Can the Words of Fools Have Merit? A Study in Job

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I’ve always struggled with Job.

While I consider God’s admonition in the last chapters of the book my second-favorite Scripture passage, I am never quite sure what to do with the rest of the lengthy chapters.

If you’re not familiar with the biblical Book of Job, the short version is that Satan asks God for permission to afflict Job with many painful situations after God cites that Job is His most faithful servant on earth. So God allows it. Job’s children are all killed, all his riches taken away, and his body inflicted with boils from head to toe. Wearily, he sits on his doorstep and scrapes at his boils with broken pottery.

That’s when his three buddies come to visit. Over the course of many chapters, they try to convince him of all kinds of crazyness. Then in the end God swoops in, reprimands Job and his dumb friends, and then restores everything to Job. Of the friends, God says, “I am angry with you … you have not spoken the truth about Me, as My servant Job has” (42:7).

So here’s what I’ve always battled with: is there any merit in the words of Job’s friends throughout the Book of Job? Can we quote those passages out of context as Truth?

It seems to me that they do say some insightful things:

“See how happy the man is God corrects; so do not reject the discipline of the Almighty” (5:17).

“We were born only yesterday and know nothing. Our days on earth are but a shadow” (8:9).

“It is impossible for God to do wrong and for the Almighty to act unjustly” (34:10).

Working in the world of Bible studies, I know we HAVE done exactly this, taken the friends’ words for the wisdom they seem to be. But God Himself said the friends were fools? It’s a strange dichotomy.

I believe that everything in Scripture is there for a reason. Certainly there are many truths that can be scraped from the falsehoods in this text. It’s a life lesson not to let even your most trusted friends draw you away from what you know to be true. A perfect example of standing up for what you believe in and remaining pure in heart.

But still, I wonder. Can we quote the words of fools as good, as Truth?

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Can the Words of Fools Have Merit? A Study in Job

  1. Deep, deep, Jess. I think they can be quoted, but also need to be in context. As long as you say, "this was said by Job's friends who God later rebuked" that would be correct, I think. I once painted on a table "Eat, Drink and Be Merry" and attributed it a verse in Ecclesiastes (I think). Come to find out, the passage was condemning people who say, "Eat Drink and Be Merry". And then a had a huge table to remind me of it everyday.
    Point being, I guess (if I'll ever get to it), that everything in the Truth (Bible) should be taken in context, so that every phrase is not represented as truth (what we believe).
    Did that make any sense? thanks for making me use my noggin this afternoon.

  2. Very good post, Jessie! I think about this a lot when it comes to songs. I'm pretty sure a lot of songs take scripture out of context and then we quote the song thinking that it's "gospel-truth". Totally annoys me.

    Have you read Brock & Bodie Thoene? Their books or their blogs? They so believe in the power and the PURPOSE of God's Word. They say "everything means something". So, it's not that exactly what Job's friends say is truth (or what any one in the Bible says or does is true…think about Labaan and his daughters…they still had household idols while they were marrying into Abraham's family!) but God put it in the Bible for a purpose.

    God's Word isn't a magic book that we can quote. But it IS living and active. Dichotomy. You said it.

    (Did I ramble too much?)

  3. Amanda–I always think about that with the PC&D song "I am a Friend of God." Pretty sure Beth Moore said this first, not me, but God didn't call everyone friends, only people who were actually close to Him–Moses, Abraham. I really don't think we can claim that. And you are so right.

    Hillary–That makes me laugh a little. While eat, drink, and be merry is from a fool in Luke, Solomon did write, " A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" (Eccl. 2:24-25). So, it's still kind of true and biblical, right?

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