Meditations in Job : 33. Who speaks for God
Job 13:7 Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for him?
What is remarkable when we start thinking about the things we find in this book, is the shear variety of topics that arise. This book is uniquely made up of the words of a variety of people – and of God. It is all about words, all about discussion and debate. It is all about opinion, viewpoints and beliefs. Yet isn’t this exactly what life is so made of, the interaction between human beings. However, when it comes to Christians, we find a unique characteristic arising – a willingness, if not responsibility to speak on God’s behalf. What a responsibility we find ourselves with, therefore, as we speak into the world as His representatives. Let’s see how this arises here.
Job has just been speaking about the sovereignty of God. He knows that all that is happening is of God; it is no accident. So he continues, “My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it.” (13:1). It’s all right, he seems to be saying, I understand what is going on, and then he adds what he said at the beginning of chapter 12, “What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you.” (v.2). In other words, you’re not the only ones who know these things. I am aware of God’s greatness and how He moves (implied by previous verses). But he has a desire: “But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.” (v.3), i.e. but I want to talk to God about all this, I want to chew over all that is going on. That’s where he has got to and we’ll see in the next study, the confidence he has in God to be able to want to do this.
But then he turns on them, the three friends. He expected something better from them. He is disappointed by their responses to him: “You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you!” (v.4). It’s like he says, “Sorry guys, but you haven’t been speaking the truth about me. You’ve been making me out to be a big sinner – and I’m not! I needed help and comfort and all you did is judge and blame me. What a bunch of awful soul doctors you are!” Now that’s pretty challenging. I wonder if people think that of us. Do people in ‘pain’ feel anguish and look for comfort but just find judgmental words? Do they feel put down, demeaned and inferior? Jesus is a staggeringly good example of someone who got alongside people who needed God’s love and help, and didn’t judge them. That’s why the tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came to him. If he had been a judgmental Pharisee they wouldn’t have gone near him. Do people know us as judgmental or loving, caring and accepting? Do people go away from us feeling loved and blessed, or bruised and beaten?
What does this leave Job feeling about what has happened so far? “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” (v.5). He’s saying that because what they said had been wrong and had put him down and left him feeling even more miserable, they would have been better off remaining silent. Yet, he still wants them to understand, he still wants to try to contribute something worthwhile to this fiasco: “Hear now my argument; listen to the plea of my lips.” (v.6) I want to have a say in all this, he says, I want to add some more into what I’ve already said, and when I think about how you’ve spoken I don’t think I could do any worse (implied by what follows). “Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf? Will you speak deceitfully for him? Will you show him partiality? Will you argue the case for God?” (v.7,8). Look, he is saying, you have put yourselves forward as those who speak for God but what you have said has not been right. The Message version puts it well here: “are you going to keep on lying ‘to do God a service’? to make up stories ‘to get him off the hook’?” Look, he implies, I know I haven’t done wrong but you are saying God is punishing me and you also say God only punishes people who do wrong. You are not representing Him well!
Then he has another thought and wonders how they would feel if they came under God’s spotlight: “Would it turn out well if he examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men?” (v.9). How well would you do if He questioned you? Would you try to deceive Him and make out that you were trying to speak on His behalf? I think you would be in trouble: “He would surely rebuke you if you secretly showed partiality.” (v.10). If you let your bias against me show, I think you’d find He wouldn’t keep quiet about that! I think you’d be in trouble in His incredible presence: “Would not his splendor terrify you? Would not the dread of him fall on you?” (v.11). I think, he goes on, in God’s presence all your words would be seen to leave nothing but dust at the end of them and all your strong words would appear as weak as clay: “Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.” (v.12)
As we’ve said, this is a serious challenge to think about the quality of what we say as God’s representatives, and the way we say things. A good prophet in the new covenant knows that even words of correction come with a gentleness that looks to bring change through grace. None of us is on such strong ground that we can blast others with their failures. The new covenant is all about love and restoration, not condemnation. Check it out. How do people feel about how you ‘handle’ them? Do they get drawn to God’s love? Do they feel blessed? Are your words, words of graciousness? Let’s seek to be Jesus to them in this way.