Updated: Jul 12, 2019
Calamity struck suddenly, unexpectedly. In just hours everything Job valued was swept away. His children, his wealth, even the support of his wife. All was gone. Satan had accused God of unfairly protecting Job to win his allegiance. “But now,”Satan predicted, “stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to your face!” Job 1:11 ** That backstory was unavailable to Job. All he knew was that a few hours had destroyed everything. Yet Job was confident that God is trustworthy. His response is worthy of imitation: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21 Job’s story doesn’t end there. Satan strikes Job with torturous boils. Then three friends come to comfort him. They are”miserable comforters”, accusing him of secret sin. “There must be some reason you deserve this,” they accuse, “All of it! You must have earned this, for trouble never comes without a cause.”
Job knows he is innocent. But he cannot explain what has happened. For 35 chapters Job and his friends reason and debate the source of his suffering. But their reasoning falls short. They have no satisfactory answer.
They need a divine revelation to explain these challenging questions.
So the Lord enters the conversation.
“Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”Job 38:2 God asks from the whirlwind. Then He stumps Job with a series of questions about His creation of the natural world. Job’s response to God’s questions is powerful:
“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know,” Job 42:3 Job admits, repenting in dust and ashes. God’s omniscience and wisdom are beyond his comprehension but worthy of worship. He will trust.
Job’s friends have grossly misunderstood God’s character and need Job’s intercessions.
He prays for them and the tide is turned. “The Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10.
The Limits of Reason
God created human beings with the god-like ability to think, reason and understand. We’ve used that ability to improve our lives and build empires. We’ve also used it to destroy each other, defame God, and excuse our sins.
Just look around and you’ll see the ineptitude of human reason. Humanity’s most brilliant thinkers are far from saving our world.
Reason is also incapable of explaining God. Job and his friends tried and got no further than “darkening counsel by words without knowledge.” In their ignorance they distorted God’s ideas.
Paul says that “the world through wisdom did not know God.” 1 Corinthians 1:21We cannot discover the truth about God through human wisdom and reason alone. Many have tried but inevitably their ideas end up in the rubbish heap of human failure. The last thing we want to hear is that our ideas and ability to reason is faulty, but it is!
Why does reason fall short?
- We lack foreknowledge. Economists can model the likely outcomes of world events, and psychics claim to predict our futures, but the reality is that no human being knows what will happen in the future. God alone has the ability to tell us what the future holds. “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.” Isaiah 46:9-10
- We are finite. Our understanding is limited to the things we can see, feel, and experience. Our God is infinite. He has no limits of time, space or knowledge. He exists outside the realm of humanity but chooses to daily interact with us for our salvation. He can see that which we cannot. How can we understand that which goes so far beyond our little world? “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?” Job 11:7-8
- We are sinful.God created us with an almost infinite capacity to grow in our understanding of Him. But something important broke inside of us when Adam and Eve sinned. We are no longer capable of true wisdom and a clear understanding of God. Sin clouds our reasoning ability and short-circuits our focus on Him. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
- Reason is general revelation.General revelation is what we can know of God that is universal and accessible to everyone on earth. Nature, humanity and history give us general insights into God’s character. But none are sufficient of themselves to explain God fully. (For a quick study on the differences between general and specific revelation and their purposes, click HERE.) “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
Like Job and his friends, we “darken counsel by words without knowledge.” Job 38:2 We try to reason out who God is but the truth is that we desperately need a divine revelation if we are to know and understand Him.
Reason’s Divine Purpose
What then is the purpose of human reason? Certainly God wants us to think logically and well.
God gave us the ability to think and reason so we could understand Him. Not through our own logic, but by pondering His revelations of Himself. “Reason plays a crucial role in receiving and understanding revelation and in grasping divine truth, but it does not generate them… autonomous human reason is not a source of true knowledge of God.” Peter M. van Bremmelen, SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, p. 28.
Reason is not the path to God. It is the path for our walk with God.
God wants us to think logically about Him. He longs for us to spend time each day deeply engaged in understanding the Him better.
The important thing is where we begin our thinking about God. We must base our thinking about God on what He has revealed to us of Himself through Jesus as portrayed in the Bible (specific revelation).
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Do you long to know God better? To really understand His ways and thoughts?
Then you must watch Jesus live and minister in Galilee and Jerusalem. You must read the accounts of Him in the Gospels and prayerfully ponder why He did the things He did. You must seek to understand the context of His ministry by exploring what comes before and after the Gospels.
When you come across things you don’t understand, don’t just write it off as unfathomable. Think about it. Pray about it. Ask questions. Compare scripture with scripture. As you do so, be assured that God will reveal them to you “through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:10.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
God’s thoughts literally outdistance ours as much the known universe shrinks earth into insignificance. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think logically and understand all that God has revealed.
Job must have spent years pondering the things God asked him from the whirlwind. His understanding grew immeasurable through God’s revelation to him.
We too can have that experience as we daily seek to understand God’s specific revelations to us through His Word and the life of Christ.
We can attain “to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden al the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3
Will you seek Him today?
** All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version
P.S. Have you seen that reason falls short in your own life? How did God’s revelation of Himself through the Bible bring clarity? Please comment below. And if you know someone who needs understanding of the role of reason, please share it with them.
** All Scriptures taken from the New King James Version
Note: This article is part of a series on How God Reveals Himself. Articles include:
- Five Ways God Reveals Himself – A quick study on the forms of general and specific revelation God uses.
- God, A Heathen King & You – The story of King Nebuchadnezzar and the role of human experience in revealing God.
- Nature’s Role, God’s Call – The story of Moses at the burning bush and the role of nature in revealing God.
- The Reason for Reason – The story of Job and the role of reason in our relationship with God.
- The Best Book of Magic – The Bible is God’s clearest revelation of Himself in written form.
- Jesus – God’s Perfect Revelation – Jesus was both fully human and fully divine so that He could perfectly reveal God’s character to fallen humanity.
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