In Job chapter 21, Job knows his friends will not listen. He knows they won’t put up with the wisdom of what he is about to say. They haven’t thus far and there’s no sign of change. Perhaps he isn’t saying it just for them, though. Maybe he’s thinking out loud, collecting his own thoughts, reminding himself of the truth which is being dismantled, and hoping God will answer.
Then Job answered and said:
2 “Keep listening to my words,
and let this be your comfort.
3 Bear with me, and I will speak,
and after I have spoken, mock on.
4 As for me, is my complaint against man?
Why should I not be impatient?
5 Look at me and be appalled,
and lay your hand over your mouth.
6 When I remember, I am dismayed,
and shuddering seizes my flesh.
7 Why do the wicked live,
reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
8 Their offspring are established in their presence,
and their descendants before their eyes. ~Job 21:1-8
Job has one request. He wants to be heard. Job’s plea is not for ease, comfort, or even relief at this point. He admits that he cannot understand or correct the God who has afflicted him (Job 21:22.) In fact, Job’s high view of God actually adds to his confusion and makes his circumstance more difficult. Therefore, Job begs only for an ear. He calls it the comfort of his friends since they’ve not yet offered any, and, after all, they had originally said they were there to comfort. How oft a listening ear is taken for granted by those who’ve never had to search for one!
Incidentally, how on God’s green earth could these men know how to comfort Job if they failed to listen long enough to even let him tell his own story – from his own perspective? Job knew they didn’t understand. He knew they had jumped to hasty conclusions, assumed they knew more than they did, and felt the need to shame him back on to the straight and narrow. As we see with these friends, presumption never precedes proper pontificating.
Job knows how evil their thoughts about him are – so much so he tells them, “I know your thoughts…” (Job 21:27.) Job knows how biased and prejudiced against his good character they are and have been since the beginning of this whole circumstance. The question is why? Why were those who should have been most compassionate and most aligned with him so opposed to him?
How then will you comfort me with empty nothings?
There is nothing left of your answers but falsehood.” ~Job 21:34
Job understands that these men are not dealing in truth. These men are relying on assumption, gossip, false premises, and, perhaps even, fear and jealousy in regards to his situation. They’re assuming and presuming upon him constantly without any willingness to close their mouths and open their ears. It’s gotten to the point where Job actually has to say, “…lay your hand over your mouth…” Little wonder why the man receives no comfort of relief from them! How can a man be comforted with untruth? With remedy based on an illness he does not have? With a reward God has never promised?
Would he really never suffer if he were truly righteous? Is there any evidence of his wickedness or godlessness? Would the piety they claim he grossly lacks really be guaranteed a reward of prosperity on earth?
No. No. No. No. There is no comfort in untruth. Job is wise to their folly. His folly is that he keeps speaking to them thinking that if he just keeps proving, keeps repeating, keeps saying it another way, that he’ll really be able to convince them of the plain truth.
Sorry, Job, there’s some men you just can’t reach. But don’t worry, God can.
Friends, learn how to listen. Christians were made to be salt; light; comfort; encouragement for this dark and painfully dying world. The world will tell us everything we ever wanted to know about their pain. We don’t ever have to guess, presume upon, gossip, or assume. All we have to do is listen. Then, perhaps God will find it easier to use us to teach.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~James 1:19-20