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Focal passage: Job 40:1-14; 41:1-11; 42:1-6
Background passage: Job 38-39
Review: In the midst of his suffering, Job’s friends accuse him of sin. They believe Job is being punished by a righteous God. Job makes a lengthy and detailed denial of sin and defends his innocence. In earlier chapters, Job has lamented his lack of communication with God and requested some way to present his case before God. He longs to meet with God and receive God’s vindication for the accusations that his friends have made against him. But God has remained silent. In chapters 32-37, Elihu, a fourth friend, begins to speak. He accuses Job and defends God.
As you reflect on the lessons in our study of Job, what have you learned about Job or God or suffering?
Chapter 38 begins a new section of Job.
There has been a lot of talking by Job, his wife, and his friends, but God has not spoken to Job – until now. From the midst of the whirlwind, God questions Job’s ability to understand the issues he has been discussing with his friends. The whirlwind is a feature of a number of theophanies (appearances of God) found in the Old Testament. God says that Job cannot begin to fathom God’s sovereign power and control in the world, and that by speaking about what he does not understand he has concealed the true nature of God’s design for the world. God calls on Job to prepare himself for an encounter with God. Job’s desire for a confrontation with God has been granted.
God takes Job on a virtual tour of creation, asking him a series of ironic questions. Where was Job when the miraculous occurred? Where was Job when the foundations of the world were measured out and established by God? Where was Job when God placed the seas within their boundaries and created morning and night? Where was Job when God designed weather patterns: the rain and the snow and the wind and the hail? Does Job have the ability to move the constellations of stars across the sky and determine where they go?
In chapter 39, God continues by asking Job if he has the wisdom and power to sustain creation. God lists a series of animals that are either elusive or dangerous. Job does not have the ability to fulfill their needs and regulate their habits. He wants to know if Job understands the reproductive behavior of mountain goats and the freedom of wild donkeys? Can Job understand the habits of the ostrich or the strength of horses? Does Job know how a hawk soars through the air? Does he understand the habits of the eagle? Job has asked God to speak to him and now God does, but in a most unexpected way. God pulls back the curtain and gives Job a glimpse of his power and his wisdom in both creating and sustaining all he has made.
We live in a world where everyone has an opinion, and many feel compelled to share their opinions as fact. What is the danger in speaking confidently about things you do not fully understand, especially when the assertions relate to the things of God?
Job has been sounding off to his friends, but now God gives him the chance to make his case. It is time for Job to answer God (v.1-2). In light of all that God has shown Job and in light of all that Job does not know about the created order, Job realizes he cannot challenge God. Job admits that he is a human being with human limitations. He confesses his insignificance in the scope of the universe. Job cannot understand the intricacies of the created world and he does not have the wisdom nor knowledge to challenge God’s way of working in the world. Job seems discouraged and perhaps even frustrated. He is prepared to break off the debate with God. In this moment, he does the only thing he knows to do. Job calms his inner turmoil and is silent before God (v.4). Addressing Job’s response, some commentators suggest that this is a difficult transition for Job to make. The use of the words “once” and “twice” indicate that Job is struggling to purge himself of his overwhelming desire to find vindication from God (v.5).
In verses 6-14 God continues to speak so that Job can arrive at a place of deeper understanding. God moves to the heart of the problem in verse 8. Job has fallen into the error of passing judgment on God in order to vindicate himself. Yet Job is in no position to lodge such accusations against God because of his own inferior knowledge and power. God insists that Job has not tried to view the world from his perspective. How would Job run the world? Would Job be better at dispensing justice? God tells Job that he may consider himself to be just and to know what justice the world needs, but that he has no understanding of the interlocking ramifications of what his desires would bring. Only God has the wisdom to make decisions about how the world should be managed.
In previous lessons we have discussed that God invites us to express our doubts to him in prayer. Job moves from his questions and accusations to silence before God. The time of silence and solitude allows Job to gain a deeper understanding of all that God is revealing to him. What part do you think silence plays in growing in your relationship with God? How do you calm your heart before God in order to hear him speak?
As Job sits in silence, God continues to give Job a picture of God’s greatness. God uses two creatures (perhaps mythological creatures or perhaps exaggerations of real animals that the people would have known) to further illustrate his point. The Behemoth is a large beast that no one other than the master can come near (v. 15-24). He is the embodiment of beastly power which always poses a threat to the well-being of man.
The Leviathan is some kind of sea creature who cannot be captured nor tamed. No human would be able to make a pet out of this creature (v. 2-5). If someone does try to control him, he will regret the encounter (v. 8). God wants Job to know that just as he does not have the skill or the wisdom to control or subdue these creatures, he does not have the skill or the wisdom to understand God’s plan and purposes. God is the only one who is strong enough to take on the Behemoth and the Leviathan, and God is the only one with the wisdom and power needed to manage the world.
As he listens to God, Job comes to a deeper realization of who God is as Creator and Sustainer of the world. Job admits that God has unlimited power and a purpose which cannot be thwarted. He accepts the greatness of God and he admits his own failure. A wise man has the discipline to only speak about what he understands and to accept the limits of his knowledge. Job recognizes he was speaking about things he did not understand (v 1-3). Many scholars believe that Job reviews God’s divine challenge to him in verse 4 before continuing on with his confession to God.
Job indicates that he used to believe in God’s goodness and faithful care because he had heard about God from others. In this moment Job has experienced God. Job trusts God because he knows God in a personal way. He retracts the harsh words he has spoken about God. He has seen the glory of God in the created world and he gains a true perspective of himself. Job’s response to the suffering he is enduring has matured. He moves from silent resignation to an expression of deep humility and trust. The Hebrew word translated “repent” is not the normal word used for repent in the Old Testament. It can mean to grieve or lament an action, or it can mean to sigh deeply with relief. Job finds peace because he now trusts God with all that he does not understand (v. 5-6).
As Job wrestles with his suffering and the unfounded accusations of his friends there is an interplay between his own personal experience and what God reveals to him. Most of us will never hear God speak to us from a whirlwind, but we do have the daily opportunity to encounter him in Scripture. Reflect upon the connection between Scripture and personal experience in your own life. How might meeting God in Scripture bring peace to you in the midst of your suffering and pain?