STUDY ELEVEN: GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE SITUATION

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

 

A. THINGS TO REMEMBER

There are several things we need to remember before we look at what God said to Job:

God has already affirmed that Job ‘is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil’ (1:8; 2:3).

In 42:7 God said that Job spoke what was right about him.

The devil’s accusation that Job’s faith lacked integrity, focusing on the blessings God gave rather than on God himself.

The sources from which the three friends got their knowledge of God: experience, tradition, and the limits of the human mind.

We also need to remember what Job concluded about ‘wisdom’ – about the knowledge of God in chapter 28.

Man is capable of finding treasures hidden in the earth that not even birds of prey, with their keenest of eyesight, can see, nor the strongest of animals come near (28:1 – 11).

Even so (28:12 – 22), man is incapable of either discovering, appreciating the value of, or purchasing wisdom: it can’t be found in the depths of the oceans (14); it cannot be bought with even the most valuable of man’s possessions (15 – 19), for none of these treasures can compare with it; it is hidden, and even the grave knows nothing about it (20 – 22).

Only God understands and knows (28:23 – 27).

And he has told man how to find it: ‘The fear of the Lord - that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding’ (28:28).

This last verse tells us exactly why Job, despite the limitations of his wisdom, was right and the friends were wrong: he was a God-fearer - a believer. And as a God-fearer, as a believer, he had set his face against evil. That, God has said, is wisdom, and that is understanding. There was a lot about God and his working that he didn’t know, but he knows God. Confronted by the trauma of his own massive suffering he also knows this other thing: that the traditional explanation, which up to the point of his suffering he had carelessly and thoughtlessly assumed to be true, cannot be true about what God is now doing to him. He knows there has to be some other explanation. Otherwise, God is unjust.

This is Job’s dilemma:

Either the traditional theology of suffering is being applied by God to Job, and therefore either God is unjust, or Job is wicked.

Or, the traditional theology of suffering is not relevant to Job’s situation, and God is doing something unknown, and therefore both God and Job are acquitted.

 

B. WHAT GOD SAID TO JOB

But when God speaks, it is not with answers and explanations, but with a whole series of questions (38:2 – 41:11). By these questions, and their implied answers, he teaches Job.

B.1 That God is the sovereign creator and sustainer:
Read 38:4 – 12. What do God’s questions to Job reveal about God as Creator and Sustainer?

 

 

 

 

God was there at the beginning. No human being saw how he created the universe. No human being understands how immense it is.

In terms that Job could understand God’s questions reveal to Job his meticulous and deliberately planned and powerfully controlled actions of creating and sustaining the universe. In terms of today’s knowledge of the created universe, God’s would possibly have included questions like:

Can you explain the origin of life?
Did you formulate the law of gravity?
Did you design the orbits of the planets?
Are you the one who embedded mathematical precision in multiple aspects of nature?
Is it by your design and by your hand that the moon controls the tides?
Did you create a single cell, microscopically small, but containing an infinite complexity of action, interactions and reactions?

The list of God’s questions could go on and on:

Where did the law of thermodynamics come from?
What about such things as thrust, and torque, or magnetism – did you create these? Can you explain these?
Did you design the irreducible complexity of human DNA?
Did you write the laws that govern the universe, that make life predictable and science possible?
Or the Fibonacci sequence … did you design its beauty and symmetry?

God was there at the beginning, Job wasn’t (38:4). God is the great architect and builder (38:4 – 6). God set the limits (38:5, 8 – 11). God keeps the whole system running (38:12). This creative work of God brought forth praise and joy, not only from the angels but from parts of creation (38:7).

 

B.2 That God knows things that Job hasn’t even thought of
God, the Sovereign all-powerful and all-seeing God, sees and knows things that were outside of human knowledge at the time he spoke to Job. Some of the things he mentions to Job are still beyond our knowledge.

Read these verses. Which of these aspects of nature are humans still wholly or partly ignorant of?
38:16

38:17

38:18

38:19 – 20

38:22 – 24

 

Human scientific knowledge has increased significantly since Job lived. But it seems that the more that is learned by science the more it is also realized that there is still more to discover. The more powerful our telescopes and microscopes, the greater we realize the macro universe to be and the more intricate and detailed we realize the micro world within nature to be. Scientists today are continually discovering macro and micro truths about the universe that had not previously been thought of. But still there are mysteries. Still humans come up with theories that are attempts to explain things they do not really know and cannot adequately explain.

 

B.3 That God does things Job cannot do
In addition to things that Job does not know there are things that he cannot do. God does them, but Job cannot.

Read these verses. What things are outside of human ability to do?
38:25 - 30

38:31 – 33

38:34

38:35

38:36

38:37 – 38

38:39 – 41

The contrast between what God does and what humans do is great. God is in control of the natural world. Humans, for all their science, are still powerless in so many areas.

 

B.4 That creatures are what they are because God made them that way
Some creatures, and their habits, are puzzling, even ridiculous. Some are quite frightening. Some appear uncontrollable. Why they are the way they are and do the things they do is beyond human reason. Certainly humans would never have designed some of these creatures. But God has made them, and he has made them the way they are.

What do these verses imply about the freedom and power of God in creating these creatures?
39:5 – 12

39:13 – 18

 

39:19 – 25

39:25 – 30

40:15 – 24

 

41:1 – 34

 

God’s inclusion of these creatures, some frighteningly powerful, some with seemingly foolish habits, reminds Job, and us, that even the dangerous, even the chaotic, are under his sovereign control.

 

This self-revelation of God to Job makes no attempt to answer Job’s ‘Why?’ Instead it:

Identifies the enormous contrast between God and man, contrasting the greatness and control of God to the insignificance and real helplessness of man; and

Draws attention to the unlimited knowledge, the incredible power, and the delicate carefulness with which God governs the world.

It teaches Job that, despite what may appear, God knows what he is doing and is in control. Thus God’s revelation on the one hand, vindicates Job’s conviction that God is not punishing him for sin, and on the other hand, calls him on to an enlarged knowledge of God, and thus to an enlarged faith (40:4,5). Job’s knowledge of God had been true; what it needed was a massive filling out of the meaning of that truth.

 

B.5 That God is not accountable to Job
God’s questions have pointed out that Job has no ability to understand or control most of the things God has created. The universe, its various components, and the creatures that inhabit it, are what they are by God’s design and do what they do under God’s control and providence. Job has neither the authority nor the ability to do what God has done and continues to do in upholding all that exists.

If Job is thus so incompetent in relation to created things, how much more incompetent is he to understand or control what God, who created it all, does? How much less authority and ability to look at God and assess and demand what he perceives to be ‘justice’? Or even to administer ‘justice’ to his fellow humans?

Read Job 40:6 – 14. Describe the contrast between God and Job.

 

 

 

C. CREATION AND REVELATION

God has responded to Job’s repeated requests, not by giving him explanations about why he was suffering, but almost entirely by telling Job to look at the created world. God’s intention is not to answer Job’s questions but to increase his knowledge of God to the point where the questions become insignificant compared to the greatness and majesty of God.

According to the Bible, creation has an in-built potential to reveal God’s power and glory.

Study these verses.
What is the connection between the created universe and the knowledge of God?
Psalm 8:1 – 9

 

Psalm 19:1 – 4

 

What is the reason for God being praised?
Psalm 104

 

Revelation 4:11

 

What is the attitude of the godless towards God’s self-revelation in creation?
Romans 1:18 – 20

2Peter 3:5

 

D. THE RESPONSE OF FAITH

In the course of the dialogues recorded in Job that fact that nature has the ability to instruct us about God is mentioned a number of times.

Job, in 9:4 – 10, discusses with awe the profound wisdom and miraculous power of God evident in his sovereign rule of the natural world.

Job, in 12:7 – 15, meditates on the ‘hand of the LORD’ that sustains every creature and controls the uncontrollable elements of nature.

Bildad, briefly, affirms the sovereignty of God over all creation (25:1 – 6), and the contrasting insignificance of the human.

Job, in 26:6 – 14, is overwhelmed by the scope of God’s sovereign power in the universe.

Elihu, in 36:22 – 37:18, has much to say about God’s sovereignty over nature, and states that God’s purpose in this is ‘so that all men he has made may know his work’ (37:7).

Job was quite aware of this revelatory function of nature.

But now God himself has spoken. And God himself has made Job look more deeply and more thoughtfully at the implications of the God-nature relationship. By doing so God has given Job deeper knowledge of himself, by revealing greater depths of his creative power and design, and his on-going sustenance and control of the created universe. God has made known to Job his limitless and unequalled power and wisdom. Job now realizes in a far clearer way than before, how great is the difference between the Almighty Creator and his human creature.

Such a self-disclosure on God’s part, and such an opening of human eyes, draws only one response from the man of faith.

Read these verses. What is the response of the human confronted with the power, majesty and glory of God?
Exodus 3:5

Exodus 20:19

Isaiah 6:5

Ezekiel 1:28b

Luke 5:8

Luke 18:13

Revelation 1:17a

And Job: ‘...now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes’ (42:5b-6).

 

This is always the response of faith, face to face with almighty God.