XI. God’s Response (Job 38:1–41:34)
XI. God’s Response (38:1–41:34)
After each visitor had his say, the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind (38:1). In other words, God took over and did a face-to-face with Job that revealed his awesome sovereignty and power, leaving Job flat on the ground. He said, Who . . . obscures my counsel with ignorant words? Get ready to answer me like a man (38:2-3). Previously, Job had demanded a hearing with God. So, the lesson here is this: be careful what you wish for.
Don’t miss the imbalance of power in this divine confrontation. One night, I encountered a cockroach in my kitchen. Only, this was no ordinary roach. When I moved toward him, he didn’t skitter; he didn’t run. He sat there as if to say, “This is my place.” I couldn’t believe it when the thing wouldn’t budge. And that stubborn posture meant he clearly didn’t understand who I was, and thus, I squashed that boy flat. Now, what that insect did to me is what autonomous man often does to God. He gets “roachy” on God, digging in his heels or swaggering around like he is someone, like he has power. But, it’s suicide to get in God’s face because only he has ultimate power.
When God spoke up and told Job to stand up and face him, Job’s friends were probably as terrified as Job by God’s overwhelming presence and were thankful he wasn’t speaking to them (not yet, at least). But, instead of rebuking Job for all his supposed sins, God began asking him a series of questions. And every one of them was rhetorical because God wasn’t interested in Job’s answers. In fact, God knew Job wouldn’t be able to answer any of his questions. That was the whole point.
The Lord demanded of Job, Where were you when I established the earth? (38:4). Then, for the next two chapters, God asked Job what he knew about creation (38:4–39:30). Job thus got the oral exam of his life. He’d wanted his day in court, and it couldn’t have been fun to find himself under cross-examination. How was the world made? What makes the sun rise? Where does the wind come from? Why do the stars shine? Can you command lightning bolts to strike? Do you provide for the animals of the world? Are you able to create a horse? Tell me, if you know all this. . . . Don’t you know? . . . you have lived so long! (38:18, 21).
Importantly, in a sense, God’s questions were an answer to Job’s accusations—not that God needed to defend himself or his actions to Job or anyone else. But, as Job pressed God time and again to tell him why he was suffering and why God was punishing him for no reason (at least no reason as far as Job was concerned), Job’s attitude became sinful as he began to see his troubles as God’s grossly unfair attack on him. So, God used these and the other questions to humble Job and help him see how truly ignorant he was of God’s sovereign wisdom and power. Job didn’t understand the reason for his suffering. But, God told him, “That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more you don’t understand.”
God’s grilling of Job brings us to chapter 40, in which Job was finally allowed to speak. The court date hadn’t turned out as Job had expected. The Lord had made the most awe-inspiring and irrefutable opening statement ever before pausing to permit Job a chance to reply: Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who argues with God give an answer (40:2). Job, however, couldn’t answer a single one of God’s questions—let alone the whole multitude of them.
Job responded the only way a frail human could: I am so insignificant. How can I answer you? . . . I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but now I can add nothing (40:4-5). Nevertheless, the Lord wasn’t finished with him yet: Would you really challenge my justice? Would you declare me guilty to justify yourself? (40:8).
This confrontation is a small glimpse of the future. It’s one thing to scold God for his handling of our affairs when we can’t see or hear him. It’s another thing to confront God to his face. Yet, all of us will stand before him face-to-face one day like Job. Job was moved to repentance. Will you shake your fist at God? Or, bow your head in humility?
Within this section, the Lord also directed Job’s attention to Behemoth and Leviathan (40:15–41:34). Clearly, these beasts were the epitome of strength, ferocity, and terror in Job’s day. Yet, they were also objects of God’s creative power and wisdom. Humanity cannot comprehend all the intricacies of such creatures. How much less, then, can we comprehend the mysteries of God’s providential dealings?