When we look at the exchange taking place between Job and his friends in the book that bears his name, the conversation probably looks familiar to a lot of us. As we saw yesterday, what's happening here is that everyone is speaking from experience about the God they know, the One they have encountered, everything they have learned about Him throughout their life.
It's not that one is right and one is wrong, or even that one is right and several are wrong, or even that several are right and one is wrong; they all are right in speaking about the God that they have become acquainted with through their own experience.
But they are all limited. Even Job.
What is important for us to notice, however, is not the degree to which all are right, but the extent to which all are unmovable. For all their discussion, for all their talking, for all the time they spend going back and forth, laying out their own theologies and listening to the theologies of others present, not one of them, at any point, says, "Wow, you know? You make a lot of sense. I must have been wrong about that." Not one of them comes to a deeper understanding of God.
Until God Himself speaks.
When God speaks, He sets them all straight. He tells them all what's going on. He doesn't condemn them for the ways that they've spoken, but He shows them how limited their insights are. And when God speaks, they see, for the first time, that this is absolutely true.
It's what they've been telling each other for several pages. It's what they've been going back and forth about forever. They've all been trying to show the others where their theologies are limited, without recognizing the limitations of their own. But it hasn't done any good.
It doesn't do us any good either.
We spend so much of our time in this wasted effort, so much of our time trying to convince one another that maybe we have a good starting point, but our theologies are limited. We spend so much of our time adamantly standing on what we know about God, claiming that we have a more developed theology. Claiming that we know more than the guy sitting next to us. Claiming that we have it right where they have it wrong.
But it doesn't do us any good. There's not a man on this earth that has been argued, badgered, or belittled into a deeper faith. Not one. There's no one among us who has been whittled down by the repetition of our own theology to the place where they just buy in to what we're saying. There's no one who hears our message again and again and throws out his own.
We all have to be shown by God who He is. That's the only way we ever grow.
There are two reminders for all of us in this little truth from Job's witness. The first is that it is God who deepens faith. It is God who broadens theologies. It is God who reveals Himself. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we argue, no matter how firm we stand, it is God alone who reveals more of Himself to a person. All our talking is, as is so often cited in Job, just hot wind.
The second reminder is a call to humility. We want to pick a hero out of this story. We want to get to the end and say, see? Job was right all along. But when God speaks, He reveals what He's promised in other places in Scripture - not one is right. Not one is even close to the fullness of His majesty. Not one knows as much as he thinks he knows. We may be right in what we know about God, but we're still limited. We still know only a small fraction of all things holy. It's all that our finite minds can wrap around.
So we must come together with humility and with grace, knowing that our experience of God is different than anyone else's experience of God and that all our talking can do nothing but blow in the wind. It is God who has to change hearts.
May we pray that He will change ours also.