Speaking for Him Who is Manifold in Understanding

They were triple-teaming him. Eliphaz has tried to make sense of Job’s trouble, “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8) — Job, you musta’ done something wrong! After Job defends himself, Eliphaz then tags in Bildad, “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” But Job’s having none of it. He doubles down . . . literally — “I am in the right . . I am in the right” (Job 9:15, 20). So his buddies bring in the clean-up hitter, Zophar, “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you?” (Job 11:1-2)

But here’s the thing that’s got me thinking this morning. It’s not like these “friends” are totally off base. In the midst of their “comforting,” they will speak truth concerning God. Seems to me the problem lies in their arrogance in thinking they know exactly how to apply that truth in Job’s case.

Here’s an example of some truth spoken by Zophar:

“But oh, that God would speak and open His lips to you, and that He would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For He is manifold in understanding. . . . Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?”

(Job 11:5-6a, 7 ESV)

God holds the secrets of wisdom. Check! God is manifold in understanding. Check! The deep things of God are beyond finding out. Check! The Almighty is without limits, not gonna fit in a box of our own making. Check! It sure would be helpful if God were to break heaven’s sound barrier, right here and right now, and let you in on what’s happening behind the scenes. True statement.

But here’s where I think Z and friends go off the rails. Given that God isn’t speaking from heaven, they’re going to do His speaking for Him. Even though God’s wisdom is secret, His understanding manifold, and His deep things are without limit, they’re pretty sure they know what’s going down — so they’ll speak for Him.

Rather than knowing what they know about God causing them to be humbled before God, they think they know enough about an incomprehensible God to speak for Him. Job can’t figure it out, what makes them think they can? Pride, perhaps?

Not saying that we can’t speak with authority and conviction about the things of God. But that should be in matters where God has already clearly spoken through His word. In other matters, matters of applying principles, discerning situations, and wondering as to root cause, I’m thinking a measure of humility is appropriate when trying to speak for Him who is manifold in understanding. That in discerning the mind of God, the heart of God — a heart which is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6) — should temper our application of the word of God in matters that clearly have not been spoken to directly by God.

Just thinking that if Zophar & Co. listened to their own correct assessment of who God is they wouldn’t have been so quick to assert that they knew what only God knows. That there’s some care to be taken when speaking for Him who is manifold in understanding.

We’re all gonna draw alongside someone at some point who’s going through something that doesn’t make sense. I wanna be a true friend and real comforter. Seems to me putting on humility and acknowledging mystery might come into play.

Trusting in God’s grace. Wanting only God’s glory.

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