Oh, Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say (Job 42:1-6)
August of 1978. I had just turned four and my youngest brother would be born in a matter of days. Dad was working quality control at Coca-Cola. Someone couldn’t come and work third shift on this day. So, Dad was able to take some cat naps in the break room, but he was going to need to work through the night.
Mom is very much pregnant, and she feels miserable. Because she feels so bad, she hasn’t been to the grocery store in several days and she’s running out of meals that she can fix for me and my middle brother. So, my grandmother-who lived just the other side of 460-took the three of us to Long John Silvers.
While we’re in Long John’s, I look up at the guy in front of us, and I say, “Mister, we don’t have any food to eat and my Daddy’s not coming home tonight.” Mom says she didn’t try to explain the situation; she just got our food and sat down.
Do we not all sometimes “Open mouth and insert foot”? How many times in marriage do we say the wrong thing at the wrong time? How many times do you teenagers say the wrong thing to your parents? Have you ever said something to your boss that you knew immediately you should never have said? I have a friend who lost his job over something that he wrote.
In this morning’s text, we find that Job has said the wrong thing at the wrong time about God. Job, of course, is a man who has suffered a great deal. He has lost every material possession he ever had. He has lost ten children in a single blow.
I cannot begin to fathom suffering comparable to Job’s trials. I believe that I could handle the loss of material things. But, the loss of my family would drive me out of my mind.
As Job is suffering, he says some things he ought not to have said. God shows up and questions Job. Job rightfully admits that he has spoken “out of turn.” Job learns a lesson that each one of us must desperately learn: We must carefully guard our words!
Scripture (Job 42:1-6)
To grasp what is taking place in this text, we need a good overview of the Book of Job. Often, we read the beginning and the end of the book, and we ignore everything else. But, it’s everything else that plays such an important role in understanding this morning’s text.
After Job has suffered his terrible losses, three friends-Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar-come to comfort him. For seven days, Job and his three friends sit in silence. Job then opens his mouth and curses the day he was born. His three friends won’t stand for that. They “know” exactly why Job is suffering as he is. They repeatedly tell Job that his problem is that he is sinful.
Job continually maintains his innocence. As the book continues, Job becomes more and more frustrated-No matter what he says, his friends believe that he has sinned grievously against God. Job turns his frustration on God. God is silent and isn’t answering; Job wants God to appear so that Job can demand answers. Job 23:1-10.
God eventually shows up. He speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. God recognizes that Job has spoken out of turn: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). God, however, promises to answer every question Job has if Job will simply answer a few questions. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).
Job realizes that he has spoken “out of turn” and utters this morning’s text.
Job now realizes that God can do everything. Throughout the Book of Job, Job struggles to understand how God could allow all these horrific things to happen to him. At times, Job comes perilously close to blasphemy and sitting himself up as the judge of God.
Job now understands how wrong he has been-God and not Job is in control.
Job recognizes that he has uttered things he didn’t understand. Job believed that he had all the answers. But, he had very few.
Job has had a face-to-face encounter with God and he now understands his place before God.
Job abhors himself and repents in dust and ashes. Job understands that he has messed up royally. He wants to turn from his error and never repeat it again.
We must carefully guard our words!
What is interesting about this text is that Job made an error in what he spoke but he did not sin. Job was wrong in what he said. God says so: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). Job says so: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).
Job did not sin in what he said. “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10)-But, this is before his friends arrive. God says Job did not sin with his lips: To Eliphaz, “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).
Job did not sin with his mouth. At the same time, he said things he ought not to have said. How many times does that happen to us? We have pure motives, but what comes out isn’t exactly what we mean. How many times do we say something in jest and hurt others? Even if our speech isn’t sinful, Scripture calls upon us to carefully guard our words!
We must carefully guard our words about God!
That’s the context.
How many times does God not seem to make sense? The marriage is failing, the kids aren’t acting like we know they should, the layoff occurred in a bad economy, etc.
At times of suffering-like with Job-it’s easy to say what’s wrong about God. We won’t always have the answers-Job doesn’t at the end of the Book. It’s okay to question. Jesus did from the cross. But, we must guard our words. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34). We need to guard words because words are a “heart issue.”
We must carefully guard our words about other people!
So many times, we-like Job-mean nothing by our words, but they still wound. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).
How do we speak what is useful for edifying?
We need to think carefully before we speak. “Do you see someone who is hasty in speech? There is more hope for a fool than for anyone like that” (Prov 29:20). How many times do we get in trouble because we talk before we think? We must learn to stop and ask ourselves if our speech is going to build someone up before we speak! Let me challenge you just to stop for a second this week and ask yourself, “Am I going to build this person up?” before you speak.
Also, as implied in Ephesians 4:29, we speak to build up, not tear down. Words have tremendous power. How many times have we seen our children “wilt” because we corrected too harshly?
We must make sure the content of our speech is edifying. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone” (Col 4:6). Carefully check your words to make sure they will build up and not tear down!
We must carefully guard our words! Therefore,
- Let’s think before we speak.
- Let’s make sure we speak what is edifying.
- Challenge: Find someone to whom you can speak an edifying word this afternoon.
Do you need to come and confess the sweet name of Jesus?