SmackDown #16

I hate it when that happens. I was sending another email when the one that I was just beginning to craft decided it would take the opportunity to escape. So following is what I meant to send.

We are coming to the end of our study of Job. This Friday we will look at Smack Down #11 Part B where the Lord continues to address Job and Job replies. Then, the following Friday will be our last session in which we discuss the top 10 lessons we learn from Job. The Book of Job is far richer in content than I imagined before we undertook our study some thirteen sessions ago. I hope you feel that way too. The next two Fridays will bring us to a total of fifteen sessions in all.

In the first part of Smack Down #11 (part A), God shows up in a whirlwind. Job’s three friends have given up on trying to convince Job that he deserves his suffering. Job believes he is blameless and hasn’t done anything worthy of the punishment God seems to be inflicting upon him. The only thing Job can figure out is that God is testing him (23:10). Elihu takes over for Zophar, and expresses his anger with Job for justifying himself rather than God. Elihu also expresses anger with Job’s three friends for condemning Job without sufficiently countering his arguments.

Addressing Job in chapter 33, Elihu points out that charging God with wrongdoing and silence is faulty reasoning. He explains to Job that God does speak, but in different ways than Job was demanding. Elihu points out that God uses suffering to warn us, turn us from wrong doing, keep us from pride, and preserve our soul from the pit (33:16-22). He agrees with Job’s belief in a mediator who provides a ransom, renews and restores us. Thus, Elihu weighs in with a slightly different twist than Job’s friends. He doesn’t attack Job’s character, just his faulty reasoning. He sees God as more gracious than Job’s friends in that God speaks and has a redemptive purpose for inflicting suffering in which He is also just.

In chapters 34-37, Elihu appears to side with Job’s friends, arguing for the greatness and justness of God. But Elihu has a new twist here as well. He argues that God is in control of everything and has a purpose for everything He does. The new twist here is found in chapter 37:12 as Elihu states that God acts not only to punish but to show His love (hesed). Whereas Job’s friends see God as an unapproachable all-powerful Judge who punishes and rewards based on our righteousness, or lack thereof, Elihu sees God as a God of love as well as justice.

As Elihu speaks, a storm rises, eliciting excitement in Elihu (36:27-37:20). He senses God coming in awesome majesty (37:21-24). He is like John the Baptist, the forerunner to Jesus declaring “prepare the way of the Lord.” The Lord suddenly appears, Elihu disappears, and God speaks to Job out of the storm. God does not appear the way Job expects. Job tried to set up a somber, orderly courtroom setting in which God would be on the witness stand as the defendant, and Job would be the interrogator. Instead, God comes with the sound of fury and the spin of chaos and Job is the defendant—not for his sin but for his finite understanding and his defiance that God owes him an explanation. God asks Job who it is who darkens His counsel without knowledge and tells him to brace himself like a man (38:1-3). There is something awesome about both statements: that Job darkens the counsel of God and that he is to brace himself like a man. The first statement points to Jobs shallowness of understanding of God and His purposes. The second statement points to the entitlement and victim mentality of Job. God tells him to brace himself like a man not a victim. In one sense Job is a victim, but not at the hands of God. In God’s hand Job (and each of us) is a significant player in a divine drama. Even when suffering we can “man up.”

In the chapters that follow, God addresses Job twice (38:1-40:2 and 40:6-41:34) and Job replies twice (40:3-5 and 42:1-6). In His first address, God points to His power in the universe (see also Romans 1:18-20) and asks Job if he can fathom the creation and design of the earth, stars, sea, morning, night, light, darkness, snow, hail, flood, lightning, rain, dew, frost (38:3-36), constellations (38:31-33), and storm clouds (38:34-38). Without waiting for an answer, God continues with the mystery of His living creation: the lion, mountain goat, wild donkey, buffalo, ostrich, horse, hawk and eagle. All of these things and creatures reveal not only God’s glory, but also His control and care. Job has been asking, “Why am I suffering?” God replies, “Can you answer how I created and designed the universe?” To know that answer would be to be God Himself. The implication is that Job has a very limited understanding of the ways and purposes of God. Job is a finite created being with a brief history in time and space and must live with the tension of not knowing all the answers. Job is answerable to God, not the other way around.

Job cannot know how God designed His creation and Job cannot know why it functions the way it does. What may seem random and chaotic to Job, functions with purpose. There is a purposeful-wildness. God gives Job just a glimpse of His purpose where He says that He uses snow and hail for the purpose of stopping war (38:22-23). One cannot help but think of the armies of Napoleon and Hitler being forced to retreat from their campaigns by the harsh winters in Russia.  Elihu said something similar: God brings the clouds to punish men (37:13). But Elihu adds that God waters the earth to show His love (37:13), even the wasteland where no man lives (38:26). The lesson is that God is in control of what He created, even if we (Job) cannot comprehend it. God assures Job that the seasons come and go, not by whimsy, but by His design and control. The same is true of the constellations. The are guided, bound, and freed by His command. The same is also true of clouds, water, rain, and lightning. They fall and flash at His command. God is in control of all, yet they move in accordance to natural law.

In Job 38:39-40:2, God moves from His control of inanimate creation to His control and care of animate creation. Ten different animals are mentioned as listed above. Each has in common that it is a living animal, but each is amazingly different. Lions and ravens both need help in finding food for their young (38:39-41), but lions wait in ambush for their prey, while ravens flit around in search of seeds. In both cases, God takes care of them. The point being made is that God cares about each of His created beings (including Job). God speaks of the “unpredictability” of the birthing and development of goats and deer (39:1-4), the “freedom” of the foraging donkey (39:5-8), the “untamable strength” of the wild ox (39:9-12), the “foolishness” of the speeding ostrich (39:13-18), the “fearless fierceness” of the war horse (39:19-25), the “wisdom” of the hawk (39:26), and the “perspective” of the high nesting eagle (39:27-30). Each animal in God’s menagerie is unique in itself, and yet has complimentary gifts and flaws, grace and faults, and charms and handicaps. An example is the ostrich, which is at once the most foolish animal in creation, abandoning her young, yet able to survive by being one of the fastest creatures.

God doesn’t give Job answers, only questions. He relies upon Job to make the connections, see the underlying meaning of what He is saying, and apply his understanding as a man to the higher more complex issue. God is in control and cares for Job. In His questioning of Job, He is pulling Job into a deeper faith and trust. When we have all the answers we do not need faith. Job has been suffering in the “no man’s land” between known facts and confusion about the reason for his circumstances. He assumes that God owes him and explanation and questions God’s justice. In a sense he has started down the path or rationalism, humanism, agnosticism, atheism, and nihilism. Satan promised Adam and Eve in the Garden, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). In other words, “You’ll know everything God does.” Job is tempted in the same way. He wants to know the reason for everything. So God questions Job and pushes him to the limit of what he can know. Instead of answering Job’s demand to know “why,” God speaks of His unfathomable wisdom, power, and care. Faith is not rooted in a knowledge of “why,” but in a trust of “who.”

God impresses Job with the grandeur of His creation, the complexity of His control, and the intricacy of His care. His control and care of the created order infers that He has a purpose and is in control of Job’s circumstances, and that He cares for Job.  He asks , “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” (40:1-2). Job is humbled and the speech he has rehearsed about God’s injustice sticks in his throat. The snow-man of being a victim entitled to an explanation melts in the confession, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once (actually he spoke a lot a bunch of times), but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.”

But God isn’t done yet…there is the Behemoth and Leviathan…this Friday.

Because of the pervasiveness of God’s control and care,

Linus


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