The Time to Shut Up and Look Up

1 And Job again took up his discourse, and said:

“Oh, that I were as in the months of old,
    as in the days when God watched over me,
when his lamp shone upon my head,
    and by his light I walked through darkness,
as I was in my prime,
    when the friendship of God was upon my tent,
when the Almighty was yet with me,
    when my children were all around me,
when my steps were washed with butter,
    and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!
When I went out to the gate of the city,
    when I prepared my seat in the square,
the young men saw me and withdrew,
    and the aged rose and stood;
the princes refrained from talking
    and laid their hand on their mouth;
10 the voice of the nobles was hushed,
    and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth.
11 When the ear heard, it called me blessed,
    and when the eye saw, it approved,
12 because I delivered the poor who cried for help,
    and the fatherless who had none to help him.
13 The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me,
    and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
    my justice was like a robe and a turban.
15 I was eyes to the blind
    and feet to the lame.
16 I was a father to the needy,
    and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know.
17 I broke the fangs of the unrighteous
    and made him drop his prey from his teeth.
18 Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest,
    and I shall multiply my days as the sand,
19 my roots spread out to the waters,
    with the dew all night on my branches,
20 my glory fresh with me,
    and my bow ever new in my hand.’

21 “Men listened to me and waited
    and kept silence for my counsel.
22 After I spoke they did not speak again,
    and my word dropped upon them.
23 They waited for me as for the rain,
    and they opened their mouths as for the spring rain.
24 I smiled on them when they had no confidence,
    and the light of my face they did not cast down.
25 I chose their way and sat as chief,
    and I lived like a king among his troops,
    like one who comforts mourners.Job 29:1-25 ESV

Chapters 28 and 29 provide an interesting contrast. Both are the words of Job, but they reflect two extremely different views or outlooks. In chapter 28, Job asks and answers the question, “Do people know where to find wisdom?”

According to Job, wisdom is found with God.

“God alone understands the way to wisdom;
    he knows where it can be found…
…he saw wisdom and evaluated it.
    He set it in place and examined it thoroughly.
And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
    to forsake evil is real understanding.’” – Job 28:23 27-28 NLT

In chapter 28, Job asserts that only God knows where wisdom can be found, because He is its source. The problem that Job’s friends faced was a lack of wisdom, understanding, and a knowledge of the ways of God. None of them truly understood what was going on, including Job. They could only guess as to what was the cause of his distress. Bildad, Zophar, and Eliphaz blamed it on some hidden sin in his life. Job blamed it on God’s abandonment of him. But they each lacked wisdom. Job seemed to know that, which is what is reflected in his speech in chapter 28. He seemed to understand that the fear of God is where he would find the answer to all his questions.

But then there’s chapter 29. In this speech Job suddenly reflects a perspective that is common to all men. He took his eyes off of God and focused on himself. Depending on the translation you are reading, there are upwards of 40 uses of the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” or “my” in the speech. Job uses the word “I” 20 times, the word “me” 12 times, and the word “my” 16 times.

You might put it this way: Job suffers from a serious “I” problem. He can’t keep his eyes off of himself and the problems that plague his current situation. This leads to another dangerous disability. Job begins to exhibit the tell-tale symptoms of the-good-old-days syndrom. Weighed down by the burdens of his present life, he chooses to find solace in the past. He begins to dwell on how things used to be, when his life was good.

Without realizing it, Job begins to brag about all his accomplishments. He envisions himself as a kind of super saint who rescued all the helpless, always fought for the underdog, and was revered and respected by his community.

The young stepped aside when they saw me,
    and even the aged rose in respect at my coming.
The princes stood in silence
    and put their hands over their mouths.
The highest officials of the city stood quietly,
    holding their tongues in respect. – Job 29:8-10 NLT

While there is probably a semblance of truth in Job’s words, his memory has painted an idealized vision of his past. Of course, compared to his current situation, everything in the rear view mirror looks bigger and better, and he longs to return to those halcyon days.

Now, I don’t particularly blame Job, but in all his myopic obsession with his idealized past, he seems to lose his fear of the Lord. Like his friends, he starts to draw some unwise conclusions. His speech wrongly infers that God is no longer watching over him. He seems to believe that God is no longer his friend and has somehow abandoned him. Yet, these conclusions are all based on his circumstances. He still maintains his innocence, but he blames his condition on God.

Job wanted his honor back. After being constantly berated by his three friends, Job longed to be respected again. He wanted to remind everyone about all the good he used to do. He missed the respect he used to garner for all his good deeds and acts of kindness.

“All who heard me praised me.
    All who saw me spoke well of me.
For I assisted the poor in their need
    and the orphans who required help.
I helped those without hope, and they blessed me.
    And I caused the widows’ hearts to sing for joy.” – Job 29:11-13 NLT

There’s no doubt that Job had lost a lot, and I don’t blame him for wanting to see his circumstances reversed. But when he turned his attention to himself, he took his eyes off of God. Reminiscing was not going to change anything and it was not going to provide him with any answers to his questions or comfort for his pain. That would only come when he turned his attention to God. It’s as if Job needed to go back and read his words recorded in chapter 28. In his heart, Job knew that God had all the answers he was looking for. He alone could provide the comfort Job was seeking.

Yet, whenever we become myopic and focus on ourselves, we lose sight of God. It is at those moments that we must turn to Him, fear Him, and seek Him. Job could have used a dose of Solomon’s insight.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8 NLT

In chapter 29, Job leaves God completely out of the picture. He makes it all about himself, reminiscing about all his accomplishments, attributes, and well-deserved accolades. It’s almost as if Job is giving testimony in a trial and acting as his own character witness. No one else seems to be stepping up in his defense, so Job decides to do it himself.

But Job would have been better off listening to the words of God that he quoted in the previous chapter.

“…this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
    to forsake evil is real understanding.’” – Job 28:28 NLT

Job needed to shut up and look up. He needed to end his futile phase of belly button gazing and turn His eyes to the Lord. It’s too bad that Job didn’t have a friend like David, a fellow sufferer who could have given him just the right time-tested advice.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:5-8 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.