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Over the years, one of the persistent appeals I have heard in Christian discussions is the need for consistency.Inconsistency, it is argued, breeds insecurity. To produce security in the lives of those under our care, we mustact consistently. I understand the point being made, but I think a case can be made that consistency can be counterproductive.

One of the stark observations from the speeches in Job is that Job was horribly inconsistent in his words. At times, he spoke with utter confidence in God as his Redeemer; at other times he accused God of actively and unfairly assaulting him. Still there, seems to have been a development in his trust as wrestled. Job’s friends, on the other hand, maintained consistent theology throughout. In the end, Job’s inconsistency proved to be the wiser of the two approaches.

Job 26 records Job’s final response to his friends, particularly to Bildad’s speech in chapter 25. In it, he underscores the folly of their consistent theological approach and points elsewhere for a source of true wisdom.

First, Job revealed the folly of his friends’ neat systematic theology, which offered no comfort at all to those in affliction (vv. 1–4). He did so with biting sarcasm. True wisdom would have helped the powerless and saved the weak. It would have counselled those without wisdom. The fact that their neat systematic theology had not done so was evidence that there was no wisdom in their empty words. They had not changed one iota in their theological approach to Job’s affliction and the whole system had proven bankrupt.

Rather than finding wisdom in pat answers, Job showed his friends that true wisdom must be found in submission to God’s sovereignty (vv. 5–14). God was absolutely sovereign—over life, death, and all creation. Job rejoiced in God’s sovereignty over death (vv. 5–6), over creation (vv. 7–10), and even over the turmoil sometimes witnessed in creation (vv. 11–13). Yet these sovereign acts were “but the outskirts of his ways” and but a “small … whisper” of his true power (v. 14). The true “thunder” of his power was beyond comprehension (v. 14).

Job’s friends believed they knew everything there was no know about the ways of God. Their systematic theology accounted for every eventuality. There was no mystery that the wisdom of their theology could not address. If Job was as consistent in his theology as they were in theirs, there would be no mystery in divine providence in his life.

For his part, Job could not embrace such consistency. The longer he walked with God, the more he realised that God sometimes does the unexpected. The more he knew of God, the more mystery he realised there was. He knew that God could not be put into a box, even if the box was built out of orthodox theology. God had a way of doing the unexpected, and that was all a part of the beauty of his sovereignty.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that theology is a free-for-all. There are some boxes of God’s own creation that we must recognise and respect. Too often, however, we create our own boxes, with no biblical warrant, and try to force God into them. Part of Christian maturity is learning that God, not our system of theology, is sovereign, which means that he sometimes surprises us. He may choose to give revival to the church that is less theologically robust than ours. He may choose to reach people with the gospel in ways that we don’t think are quite “appropriate.” He may strike the “obviously” faithful with affliction while sparing the “obviously” compromising the same degree of affliction. We may struggle to understand it. We may struggle to worship through it. But our struggle may reveal more about the idolatry of our theology than our submission to God.

Job’s friends could not grasp the reality that God might allow a righteous servant to suffer. Their only conclusion was that Job must be far more wicked than they had initially imagined to invite such affliction. Job, on the other hand, learned that the longer he walked with God, the more his understanding of God and his ways would reform. In the end, Job was right and his friends were wrong (42:7).

As you meditate on Job 26 this morning, ask God to deliver you from the idolatry of consistent theology—that is, theology that does not allow for reformation the more you walk with God. Ask him for the grace to learn more about him and to rightly reform your theology as you do so.