By Elizabeth Prata
One of the biggest problems the church has, maybe THE biggest, is a widespread lack of discernment. It’s true that many have infiltrated the church who are not true converts, so it stands to reason they lack discernment. But many true believers have failed to hone their discernment through training (Hebrews 5:14). There’s another reason that the church may lack discernment besides infiltration of false believers, and the presence of true believers who haven’t grown much: the Lord.
John Gill (1697 – 1771) was an English Baptist pastor, biblical scholar, and theologian who also wrote a commentary of the Bible. He says of the Job 12:20 verse in Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible -first Gill addresses the different ways that God takes away speech of the wise,
"it seems strange that he should remove the speech of "trusty" or "faithful" men, that speak the truth, and are to be credited and believed; and as the preceding words are understood of ecclesiastic persons."
Next, Gill shows the different ways God has taken away the faculty of man’s speech:
"He removeth away the speech of the trusty,.... Speech is proper to mankind, and a benefit unto them, whereby they can converse together, and communicate their minds to each other. This is the gift of God, he gives to men in common the faculty of speaking;
--to some the tongue of the learned to speak various tongues, either in an ordinary or in an extraordinary manner; and he that gives can take away;
--he that made man's mouth or lip can make it speechless, as he does at death; when he takes away man's breath, he takes away his speech; the state of the dead is a state of silence;
--and sometimes he does it while living, by striking dumb, as he did Zechariah the father of John the Baptist;
--as in the builders of Babel, he took away the speech they had, and gave them another;
--and sometimes he suffers not men to speak what they would, but what is contrary to their inclinations and desires, as in Balaam, who would willingly have cursed Israel, but could not. --end Gill Commentary
As for the lack of discernment in speech, the LORD takes it away in various ways, also. Gill continues in the second part of the Job 12:20 verse-
and taketh away the understanding of the aged; or "elders"; elders in age, with whom understanding, reason, judgment, counsel, and wisdom, by all which the word is interpreted, may be thought to be; yet all this God can take away, and does when he pleases, and they become like children in understanding.
--through the infirmities of old age their memories fail them,
--their reason is impaired,
--their understanding and judgment are weakened,
--they become unfit to give advice themselves,
--are easily imposed on and drawn aside by others as may be observed in Solomon, the wisest of men, when he was grown old. --end Gill
Why would do do this? Why would he strip away the wisdom and discernment of those mature believers who have acquired it? The Bible Knowledge Commentary by RB Zuck et al says,
"Also all people are under God’s control. He humbles counselors (was Job referring to his three friends?), judges.… kings.… priests, well-established officials, advisers … elders.… nobles, and the mighty. By stripping away their wisdom and power, God reveals His superior wisdom and power."
The Lord God is in control of all things; the earth, universe, angels, demons, and humans. He is in charge of all humans’ intellect. He gives discernment and He takes it away. We don’t know if the dearth of discernment plaguing the church currently is due to a failure of humans to be biblically literate and train themselves, or God’s judgment on humans, a mixture of both, or something else entirely. Persistent, unrepentant sin will impact a person’s ability to discern, certainly.
One thing we know for sure, it was Paul’s fervent prayer that the people would grow in discernment. I think the old adage “Use it or lose it” applies to all of us now and at all times!
This is a super helpful, practical lesson on how to begin honing your discernment, by Sharon Lareau. “Learn Discernment and Stay Safe from False Teachings“
Wretched: Rules for Discernment
The Gospel Coalition: 10 Habits of Discerning People