1 ¶ Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it. 2 What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you. 3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God. 4 But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value. 5 O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom. 6 Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips. 7 Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him? 8 Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? 9 Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him? 10 He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons. 11 Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you? 12 Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.
Now, more angrily, Job declares that he is at least as wise and understanding as his friends and that he knows just as much as they do about the situation. He does not need to be taught by them. He wishes to speak directly to God face to face. He wishes to reason with God. As God said to the backsliding Jews;
Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
As I have noted before, I have heard people say they had questions for God and when they faced Him they would ask those questions. I doubt they will be able to do that as they will be overwhelmed by His presence and their own unworthiness.
Job doesn’t realize what he is asking. He will learn when God speaks to him later.
Job calls his friends liars and quack doctors, like the old American phrase for people offering phony cures, snake oil salesmen. He wishes them to hold their peace, a phrase that has come down to us as meaning to be quiet. It is said that it is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. He tells them to listen to him, that they have spoken wickedly of God and misrepresented Him. God doesn’t need our self-righteous blather to justify Himself. Our speech has a limited value and it is not to offer excuses for God or to condemn others who are suffering.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Those of you who picture yourself as Moses played by Charleton Heston, carrying the tablets containing the Ten Commandments in your arms, standing over the wicked children of Israel, condemning and railing against them, when you talk about lost people, the government, or any other of, “those people,” would do well to consider these passages. Do you misrepresent God in your “righteous conclusions” about what is going on in the world?
Oh, how angry you get! Oh, how certain you are of God’s righteous judgments. Did God permit the World Trade Centers, a potent symbol of financial power and greed, to be brought down because America tolerated homosexuality and abortion, as Jerry Falwell said? Did God let those 3,000 or so people lose their lives for that exact reason? How do you know? Did He tell you? Who do you think you are to claim to know the mind of God as if He had drawn near to you, put His hand on your shoulder and whispered in your ear, “watch this.”
Like Job’s friends you make a mockery of Christ. You say, “I am certain,” and Job’s friends would say the same and be just as full of the Devil. Job accuses his friends of mocking God.
Matthew Henry explained, “…a good intention will not justify, much less will it sanctify, a bad word or action…Pious frauds (as they call them) are impious cheats; and devout persecutions are horrid profanations of the name of God.” (21)
As Job’s friends we can have a good intention of serving God when we attack our brothers and sisters in Christ and attempt to impose the bondage of our own convictions upon them that we accomplish the opposite effect of our desire. Rather than draw people closer to Christ we drive them from our fellowship with them and perhaps to bitterness.
As an example, and I have to set this up with some historical context so bear with me a moment, to the first century Christians the day of worship was also a work day as Sunday was no day off from work for 300 years after Christianity’s beginning. Pliny the Younger, the governor of Pontus and Bithynia, wrote to the Emperor Trajan about early Christian worship in the early second century, between 111 and 113 AD.
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition. (22)
Now, I bring this up to point out that Sunday was a work day until the third century so these Christians, often and usually very poor and slaves, would then go to their work for the day after worship. They would have come to worship wearing their work clothes. We have adopted the custom of wearing our, “Sunday finest,” or our, “Sunday go-to-meeting,” clothes as phrases from the past have said. If someone comes into the assembly dressed in less of a fashion than our convictions dictate it is not unusual for us to act or think indignant at their lack of sobriety and respect, as we perceive it. The more bold of us might even approach that person and drive them from the assembly with our self-righteous attempt to tell them, “the way it is.” Such things are wicked. The only rule of dress is modesty, not drawing attention to ourselves on purpose with our clothing, and wearing something, say, a mini-skirt or a muscle shirt, that might detract from worship or inspire a temptation. To impose your conviction of hair up in some kind of a bun as hair hanging down was once considered scandalous and improper, your conviction of the propriety of a long dress, or your conviction for closed toed shoes for women, as it was once considered indecent to show the “naked” foot, as a condition for coming to worship with the church or to impose your conviction for men to wear a business suit are all absurd and even a great evil if done as a proof of your piousness which you wish to share, in loooovvvvve, with the less spiritual.
Think back on Henry’s statement about pious frauds and impious persecutions.
Verse 9 asks the valid question as to whether or not you would really want God to search out your convictions that you express so confidently in trying to control, manipulate, or accuse others.
Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Does the pious person with their nose up in the air really think that their standards could stand a close examination by God? Job asks rhetorically if his friends would not be better off to take God more seriously and not to presume to speak for Him out of ignorance.
I hear these sorts of things all the time from conservative and from liberal Christians. Some verses to consider;
Romans 2:1 ¶ Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Matthew 7:1 ¶ Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
2Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
Do the standards you set for yourself match the standards you set for others? Do you presume to speak for God when God is silent? Do you invent standards that are not Biblical because they make you feel more spiritual, and then apply them to others but not yourself?
Job’s friends have committed the sin virtually every Christian who takes their faith seriously is in danger of committing. They have applied God’s truth falsely. In finite bodies of clay they have assumed knowledge available only to God. Here, in the book of the Bible written before all others in time, we have this alert, this warning from God. Will you listen?
(21) Henry, Commentary.
(22) Pliny, “Pliny the Younger to Trajan on Christians”, Early Christian Writings, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/pliny.html, (accessed 9.18.2014.)