It is one thing for a man who lives in comfort to speak of God’s sovereignty. It is something else when someone who is at his lowest moment says the very same thing. A suffering man has an opportunity for good that others may never know. He does not have to do his good part with a smile on his face. He does not have to be as eloquent as Job. He may have no words, or very few words, as was the case with our Lord in His greatest trial. His presence is its own message. The few words he utters will have a special power. Job says more than most would have the heart to say. We cannot ignore his teaching. We must sit at his feet and learn.
While Job speaks to men, he especially speaks to Almighty God. He would ask the Lord questions about things that Job, and we, simply cannot understand, as we wonder, “Why?” Others may think that they discern the answers behind Job’s tragedy, but this great man himself has concluded that he does not understand, and he knows that only God could ever explain His reasons. The simple answers of men are wrong, though each of their statements might seem true. Put them all together, and they do not really explain the depth of the problem, and they certainly do not heal the gaping wound of grief and pain.
Better to keep silent. Those who seek after godliness and wisdom know that this is the way, but we find it very hard to stop talking. But now we need to listen to Job, rather than attempt to instruct him. He is telling us some simple things that are worth hearing. He says that wisdom cannot be a lie. We may think we speak for God, but if our words add up to lies, then what we have to say is not from God. We cannot think that we are rightly defending God when we are unwilling to deal with the truth. Silence would be a much better defense of Him if we know that we do not possess the key that would unlock all of life’s painful mysteries.
What if God should suddenly speak to us about our defense of Him? What if He should meet us and uncover our errors? He knows of Job’s righteousness. He knows that the change in Job’s fortunes from one day to the next did not proceed from the man’s secret sins. How would the Lord treat those who were so quick to falsely accuse His servant Job? Just one glimpse of God in His wrath, or even in His loving discipline, would be so dreadful. Our great web of syllogisms would fall to pieces before Him, and so would we.
But Job has something to say, and he suggests that he understands the danger of opening his mouth at this time. What is his good word? “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.” There is so much wisdom in these words. They affirm that God is in charge as the One who brings about all things, even this episode that Job cannot understand. But Job’s words teach us something more. Even if his life ends by God’s own hand slaying him for an offense that he did not commit, even in such a case where God’s servant cannot understand what has happened at all, he will trust God. His trust in God will be stronger than his weak understanding of the events of his life.
We need to see that this resignation of soul is not a quiet peace in the face of adversity, but words of faith from the bottom of an ugly well of what seems like unjust suffering. Job still wants to talk directly to the Lord about this. He takes comfort that only the godly man could appear before the Lord Almighty, even to bring a complaint against Him. Despite Job’s understanding that no man can stand in God’s presence, Job wants an audience with God.
Job desires the truth. He feels pain that he knows ultimately comes to him from the very Being that he trusts. Where has he gone wrong? What happened here? Is it something from long ago that now Job must pay the price for, some old sin of his youth? We think about such things when we suffer, and we find no reliable answer.
When the Son of Man came to die, He knew the reason for His suffering. He had the answers for which Job was longing. Thus His suffering, though marked with loud cries and tears, was the obedience of a quiet resignation. There was so little to say. Jesus did not need to ask the Father whether His troubles were the product of the iniquities of His youth. He had never sinned. What was the answer behind the misery of the cross? Jesus died for the sins of Job’s youth. If there were any sin in Job’s words at this age of more mature torment, Jesus died for those sins too. He was slayed for our iniquities. Through it all, as He faced what He always knew would be His terrible day, He trusted God. Because of this, we live. And if we suffer, even if we are slain by the Almighty, yet we may trust Him whose love for us is unwavering, even when our bodies seem to be wasting away in front of our eyes.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God Almighty, we would speak to You. We would argue our case with You in the day of trial. We know that judgment begins with Your household. How much more can we take? Though You slay us, our hope remains in You. Though You discipline us, Your Son has the words of life. O God, we do not understand what You are doing. Yet we consider the cross and we have hope. Surely there is a better day coming. Surely there is something more in Your hand beyond correction.