Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Job 38: Job Meets the Lord

This essay is #45 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Job Gets His Hearing

Job has asked for this. he has asked for a hearing with the Lord, and now he has it. But it certainly does not develop as he had hoped:

Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge? Get ready for a difficult task like a man; I will question you and you will inform me! (Job 38:2-3)

Job had expected to have the upper hand. He wanted the Lord to answer the questions. Whatever moral high ground Job thought he had is now insufficient to get the upper hand in this conversation. The court has convened.

Please remember that Job has lost children and all his possessions. His wife has long ago wished him dead. He has a extremely painful skin disease that relegates him to the garbage dump outside the city. None of this has changed, but the Lord acknowledges none of it, "Who is this who darkens counsel with words without knowledge?" Job's words less rash and angry than ignorant. All the keen arguments that he has raised to silence his friends are about to evaporate as the Lord begins to ask Job questions:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you possess understanding! Who set its measurements—if you know— or who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its bases set, or who laid its cornerstone— when the morning stars sang in chorus, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

The Lord declares His rights as the Creator. He is the craftsman who determined the measurements of this planet earth. And surely as more and more evidence of the universe's fine tuning, this phrase, "Who set is measurements." is nothing short of understatement. For more on this, I recommend you visit this series. For Job to answer would require that he "possess understanding." The underlying supposition is that if Job had understanding about how the earth, universe, and everything has been made, he might be able to understand all of the Lord's purposes and ways.

Who shut up the sea with doors when it burst forth, coming out of the womb, when I made the storm clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, when I prescribed its limits, and set in place its bars and doors, when I said, ‘To here you may come and no farther, here your proud waves will be confined’? (Job 38:8-11)

Job was not present at the moment of creation and he has not a clue about how to set the boundaries of the sea. Why should the earth not be completely covered with water? Why should there even be water?

The Lord's next words are quite poetic:

Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or made the dawn know its place, that it might seize the corners of the earth, and shake the wicked out of it? The earth takes shape like clay under a seal. Its features are dyed like a garment. Then from the wicked the light is withheld, and the raised arm in violence is broken. (Job 38:12-15)

This is a description of a sunrise. The earth taking shape like clay under a seal is a reference to a cylinder seal popular in Mesopotamia in Job's era. It was a cylinder of fired clay with an image carved into its surface. When rolled over flattened clay, a picture in relief would emerge. The Lord speaks of the sun adding depth and color to the earth as it rises. The coming of the light causes the wicked to go into hiding. The Lord asks whether Job has done anything more than trust and know that the sun will rise each morning. That it does is beyond his control. He has no power to sustain the event nor to stop it.

And now that Job is probably willing to say "Enough," the Lord continues by asking Job if he is able to visit all places on the earth. Just perhaps there are places he could never ever see. For good measure, the Lord draws a comparison between His eternal existence and Job's few years on earth.

Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea, or walked about in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know it all! “In what direction does light reside, and darkness, where is its place, that you may take them to their borders and perceive the pathways to their homes? You know, for you were born before them; and the number of your days is great! (Job 38:16-21)

And continues by asking Job if he could direct the weather to alter the course of men's lives:

Have you entered the storehouse of the snow, or seen the armory of the hail, which I reserve for the time of trouble, for the day of war and battle? In what direction is lightning dispersed, or the east winds scattered over the earth? Who carves out a channel for the heavy rains, and a path for the rumble of thunder, to cause it to rain on an uninhabited land, a desert where there are no human beings, to satisfy a devastated and desolate land, and to cause it to sprout with vegetation? Does the rain have a father, or who has fathered the drops of the dew? From whose womb does the ice emerge, and the frost from the sky, who gives birth to it, when the waters become hard like stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen solid? (Job 38:22-30)

And continues by asking Job if he can do anything about the annual cycle of the constellations in the night sky:

Can you tie the bands of the Pleiades, or release the cords of Orion? Can you lead out the constellations in their seasons, or guide the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens, or can you set up their rule over the earth? (Job 38:31-33)

And continues by asking Job if he can impart wisdom to anything else:

Can you raise your voice to the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go? Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the heart, or has imparted understanding to the mind? Who by wisdom can count the clouds, and who can tip over the water jars of heaven, when the dust hardens into a mass, and the clumps of earth stick together? (Job 38:34-38)

In all these questions, the Lord directs Job's attention to the inanimate creation having to do with the earth, and the seas, its climate and its weather, and the universe in which it is placed. Job, of course, has no recourse but to say, "I was not there." and "I really cannot do such things." It reminds of this tale:

Some scientists come to God and say, "You know, we can do everything You did. You created life; we can create life as well."

And God says, "Okay, show me."

The scientists say, "Okay, we are going to go into our lab now, and we are going to take some of this dust, and start working with it."

Then God says, "Hey, wait a second. Get your own dust."

That is what has gone on here. The Lord God works to establish the extreme gulf between His wisdom and capabilities and Job's. By extension, we see the gulf as well. We got caught up in Job's arguments. They placed us on edge and we wanted answers as much as he did. God has not and will not answer any of Job's concerns and questions.

But the Lord is not finished. Tomorrow we will see what He has to say about living things.

Wednesday: Job and the Matrix

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


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