Leaning On Our Own Understanding
March 29, 2019
The Bible might be written in plain English for our understanding, but the Bible itself claims to be a supernatural work. It is the Word of God. The scriptures are the holy proclamations of God concerning things about Himself. Though the contents of the Bible appear to be simple narratives, historical testimonies, wise sayings, and other such things, these writings have a spiritual essence to them. The Bible itself teaches that everything reproduces of its own kind. Since God is eternal and spiritual in nature, His Word must be eternal and spiritual in nature. We are not spiritual and eternal in nature. Therefore, while the words seem to be plain, many people struggle to understand the meaning of the Bible because they are not thinking eternally and spiritually. We need the Holy Spirit of God to interpret and teach the words of the Father. We need the Holy Spirit to provide the supernatural ability for our physical eyes to see spiritual truths in the Word. We need the Holy Spirit to supernaturally provide the ability to hear the voice of God in the midst of all the noise of our own hearts and surroundings. Without the Holy Spirit providing understanding, we are susceptible to misinterpreting God’s true intents and the meaning of His work.
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus addressed seven churches in Asia, which is modern-day Turkey. In each of those letters, Jesus concluded His address to those churches with the following phrase: “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This repeated statement shows that the Holy Spirit is required to truly hear and understand the words of God’s truth. Jesus spoke to the seven churches, but not everyone was able to hear. Only those “with ears to hear” the things of God were able to receive the blessings that come with understanding His purposes. This proves that, unless we humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God, confess our inability and weakness, depend on the Lord and seek His Spirit for His provision of understanding, we will be left in the dark, confused, and figuring that which is false to be true.
Evidence of this issue is seen in the testimony of Job. Throughout the Book of Job, Job’s friends make statements and speeches in response to Job’s complaints and prayers. From the very beginning, Job’s “friends” figured Job to be a wicked hypocrite. They saw the swift change of circumstances in Job’s life, saw his physical condition, heard the words of his suffering, and figured for sure that God was judging him for some sin that was previously unknown. This was not true, but this was the way things looked to them. Though Job tried to explain the truth, Job’s friends continued to miss his points. Job made simple and clear statements. Job spoke simple truths regarding his hope for God’s eternal redemption and restoration. Job complained about his pain, but did so with a humble and meek heart, seeking the Lord as his refuge. The things that Job spoke about his friends, family, acquaintances, servants and such, might have been offensive, but they were true. Still, as simply as Job spoke, it was as if he was speaking a different language to his friends. It was as if Job’s friends didn’t hear a word Job said.
The testimony of Job 20:1-11 shows that Job’s friend Zophar was compelled to speak against Job – again. This was Zophar’s second response against Job. Once again, Zophar made statements that were generally true of evil and wicked people, but Job was not an evil or wicked man. Zophar had not heard nor considered the things Job said in his defense. Zophar didn’t consider Job to be innocent. Zophar figured Job was either lying about his innocence or so deep into his own lie that he couldn’t understand what was true. Therefore, Zophar felt like his continued accusations were providing a service to Job. When Zophar spoke to Job the second time, he mentioned that his own anxiety provoked him to speak. The words of Job caused Zophar to have turmoil festering inside of him so that he could not help but speak. Job asked for pity and silence from his friends, but Zophar responded by suggesting that silence would cause him to suffer just as much as Job. Clearly, Zophar had not heard or understood anything that Job said, and was too blind by his own self-righteousness and presumptuous to consider Job’s issues.
Zophar claimed that he heard and considered Job’s rebuke and reproach against him. Zophar claimed that he considered Job’s words about his treatment of Job. Still, Zophar claimed that he was compelled to answer. Here, Zophar explains the error of his ways without knowing that he was in error. His error was so great that he could not see the problem of his rationale. Zophar stated that “the spirit of his understanding” was causing him to answer, but this is a problem. Recall that the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit must provide understanding of truth. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and comforter. It is the Holy Spirit that dwells within the hearts of the humble and the contrite to revive the hearts of God’s people to know God’s truth, and to restore connection to His purposes. Recall that Jesus said that we need ears to hear what the Spirit says to the church. If we don’t have ears that come from Him to discern truths of a spiritual nature, we will not hear.
Our own understanding is contrary. Zophar plainly admitted that he was relying on his own understanding. Where the Bible exhorts God’s people to NOT lean on our own understanding, Zophar boasted in his understanding as if it was sufficient to give him clear knowledge concerning Job’s issues. Zophar relied on his personal experience to understand the spiritual things Job was speaking of. Zophar relied on his personal intellect to discern the meaning of Job’s words that were speaking spiritual truths. Zophar was proud to admit that his own spirit of personal understanding was the motivation for his response as if his personal wisdom was sufficient in understanding and authority to speak against Job. It is for this reason that Zophar continued to speak foolishly. Though the things he said were generally true, they were not true of Job, and thus, his words were like air – without substance.
Zophar immediately sought to discredit Job again. He spoke generally of the wicked, the hypocrite, and the proud, strongly suggesting that Job was each of these things. Zophar stated that the prosperity of the wicked might come, but is short-lived. This is true, but it was not true for Job. Zophar explained that hypocrites get to enjoy a short season of joy, but that it doesn’t last. Suffering will come to those who are hypocrites and bury them in darkness. Again, this is true, but this was not true for Job. Zophar explained that the wicked and the hypocrites have haughtiness in common. They think highly of themselves as if they will be unaffected by consequences and their pursuits will produce satisfaction. However, those who think such a way will certainly meet an end that is empty and miserable. Those who are prideful will lose their prosperity and their season of increase will not be remembered. The prosperity of the wicked, the hypocrite, and the proud is short and doesn’t last long in people’s minds. The children of those who live this way are affected by the consequences that come upon the wicked, and that which the wicked are proud of soon becomes like dust. This is true of the wicked, the hypocrite, and the proud, but this was not true for Job.
Zophar clearly did not hear and understand the words that Job previously spoke. Job was not a wicked man nor a hypocrite. Though Job’s prosperity was gone and his children were dead, there was no evidence of Job being wicked and hypocritical. In fact, many times Job had pleaded with God and his friends to point out his particular fault that caused his suffering. Neither God nor his friends did so because there was no particular fault. Job admitted that his sinful nature justified the suffering God was enabling, and sought to repent if only he knew what specific sin to repent from. Job didn’t think of himself as blameless – only of the hypocrisy he was accused of. Still, Job was humble enough to seek the Lord to know his faults, confessing his weaknesses, his shortcomings, and his human tendency to fail. Those who are wicked and hypocritical don’t seek the Lord this way. Those who are condemned as wicked and hypocritical don’t pursue God for the knowledge of their sin in order to repent. Zophar wasn’t able to consider these things.
Zophar accused Job of being prideful as well. He claimed that Job was like a proud man whose head is up in the clouds. It is true that Job’s head was up in the clouds, but only with the hope of eternal life. Job didn’t think highly of himself. Job was simply assured of God’s eternally unchanging power to redeem and restore those who trust in Him. Job wasn’t expecting his own deliverance by his own hands. Job trusted in God to transcend the evils of this life so as to provide a new body, a new purpose, and cause for eternal praise for those who seek Him. Job knew of God’s promise for eternal life somehow and longed for it. His pressing desire to see the face of God was not based on pride as if he was worthy to do so of himself. Job’s desire to see God was on account of his desire to be fully corrected and restored by God. Job knew that his body was corrupt and decaying. Job didn’t place his trust in worldly affections anymore, especially seeing that they had all gone away. Therefore, Job looked into eternity for the hope of God’s glory to provide a better outcome than the one that was vainly promised to him by his friends.
These things that Job spoke of were not prideful or presumptuous. Job spoke of the truth of God’s hope. Job spoke with the right spiritual perspective concerning God’s true eternal power and promise. Zophar didn’t hear that. Though he heard the words that Job spoke, he didn’t understand. The words that Job spoke even turned out to be prophetic statements concerning how God would use his testimony, and concerning the revelation of Christ. Still, Zophar did not have ears to hear what the Spirit was trying to say to the church. When we approach circumstances relying on our own wisdom, intellect, experience, or book-knowledge, we will not be able to receive the supernatural ability to rightly discern the spiritual and eternal implications of God’s work and purposes. God doesn’t always reveal these things as it is, so when we are not dependent on Him and His Spirit to know the truth of His spiritual and eternal purposes, we will be left confused and ignorant. According to the Bible, this confusion and ignorance can get so bad that we present ourselves as fools, not knowing how wrong we are while speaking confidently that we are right.