September 17, 2014.
“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. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.”
The story of Job is relatively familiar amongst Christians, at least the gist of it. Job was a godly man who Satan was basically challenged with trying to make him fall. At the beginning of the story Job is very rich and has a very good life going for him, and it is this good life that Satan tells God that is the only reason Job is a godly man- because God had blessed him so. So Satan is given the power to take away everything Job has, including his children and eventually his health, only not to the point of death. Job goes into a lament, as can be expected, and his friends who are there to comfort him start blaming his troubles on some sin in his life that he has not repented of, yet Job continues to claim innocence and desperation. In the end, God rebukes Job for ‘darkening counsel without knowledge,’ but further rebukes Job’s friends for not speaking what was right of Him, as His servant Job had. So Job makes a sacrifice for his friends so that they will again be accepted by God, and he is given double of all his former material blessings, plus more children. Job dies an old man, full of days. (For a more in depth lesson on Job, click here.)
That’s the story of Job in a nut shell. But I just want to focus on one aspect of this story and pull it out to make application in harmony with the rest of the scriptures. We know that God told Job’s friends, “For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” Typically we just read that and accept it. But have you ever wondered what Job’s friends said? Have you ever read through their responses to Job? What is interesting to me is that some of the things, though not all, that his friends said actually make a lot of sense. If I didn’t know better, I would love to teach on some of the things they said and draw application for our lives. But I know that what they said was not pleasing in the sight of God. Check out some of these things and see if you would initially agree with them or not:
“Does God pervert justice?
Or does the Almighty pervert the right?
If your children have sinned against him,
he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.
If you will seek God
and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
if you are pure and upright,
surely then he will rouse himself for you
and restore your rightful habitation.”
“For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure,
and I am clean in God’s eyes.’
But oh, that God would speak
and open his lips to you,
and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For he is manifold in understanding.
Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.”
“Are you the first man who was born?
Or were you brought forth before the hills?
Have you listened in the council of God?
And do you limit wisdom to yourself?”
Do those statements, at least in some way, sound good to you? I’m going to admit that they make some sense to me. But obviously Job’s friends were in the wrong by saying these things. Now, we have the luxury of reading the story from a third person point of view and we can see where Job’s friends really were wrong, for Job actually had done nothing to deserve this tragedy. In a sense, the reason that all this came on him was because he was probably one of the most godly men on earth at the time! So his friends linked his malady to sin, which is indeed the case sometimes, but is not the case all the time. So where did Job’s friends go wrong?
I have a theory of why God rebuked Jobs friends besides the obvious they assumed too much. And I think my reasoning is bared out in scripture. In fact, Job was actually rebuked along the same lines, though his words seemed to have been less sever than his friends. The reason I think God was so displeased with Job’s friends was because they had spoken for God where God had not spoken. They were saying “God doesn’t do this,” or “God would do that.” I actually find a lot of irony in Eliphaz’s statement above, because he was telling Job that he shouldn’t be talking for God, all while he was doing that very thing!
Does that sound familiar? What prompted me to write on this topic was hearing someone say something along the lines of “If it doesn’t mean anything to you, it doesn’t mean anything to God.” Over the years I’ve heard a lot of similar statements, some more believable than others, depending on the context. Things like “Well, God is a God of love, so he wouldn’t do that,” or “Do you really think God is going to mind if you just do this one little thing?” The problem with all these statements is that we are taking a situation, judging what we would do or what we think is right in the situation, and then applying our reasoning as what God would do. It is almost setting ourselves up as God without us even realizing what we are doing. We are doing exactly what Job’s friends were doing: speaking for God where He has not spoken.
There is an innate problem with applying our reasoning and emotions to what God would do in a situation. We are not God.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Let me ask you a question. If someone were to murder a close family member of yours for no reason at all, but then come to you and say “What I did was wrong, and I have decided to not kill anyone else ever again,” would you forgive him? It would take a very strong will to forgive that person. But that is the context of the verse in Isaiah. Not murder, per-say, but all evil and iniquity. Read the verses just above:
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
“For he will abundantly pardon.” That is why He says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are not your ways.” This is the problem with taking what we would do in a situation and applying it to what God would (or should) do. Yet, we do it all the time. We feel a certain way about a particular issue, and if we feel that way, well then God must also feel that way, right? I say we because I’m just as guilty of this as the next person.
Speaking for God is a serious matter. So does that mean we should never do it? I want to make it clear that this is not what I am saying. In fact, Peter has this to say:
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
(I Peter 4:10-11)
So, when we speak, we are to speak as the oracles of God? Then Paul goes on to call himself and the group he is with “ambassadors for Christ” through whom God was making His appeal (ref. II Cor. 5:20). If we are to speak as oracles of God and as ambassadors of Christ, then surly we are going to have to speak for God. We are going to have to tell people the principles of God, what He expects of us and what He has done for us.
Now we have a dilemma. If I am supposed to speak for God (because we are ambassadors), but then I am not supposed to speak for God (because I am not God), what am I supposed to do? Fortunately, I have somewhat masked a key point in the story of Job and his friends by asking this question. Do you remember why Job’s friends were rebuked (and why Job was rebuked, for that matter)? Because they had spoken for God where God had not spoken. They were in the business of applying their opinions and interpretations on Job’s situation and applying it to God. This we must not do. What we must do is speak for God where God has spoken.
This is my point. If Job’s friends would have given Job godly advise from what had been revealed to them by God, then I do not think they would have been rebuked by God. If they had the word of God that said “you only fall on bad times if you have sin in your life,” then their argument would have been valid. But God never said that. That was just what they thought. We too should take this same line of reasoning when we are speaking for God. Before we say something like “well, God wouldn’t do that,” we must ask, what am I basing that assumption on? Did I get it from the word of God? Or do I just think that because that’s how I would handle the situation if I were God? Often these questions are much more subtle, to the point we don’t realize that we are acting as God. Thus, we have to be all the more careful.
So, the question goes to you. Are you speaking for God? If so, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, what are you basing it on? How do you know that is what God would say or do? Take a step back, and if the answer is “well, I honestly don’t know,” then I would encourage you to do some further study on the topic before voicing your opinion. Or at the very least, make it clear that it is what you think and not necessarily what God said. Even the the apostle Paul, one of the greatest leaders in the early church who was in tune with the Holy Spirit, made this distinction at times (ref. I Cor. 7). If Paul had to make it a point to distinguish what he thought from what God said through the Holy Spirit, then who are we to negate doing the same? Let us always teach truth from the word of God and not our own thoughts, lest we be caught speaking for God where He did not speak.
Suggested Daily Reading: Job 8, 38, 42, I Corinthians 7.
The Lord guide you into all wisdom.