Passage Job 40:3-5.
Then Job answered the LORD and said: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."
In this world of sin and its misery, when trials and temptations come we are usually overwhelmed and find it difficult to cope. This is the case for Job – He is overwhelmed by the demands on his health, his family and his possessions. The devil was assailing Him with fiery darts and this made Job to go back to God demanding answers and in this he did not only display his ignorance, but he even question the wisdom of God in His works of providence and judgments. For this God challenged him very strongly by asking, "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it." Job 40:2. In this God is asking, Shall he pretend to dictate to God's wisdom or prescribe to his will? Shall God receive instruction from every peevish complainer, and change the measures he has taken to please him?” It is a question with disdain. Shall any teach God knowledge? Job_21:22. I am sure none of you would admit to ever have tried to contend with God. But, wait a minute, how many times have you asked God, “WHY?” Why did you allow this to happen? Why did you allow my husband to die so young? Why did you allow me to be retrenched? Why do you let my father be such a drunkard? Why did you allow me fail in my exams? Why do you leave in such poverty? These are the people are talking to this evening.
It is suggested that those who quarrel with God do, in effect, go about to teach him how to fix his work. For if we contend with men like ourselves, as not having done well, we ought to instruct them how to do better. However, is it a thing to be suffered that any man should teach his Maker? He that contends with God is justly looked upon as his enemy; and shall he pretend so far to have prevailed in the contest as to prescribe to him? We are ignorant and short-sighted, but before him all things are naked and open; we are depending creatures, but he is the sovereign Creator; and shall we pretend to instruct him?
Job‘s example is the most exemplary and you would be wise to emulate this man – remember that God describes him as, blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1:1). This is a man, who having lost all his property, his family and his health said, Job 1:20-21. Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." This is a man who after his own wife became a snare said, (look this up in Job 2:9-10)Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Here were are – many friends have come to offer Job some counsel. God has had long conversations with God himself. Then God paused to give Job time to say what He had to say, or to think of what God had said. Three things for us to learn from Job on how to respond to God in the midst of an overwhelming calamity:
It is at this point of confusion that Job elected not to say anything. Job's humble submission is silence. Now Job came to himself, and began to melt into godly sorrow. He realized that it was not for a mortal man to contend with the Almighty. He understood that it is better to remain silent before God than to speak foolishly.
When his friends reasoned with him he did not yield; but the voice of the Lord is powerful. When the Spirit of truth shall come, he shall convince. They had condemned him for a wicked man; Elihu himself had been very sharp upon him (Job_34:7, Job_34:8, Job_34:37). However, God had not given him such hard words. We may always have reason to expect better treatment from God than from sinful men, though they may be our friends. It is this knowledge that should make us be quiet in hope that the Lord will do what is right. After all His great promise to work out all things for our good is not anchored on our reasoning with Him – neither is it tethered on our silence. The Lord working out all things for good is a promise that is relied upon by those who know their God sufficiently to fully trust Him without wavering.
There is a lot of wisdom in keeping silent and know that the Lord Jehovah is God and we are men. This is a lesson that Job had learnt too well. When Zophar his friend had said that Job deserved worse (chapter 11) than what he had, Job responded in at least two ways – that the Lord has done this (chapter 12) and secondly that I will still hope in God. In this second way, he said, Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom! (V5). Amos so clearly says, Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Amos 5:13.
It in this that a sinner must learnt to be mute under the smarting rod of God. For, surely these afflictions are but God’s love tokens! As many as I love I rebuke and chasten (Rev. 3:19)! So says the holy Christian “O my soul! Be quiet, be still. All is sent in love, all is a fruit of divine favour. I see honey upon the top of every twig; I see the rod is but a rosemary branch; I have sugar with my gall, and wine with my wormwood; therefore be silent, o my soul. (Richard Brooks)
This the good man is here overcome by, and yields himself a conquered captive to the grace of God. He acknowledges that there is nothing in his hand, or in his mouth he can bring before an infinitely holy God that is acceptable. He acknowledged that he is a man and God is God and no man should teach Him anything. We have something to learn from Job that we must not try to teach or instruct God. He is in heaven and He does whatsoever He pleases for His counsel shall stand as He is the Sovereign.
Here he gives the reason of his silence; it was not because he was sullen, but because he was convinced he had been in the wrong. Those that are truly sensible of their own sinfulness and vileness dare not justify themselves before God, but are ashamed that ever they entertained such a thought, and, in token of their shame, lay their hand upon their mouth.
Job answered God but with fear and trembling. He began with all humility and a contrite spirit. He demeaned himself saying – “I am of small account…” In this statement Job admits that he is not equal to the task before him, of speaking to the Almighty. It is better to shut his mouth because whatever he might say cannot be to the point since he is a man of sin. And when He did speak it is with uttermost humility.
Clearly in saying that he is vile, he owns himself as an offender and a sinner. He is broken in His sins and so he has nothing to say in his own justification. “Behold, I am vile…” is not only mean and contemptible, but “…vile and abominable, in my own eyes, and much more before the eyes of God.” He is now sensible that he has sinned, and therefore calls himself vile. Sin debases us, and penitent people abase themselves, reproach themselves, are ashamed before God. A sinner under the smarting rod is more often even confounded for he acknowledges that in his sinfulness he has acted irresponsibly to the gracious and benevolent Father. In sinning a sinner shows ungratefulness to his benefactor. Sin is lack of wisdom before God and in this Job is right in calling himself of small account or vile.
Brokenness of heart is stopping to justify and magnify oneself like Job had hitherto done and vilify oneself in repentance. For in repentance a sinner is self-accusing. In repentance a sinner inflicts self-indictments. If you remember, before this incidence had been too bold in demanding answers from God. He thought that he could make his part good with God. However, he is now he is convinced of his error, and owns himself utterly unable to stand before God or to produce anything worth God’s notice. He considered himself the vilest of the worms that ever crawled upon God's ground. He understood that he was a trespasser in God’s property who was chanting “Haki yangu!” as if God owned any explanations. Repentance changes men's opinion of themselves.
While his friends talked with him, he answered them, for he thought himself as good as they; but, when God talked with him, he had nothing to say, for, in comparison with him, he sees himself nothing, less than nothing, worse than nothing, vanity and vileness itself.
In his repentance Job said, “…I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further." In this he is promising not to offend any more as he had done. Elihu had told him that this is what was proper and fitting to be said to God. When we have spoken amiss, in our sinfulness and depravity we must repent of it and not repeat it or stand to it.
He enjoins himself silence (Job_40:4): “I will lay my hand upon my mouth. He is promising to bridle his tongue as James advises us, Jas 3:2. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. Wisdom will teach you to suppress all passionate thoughts which may arise in my mind, and keep them from breaking out in unrestrained speeches.” Remember that self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Surely, it is bad enough to think amiss, but it is much worse to speak amiss…it is publishing the seditious libel. Therefore, if thou hast thought evil, lay thy hand upon thy mouth and let it go no further (Pro_30:32).
Job had allowed too much of his evil thoughts to vent themselves: “Once have I spoken amiss, yea, twice,” that is, “different times, in one speech and in another, again and again, we may put it. He is admitting to be a serial offender and sinner and this is what we all are, left to our own fallen faculties.
By the grace of God, actuated by the Spirit of God, he pleads with the Lord in repentance, saying, I will not answer; I will not stand to what I have said, nor say it again; I will proceed no further.” Job so well understood that the least of sin is an offense to the great God; is a wrong to the immortal soul, is a breach to God’s righteous law and so it cannot be washed away except by the blood of Christ. The least sin in your eyes will shut the soul out of heaven and send it hell forever and ever.
Observe here what true repentance is.
1) It is to rectify our errors and mistakes. We are to immediately deal with all the false principles and activities we did. What we have long, and often, and vigorously maintained, once, yes, twice, we must retract as soon as we are convinced that it is a mistake, not adhere to it any longer, but take shame to ourselves for holding it so long.
2) It is to return from every off-road and to proceed not one step further in it: “I will not add” (so the word is). “I will never indulge my passion so much again, nor give myself such a freedom of speech and licentiousness. I will never say as I have said nor do as I have done.” Till it comes to this, we come short of repentance.
3) Those who argue with God will be silenced at last. Job had been too bold and forward in demanding a discussion with God, and talked very boldly, how plain he would make his case, and how sure he was that he should be justified. How foolish for a sinner to be so presumptuous and preposterous! He had said, that as a prince he would go near to God (Job_31:37). he would come even to God’s seat (Job_23:3). His prior claims now are untenable because the Lord has graciously opened his eyes. The Spirit has worked in him and his thinking is so different now. From a brazen sinner he is now a repentant and pardoned sinner. “Lord, the wisdom and right are all on your side, and I have done foolishly and wickedly in questioning them.
I charge you, O my soul, not to mutter nor murmur. I command you, O my soul, to be silent under the afflicting hand of God. Peace, O my soul! Be still, leave your muttering, leave your murmuring, leave your complaining, leave your chafing, and vexing, and lay your hand upon your mouth, and be silent. O my soul! Be quiet, be silent, else you will one day be called in question for all those inward mutterings, uproars, and passions that are in you, seeing no sufficient cause can be produced why you should murmur, quarrel, or wrangle under the righteous hand of God.