Surely I Spoke of Things I Did Not Understand

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JOB 40:1-42:17 | 2 CORINTHIANS 5:11-21 | PSALM 45:1-17 | PROVERBS 22:14

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God isn’t finished talking to Job.  He has heard Job long enough, and it is now God’s turn to ask a question or two.  God says, 

2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”

And Job is flabbergasted, and offers this answer to the LORD:

4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.”

Then God proceeds to make himself even more clear than ever.  Alright then, he seems to say, if you think you are so righteous, perhaps you can save yourself; why even bother with me?  But if you cannot save yourself, well then, what right do you have to question me?!  God says:

8 “Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
9 Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.

Job sees the folly of his thoughts and words, and has only this to offer in return to God:

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
  Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

And God accepts Job’s prayer.  Not only that, he instructs Job’s friends, and asks that Job pray for them.  So much for all their self-righteousness!  Then, it is said that the Lord restored Job’s fortunes, and gave him twice as much as he had before. 

This verse says it all: 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.  And so ends the story of Job. 

The most memorable lines Job ever uttered were:  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Turning now to Paul’s letter as recorded in the second book of Corinthians, we find Paul speaking of a “ministry of reconciliation.”  Paul says: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Turning next to our psalm for the day, we find this psalm to be one of prophecy which seems to point to Jesus as a Bridegroom espousing the church to himself, and as a King ruling in it, and for it.  The psalmist says:

13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber;
her gown is interwoven with gold.
14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her—
those brought to be with her.
15 Led in with joy and gladness,
they enter the palace of the king.

Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs which serves as food for thought:

14 The mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit;
   a man who is under the LORD’s wrath falls into it.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

8 thoughts on “Surely I Spoke of Things I Did Not Understand

  1. Job’s friends remind me of an experience I had doing Clinical Pastoral Education for a summer at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. CPE is like a hospital chaplaincy internship and involves a lot of interaction with one’s group, which is very inter-denominational and even inter-faith. One activity we called “verbatims” is like a case study for pastoral counseling: you take an interaction you had with a patient or a patient’s family and write down word-for-word (as much as you can remember) what was said between you. You give copies of that to everyone in your group. They read it and then go over it with you (again in group) helping you to understand what you said and why, how it helped or didn’t help the patient, what the patient may have been TRYING to say to you, what you did well, what you did not do so well. Needless to say it’s a very humbling and vulnerable experience but it can lead to a lot of growth – insight into yourself and your faith, for example. I did verbatims three times in my group that summer and each time revealed many moments when I was Job’s friends – offering trite advice or simplistic “theologies” or imposing some meaning from without – and my fellow group members helped me see how I could listen, be present, bring forth the faith of the patient, or offer prayers or words from scripture or the tradition that brought comfort or meaning. It was a summer I’ll never forget.

    1. Many thanks for sharing this! I am deeply humbled by your many life experiences, this one that you share, being the latest. Your educational training and varied life experiences have surely afforded you many perspectives on the vagaries of life and the ways in which people navigate it. Who among us has not been in the shoes of Job’s friends at one time or another? The hope, of course, is that we would live and learn for the next time around. Compassion and empathy are essential human qualities that need be practiced more.

      Again, thank you for sharing, and God bless you.

  2. Some of the basic principles are: listening patiently and actively, helping the person give voice to some of the deeper issues involved; dealing not just with the immediate physical or material problem but paying attention to the emotions surrounding it; not imposing a quick solution to the person’s situation, which can send the message that their problem is not significant; and sharing your own experience very sparingly, avoiding the common tendency to be self-referential, telling the person that you went through this exact same thing and easily solved it by doing X.

    1. I agree with what you say however I would beg to differ on the point of self-reference. Self referencing provides for context and validates the person. In essence, it assures the person that they are not the first to experience this, that it is in fact something that is not so uncommon and that surely has a fix to it. All this, of course only after being an active and patient listener. But then offering personal example is a form of deep empathy.

  3. Sharing personal experience is “good medicine” but we have to be careful about some of the “side effects.”
    A tremendous amount of healing takes place when people can share their story. The telling of it allows them to take ownership and find their voice and become more active in their own narrative.
    If we tell them early on – or, heaven forbid, even before they start talking! – that we’ve heard this before and we know the story, we are short-circuiting the entire conversation. We’re putting up a hand in front of their face, telling them stop! we know this one.
    It’s also somewhat patronizing. We’re sending the message: you don’t understand this situation, I do; I’m going to tell you what is wrong with you and give you a solution to fix it. Perhaps, in the course of the conversation, after hearing their story, listening to the deeper issues, allowing space for their emotions, when they feel appreciated and listened to and relieved to have shared their story with a sympathetic, non-judgmental person, they will be much more open and disposed to hear the “solution” or advice and in a much better position to accept or implement it into their own lives.

  4. I was wondering if you were going to read all those comments. Good decision though – I got off on a tangent that was not closely related to the themes of your devotional. Listening to it now my mind is focused more on Paul and his theme of reconciliation: it’s not just about words or even actions; it’s at the level of being and a new creation.

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