Can Words Change Lives?
April 16, 2019
The Bible teaches that God’s people should be slow to speak and quick to listen. This is good sound wisdom. Often times, people will talk beyond their expertise and wisdom. Many times, people will speak on things on which they are not qualified to speak, having little understanding and insight. Often times people will make proclamations based on opinions or flawed perspective. When these sorts of habits are used to administer words of comfort, often times those words are not very comforting. Many times, people will try to speak words that stir the heart, change the mind, inspire the soul, and cheer up the hurting, but with little consideration of the person. When people try to comfort those in need, it is common that people will just say things that really have no substance and application for the person in need. The Bible shows that it is even possible to speak the Word of God to people in such a way that it provides little to no value to the person in need, because the person speaking is not really considering the need. Many times people are more concerned with their efforts being heroic rather than actually serving the needs of those suffering. Thus, the right words come at the wrong time because the Holy Spirit is not the motivator of the comfort being given.
The testimony of Job shows that this is a common issue unfortunately. In Job 26:1-4 the Bible shows that Job was not at all comforted by the words that Bildad previously communicated. Job was not impressed. Job was not comforted. Job was not overwhelmed with joy. Thus, Bildad was not the hero he figured himself to be. Bildad was not the profound communicator he thought he was. Bildad was not the enlightened mind that would bring peace and rest to Job’s suffering. More importantly, Job’s response to Bildad shows that. Bildad, though he spoke truth, was not motivated by the Holy Spirit to do so. His words were true of God, but not the words intended for Job from God. This goes to show that God is not interested in His people simply saying things that are true of Him, but also depending on Him to ensure that the right truths are spoken at the right time, with the right motives to serve the needs of others for His glory; not to glorify ourselves by feeling we are the change-agents that God needs to uplift His people. When we think more highly of ourselves and our words than we ought, then our words will not have the impact we think they should, and in the end, no one benefits.
In Job 26:1-4 Job begins by asking a simple question: How have you helped him who is without power? This could be a two-fold question. First, it was clear that Job, a man without power and strength, was not helped in any way by Bildad’s words. Bildad spoke succinctly and confidently about God’s majesty and the fear of the Lord, but that was not helpful to Job. Job was a man in pain, suffering greatly from a number of things. Though it is true that God is supremely glorious and majestic, that truth is not helpful to a hurting soul, especially one that already knows and confirms this truth. Though it is true that God is awesome and to be feared, that’s not the truth of God that a suffering soul needs to be comforted. If Bildad truly wanted to uplift Job’s spirit by depending on the Lord, he would have been wiser by speaking of God’s mercy, grace, and love. Did Bildad help anyone by showing off how much he knew of God’s majesty and terror? The Bible says that knowledge of God without love for God is like a clanging cymbal to His ears – horrible noise. According to Job, the same is true to us. When we hear God’s truth communicated without the love that comes exclusively from God by His Spirit, those words become more irritating than helpful.
The second part of Job’s point could also refer to Bildad’s common character. Has Bildad ever been of much help to anyone in need? Has Bildad ever been one to get his hands dirty in the sincere and genuine service unto others? Has Bildad ever been one to share the burdens and hardships of others by humbling himself? It is possible that Bildad was like a person that has opinions and suggestions from a distance, but was not willing to embrace the difficulties of functional service himself. It is possible that Bildad was like a person that merely shouted suggestions from a distance, never undertaking the difficulties associated with lending power and strength of his own to those who didn’t have any. It is easy to make criticisms and state truths from a distance, but it is hard to know what words are really needed to strengthen and encourage unless we find ourselves in the same need. The Book of Hebrews teaches that of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Though Jesus is the God Most High in fleshly form, He did not merely shout commands from a distance as One who could not relate. Instead, He took the form of flesh, and came into this world to bear our burdens. Our Great High Priest is not so distant that he cannot relate or understand our pains and griefs. He came into this world and was tempted in all ways just like we are, but abstained from sin while carrying the burden that condemns.
For this reason, Job continued to question Bildad’s true intents. Job asked, whose arm had been strengthened by Bildad’s words; who had profited from the wisdom that Bildad was offering; whose spirit was uplifted from the words that Bildad spoke and the manner in which he spoke them? Apparently, Bildad couldn’t answer these things. This shows that, though Bildad spoke powerful truths concerning God’s majesty, it wasn’t really helpful to those he spoke to. Though Bildad spoke about human depravity, it wasn’t fruitful to those who heard. Though Bildad knew things about God, he obviously did not know how to apply his knowledge of God to be used in functionally powerful ways that actually provided a service to God’s people unto God’s glory. Job’s tone against Bildad shows that Bildad spoke with arrogance and presumptuousness, which explains why the truth Bildad spoke had no potency or helpfulness. Bildad’s attitude about his knowledge of God made the truth he spoke to be rendered useless to those who heard him.
Bildad spoke as if his words were the supreme points of God. Bildad spoke as if the truths he communicated were the absolute and final truths of God’s revelation. It is true that God is supremely majestic; but the things that Bildad said about God’s majesty hardly explained the full depth of His glory. It is true that God is “greatly to be praised”, feared, and that no one compares with God. However, the short details that Bildad uttered were far from the full scope of God’s terror and exalted nature. According to Job, Bildad spoke as if he was one of God’s chief communicators and was an exceptional asset to the Lord God Almighty. Job’s point was that, not only was Bildad useless to his own comfort, but he was weak as a communicator for God. The things that Bildad said of God were obvious to those who knew God. The things that Bildad said of God were true, but basic. Bildad wasn’t stating any life-changing, deep, profound truths of God that were going to change Job’s life. The things that Bildad said were things that Job already knew, and then some. Had Bildad truly considered Job, he would have known that Job already knew those things of God, was already considering those things about God, and needed to hear about God’s other attributes that were more helpful to the need of his hurting soul.
Bildad felt sure of himself. Bildad felt highly of himself because of the things he knew and said of God. However, God was not impressed, and neither was Job. This goes to show that, when our attitudes are like Bildad’s we might as well not say anything at all. When we feel that God needs our service because of our refined understanding, God will humble us to show that our refined understanding produces no tangible effect. When we feel that God needs our service because we assume no one else will do what we are willing to do, God will humble us to show that our deeds produce no tangible fruit. We might walk away from our good deed as if we’ve done some good, but when our attitudes are like that of Bildad, then no good will come from us. The truth is, no good can ever come of us. If we are not dependent on the Lord 100% of the time, not only to know what is true of Him, but also to know which truth to speak at which time, and then dependent on the Holy Spirit to administer those words with the right temperament, we are like a clanging cymbal to both God and those who we think we’re helping. We might feel differently about the situation, but the Bible clearly shows what is true concerning those who feel their words can change people without depending on the Lord with a humble heart that matches the compassion of Jesus Christ.