Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.” (Job 38:1-3)
“Answer” shows up 66 times in the Old Testament book of Job. Why did those terrible things happen to Job and his family? What did Job do to deserve it all? What sort of sin must he be hiding? Where was God then? Where is he now? Chapter after chapter, everyone is looking for answers.
After 35 chapters of speculation, accusation, and debate, the LORD finally answers. We would do well to meditate on his first question. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
Words. It’s never been easier to broadcast them, far and wide–spoken words, written words, recorded words, even livestreamed words. But the easier it is to share, the more care we ought to take. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Prov 10:19).
Without knowledge. What good is an abundance of words without knowledge as the foundation and fuel? “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov 18:2). We need to be so very careful when it comes to speculating, accusing, and debating things we actually know little about. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?” That’s the reckless path of the fool (Prov 29:20).
Darkens counsel. Careless words have a devious tendency (at least for a time) to obscure the truth. Sensational lies are easy to believe and alluring to spread. Foolishness is fun for the moment. Wise counsel that cautions and restrains doesn’t seem as thrilling as reckless abandonment. “You do you” costs much less than “Be made new.” But the wisdom of Proverbs 6:23 continues to tell us the truth. “The commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”
Some things are hidden from us by divine design, undoubtedly for our good. There are secret things that belong only to God. May we be humble enough to accept that fact. May we hear the LORD’s “Where were you?” questions in Job 38 and be put in our place, even in the 21st century.
In the meantime, as disciples of Jesus, may our words reflect the Light of the world. May they be governed by fear of the LORD, which is the beginning of knowledge. May they be shaped by truth, fueled by love, and grace-giving to the people around us.