Free Utterance

Reading in Job 10 this morning and wondering if I didn’t just observe the point where Job, had he thought to look back over his shoulder, would have seen the line he had crossed.

The loss is unfathomable. The physical pain, unimaginable. And the sorrow, it seems, increasingly unbearable. Add to all that the engagement with his so called comforters, and the situation is becoming more and more insufferable. So Job verbally vents his confusion and frustration concerning a situation which would seem inconsistent for a life lived, by God’s own declaration, blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil (Job 1:8, 2:3).

I have heard some say that God is big enough to handle the honest expressions of our souls, and I buy that. But based on the response of God to Job’s venting that I’ll encounter later, I do wonder if, while God will not refuse the honest cries of the heart, He will hold to account those who would think to stand up to him face-to-face and demand an answer from the Almighty. That’s the line I think I’m seeing Job cross.

“I loathe my life; I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. . . Why did You bring me out from the womb? . . . Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer . . .

(Job 10:1, 18a, 20 ESV)

I’m wondering if, when Job abandoned restraint, deciding to give free utterance to his complaint and questioning of God, he took a step too far. When, opting to forsake the constraint of the fear of God, and free-wheeling it before the Creator out of the bitterness of his soul, he traded standing on holy ground for stumbling in rocky territory.

Free utterance. Full vent (NASB). Free reign (NIV). Putting it all on the table (MSG). Speaking with abandon. Freely complaining without regard for who he’s complaining too. I believe God can handle transparent prayer, but I don’t think, for our good, He will tolerate reckless disrespect. Why am I thinking that? Because of a connection I made with something I recalled in Romans as I hovered over this passage.

Your hands fashioned and made me, and now You have destroyed me altogether. Remember that You have made me like clay; and will You return me to the dust?

(Job 10:8-9 ESV)

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have You made me like this?”

(Romans 9:20 ESV)

It’s a step gone too far, it seems to me, when free utterance ignores the Creator / creature distinction. Though Job knew God as Maker, Job addresses him increasingly as though that doesn’t matter. His overwhelming despair casts off the fear of God and results in over-the-top rhetoric. Rhetoric for which God will eventually hold him to account.

Not judging Job. Trying to learn from him. Not comparing our season of wearying confusion with Job’s severe suffering. But, in trying to make sense of stuff that doesn’t make sense, I think I’m picking up a caution this morning about free utterance and the need to maintain, as much as lies within us, the fear of God.

Something to chew on.

As we walk in grace for His glory.

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