Monday, December 4, 2023

The Inadequacy of Words (Job 35-37)

“If a man were to speak, surely he would be swallowed up” (Job 37:20).

Elihu’s main objection to Job is that he failed to hold his tongue in his complaints against God. At the root of Job’s sin was something that all believers struggle with to one degree or another: our inability to comprehend God’s nature and purposes. We only see and understand things from our finite perspective, and we struggle with how inadequate that is in bringing us to a proper understanding of God. If we do not watch our tongues, we can easily bring dishonor to God without even realizing it.

With a gentle but firm admonishment, Elihu reminds Job that neither he nor any of the others is able to speak of the glory of God in any proportion to the merit of the divine subject. Elihu confesses that words fail to communicate the high and lofty nature of God. How, then, if we are so inadequate in understanding Him can we complain against Him? Job complained to God and accused Him of treating him harshly. But what right did lowly Job have to make such a complaint?

“The best men are much in the dark concerning the glorious perfections of the divine nature and the administrations of the divine government,” Henry wrote. “Those that through grace know much of God, yet know little, yea, nothing, in comparison with what is to be known, and what will be known, when that which is perfect shall come and the veil shall be rent. When we would speak of God we speak confusedly and with great uncertainty, and are soon at a loss and run aground, not for want of matter, but for want of words. As we must always begin with fear and trembling, lest we speak amiss, so we must conclude with shame and blushing, for having spoken no better.”

However, just because God is so much greater than us does not mean that we cannot understand something of His nature and purposes. God has revealed Himself through His Word, rationally and clearly, and He has enabled us through His Spirit to apprehend His truths. But we must remain humble and dependent on Him and His revelation to keep us fixed on the truth. This is something Job quickly learns as God Himself speaks to him in the final chapters of the book.

It is critical for you to watch what you say, especially when you are speaking about the nature and purposes of God. The Bible commands us not to speak without knowledge. To gain that knowledge so that you might speak more honorably and rightly of God, study His revelation. Let your words be subject to His Word.