“I Uttered That I Understood Not”

We often think of the book of Job as a dialog between Job his friends, but perhaps the more important conversation is between Job and God. Elder D. Todd Christofferson highlighted this exchange, beginning with Job questioning why God allowed these terrible things to happen to him. For clarity, Elder Christofferson quoted from several different English translations of the Bible:

  • Job’s complaint: “God has wronged me and drawn his net around me. Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice” (Job 19:6–7, New International Version Study Bible, 2018).
  • God’s response: “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8, New Revised Standard Version).
  • Job’s humble reply: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.… I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.… Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2–3, 6, King James Version).
  • As a result of Job’s humility, “The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12).

Elder Christofferson drew the following lesson from this exchange:

It truly is folly for us with our mortal myopia to presume to judge God, to think, for example, “I’m not happy, so God must be doing something wrong….”

God will indeed honor His covenants and promises to each of us. We need not worry about that…. We do our best but must leave to Him the management of blessings, both temporal and spiritual.

Our Relationship with God,” General Conference, April 2022

In Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Tree, the servant questions a decision made previously by the Lord of the vineyard. As it turns out, things have worked out rather well: A tree is producing fruit, even after being planted in the worst part of the vineyard. But the servant is still uncomfortable with the original decision. The Lord of vineyard responds decisively: “Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit” (Jacob 5:22).

The prophet Jacob, who quoted that allegory, urged each of us to apply that lesson in our own lives:

Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.

Jacob 4:10

Today, I will trust the wisdom of God. I will seek to follow His guidance, not to second-guess or question Him. I will remember that I can’t possibly understand everything He does, so I will leave in His hands those things that I don’t yet comprehend.

7 thoughts on ““I Uttered That I Understood Not”

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    1. Thank you for your insights and spirit.

      Could you share your thoughts on this question I have about the book of Job?

      To me, the errors of Job and the errors of his three friends feel similar in significance. That’s not right though, because to God the errors are different. What do you think is the important difference?

      I roughly summarize Job’s attitude as angry and confused.
      – Angry because of the injustice of it all
      – Confused because of his faith in a good God.

      I roughly summarize the attitude of his three friends as ideologically bound to the belief that suffering comes from personal sin.

      God characterizes Job as being right, and characterizes the three friends as being not right:

      “It came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.’ ” Job 42:7 NASB

      What do you think Job gets right, that the friends didn’t?

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      1. Thanks for the question, Cort. You make some good observations. I agree that Job expresses both anger and confusion, although I would point out that he has many expressions of faith as well. Several times, he seems to be self-correcting, replacing his instinctive feelings of indignation and despair with words of hope and testimony. I think chapter 19 is an excellent example of that, worthy of emulation.
        As you point out, God specifically rebukes Job’s friends in the last chapter. They were forgiven after offering a burnt offering and asking Job to pray for them. You quote the passage in which He corrects them, comparing their words unfavorably with Job’s: “You have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has.”
        But it’s worth pointing out that God corrected Job as well. Two chapters earlier, God asks, “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?” Job responds, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth” (Job 40:1-4). And this was not the end of the rebuke. Throughout the rest of chapter 40 and all of chapter 41, the Lord reminds Job of His power and knowledge, after which Job acknowledges, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee…. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:1-6).
        My view is that Job and his friends all needed correction. God provided it, and fortunately, they all responded favorably and repented.
        I hope that’s helpful.
        Paul

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        1. Thanks for your thoughts. It’s great to find someone who enjoys thinking about these types of things.

          It seems to me that Job, like all of us, has conflicting and incomplete beliefs that torment him. His belief that God’s justice is predictably shown in worldly matters is contradicted by his experience. That, of course, challenges his deep belief and faith in a good God. It’s easy for us to similarly respond when earthly things don’t go as we wish. As far as I can tell, most of us experience a challenge to our faith in God and also to our faith in ourselves. I definitely do. As a great benefit to us, Job does an admirable job of wrestling with his challenge.

          His three friends have, what seems to me, a corollary belief that since Job’s worldly matters have gone as they have, Job must have sinned.

          However, God says to the three friends “You have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” If I’m understanding correctly, God characterizes Jobs words as “right,” and characterizes the three friends words as not right.

          How do you think Job spoke right and the three friends not right?

          I have a nascent idea, but it’s not ripe yet. I also don’t what to infect your thoughts with something that’s likely not correct before you formulate something, if you are inclined to.

          Thanks,
          Cort

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