Job 42: 1-6
1 Then Job answered the Lord:
2 "I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 'Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.'
5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
6 therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes."
This marvelous text in the first part of the 42nd Chapter of Job comes right after a long address to Job from God that begins in Chapter 38.
Here's how it begins:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
You get the idea! God is saying to Job, "I am God and you are not!" A similar idea can be found in Isaiah 55: 8: "My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts." While we Christians believe there is much we can know that God has revealed to us, especially in Jesus Christ, God remains a mystery and there are limits to what we can know about the ways of God. Today's devotion questions some of the pious sayings that people offer about God in a well-meaning attempt to bring comfort and hope, and invites us to a more modest approach that recognizes that there is a time to speak and "a time to keep silent." (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
1. What are the limits of our knowledge of the ways of God?
2. Have you experienced well-meaning words of comfort from someone that didn't help you, or that you believe were not true?
3. Do you ever struggle about when to speak and when to keep silent?
Silence is Golden!
"I have spoken what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." - Job 42:3
I was taught never to say, "Shut up!" It was considered rude. So I still don't.
But I am tempted from time to time. I have an allergy to certain pious phrases that I know are meant to give comfort but do not, at least to me.
The first of these is: "It was God's will!" I am a big believer in the will of God, and have often found meaning in some very difficult, even tragic, experiences, usually in hindsight. But this particular axiom should be used sparingly, if at all.
God doesn't go around giving children cancer or throwing people off of bicycles! What kind of God would this be?
Another saying I have to grit my teeth over is the one about God opening and closing doors. Sometimes it's "God never closes a door without opening another door" or "God never closes a door without opening a window!"
Again I know this is meant to be comforting, and perhaps means nothing more than when you lose an opportunity, there will be another ahead. I'm good with that. But why bring God into it? It's not biblical, and it's not even true. Sometimes all the doors are closed. Sometimes they are slammed! Sometimes they hit you in the face.
So let us take a page out of Job's book and not say things about God that we don't understand. It's OK not to understand the ways of God. God's ways are not our ways. Sometimes we just need to not speak, because a modest silence is often the proper response to the mystery of God.
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, Holy One, before your mystery and majesty.