42 1Then Job replied to the LORD :
2“I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel 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.’
5My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
This second reply is markedly different from the first. Where there had been merely admissions of unworthiness and silence, now there is the affirmative acknowledgement of the LORD’s sovereignty, his own limitations, and, finally, a self-repudiating repentance before the holy God of the universe.
The LORD has indeed won a great victory – the restoration of right relationship between Himself and a soul as well as lessons about His true character and man’s need for humility and salvation deeply taught and ready to be transmitted from generation to generation.
But there is one phrase in Job’s response that bears deeper scrutiny. Job says, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
To begin with, note that the LORD did not answer a single of Job’s questions. In fact, the LORD didn’t convey a single answer about anything in the entire interview. Thus, this statement cannot be based on communication of information by words from the Deity to Job.
What has likely happened is that his experience, in its entirety, has made Job intensely aware of the limitations under which we humans operate. He had listened to the explanations of his friends and crafted his own retorts with great care. All of this brilliant use of the human mind and language was swept away as so much worthless refuse when the LORD arrived – “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”
But the LORD didn’t even attempt to provide the correct answer. We could conclude that He simply didn’t want Job, or us, to know. It’s possible that this is the case.
There is, though, a second, more profound possibility. It’s possible that, were the LORD to explain in their fullness the reasons behind suffering, either human language would be incapable of conveying them or the human mind would be incapable of grasping them, or both. That is, there are things loosed in this universe so vast, so deep that they exist beyond the ability of human resources to capture and/or comprehend.
Is this concept really so radical? Consider the problems associated with teaching the Special Theory of Relativity to a mouse. You will immediately agree that the endeavor is a hopeless one. Well, it is also easily agreed that the distance between a human and the LORD is immeasurably greater than that between a human and a mouse. Thus, it stands to reason that there exist concepts within the mind of God that are not communicable to humans within the limitations of human resources. Job may well have become aware of this fact through the combination of his own experience of terrible suffering, the experience of his and his friends inability to explain or correct it, and his experience of the LORD’s demonstration of might, wisdom, mercy and salvation.
I use the word experience in the above paragraph intentionally. For it is my argument that experience, under the guidance of the Holy Sprit and within the bounds laid out by God’s Word, provides believers with another resource, another language if you will, by which to search out the mysteries of God’s will. Suffering is one dialect of that language by which inexpressible, but nonetheless real insights into God’s mind occur.
May we lift our sails to the Spirit’s wind, guided by the map of the Word, and be brought home to You!