Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“As also Paul writes in all his letters when he speaks in them about these matters,
among which are some things hard to understand,
which those who are ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction,
as they also do the other scriptures.”
“All the words of my mouth are in righteousness;
there is nothing froward or perverse in them.”
The Son of God, in Proverbs 8:8
The truth is not the truth if it is spoken at the wrong time, or to the wrong person.
Zophar, one of Job’s three friends, told Job in the midst of Job’s horrific suffering: “Should not this multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified? Should your lies make men hold their peace? And when you mock, shall no man make you ashamed? For you have said, ‘My doctrine is pure,’ and ‘I am clean in your eyes.’ But oh, that God would speak and open His lips against you! . . . Know that God exacts of you less than your iniquity deserves!” (Job 11:2—5, 6b).
Now, it was true that God was exacting of Job less than his iniquity deserved — if we think of iniquity from a New Testament understanding. When the Son of God came, he revealed a new kind of righteousness, the previously unknown righteousness of God, and with that revelation came a new and more perfect understanding of sin. According to that newly revealed definition of sin, Job was sinful, along with every mortal who had ever lived on earth.
But that is New Testament truth. It did not apply to Job. God did not feel as Zophar did about Job because He is a just God, and He only judged Job according to the standard of righteousness that existed in Job’s time. And according to that standard, God judged Job to be “a perfect and upright man, one who fears God and eschews evil” (Job 1:8).
Zophar was wrong. He was telling the truth, but he was ignorant of the truth he was telling. He was saying right words, from the perspective of what the Son of God would one day reveal, but the Son had not yet revealed it. Zophar was condemning Job according to a human standard of righteousness, but Job was not a sinner by any human standard of righteousness. Only God, at that time, could have said to Job what Zophar said and be telling the truth, but He did not say it. And God did not say it because it was not His appointed time for such truth to be said.
My father taught his congregation that a person can do more damage with the truth than he can with a lie. In other words, if we use something true in order to accomplish some evil thing, we will succeed more often than if we use a lie. Satan, you will recall, quoted truth from the scriptures during the Temptation of Jesus; he knew that no lie would accomplish his purpose. Consider how much damage would have been done if Jesus had fallen for that truth-turned-into-a-lie! False prophets and false teachers have always used the holy Bible to persuade people to believe them and to follow their ungodly ways. The truth has power that lies do not have.
It is our prayer that God would help us tell what is really the truth whenever we say anything, for if what we say is not spoken at the right time, and to the right person, it is not really the truth at all.