Today’s reading (and several tomorrow’s worth of readings) will feature more of Job’s heavy conversations with his friends. Despite the heaviness of the topic and the occasional repetition of accusation / defense cycles, there are some some practical things to see and think about here
Do you hear the secret counsel of God? — Ol’ Eliphaz, good friend that he is, is trying to humble Job into repentance. As part of his effort to bring Job around, he asks Job if he heard the secret counsel of God. Obviously, neither Job nor any of us are privy to God’s “secret things” (Deut. 29:29); but clearly Job did know more than his friends, because he knew himself and he obviously knew God better. With the Scriptures, we have advantages that Job never had; we can know God, His will, His ways, and His “track record”. And when we may be confronted by folks who make confident but false assertions about God, ala Eliphaz and company, we need never cower or compromise. God is right and will always be right. And when we’re with Him, we’re right, too.
Veiled hearts — But about this secret counsel of God, is most of it really that secret? Not so much. More often than not, it’s a matter of what Paul called a veil on the heart (2 Cor. 3:14), or “wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 2), or as Job says, “For You have kept their heart from understanding” (17:4). What causes these things to happen? Multiple reasons, really. Sometimes, we don’t want to know what God’s will is, and so we make up what pleases us. Sometimes, someone makes up a really slick argument to persuade us to believe what is false. Sometimes we like staying ignorant about God’s will, because it is inconvenient to our tastes, our life-style, our preferred view of the world. That was sort of Job’s friends’ veil — they wanted to believe the fantasy that they could avert the disaster that had befallen Job by keeping their noses clean: do good things, get good things. What happened to Job — catastrophe to a righteous man — was just too scary to contemplate! So we wear the veils. What God offers is to take the veils off.
God, we’ve got questions — I don’t know how many conversations I’ve had with others over the years when some difficult topic comes up — often having to do with a version of the very puzzle that Job is struggling with — and we have to conclude the discussion with something like, “I’d love to ask God…”, just like Job (16:21). We’ll always have questions; humans have curious minds. Now, we must be sure to understand this important truth: there are just things that we’d like to know about that we can’t comprehend (we’ll talk more about this topic in the last chapters of Job) and other things that we really don’t want to know about (even if we think we do). But that’s not to say that there might not be answers to some of questions that we wonder about now found right in the Bible in plain sight — if only we’d read it and put the pieces together. Sadly, we usually try to get by on the Cliff Notes — sermons, Bible class lessons, or man-written commentaries (including even this blog). You won’t get your answers that way; there aren’t any short cuts for the good answers.
When I was younger, I used to ask questions of my Bible teachers. Unfortunately, they didn’t always understand what I was asking and sometimes they answered a different question or just shrugged their shoulders. I walked away thinking that there weren’t any answers. It wasn’t until I got considerably more serious about Bible study that I began to find the answers — and still find answers to life’s questions, answers I didn’t know were there, right there, “hiding” in plain sight. Wouldn’t it be a little embarrassing to get to Heaven and ask God your “grand question”, only for Him to take you to Scripture and point to a simple verse you’d read before, but you’d never stopped to really think about? Of course, there are the “secret things” and “mysteries”, but they may be fewer than we imagine.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.