Words Without Knowledge
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Listen to little Janey. She is making more and more sounds. Is that a word? Did she say “Mama”? Her family hang on every new syllable as the eight-month-old discovers the miracle of language.

Teenaged Jane can’t keep quiet. She babbles on about her friends, the recent text on her iPod, the injustice of the C she received on her English paper. Many, many, many words.

Now Jane, after four years in graduate school, defends her doctoral thesis. She is eloquent, easily and accurately using the six-syllable words familiar only to the handful of people who share her expertise.

At her ninetieth birthday party, Great-grandma Jane sits in her favorite chair, as the younger generations of her family members flit around her, from one superficial conversation to another. Occasionally someone will ask her a question, and she will respond with a one-word, no nonsense answer. Conversation ended.

That’s the story of life: we learn to talk, and then (hopefully) we learn to stop talking.

The story of Job in the Old Testament describes how hard it was for one man to learn this lesson about words. The early chapters of the book are all about words — thousands of words put together into well-reasoned arguments by Job and his three “comforters.” But the climax of the story comes when God says to Job:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)

Job, struck by this question, responds:

“I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.” (40:4)

Yes, words can explain, expound and expand. But words can also “darken counsel,” obscure truth, befuddle understanding. Job had to learn when he should shut up. Only then he might begin to become wise.

In this article, I have used words to try to expose some truth from God’s Word. Now it is time to “lay my hand on my mouth.”