Passage Job 42:1-6.
Then Job answered the LORD and said: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. '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. 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.' I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
You will admit that we all tend to speak too quickly, and more often than not, without full knowledge and understanding. And this mars the goodwill or intention of the speaker, leading to misunderstanding. As you will discover, most of the relational problems are a fruit of misunderstanding. You allow your ignorance to be the glasses upon which you judge a situation. We must not do this with God – we have no excuse of dealing with God in this crooked manner for He has revealed what should be said in His Word.
Job in this passage has well understood this problem – this is the way he had related, and responded to God. When God asked him in Job 38:2, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
What did he say? He was unable to answer but only resigned himself to silence – this was a good progress as I pointed out in the last sermon. The Lord went on to prove to him that he knew nothing. Challenge upon challenge led Job to the present point where he admits his lack of understanding and knowledge (v.3); and begs for a new enlightenment of who God is so that he was led to despise himself to repent in dust and ashes (v.6)
What are the lessons for us in this passage? There is one lesson – that God is God and we all are human beings – the work of His hands. Three things that show that God is God:
In this passage, Job has learnt his lessons well from the tutorship of God. He now submits his sincere devotion to the truth of God's unlimited power, knowledge, and dominion. He trustingly states his knowledge of who God is when he states without any doubt that God ‘can do all things…’(v.2). This means that he proves that he had grasped the scope of God's address out of the whirlwind (40:6). There is no doubt that corrupt desires and practices arise either from some corrupt principles or from the neglect and disbelief of the principles of truth.
Therefore when Job here articulates who God is, he is led to repentance because true repentance begins in the acknowledgement of the truth as the Apostles puts it in 2Timothy_2:25. Job here is evidently convinced of the greatness, glory, and perfection of God. He has understood and so believes from a sure conviction of his conscience concerning his own folly in speaking irreverently to him.
What does Job mean when he says that God can do all things? God has already told him what He has done and what He can do. God asked Job to be careful in demanding answers from God because in so doing he was obscuring the counsel of God by words of ignorance. So God demanded that Job prepare for action by answering the questions that He put forth – where were you Job, in your folly, when I laid down the foundation of the earth? God is the Creator. He determined the measurements and all the creation is the work of His hands. Who shall dare question Him? Furthermore, God is the Sustainer of all things. We believe that God governs and preserves all His creation and all their actions, with a meticulous sovereign eye.
The implication of this is that there is nothing which can be too hard for Him. What can be too hard for him who made behemoth and leviathan, and manages both as he pleases? God had made all this truth clearer by His argument before Job.
Therefore, when God had spoken it once, Job heard it twice! What did Job hear twice? That power belongs to God. Therefore it is the greatest madness and presumption imaginable to contend with him.
The reason why we can confidently offer prayers to God is because of the understanding that God can do all things. God has promised to work out all things for the good of those whom He has called according to His purposes and those who love Him (Romans 8:28). This promise is anchored upon the presupposition that God can do all things. Therefore Apostle Paul praised God upon this knowledge like this, “…Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)
God’s decrees are His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His own will, whereby for His own glory, He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. His purposes are forever sure because He is in heavens and He does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:2-3). Whatever the Lord pleases, he does in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps (Psalm 135:6). And again, “… all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35). Our prayers do not change God – they cannot change Him. Our prayers show that we are depending on God’s purpose in our lives. There are those who think that God does not have a definite will and purpose for His creation, so that like the prophets of Baal, they shout their heads off demanding God to do their bidding. They think that by multiplying words, or by shouting loudly, that God will hear them.
There is no thought of God that does not come to fruition. There is no plan of God that can miscarry because of some unforeseeable future for His purposes are sure. Job well understood this truth when he said, But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back? What he desires, that he does. (Job 23:13) In this verse, Job displays his knowledge in the sovereignty of God.
However, it was said in the midst of complaining. But now he says in faith, with pleasure and satisfaction that God's counsels shall stand. This is one of the most satisfying knowledge especially in the midst of sorrow and suffering. If God's thoughts concerning us are thoughts of good, to give us an unexpected end, He cannot be withheld from accomplishing His gracious purposes, whatever difficulties may seem to lie in the way.
Job believed that it is ultimately God who brings about His purposes through whatever He appoints. This truth is all over the Scripture - The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. (Prov. 16:9). At best a man can plan, but the Lord has the final word.
Therefore, is in vain to contend with God. We cannot hide our thoughts and projects from him for He is all-knowing God. There is no thought of His that He can be hindered from executing. You realize that if God’s purposes were to be hindered by men, then God would cease to be God and we would be the most hopeless in prayer! If men’s ways were to prevail against God’s, then wickedness could reign.
Were it not that the counsel of the Lord, then we would be scared of the devil and his wiles. If God’s purposes were to be thwarted by men or angels or time, or life and death on anything else in all the earth, then we would be hopeless. But the Lord is sure in undertaking to love His people. He has stated so certainly, in answer to the question, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:35, 37-39
The knowledge of who is God has converse implication for who we are. In this passage Job says much about God and in effect shows who man is. Both true knowledge of God and man is revealed by God. Man is left with a responsibility to worship God in sheer humility and self-abasement. This is exactly what happened with Job, for he said:
'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' In this is an acceptance that man hides the counsel of God without knowledge. Man is naturally devoid of true knowledge because of Adam, our natural father, ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and in so doing, rejected the true knowledge of God. Job also acknowledged that he had uttered what he did not understand. For a mortal man, finite in his scope of understanding, limited in knowledge and wisdom to think that he can be able to fully comprehend who God is to be presumptuous. Therefore the Lord prayed, At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (Matt. 11:25-26)
There is no doubt that the things of God are too wonderful for you and I. Unless God graciously revealed Himself to us we cannot know Him – for how can we know One who is in heaven when we are on earth? How can we know the One who is Spirit when we are of the flesh? How can we possibly know the One is eternal and immortal when we are mortal beings? How can we comprehend the One who is immutable or unchangeable when we are men prone to change, corruption, decay, sickness age and death? How can we understand One who is infinite in wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth?
Therefore, any attempt to think that we can respond to God without His revealing Himself to us is pure fantasy. It is to speak which you did not know. Unless God graciously makes Himself known to us personally and have such a relationship with Him, we remain those who only hear of Him by hearing but not by a relational knowledge.
God is too wonderful for us and the beginning of all wisdom is fearing God, keeping His commandments for this is the duty of man. We should careful not to answer back to God or question Him in our prayers. Has he not asked the awful question, ‘But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its moulder, "Why have you made me like this?"’ (Rom 9:20)
We see what God does, but we neither know why he does it, what he is aiming at, nor what he will bring out of it. These are things too wonderful for us. They are out of our sight to discover. They are out of our reach to alter. They are out of our jurisdiction to judge. They are things which we know not; it is quite above our capacity to pass a verdict upon them. As Matthew Henry rightly pointed out in his commentary.
Therefore, in our prayers, we must know that God has given us a privilege, that He listens to us. He is not obligated to listen to us. But we know that He will listen to our praying because He has promised to listen to His people. His Son, Jesus Christ, has provided us with such an unlimited access into His throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace in times of need. Our Saviour has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility so that all may go in and have an hearing of God! This is an encouragement to pray, as we have no hindrance.
In effect this calls us to respond in three ways:
One thing to praise the Lord for in the life of Job in the midst of all the trouble that befell him was that he got to the point of stopping to justify himself before God. Then he began to judge, even condemn himself (vv.4,5). He realized his utter wretchedness and unworthiness before God.
Then he went on to pour repentance. He said, therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes." He is here thoroughly humbled for his folly and ill-advised speaking, and it was forgiven him. Good men will see and own their faults at last, though it may be some difficulty to bring them to do this. The best prayer before God is repentance.
Job admitted that he had known something of the greatness, and power, and sovereign dominion of God. However, he also admitted that he had been brought by what he heard, to submit himself to God. The truth is that it is a great mercy to have a good knowledge of the things of God by the instructions of his word and ministers. Faith comes by hearing, and then it is most likely to come when we hear attentively and with the hearing of the ear. When the understanding is enlightened by the Spirit of grace our knowledge of divine things as far exceeds what we had before.
Self-loathing is evermore the companion of true repentance. Ezekiel 6:9, And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. We must not only be angry at ourselves for the wrong and damage we have done by sin to our own souls, but must abhor ourselves for having made ourselves odious to the pure and holy God, who cannot endure to look upon iniquity. If sin be truly an abomination to us, sin in ourselves will especially be so. The nearer it is to us the more loathsome it will be. This in itself is a reason to ever want to be close to God so that He can shine His glorious light to us and cause us see how filthy and full of sin we are.
Job has become a very careful man now, for he has learned to quote meticulously what God has said and respond in great humility. Two statements he quoted, 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'… 'Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.' (v.3. quoted from 38:2; v. 4. quoted from 38:3)
It is very helpful and wise to make sure that we respond to God by His Word. Then and then only are we sure not to err. Unless the Word of God is central in responding to God, we have no hope of getting much from the prayers. We must understand the importance of this because we see men of old do this again and again.
Job admitted His guilt before God, which is what God had charged him with at the beginning of His discourse (v.3) “Lord, the first word you said was, Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? There was no need for one more word to convince and convict me of my folly, Yes, Lord that word convinced me. I own up I am the man that has been so foolish. That word reached my conscience, and set my sin clearly before me. It is too plain to be denied, too bad to be excused. I have hidden counsel without knowledge. In this Job is admitting that:
a) He had ignorantly overlooked the counsels and designs of God in afflicting him. He accepted his ignorance of the divine counsels and so we are all. We tend to run away from the providence of God in our lives – to our own ruin. When Jonah run away from God’s purpose, He was forced to do what He did not want to do. Balaam, that false prophet was forced to proclaim what God wanted and nothing less! The reason why we quarrel with Providence is because we do not understand it; and we must be content to be in the dark about it, until the mystery of God shall be finished.
b) He admitted that he was foolish, unwise and presumptuous in seeking to argue with that which he did not understand. We wrong ourselves, as well as the cause which we undertake to determine, while we are no competent judges of it when we seek to engage the Sovereign God in endless arguments.
c) He accepted His sinfulness in sorrow. In true repentance there must be not only conviction of sin, but repentance and godly sorrow for it, sorrow according to God, (2Cor. 7:9) Such was Job's sorrow for his sins.
It concerns us to be deeply humbled for the sins we are convinced of, and not to rest in a slight superficial displeasure against ourselves for them. We all must be greatly afflicted in soul for the workings and breakings out of pride, passion, irritability, foolishness and discontent, and all their hasty unadvised speeches.
Job repented in dust and ashes. Note that outward show of repentance in dust and ashes without an inward change, only mock God. However, where they come from sincere contrition of soul, the sinner by them gives glory to God, takes shame to himself, and may be instrumental to bring others to repentance.
The more we see of the glory and majesty of God, and the more we see of the vileness and odiousness of sin and of ourselves because of sin, the more we shall loathe and abhor ourselves for it. “Now my eye sees what a God he is whom I have offended. Yes, I see the brightness of that majesty which by wilful sin I have spit in the face of. Yes, I now behold the tenderness of that mercy which I have spurned. I now see t I see what a just and holy God he is whose wrath I have incurred. Therefore, I will abhor myself. Woe is me, for I am undone,” Isa_6:5. God had challenged Job to look upon proud men and abase them. “I cannot,” says Job, “pretend to do it. I have enough to do to get my own proud heart humbled.