Looks Can Be Deceiving
March 5, 2019
The eyes can play tricks on the mind. It is easy to see things that aren’t really there. It is easy to feel things that aren’t really true. It is easy to think things with confidence, but be totally wrong. This is true of many things, but especially concerning the will and purposes of God. While the scriptures clearly outline God’s work to reveal His glory and majesty, making an end to all things in this world in order to make all things new by His goodness, the details of His work are very difficult to understand. For example, we know that Jesus is coming again, but we don’t know when. We know that things will get darker before Jesus restores all things, but we can’t imagine how dark things will actually be. More fundamentally, we know that Jesus commanded His people to make disciples of all nations, but we don’t always know the specific ways to do that. There’s a lot of ways to disciple people. Which way has God selected for each of us today?
Sometimes we can be sure and confident about God’s will and purposes one moment, just to end up confused and in disarray the next moment. This is because our perspective towards God’s work is limited. God knows all things. God sees all things. God has already accounted for all things. God is currently, somehow, working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. This principle teaches that all things will equal and resolve as “good” in the end, but we have no idea how God will arrange the variables of life to come to that conclusion – there are too many variables for us to consider with any sort of understanding. Knowing this, it is important to approach life with humility, not presumptuously. We should not approach situations and circumstances as if we know what’s going on and we know what God is doing. The truth is, we don’t often know what God is doing. Things may appear to be the work of God’s hand in one sense, but history has provided enough evidence to show that we seldom know what God is up to. Therefore, it is often best to just keep quiet and trust in Him, even if others are provoking us to speak.
The testimony of Job provides a good example of how this works. In Job 12:1-12 the Bible shows that Job felt compelled to respond to the speech of Zophar. Zophar began his speech with some harsh accusations, but also communicated some compelling truths about God as a good reminder for all people, not just Job. Job felt that Zophar was “preaching to the choir” in a sense. When Job responded to Zophar, he criticized Zophar by saying that, all the things that he said were obvious truths about God that everyone knows. Job became sarcastic with Zophar, stating that he and the rest of his friends that spoke out had all wisdom like God. In other words, Job was calling them know-it-alls. They spoke so eloquently about who God was and spoke from such a position of authority and blamelessness. Job told his friends that “all wisdom would die” with them. In other words, they had all the answers; they knew all things; they clearly knew the details of God’s plans because of the arrogance they spoke with concerning Job’s issues and God’s character.
Job also confessed to know a thing or two about God as well. However, in trying to defend his own integrity, he proved himself to be ignorant of God in many ways. Job wanted to defend his knowledge of God so as to shut his friend’s mouths. Job wanted comfort from his friends, not criticism and judgment. Job felt he didn’t need people to remind him about things of God that he already knew. Here, it is important to see that our personal suffering can sometimes cause us to be arrogant in our own hearts. The arrogant tone of Job’s friends was infectious to Job as well, causing him to think that he didn’t need to be reminded of the basics about God’s judgments. The truth is, there is never a time where we don’t need to be reminded of God. Throughout the scriptures, God implores His people to remember who He is, meditate on His Word, and keep His promises and judgments in our hearts. Job brushing off his friends who spoke the truth about God as if he’d heard it before and wasn’t in need, was just as arrogant as the tone of his friends who confidently accused him of being a hypocrite.
Recall how Zophar spoke about the incredible wisdom of God and how unsearchable it is. Job felt that he was already aware of God’s unsearchable and incomprehensible nature, but spoke in such a manner as if he had clear understanding of God’s work and purposes. This is how human emotion can be so easily provoked. Job didn’t like that his friends were falsely accusing him of hypocrisy, and rightly so. Job was upset and stated a fundamental truth that, it’s easy to speak wisdom against those who are suffering when our own circumstances are comfortable. It’s easy for those who are well to speak proudly against those who are down. It’s easy for those who are able to criticize those who are not, as if their ability provides them greater wisdom, perspective, and authority. Job’s point was that, his friends were not being very helpful. They were mocking him rather than building him up. They were falsely accusing him, not encouraging him. Even though Job’s friends were speaking truth about God, they were speaking down to Job as critics. How easy it is to do so when we examine the pain of others, as if the absence of pain for us justifies our attitudes.
Job was right to be upset with his friends. They weren’t of any service to him – physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Still, Job’s frustration was untampered, causing him to become defensive for his own situation as if he knew what God was doing. Job went on to state that it was obvious to everyone that God was judging Job. Job was not in disagreement with his friends that his suffering was according to the sovereign hand of God. Job also agreed that his pain was inflicted by God for punishment. Job simply didn’t agree that his punishment was on account of hypocrisy. Job didn’t know why he was being punished. He stated how his suffering was obviously the work of God’s punishing hand, that even the animals and the earth itself could see that. Job thought that, even a dummy could look at Job’s circumstances and see that he was being punished by God. Yet, Job was wrong.
Job spoke so confidently that he was being chastened. Job spoke in arrogance about his “punishment” from God, that he said even the birds of the air knew of God’s sovereign ability to judge. However, God was not punishing Job. Job wasn’t in trouble. He wasn’t guilty of hypocrisy. He wasn’t guilty of any particular sin. The Bible never says that God punished Job for a certain wrong doing. The Bible never says that Job’s suffering was on account of judgment. The Bible teaches that God wasn’t even the one that was the cause of Job’s pain. God sent the devil to cause suffering. Job’s suffering was by the hands of the devil, not God. God didn’t send the devil to punish Job, but to prove the devil wrong. God sent the devil to torment Job to prove His own strength. God wanted to show that His sovereign control over all things is far greater than the maximum punishment the devil can inflict; that even though the devil brought such severe pain against Job, he could not make Job deny God, and could not separate Job from God. This was not punishment.
While Job spoke to his friends, he was so convinced that he was God’s enemy for something, he just didn’t why. Job didn’t know what he did wrong. He confessed that God’s wisdom is supreme, and if there was wrongdoing, God alone knew. Job wouldn’t confess to the hypocrisy his friends accused of because he wasn’t a hypocrite. However, in his efforts to prove himself to other men, he made himself a fool concerning God. Since Job was truly blameless and upright before God, he didn’t need to defend himself among other men. So long as we stand humble before God, the opinions and accusations of others make no difference. It is when we take it upon ourselves to make ourselves seem better to others that we fail before the Lord. Job didn’t know what God was doing even though he spoke as if he did. Job didn’t understand what God was doing in his life even though the circumstances made it look like God was doing something terrible. The point is, we don’t know what God is doing and how He’s going to use the circumstances of our lives to glorify Him. Even when thing certainly look one way, we often find out that we were wrong and God was doing something else. Rather than seeking to uphold our own integrity by boasting of what we think we know of God, we should just walk quietly and meekly before the Lord in humility, letting Him do what He does, trusting that it’s right and true, no matter how it appears.