What Does It Mean that Job Spoke Rightly of God?

by Christopher Ash, contributed by our Friends at Crossway
| Time: 3 Minutes

Job Spoke Rightly of God

In Job 42:7 God says to Eliphaz, “You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (ESV). Now on the face of it, this is a surprising thing for God to say. It is not surprising to us that God says the friends were wrong, but it ought to surprise us that the Lord says that in some way Job is right. For again and again Job says terrible things about God. And yet in spite of the fact that Job charges God with being a wrongdoer (which is both serious and untrue), God can say at the end that Job has spoken rightly of him. How is this?

It is possible that God’s affirmation refers only to Job’s humble response to God’s speeches (Job 40:3–5 and Job 42:1–6), but it would seem to apply more widely, not only to what Job has said but also to who Job is. The answer would seem to be this: the friends have a theological scheme, a very tidy system, well swept, well defined, and entirely satisfying to them. But they have no relationship with the God behind their formulas. There is no wonder, no awe, no longing, no yearning, and no prayer to meet and speak with and hear and see the God of their formulas. No, they are content with the rules of the system they have invented.

Now some of their statements considered on their own are correct. For example, in Job 5:13 Eliphaz says that God “catches the wise in their own craftiness” (ESV); the clever person will be caught out by God. That is true, and Paul quotes Eliphaz with approval in 1 Corinthians 3:19. But although the friends make some statements that are true, they do not as a whole speak rightly of God, because they have no relationship with God, no seeking of God, and no longing for God. For them he is a dead doctrine and an abstract theory.

But Job does speak rightly. We have seen that one of the great motifs of Job’s laments is his longing to bring his perplexity to God himself. Job cannot be satisfied with any system: he must know God and speak to the living God. He must, for nothing else will satisfy him. This heart-longing of Job is the core reason why the Lord says Job has spoken rightly of him. And of course it leads to Job speaking rightly of the Lord in his humble responses to the Lord’s speeches. While the friends want a system, Job wants God. The friends would not have been at church prayer meetings—they had no need. But Job would if he could: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him” (Job 23:3 ESV).

The Lord’s response to Job is instructive. For in his affirmation of Job, in spite of the terrible things Job says about God, “we are forcibly reminded that God, for all his rough handling of his servant’s rude demands, reads between the lines and listens to the heart.”[1]

We ought to expect that the normal Christian life will be full of unresolved waiting and yearning for God. That is the mark of a believer, of personal religion. So we should never be fatalists. A fatalist looks at circumstances and says, “What will be, will be.” There is some impersonal power up there sorting it out. Sometimes we Christians say that, but we ought not to. We ought to say, “What is God doing, the God who is my Maker and my friend? Where is this personal God in all this? If only I could speak to him; if only I might find him.” Such directed, prayer-filled waiting is the integrating arrow of hope that holds together the authentic Christian life.

So we learn from the perseverance of Job that we ought to expect warfare and waiting, struggle and prayer.

. . .


[1] Trusting God in the Darkness, p. 130-131 (Perseverance in Waiting)

Content adapted from Trusting God in the Darkness: A Guide to Understanding the Book of Job by Christopher Ash, ©2021. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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