Thursday, November 13, 2003

Job 38, 39: Of Lions and Ostriches

This essay is #47 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Of Lions and Ostriches

In the first group questions to Job, the Lord focused on the intricacies of the design and workings of the world. In the second group of questions the topic shifts to living things. As with the first group, Job's answers, if he gave them, would repudiate his ability to do what God can.

Do you hunt prey for the lioness, and satisfy the appetite of the lions, when they crouch in their dens, when they wait in ambush in the thicket? 

Who prepares prey for the raven, when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? 

Are you acquainted with the way the mountain goats give birth? 

Do you watch as the wild deer give birth to their young? Do you count the months they must fulfill, and do you know the time they give birth? They crouch, they bear their young, they bring forth the offspring they have carried. Their young grow strong, and grow up in the open; they go off, and do not return to them. 

Who let the wild donkey go free? Who released the bonds of the donkey, to whom I appointed the steppe for its home, the salt wastes as its dwelling place? It scorns the tumult in the town; it does not hear the shouts of a driver. It ranges the hills as its pasture, and searches after every green plant. 

Is the wild ox willing to be your servant? Will it spend the night at your feeding trough? Can you bind the wild ox to a furrow with its rope, will it till the valleys, following after you? Will you rely on it because its strength is great? Will you commit your labor to it? Can you count on it to bring in your grain, and gather the grain to your threshing floor? 

The wings of the ostrich flap with joy, but are they the pinions and plumage of a stork? For she leaves her eggs on the ground, and lets them be warmed on the soil. She forgets that a foot might crush them, or that a wild animal might trample them. She is harsh with her young, as if they were not hers; she is unconcerned about the uselessness of her labor. For God deprived her of wisdom, and did not impart understanding to her. But as soon as she springs up, she laughs at the horse and its rider. 

Do you give the horse its strength? Do you clothe its neck with a mane? Do you make it leap like a locust? Its proud neighing is terrifying! It paws in the valley, exulting mightily, it goes out to meet the weapons. It laughs at fear and is not dismayed; it does not shy away from the sword. On it the quiver rattles; the lance and javelin flash. In excitement and impatience it consumes the ground; it cannot stand still when the trumpet is blown. At the sound of the trumpet, it says, ‘Aha!’ And from a distance it catches the scent of battle, the thunder of commanders, and battle cries. 

Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle soars, and builds its nest on high? It lives on a rock and spends the night there, on a rocky crag and a fortress. From there it spots its prey, its eyes gaze intently from a distance. And its young ones devour the blood, and where the dead carcasses are, there it is.” (Job 38:39-39:30)

Lions, ravens, mountain goats, deer, donkeys, wild oxen, ostriches, horses, and hawks. Predators and prey, tame and wild, birds that fly and birds that do not. There are animals in the service of man and animals that are not. There is great variety in this list. 

I would add "tube worms" to it. These are creatures unknown to man just 50 years ago. They live in the dark reaches of the deep oceans by the vents where the continental plates move apart.How does such variety mesh into the plans and purposes of the Lord? Before He created man:

God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” It was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the cattle according to their kinds, and all the creatures that creep along the ground according to their kinds. God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:24-25)

His creation was "good" with the creation of the animals. God took delight and pleasure in their varieties. They were good in His eyes.

And so we must acknowledge that there are whole areas of Creation that are for God and not for us. He tends to these areas and cares for them. They are part of His wisdom and do not touch our lives. Secular science enjoys propagating the notion that the Copernican revolution removed the central importance of the Earth and man in the cosmos. Here in Job 38 and 39, we see that the Lord told us that a long time ago. As we look into the vast reaches of the universe, we must acknowledge that the Lord has created a good many other things for His pleasure. Like tube worms, most will be unknown to us.

The message in these first two groups of questions is two-fold. First, Job, his friends, and we need to recognize our limits. We cannot do what God does. Second, because the Lord is able to do all these things, we can trust Him with the events that affect us for pleasure and pain. The universe was made by an infinite personal  He is able to give attention to the smallest details:

He heals the brokenhearted, and bandages their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; he names all of them. Our sovereign Master is great and has awesome power; there is no limit to his wisdom. (Psalm 147:3-5)

I like these verses. Without pause it moves from the Lord's attention to a brokenhearted person to seeing each star in the myriads of galaxies as a unique creation worthy of having its own name. There is indeed no limit to His wisdom.

And this is the point of the Lord's questioning, "Job, I have your life in my hands. As I care for the time the wild deer gives birth, so I care for you. Trust me to work in perfect wisdom and understanding."

But Job must now meet to different creatures.

Friday: Behemoth and Leviathan

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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