Friday, November 14, 2003

Job 40: Behemoth and Leviathan

This essay is #48 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Job Responds to the Lord

The Lord concludes His questions to Job with:

Then the Lord answered Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let the person who accuses God give him an answer!” (Job 40:1-2)

Do you remember a few chapters ago, when it looked like Job had raised some really good questions? Do they seem very relevant now? Job had claimed the high ground, and now his challenge is to make good on the claim. Now is his opportunity. Except that he has to answer God's questions. But one who has finally memorized the addition table through the twelves is little able to discuss the Calculus. The gulf between Job and his God is greater still. Little wonder that Job replies,

Then Job answered the Lord: “Indeed, I am completely unworthy—how could I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth to silence myself. I have spoken once, but I cannot answer; twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:3-5)

Is this the end of the matter then? The Lord has silenced Job. Is that what this has all been about? Not really. Job is silenced, but where is his heart right now? Is it rising in faith and understanding or is it descending into a yet deeper pit of despair. What does Job mean by "completely unworthy?" 

So the final section of the Lord's speech instructs Job in a way that finally produces a change of heart and restores the relationship between himself and the Lord. Perhaps it does more that restore, perhaps it establishes it. It consists of a prolog and then it describes two strange beasts.

Here are the prolog:

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: “Get ready for a difficult task like a man. I will question you and you will inform me! 

Would you indeed annul my justice? Would you declare me guilty so that you might be right? 

Do you have an arm like God’s, and can you thunder with a voice like his? 

Adorn yourself, then, with majesty and excellency, and clothe yourself with glory and honor! Scatter abroad the abundance of your anger. 

Look at every proud man and bring him low; Look at every proud man and abase him; crush the wicked on the spot! Hide them in the dust together, imprison them in the grave. 

Then I myself will acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you. (Job 40:6-14)

You have to have fun with this prolog to appreciate it. As we have marched through the book, it has been our imagination that has opened up its riches. I have worked in these sessions to flesh out real people in a real situation. So let's take two aspects of what the Lord says here. First, He is still speaking from the whirlwind. This alone communicates, noise, motion, danger, and awesome power. Second, how high do you think Job jumped at, "And can you thunder with a voice like his?" Can you not hear the volume of these words rise. The Lord has moved from questions regarding His wisdom and handiwork to questions regarding the majestic nature of His being: majesty, excellency, glory, and honor. These are values that we find in our Creator.

"Look at every proud man and bring him low." How can you break a person of his pride without breaking his spirit? Perhaps Job is now quiet because his pride has been broken. He has been brought low. He has been silenced. But that is not necessarily sufficient. Perhaps Job is like the child forced to sit in the corner who says, "I may be sitting on the outside, but I am standing on the inside." Perhaps, Job is in a place of one more bitter defeat.

Now look at the last line of the prolog to the Behemoth and Leviathan section. "Then I myself will acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you." Whoa! Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have been full of advice about what Job needed to do to get his life back. Job, for his part, expected to get his life back as a matter of right and privilege. Here the Lord says that none of that is right.

Job's sufferings have not been about an argument between God and Satan. They have not been about Job's character. They have been about Job's salvation. They have been about flaws, hidden to all, that would prove fatal, if uncorrected. As with all things, the happenings in Job's life have been about mercy. Here is the chastening that Elihu had spoken of.

And with that, the Lord brings Job into the reality behind two mythical beasts: Behemoth and Leviathan. I will take up the details of these beasts next week. For now I will just cover what these creatures are not.

Most Bibles have a note associated with Behemoth stating that this creature is probably a hippopotamus. This I have never understood. One need only compare a picture of a hippo's tail and compare this with, "It makes its tail stiff like a cedar." Good night! A hippo hardly has a tail big enough to wag. Even assuming that it could, or would, stick its tail straight back, it just does not connect with Behemoth's tail swinging like a tree truck.

The same Bibles will tell you that Leviathan is a crocodile. Again the images do not line up. I read about Leviathan and I see a fire breathing dragon.

Some people read about these creatures and claim to have found a biblical reference to dinosaurs. In my opinion, it is also incorrect to identify Behemoth and Leviathan with dinosaurs, although the descriptions certainly fit nicely. The primary reason is that the description of these creatures is what finally changes the heart of Job. Nothing about the hippopotamus, crocodile, apatosaurus, or tyrannosaurus provides any clue as to why the description of these beasts would affect Job's heart.

That is what I will take up next.

Monday: What Kind of Animal are You?

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

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. ><>

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Job 38: Job and the Matrix

This essay is #46 of an ongoing series on the book of Job. Click here to start at the beginning.

Of Architects and Oracles

I must ask you to humor me on this one. To see the third installment of the Matrix and to revisit the beginnings of Job 38 has had my mind spinning all day.

Imagine lives of humans in the matrix. They experience a world far different from the world in which they live. The two could not be more different. While they search for meaning in a simulated world, their real life provides power for a cadre of machines creating and maintaining the simulation.

But the designers, an architect and an oracle, of this programmed world do not have the wisdom to create a world that works. They began with utopia and the system crashed. They introduced pain and the survival rate was better, but unexpected anomalies appeared and the system crashed again. Do not think that the Neo of Matrix Reloaded is necessarily the Neo of the original Matrix. The failure rate is evidence that the creators continually meet one more fact or interaction they had not considered before.

"Who is this that darkens counsel with words without knowledge?" You may not know this, but science is discovering how unusual the universe is. There are many workings and properties in a just so delicate balance. Change any, even slightly, and life cannot exist. Gerald L. Schroeder puts it this way:

What does it take to make a loaf of bread? When I ask this question in my classes, the list usually begins with flour, water, yeast, sugar. With some professorial prompting soil, sunlight (an extraterrestrial input), a stove (engineering), and recipe (intellect) are added. We're getting more complex. Still more prompting elicits a desire for bread (choice), a nurturing climate, and finally in a cosmic sense, a nurturing universe. To make a loaf of bread you need a very special universe. Our universe has been special since its inception. [Schroeder, Gerald L. The Science of God, the Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom (New York, Broadway Books, 1997) 177]

The Jews have a prayer, "Blessed are you Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth." Slight imbalances across dozens of variables would ruin all possibility for life to be, and scientific research adds more to the list all the time.

Who set its measurements—if you know—or who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:5)

Do you know the laws of the heavens, or can you set up their rule over the earth? (Job 38:33)

Today we know more about these measurements than ever before. But we have not the power to alter a single law or constant that governs the universe. In this, the world of the matrix is quite fictitious. Neo might be able to fly, but we fall. We happen to fall at a rate fine tuned for life as a whole, but at a rate that can hurt or kill if we fall from too high a place.

The Matrix, fictional although it is, represents an achievement beyond the reach of mankind: A simulated world fed into the brains of its citizens, reading and sensing their responses and feeding these into the programmed lives of all other inhabitants in their chambers. But it fails and fails again for lack of wisdom.

The questioning of Job by the Lord leads Job and us to admit our complete ignorance about what makes a universe that is able to have men and women made in the image of God--a universe where there is bread from the earth.

Thursday--Back on Track, Lions and Ostriches

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

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. ><>

Monday, November 10, 2003

Matrix Revolutions

My sons and I plus some friends went to see Matrix Revolutions last night. We traveled some extra distance to see it in its IMAX format.


This third film carries the tone and mystique of the first. Unlike the second, in which the action scenes grew tiresome, the action footage in Revolutions was a good fit. It misses the interesting dialog from the second, but more of that would have interfered with this story.

In terms of bullet time cinematography--unless it was CGI--the frames capturing a fist moving through bullet time frozen rain was a remarkable scene.

There will be some that will look at the christianized elements in the Matrix and try to develop a Christian message from it. The names of Zion, Logos, Trinity, resonate with us. Neo assumes crucifixion poses several times in Revolutions. While these are interesting, the trilogy has had its Hindu, mythological, yin-yang, and Gnostic elements as well. Considering that Hinduism claims to be able to accommodate Christianity, we should not be overly impressed. The writer/producers of the Matrix may just be throwing in religious/philosophical ideas around for fun. They can get away with anything because in a software world, run by programs--and we all know from Mr. Gates how buggy such things can be--you do not need a cohesive and consistent universe. We must remember that the first matrix stated and the second and perhaps third imply that, "There is no spoon."

Still, this final film is a story well told. For fans of the first who were disappointed and worried by the second, I say, "Go see this and enjoy it."

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