When this verse is spoken, Job has just given a rundown of some things that happen in the natural world. And these things are, Job says, just the fringes of His ways.
If I stop and think about that, Job is saying that the natural world with all its power and mystery and splendor is only the fringes of God’s ways; only the very outer edge of God. The power of nature — the destructive force of earthquakes and hurricanes and tsunamis as well as the raw creative power of conception, gestation, and birth — is only the fringe; the outermost edge of God’s power. The mysteries of nature — things like black holes (Where does the matter go?) and Earth’s placement in the habitable zone (Let’s call it the Goldilocks Zone: not too hot, not too cold, it’s just right to sustain life.) — puzzle people, but these mysteries are only the faintest echo of the mystery that is God. The splendor of nature — sunrises and sunsets, whales breaching, an eagle’s flight, canyons and mountains and rolling plains that disappear off into the horizon, aurora borealis — is only a shadow of God’s glory. These are the fringes of His ways; a faint word that we hear of Him. The Bible itself, for all that it is absolutely the Word of God and that it shows me God as He is, is like trying to describe a person with only two words. The description may give enough information to understand something about the person, but is unable to make me intimately acquainted with that person.
There are those who want to understand God’s mighty thunder. There are people who say that they will not believe unless they can understand God. Those will never believe. I believe and have walked with God for years and still I will not claim to understand Him. My wife and I have been married for four years (not long, I know, but it is time spent in close proximity) and I do not understand her. She, like me, is a human being with many of the same wants, needs, desires, hangups, and so on. If I cannot understand her — another human being — how much less can I ever understand God? I think it was Arthur C. Clark who wrote that humanity being the only life in the universe seemed like an awful waste of space. Consider: If humanity was created to be perfect and immortal, could not all of that “wasted space” have been intended as room to grow into? Just a thought. But statements like Clark’s — if, indeed, it was Clark who wrote that — limit God to thinking like a human being. And God is not limited to thinking as we do.
Job trusted God throughout this ordeal. He defends God’s righteousness and vindicates God when Job’s “friends” would seek to blame God or blame Job for the whole thing. How faint a word was required for Job’s unwavering belief and devotion. How faint a word we have still. These fringes; these faint words are sufficient to determine whether or not I will trust God. Based on these faint words; these fringes of His ways — Do I trust? If I seek to trust, how faint a word I will need to spur that trust on. If I seek to doubt, how faint a word will give me reason. Today, I will trust God. And how faint a word that trust requires to be sustained.