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The bulk of the book of Job has been written in poetic form, but as the writer brings things to a close, he returns to the narrative prose with which he opened in chapters 1–2. The epilogue can be divided into two broad sections: Yahweh rebukes Job’s friends (vv. 7–9), and Yahweh restored Job’s fortunes (vv. 10–17).

The reader feels a sense of vindication as he reads about Job’s fortunes restored. We know that life doesn’t always work like that, but it’s wonderful when it does. However, it is perhaps the first section that is truly surprising—not because God rebuked Job’s friends, but because he commended Job as having “spoken of me what is right” (v. 8).

We have just spent two days considering the Lord’s rebuke of Job for accusing him wrongly. Job had spoken “words without knowledge” (38:2) and his words had “put [God] in the wrong” (40:7). In what sense, then, had he spoken “right” about God? To understand that, we must, first, understand how Job’s friends had spoken wrongly about God, and then consider what we can learn from how Job had spoken differently.

It is evident that speaking rightly about God must be more than simply saying the right things. Job’s friends had done that, at times. For example, Eliphaz had affirmed that God “catches the wise in their own craftiness” (5:13), a claim that Paul quotes with approval in 1 Corinthians 3:19. On the surface, many (though, clearly, not all) of the assertions that Job’s friends had made about God were true. And yet they had not spoken rightly about him as Job had.

For his part, Job had said a lot of right things about God, but had also said some wrong things. “He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.” “He mocks at the calamity of the innocent.” “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; he covers the faces of its judges” (9:22–24). Those statements all proceeded from Job’s mouth. Does it sound as if he had spoken rightly about God? In what sense, then, did God declare him to be right?

The real difference between Job and his friends, it seems, was less in what they said and more in how they said it. Job’s friends approached Job’s situation with a very tidy systematic theology. There was no room in their system for a God bigger than they could imagine. God punished evil and rewarded righteousness. That was the only purpose that suffering could possibly serve. Christopher Ash summarises it well: “Although the friends make some statements that are true, they do not as a whole speak rightly of God because they have no relationship with God, no seeking of God, and no longing for God. For them, he is a dead doctrine and an abstract theory.”

Job, on the other hand, wrestled with God. He complained. He accused. He prayed. He submitted. He confessed. He lived a real, vibrant relationship with God. And though he overstepped with his words, God was pleased with his honesty and transparency. It was the kind of relationship that God wanted.

We frequently see the same attitude expressed by the inspired psalmists. There are times when we shift a little uncomfortably in our chairs reading the Psalms. “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:9). Really? That’s a little awkward. But those are the honest, heartfelt words of a writer wrestling with God in his pain. And God is pleased when we wrestle with him in that way.

The point is that God wants something from us deeper than rote religiosity—even orthodox religiosity—that affirms the right things but is devoid of any heartfelt engagement with him. He wants us to worship him in truth, yes, but in spirit and truth (John 4:24). He wants us to engage with him fully: mind, will, and emotion. That is the way that we can and must speak rightly about God.

As you meditate on Job 42:7–17 this morning, ask God to help you live a real, vibrant relationship with him, such that he can say of you, “You have spoken of me what is right.”