Wrapping up my reading plan for 2021. Hovering over something in Job 42 this morning. Something that’s been familiar in my other Old Testament readings recently, but that struck me as somewhat out of place here in Job.
That God can be provoked to anger is clear in the prophets. That Israel’s persistent rebellion would eventually test the limits of a God who is merciful, gracious and slow to anger and evoke His righteous wrath is what you’d expect from such sin before a holy, holy, holy God. But for some reason I wasn’t expecting a similar divine reaction in the conclusion of Job’s story.
After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”
(Job 42:7 ESV)
My anger burns. Those are the words that caught my attention and surprised me a bit.
Like I said, I’ve been coming across those kind of words for weeks and weeks now as I’ve been reading through the prophets. And I get God’s anger being provoked by fake worship, false worship, and spiritual infidelity. I know enough about God to expect that out and out disobedience to His word in the form of idolatry, injustice, and sexual immorality will eventually result in His holy, perfect wrath. But words? Just words? God’s anger will also burn against words?
Haven’t I just read through what’s just been a theological debate around the “why” of suffering? A back and forth of differing opinions? Eliphaz & Co. asserting that suffering is “the wicked man’s portion from God” (Job 20:29) and Job saying, in effect, “Nope. Can’t be. Because I’m not a wicked man.” Friends fractured over varying views of how life’s playing out at the moment, that’s all this is. Isn’t it? Apparently not.
God’s anger is provoked by Eliphaz & Friend’s words to Job. His wrath is stirred up by their misinformed assertion concerning His character and conduct. While sticks and stones won’t break God’s bones, there’s a limit to the degree He will allow words to misrepresent Him.
“My anger burns against you . . . for you have not spoken of Me what is right . . .”
As an ambassador for the kingdom, those words arrest me this morning. As a representative of the revealed will of God those words are a caution — get the story right!
As a bearer of good news, make sure the news you’re bearing is the good news. As a spokesmen, in a sense, for God, tread careful that you’re speaking the right stuff in the right way applied to the right situation at the right time.
Do words matter? I’m thinkin’ . . .
Maybe it goes without saying, but it seems to me that speaking for God needs to start with knowing God and knowing His word. While we might get away with adlibbing before others who don’t know better, no “careless word” escapes the scrutiny of the One who will judge every word (Mt. 12:36). I also think speaking for God demands humility even as, with conviction, we are to boldly declare the ways of a God whose ways are higher than our ways.
Slow to speak seems prudent. Careful to make sure we’ve done our homework when it comes to representing the Creator seems wise. Humble in heart, soft in tone, treading lightly on holy ground even as we stand firm on holy ground representing a holy God seems appropriate. Thankful, that the blood of Christ is sufficient for all our sins, even sins of not having spoken of God what is right, also seems like it’s part of the package.
Oh, how I need to speak of Him accurately and humbly. ‘Cause words matter.
By His grace. For His glory.