when we would be better off remaining silent. Sometimes we think we know better than someone else and share our opinion. But sometimes we are proven wrong and must swallow our pride and retract our words.
Zophar took it upon himself to rebuke Job. It is one thing to correct someone about things he misspoke; it is something else to misquote what he said. Zophar misquoted Job and then rebuked him for saying what he didn’t say!
Zophar accused Job of saying, “My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.” What Job actually said was, “My words have been rash, for the arrows of the Almighty are in me.” (Job 6:3–4) Job also said, “I am blameless, yet I do not know myself.” (Job 9:21). To be blameless means to be innocent of wrongdoing. Job was unaware of anything he had done wrong, yet he freely admitted that he did not fully know himself. But even God had said that Job was blameless (Job 1:8).
However, the most offensive thing that Zophar said was, “Listen! God is doubtless punishing you far less than you deserve!” (Job 11:6, NLT) Excuse me? Couldn’t Zophar see how much Job was suffering? How could anyone say such a thing to his friend? Who was he to pass such judgment? Zophar’s verdict was not based on knowledge of Job or knowledge of the facts but on his own assumptions about how God works. But later the LORD would rebuke Job’s three friends for not speaking of Him what was right as His servant Job had done (Job 42:7).
Zophar provides a good example of what not to say to someone. We must also be careful what we say about God. We should stick to what God has said about Himself and not fill in the gaps with presumptuous words. Jesus said that we will give an account for every idle word we speak on the day of judgment.
The trouble is that I have spoken when it would have been better to remain silent. I have shared my opinion about matters in which I had little or no knowledge. I have misjudged people and situations and have had to admit that I was wrong. But rarely have I regretted saying nothing when I didn’t know all the facts, or I didn't know what to say. It is better to keep silent and let people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt! On the other hand, there is a time to speak up, for by our words we will be justified.
“And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matthew 12:36–37, NLT)