Wisdom begins with God. His gifts of knowledge, discernment, and godliness in making good choices for living are not equally distributed among the sons of men. Some people have much more of these blessings than others. Job has more than any in his time and place, but during these days of severe tribulation, lesser men have presumed to be Job’s advisors and have suggested that the great man has hidden secrets of evil that have led to his downfall, a claim for which they have no real evidence. They think that the evidence is plain for all to see. Job is suffering horribly. Since God is just, this trouble Job faces must be a reflection of his depravity. This tempting error in thinking is not true, discerning, wise, or charitable.
Some of the advice that they would give to Job is as obvious as it is inappropriate to his own situation. Yet it is presented as something special to the suffering man, and he cannot resist this retort: “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.” Job is rightly aware that these advisors are not wiser than he. Not that Job is above learning from someone who is beneath him, but the teaching must be more than error, presumption, and pious platitudes in order to command his respect.
He does have more to say about his situation, and if they would consider the facts that he shows them, they might be moved in the direction of sympathy, which would be far more appropriate than guesses and baseless accusations. After all, who was Job, this man who had suddenly become everyone’s joke? Before all of this trouble came upon him, no one would have dared to treat him with disrespect unless they wanted to be exposed as an obvious fool. Job had habitually cried out to God, and he had been heard many times in the past. He was known by everyone to be a just and blameless man. What happened to this man between one moment and the next? How did he go so quickly from being known as one of God’s obvious favorites to the one who would be rightly condemned by God and man?
Not only that, those who would think that the man’s troubles were all the evidence necessary to establish his guilt before God, were they actually willing to affirm the other side of that wrong theology of providence? Are all men who live safe and secure in their riches always the most righteous among men, or is the truth more complicated than that? Is it not the case that some well-known thieves seem to be safe and happy? The person who has never faced significant trials, is he always the most virtuous among men? Such people, if they are religious, may think that their blessing is a direct reward for their obedience, and they may have a contempt for those who are facing misfortune. Remember that Christ came to suffer great tribulation for those who were low and hurting. He did not come from heaven to condemn them, but to serve them.
These would-be advisors to Job might seem wise for a moment, but they miss the true righteousness of the suffering servant of the Lord. They will not acknowledge the obvious facts about him, but would teach him things that all creation declares. Ask the animals. Talk to the birds and the fish. Even the bushes that cover the earth are aware: The Lord is God. He has life in His hand. He is wise, and His power is far beyond anyone. We cannot stop the Lord. Talk to the farmer who depends on the rain and the sun. He knows the truth. God is above all. Powerful and wise men do not make God afraid. What does anyone have that has not been given to him by God?
Is there some king, priest, counselor, or elder who can teach the Lord a lesson or two? He can sweep them all away in a moment. It is the murkiness of Job’s case that should be the only clear fact to any observer who is truly wise. There is no sensible answer. Everyone should be able to see that of all the people they have ever observed, this should not be happening to Job.
When Christ came to die for us, certain facts should have been obvious, so clear that if little children had not been willing to acknowledge them, then the rocks would have had to cry out. Jesus was good. Line up all the men who think of themselves as something and who labor to convince others that they are worthy of attention. Gather them all together and put them on a scale with only the weight of the goodness of Jesus of Nazareth on the other side. All the pompous people of this creation are light as a feather compared to Him. His horrible suffering and death could not possibly testify to His own secret evil. One moment He raises the dead as He prays to God, and in the next moment He appears to be forsaken of His Father. If people thought they understood His suffering, if they thought it must be a sign of His secret evil, this much was clear: Wisdom did not begin with them. No, the wisdom of God came in person, died for us, and rose from the grave.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our Father, give us a listening ear, a reasoning mind, and healing speech. You are almighty. You are stronger than any man. You are wiser than all Your creatures. You raise up and You tear down according to Your decrees. The pathway of nations is in Your hand. This we know very well. This we believe. Yet we face Your discipline. We do not know why, and we do not know what to say. Settle our restless hearts as we consider Your nature and Your works.