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When His Voice Is Heard

Introduction

The book of Job, in the Holy Bible, is a treasure that God has given to us as a gift. Apart from the revelation of God in this book, there are some secrets we would have no way of seeing. We get a glimpse into Heaven itself, when God meets with His angels. We hear an extraordinary oration by God upon the Earth. We learn about examples of faith and folly.

Lessons

One of the primary precepts of God’s design in this world, is that you reap what you sow. As a result of this principle, we often have troubles in our lives, stemming from our rebellion towards God. However, a big lesson we find in Job is that the suffering of an individual is not always the result of that person’s sins. God’s view of Job’s suffering is different than the conclusions of Job’s three friends. According to God, Satan had destroyed Job “without cause.” In contrast, Job’s three friends had condemned Job, assuming that his calamities were conclusive evidence of sin in his life. God reproved the friends’ line of reasoning as folly. God commanded them to repent of their slander, with sacrifices.

Another lesson we learn, from this precious historical record, is that God limits what Satan is allowed to do. We can trust God’s providence for our lives. Even when life is not going as we had hoped, God intends for us to learn and grow, plus enrich our relationship with Him. God knows best. We can trust Him to gauge and foresee the blessings only He can envision resulting from our trials. For example, Jesus suffered unimaginably, then died on a cruel cross. From an earthly perspective, when His friends saw Him suffer and die and laid in a tomb, this was the most tragic event in history. Not only was it the most agony ever suffered, but it was the highest injustice, due to His complete innocence. From an eternal perspective, this same event was the pinnacle of history. No greater deed has been done. No greater love has been shown. No greater victory has been won. The gap between these two perspectives, of the same historical event, is a wide chasm. We cannot see across this chasm, unless God shows us.

The major lesson of the book of Job centres on the glory of God. Since He is the Creator, any glory seen in His creation is just a small sample illustrating His own glory. The point of God lecturing Job on the topics of scientific and historical knowledge, was to highlight His own glory. The reason God spoke of the power of Behemoth, and the terror of Leviathan, was to accentuate His own glory. Job got the point and repented of his sin of reproaching God’s justice.

Folly … in the Bible?

It may seem strange to quote the following verse.

1 Kings 20:23 And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods [are] gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.

Really, this verse could be a very good starting point for a thesis on systematic theology. This article is no such thesis. The reason the verse is a good starting point is because it is wrong. Yes, it is historically accurate, since this report of the Syrians giving this advice is true. It is wrong in a different way. Here it is saying, in the Holy Scriptures, that the God of Israel can only help armies when they are in the hills. I know it does not bother you to be reminded of this flawed reasoning in the Bible, since the context makes it clear that it is wrong; quite clear.

1 Kings 20:28 And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD [is] God of the hills, but he [is] not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD.

This clarity makes it a good example of a principle of Bible interpretation. We need to interpret Bible verses in context. In the last portion of the book of Job, God is talking. God condemns some of sections of the book of Job as “folly” and some other parts as “words without knowledge.” Of course, God wants us to base our doctrine, and our lives, on trustworthy knowledge, rather than folly. So, we can completely expect to be able to discern between them, from the context. After all, the Bible cannot be fully authoritative, unless God has given us some reliable way to tell which parts of the record are sound, and which parts God has deemed as folly.

Quoting from Enoch

I chose Enoch as a notable example. This section could just as well be titled “Quoting from Noah,” for another example, or Abel. We confidently know from Scripture that Enoch was a righteous man (Hebrews 11:5) and that he was a prophet (Jude 1:14). So, like Noah (2 Peter 2:15), and Abel (Luke 11:50-51), Enoch was a preacher of righteousness. However, we do not always know when some portion of Scripture is quoting something taught by one of these patriarchs of antiquity. A quote from Enoch is mentioned once in Jude, but we cannot know if other biblical teachings are quoted from Enoch, since we are not always told the source.

There are some who make note that Paul quotes Eliphaz, one of Job’s three friends, as a Scriptural source. Let’s examine this idea. The final eight words in 1 Corinthians 3:19, that Paul quotes, matches the first part of the verse in Job 5:13 verbatim. When we look back to Job chapter four, we can see that the person who is talking, in chapters four and five, is Eliphaz.

It is good to point out that, though the English translation is word-for-word the same, the words of Eliphaz are recorded in the Bible in Hebrew, and the words of Paul are in Greek. So, it is not technically a word-for-word quote, though they do have the same essential meaning.

Paul does say, “it is written,” but who is he quoting? He doesn’t say who he is quoting, so we do not know with certainty. We just know that the source is authoritative.

If I quote Emerson saying “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness,” then a few years later John Maxwell uses that same quote, is Mr. Maxwell quoting me or Emerson? Of course, he is quoting Emerson. So, when Paul says the same short phrase as Eliphaz, that does not mean Paul was quoting Eliphaz. What if they were both quoting Enoch, for example? The reason this is important is because some would use this quote as a justification for themselves quoting from the arguments between Job and his three friends as the basis for doctrine. God takes exception with this, since He calls Job’s three friends’ arguments “folly” so grave as to be repented of with sacrifices (Job 42:8).

The content of rat poison can be more than 99% good food for rats. When God condemned the arguments of Job’s three friends as folly, that does not mean every word they said was utter foolishness. In fact, if they were babbling buffoons, then people would take them for jesters, rather than teachers, so their foolishness would be somewhat harmless. They would not be worthy of such noted attention from God’s judgement. It is the hidden error among the teaching; it is the sophistry, that is profoundly harmful. The next section will expand on the careful interpretation for separating the folly from the wisdom in the book of Job.

(Mis)-Quoting From Job

Let’s say I am preparing a sermon. If I am quickly hunting for verses that agree with a point I am attempting to make, it would be quite easy for me to happen across some verses in the book of Job that seem to fit. Unfortunately, if I am not aware of the context of those verses, I may mistakenly quote verses that God said were folly; oops.

For each verse in Job, discerning the context is critically important. You can probably think of some examples of verses in Proverbs, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the epistles, etc., that can stand on their own, so that the context is not necessary to apply them. In contrast, there is a ton of context needed for many verses in Job. Yes, there are handy verses for quotes, and some that do not strictly need the context. However, there are several chapters carrying God’s warning that the content is questionable. The only way we would be able to tell if something in these chapters was OK, is if it is taught as good doctrine in some other biblical passage, so we can just use that other passage for our text instead.

It is insufficient to just read the neighbouring verses in Job to get the context, or even the whole chapter. The Holy Spirit has provided guideposts to help us navigate. Please follow along.

Sign Posts

History does not conclusively tell us who wrote the book of Job. This we do know: He was a prophet inspired of God. Here are the boundaries that God led His prophet to put in His Word, for the book of Job, so that we can clearly see what God is calling “words without knowledge.”

We know that not all of Job’s words were “without knowledge” because chapter two says that Job did not sin with his lips, up to that point. So, we know that Job spoke uprightly before chapter three. But then, Job and his three friends argued; a lot.

The inspired narration (Job 38:1-2) makes it clear and specific that God was rebuking Job.

God called Job, “he that contendeth with the Almighty” and “he that reproveth God” in Job 40:2. God rebukes Job with the words, “Wilt thou also disannul my judgement? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?” in Job 40:8.

The thrust of God’s sermon is His own glory and that Job’s (and my) knowledge is so puny in comparison as to be pitifully insufficient to reproach anything that God might do.

Job gets the point, confessing and admitting that he did not know what he was talking about.

Job 40:3-4
Job answered the LORD, and said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee?”

Job 42:1,3,6
Then Job answered the LORD, and said, “… therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. … I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

God, Elihu, and Job all agreed that Job’s speeches, from chapter 3 through 31, contained “words without knowledge.”

Then God commended Job’s repentance as speaking “right” (Job 42:7-8), so we know Job was back on course by the time we get to the final chapter.

God also condemns the words of Job’s three friends as “folly” (Job 42:8), commanding sacrifices for repentance. There is no delineation indicating anything that the three said correctly, so it is all tainted.

Instead of including all of these arguments in the Bible, God could have just told us what was wrong about what they said, but He recorded the speeches, in chapters 3 through 31, as context to God’s rebuke and Elihu’s admonition. As such, they are valuable as a historical record.

In contrast, the words of Elihu, who was not one of the three erroneous friends, were recorded as the inspired Word of God, in chapters 32 through 37. His address aligned with God’s later message, though God had a more glorious pulpit! The main points of Elihu’s oration were that God is glorious and that Job and his three friends were out of line in their arguments.

From chapter 38 through the final chapter 42 we have God speaking, Job repenting, God approving of Job’s repentance, and the inspired narration, so these chapters are also “safe.”

When His Voice Is Heard

Job 37:1-5 (Elihu speaking)
1 At this also my heart trembleth, and is moved out of his place.
2 Hear attentively the noise of his voice, and the sound [that] goeth out of his mouth.
3 He directeth it under the whole heaven, and his lightning unto the ends of the earth.
4 After it a voice roareth: he thundereth with the voice of his excellency; and he will not stay them when his voice is heard.
5 God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.

The purpose of this article is not to take the place of your own study of the unparalleled book of Job. Hopefully, this was just an appetizer, to increase your hunger for more reading and studying of your own. When you read the Holy Scriptures, God is talking to you.

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