God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Old Testament, Practical Theology


Finally, in the effort to smash Job with a submission of conscience to hypocrisy, guilt, and divine retribution, Bildad issues his final speech (25). Some suggest that the shortness and apparent inconsequential nature of this speech indicates that text has been lost in the transmission. It is more probable that the text is intact, but Bildad is not. He utters truisms but has run out of any ability or nerve to seek to make headway with Job. He asserts that God is more powerful and more pure than any part of his creation, including man. And who would say otherwise? But what is the point in this particular existential encounter between one “who is a maggot . . . and . . . a worm” (25:6) with one in whose sight even “the stars are not pure?” (25:5). Does the reminder of the exalted power and purity of God, a point with which Job agrees, give any insight into the purpose of God’s ways in this fragmenting encounter? What Bildad asserts, while true, has no distinguishing application to Job’s trials. The absoluteness of Bildad’s statements means one of two things. First, in his effort to condemn Job with these absolute and universally true statements, he condemns all and thus all should have the same sufferings as Job. Or, Bildad’s universal absolutes only confirm that God maintains a hidden and particular wisdom in his dealings with all members of humanity, even as he has with every sparrow that falls and every lily that fades. The possibility that this is the entire speech of Bildad seems confirmed by Job’s response to him.

Prompted by Bildad’s fidgety Job now begins his final response to these friends. It seems that they have realized that their efforts have been fruitless. Eliphaz has vented his bitterness against Job’s tenacious maintenance of his integrity, Bildad has given a final, and short, presentation of the distance between God and man, and Zophar has run out of anything to say. He remained silent.

Job mocks the repetitive irrelevance of the presentations of his comforters. He particularly derides the speech of Bildad for his restatement of the obvious that God is more powerful than his creatures. With seething sarcasm, Job quips, “How you have helped him who has no power!” Just telling me that God is stronger than I is neither enlightening nor particularly insightful in expanding our understanding of the ways of God with his creatures.

Job then (5-14) shows that he fully concurs with the reality of the unutterable greatness of divine power and his present control of all things. His friends do not give him information of which he is ignorant; he does not reject either the power, the present control, or the righteousness of God. “The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke.” The images employed by Job are strikingly beautiful, particularly the expression of the created spheres being suspended in space, a more accurate cosmology than that of others of his era. “He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them” (7, 8). Even, however, with the massive displays of his power and his wisdom manifest in the heavens and the earth, Job knows there is far more beyond that: “Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!” (14) Job’s awareness that God’s intelligence, wisdom and power are truly inexhaustible and finally incomprehensible by any creature makes God’s final confrontation with Job (38-41) all the more impressive.

Though he knows that God’s ways are inscrutable, Job does not relinquish his claim to integrity. The theology being espoused by the comforters does not explain his situation. Furthermore, Job’s conviction of personal integrity does not mean that he rejects the reality that God will in fact judge the wicked. Though Job agrees that God is powerful and that his ways are beyond finding out by the created intellect of man, he does not consent to his accusers that their presentation has explained anything about his own suffering. He can not submit to mere platitudes that give no more insight than already is a matter of conviction with him. Thus he stated, “Far be it from me to say that you are right; Till I die, I will not put away my integrity from me” (27:5).

In verses 7-23, Job teaches them what he knows about the ways of God with the wicked. He gives a strong warning that those who give him such small comfort might be construed as wicked and eventually be taken away in divine judgment. “Let my enemy be as the wicked, and let him who rises up against me be as the unrighteous” (7). When God moves in punishment of the wicked, the judgment is irremediable and swift. It is not designed to restore the wicked but to obliterate his unfounded hopes. Unlike Job, the wicked, when they are taken away, will not seek for God in a more profound way that they might delight in his ways and wisdom (8, 9, 10).

Job himself has observed God’s ways and he is as qualified to speak for his observations as those pompous, judgmental friends that have so derided and belittled him (11-13). Every gain of this life in which the wicked has placed his hope will be removed from him without remedy (14-23).  Any who relish present security in worldly things and give no thought or demonstrate no affection for eternal treasures in the presence of God will be cut off like the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

Job concludes that the meaning of the events in a man’s life are not easily discerned. Shallow observation of immediate phenomena will hardly ever yield a true picture of what God is doing. One does not find the most precious things of the earth on the surface. Neither silver nor gold, neither iron nor copper merely appear fully ready for use but must be taken from ore that is hidden far from view (28:1, 2 and 5-8). Man does not hesitate to pursue the recovery of this ore and will spare no energy nor reject any measure that will give the opportunity to collect the valuable resource (28:3, 4 and 9-11).  “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots.” (9).

Wisdom, moreover, is harder to come by than the most precious metals and jewels that the earth can provide. As difficult as the collection and the crafting of it may be, it is nothing compared to the attainment of wisdom (28:12-19). Those who study these matters of the earth’s treasures can tell where they are and devise means to obtain them; but who, by mere observation, can tell where wisdom dwells? Wisdom does not present itself to rigorous human endeavor, though we should search for it with all our energy. We put prices on gold and silver and barter for merchandise of equal value, but no one can place a value on wisdom for it is not something that is the product of any created thing (28:12, 13).

Everything of precious value of this creation looks upon the idea of wisdom and recognizes that it transcends all of them in value. Gold, silver, onyx, sapphire, coral, crystal, pearls, and topaz—all of them rare and beautiful and of value in comparison to their scarcity and relative appeal—are created things and eventually perishable. The stupid, vain, insolent, rapacious, brutal, covetous, and savage can own any of these things, admire them, and want more of them. This is not so with wisdom. “It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir . . . the price of wisdom is above pearls” (16, 18).

If none of the energetic efforts of man in seeking earthly wealth, if the value of these things so sacrificially sought to have no commensurate relation with wisdom, where is it to be found?  Neither in the sight of “everything living” nor in the hidden recesses of the dead does wisdom appear. Everything that can be observed in the entire created order by living beings does not contain the source of wisdom. Nor do the dead find the source of wisdom (20-22).

Wisdom is possessed by God alone and created things only reflect infinitesimally small facets of the uncreated wisdom. God puts this in the amazing operations of the created order and the interconnections of purpose in all things. Wisdom dwells with God alone for he alone is the expression of infinite wisdom. To the degree that he communicates to us in his word and by his Spirit both the nature and the power of wisdom, our created lives may engage this wisdom. It begins, therefore, in the reverent worship of God, “the fear of the Lord,” and will have an initial effect on human conduct of turning from evil (28).

Job anticipates the substance of James 3:13-18. James declares the difference between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God as it may be exhibited by men made in God’s image. There is a wisdom from below that always points toward selfish ends; but as men receive the wisdom from above an entirely different spirit flows through them. Proverbs 1:20-33 personifies wisdom, for wisdom indeed is a person. Wisdom calls for persons to repent of their focus on this world and seek the life that is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:17-19), those riches of eternity that never can perish. Job anticipates the statement of the apostle Paul, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:20, 21).

Job could well have authored the powerful and tantalizing words of Paul, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33).

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