After 35 chapters of dialogue between Job and his friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, & Elihu), God Himself speaks to Job. As God begins, He directs His words to Job by overwhelming him with nearly sixty questions. These inquiries serve as a series of invitations to serious thoughts and consideration about man's limited understanding (about everything) and God's implicit wisdom, power, and greatness as the Creator of everything. These questions are designed to bring Job (and all who study God's speech) to a greater comprehension of the awesome ways of Jehovah and to subsequently cause him to trust God even when the circumstances of life are puzzling, frustrating, and even depressing.
God's approach to Job is unique in that He avoids most of the previous topics that have been discussed by the five men. He does not explicitly criticize Job for his searching and questioning. In fact, we will later note where God praises Job for primarily speaking correctly about Him. In spite of not answering Job's specific questions, the man from Uz is more than satisfied with God's reply. The words of the Lord humble Job very quickly, and they still have that effect today upon the wise.
Let us take the time to read the first portion of God's speech in its entirety at this time (Job 38:1-40:5). I have formatted God's questions as bullet points for emphasis. I will intersperse just a few comments in brackets as we consider these questions:
"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 'Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.'" [In other words, get ready, Job, for the debate you longed for!]
- "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding."
- "Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!"
- "Or who stretched the line upon it?"
- "To what were its foundations fastened?"
- "Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" [angels of God sang and shouted for joy during the creation]
- "Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!'"
- "Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? It takes on form like clay under a seal, and stands out like a garment. From the wicked their light is withheld, and the upraised arm is broken."
- "Have you entered the springs of the sea?"
- "Or have you walked in search of the depths?"
- "Have the gates of death been revealed to you?"
- "Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?"
- "Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this."
- "Where is the way to the dwelling of light?"
- "And darkness, where is its place, that you may take it to its territory, that you may know the paths to its home?"
- "Do you know it, because you were born then, or because the number of your days is great?"
- "Have you entered the treasury of snow?"
- "Or have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?"[the providence of God; cf. Josh. 10:11]
- "By what way is light diffused, or the east wind scattered over the earth?"
- "Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water?"
- "Or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man; to satisfy the desolate waste, and cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?"
- "Has the rain a father?"
- "Or who has begotten the drops of dew?"
- "From whose womb comes the ice?"
- "And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? The waters harden like stone, and the surface of the deep is frozen." [Job, do you have power to change the seasons?]
- "Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades?"
- "Or loose the belt of Orion?"
- "Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season?"
- "Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs?"
- "Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?"
- "Can you set their dominion over the earth?"
- "Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that an abundance of water may cover you?"
- "Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, 'Here we are!'?"
- "Who has put wisdom in the mind?" [God does! Anything man knows, he knows only because God has allowed him to learn or "discover" it]
- "Or who has given understanding to the heart?"
- "Who can number the clouds by wisdom?"
- "Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven, when the dust hardens in clumps, and the clods cling together?"
- "Can you hunt the prey for the lion?"
- "Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait?"
- "Who then provides food for the raven, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?"
- "Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young?"
- "Or can you mark when the deer gives birth?"
- "Can you number the months that they fulfill?"
- "Or do you know the time when they bear young? They bow down, they bring forth their young, they deliver their offspring. Their young ones are healthy, they grow strong with grain; they depart and do not return to them."
- "Who set the wild donkey free?"
- "Who loosed the bonds of the onager, whose home I have made the wilderness, and the barren land his dwelling? He scorns the tumult of the city; He does not heed the shouts of the driver. The range of the mountains is his pasture, and he searches after every green thing."
- "Will the wild ox be willing to serve you?"
- "Will he bed by your manger?"
- "Can you bind the wild ox in the furrow with ropes?"
- "Or will he plow the valleys behind you?"
- "Will you trust him because his strength is great?"
- "Or will you leave your labor to him?"
- "Will you trust him to bring home your grain, and gather it to your threshing floor?" [if you can't handle a wild ox, Job, what makes you qualified to handle God's universe?]
- "The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork's? For she leaves her eggs on the ground, and warms them in the dust; she forgets that a foot may crush them, or that a wild beast may break them. She treats her young very harshly, as though they were not hers; her labor is in vain, without concern, because God deprived her of wisdom, and did not endow her with understanding. When she lifts herself on high, she scorns the horse and its rider." [the ostrich is here portrayed as man commonly viewed her; not as she actually is]
- "Have you given the horse strength?"
- "Have you clothed his neck with thunder?"
- "Can you frighten him like a locust? His majestic snorting strikes terror. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; he gallops into the clash of arms. He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; nor does he turn back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him, the glittering spear and javelin. He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded. At the blast of the trumpet he says, 'Aha!' He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of captains and shouting."
- "Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings toward the south?"
- "Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? On the rock it dwells and resides, on the crag of the rock and the stronghold. From there it spies out the prey; its eyes observe from afar. Its young ones suck up blood; and where the slain are, there it is."
"Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said: 'Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.' Then Job answered the LORD and said: 'Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yes, twice, but I will proceed no further" (Job 38:1-40:5).
Job was frustrated and depressed, but he was no fool. Although he now has the chance to speak to God directly, he wisely decides not to use it (cf. 42:1-6)! Essentially God has challenged Job: "You've seen the knowledge and control I have over nature; tell me, is there something you think I have failed in?" The implication is clear: If God hadn't failed in such diverse and wondrous matters, what makes Job think God has failed him in any way? Job admits that he is too small or insignificant (a better rendering than "vile" is my estimation) to give an answer to God's questions. Although we have learned the answer to some of these questions in the last thousand years, most of these questions modern man still cannot answer affirmatively and likely never will.
Again, let it be emphasized that the questions God piles up for the great patriarch do not specifically answer Job's questions. But, they do clearly demonstrate the concept of God's power. Deity has all power and all knowledge to these questions and more; what does man have in comparison? Lots and lots of ignorance and weakness. Consequently, man must learn to trust in God and His ways--even when we don't understand why something has happened or why we're suffering. Friends, Job realized he didn't need to have all the answers when such a great God was in control; may we fully embrace Job's disposition in this regard!
A poet once expressed this sentiment in three powerful lines: Our job is not to reason why. Our job is not to make reply. Our job is but to do and die. Amen!
We will continue studying God's speech to Job in our next feature lesson. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.