Job also sees another aspect of the Lord’s cleansing because just as when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up and cried, “I am a man of unclean lips,” Job cries, “I abhor myself” and “loathe my words.”
Job had said to Eliphaz that the speeches of one who was desperate were only for the wind, they should not be taken seriously. Now however, Job sees that superfluity of speech must be renounced if he’s to walk in fellowship with God. The “precious” must be taken from the “vile,” that which is “true (gold) must be separated from the dross” (Jeremiah 15:19) if he ever wants to be God’s messenger again.
James places “stumbling not in word” as the supreme mark of a man that is fully under the control of God. This same man, according to James, is able to bridle his whole body.
The Lord has done His work. When it really sinks in to Job that he should have endured in silence and left his vindication to his God, he cries, “I despise my words.” I think he realizes now that he was making matters worse by complaining. By constantly meditating on and talking about his problems and sorrows he was actually only magnifying them in his own eyes and wasting the little strength he may have had to endure.
His tongue had, as James says, “set on fire the whole course of his life . . . Set on fire by the powers of darkness” (James 3:6). Jesus said to let our “ ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’; anything beyond this comes for the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). The Psalmist said “the power of life and death, is in the tongue!”
I think Job begins to remember his words of despair and longing for death; his sarcastic contempt toward Zophar; his bitter reasoning with Bildad; his petulant crying and pleading with God to leave him alone. (What if the Lord had taken Him at his word?) I’m sure he remembered how he had described to others how God had used him to bless and strengthen others. How could he have spoken about himself that way?
Job remembers how he was offended with his God and had reproached Him with cruelty after he had walked with Him so loyally in the past. When his wife told him to curse God and die, he called her a foolish woman. “Shouldn’t we endure hardship as well as enjoy blessings?” He then compounds that with his miserable collapse on the ash heap and his pitiful attempt to clear his own character to his misjudging friends.
“I abhor myself,” and “loathe my words,” is the only thing he can say in the light of all that God has shown him. He is not going to say another word about his past integrity. He won’t even ask again for his blessings to be restored because now he realizes that he never really knew himself or understood how deep his needs really were.
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