"Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me: Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God? Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. Disperse the rage of your wrath; look on everyone who is proud, and humble him. Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together, bind their faces in hidden darkness. Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you" (40:6-14).
As God has already shown and will continue to demonstrate, man is not in a position to understand all the ways of deity. Man is too weak to render any judgment against God, let alone expose a flaw in God's judgments. Therefore, God has the right to do what He has done--because His judgments are perfect! If Job were able to humble the proud and judge the wicked fairly, then he'd also be able to save himself.
God now begins concluding His speech by mentioning two of His most powerful earthly creatures: the behemoth (40:15-24) and the leviathan (chapter 41). The purpose God has in mind in mentioning these animals is clear. Man is utterly incapable of controlling that which is easy for God to both create and control. Thus, man should not doubt God's power or judgment in other areas. God's power is also seen implicitly in the power He is able to give to these creatures.
"Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you; he eats grass like an ox. See now, his strength is in his hips, and his power is in his stomach muscles. He moves his tail like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are tightly knit. His bones are like beams of bronze, his ribs like bars of iron. He is the first of the ways of God; only He who made him can bring near His sword. Surely the mountains yield food for him, and all the beasts of the field play there. He lies under the lotus trees, in a covert of reeds and marsh. The lotus trees cover him with their shade; the willows by the brook surround him. Indeed the river may rage, yet he is not disturbed; he is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth, though he takes it in his eyes, or one pierces his nose with a snare" (40:15-24).
Have you ever seen a creature that fits this description? There are three common interpretations regarding the identities of the behemoth and the leviathan (which we have yet to read about):
God continues the same line of argumentation in chapter 41 but now begins asking Job about a sea creature, the leviathan:
"Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? Can you put a reed through his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak softly to you? Will he make a covenant with you? Will you take him as a servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you leash him for your maidens? Will your companions make a banquet of him? Will they apportion him among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons, or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hand on him; remember the battle--never do it again! Indeed, any hope of overcoming him is false; shall one not be overwhelmed at the sight of him? No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. Who then is able to stand against Me? Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine" (41:1-11).
God's point to Job in verse 10 is that if you can't challenge an awesome creature like the leviathan, then what makes you think you can challenge the maker of the leviathan?! Job, you've been wrong in your attitude toward Me (reflected in some of things Job said). Realize and reflect upon the truth, Job, that "everything under heaven is Mine." You can't tame or overcome the leviathan, yet I created it and am far greater!
God's description of the powerful leviathan continues:
"I will not conceal his limbs, his mighty power, or his graceful proportions. Who can remove his outer coat? Who can approach him with a double bridle? Who can open the doors of his face, with his terrible teeth all around? His rows of scales are his pride, shut up tightly as with a seal; one is so near another that no air can come between them; they are joined one to another, they stick together and cannot be parted. His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lights; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth. Strength dwells in his neck, and sorrow dances before him. The folds of his flesh are joined together; they are firm on him and cannot be moved. His heart is as hard as stone, even as hard as the lower millstone. When he raises himself up, the mighty are afraid; because of his crashings they are beside themselves. Though the sword reaches him, it cannot avail; nor does spear, dart, or javelin. He regards iron as straw, and bronze as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; slingstones become like stubble to him. Darts are regarded as straw; he laughs at the threat of javelins. His undersides are like sharp potsherds; he spreads pointed marks in the mire. He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment. He leaves a shining wake behind him; one would think the deep had white hair. On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear. He beholds every high thing; he is king over all the children of pride" (41:12-34).
What a description! Does it sound like any creature we are familiar with? Can you imagine a creature that has body armor, rows of scales, the ability to breathe fire, and is fearless? I can; we call them dragons! But Stephen, those are just mythological creatures! Are they? Many ancient cultures refer to awesome creatures like the leviathan God describes. Could God have created such a creature and it (for whatever reasons) has since become extinct? Absolutely.
Regardless of the specific identities of these great creatures, let us not get sidetracked from God's point in referring to them. A primary lesson to learn from the behemoth is that man is powerless against God's awesome land creature. A primary lesson to learn from the leviathan is that man is powerless against God's awesome sea creature. In general, man is simply powerless against Almighty God!
I think Wayne Jackson summed it up best when he wrote in his commentary on page 131: "The more one studies Jehovah's great examination of Job [in chapters 38-41], the more impressed he becomes with humanity's great ignorance in contrast with the wonderful, omniscience of the great Creator of this universe! Study it and be humbled." Indeed, we should be humbled, dear friends.
"Then Job answered the LORD and said: 'I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, "Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?" Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, "I will question you, and you shall answer Me." I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes'" (Job 42:1-6).
Job has been satisfied with God's speeches. His question of "why?" was never answered specifically, but Job seems to have a greater appreciation of God's greatness and his own smallness.
The lesson God indirectly taught Job is this: You need to trust the ways of God! You don't need to know why you've been suffering, Job. All you need to do is completely trust the Lord. This lesson is certainly a good one for all Christians today. There are many things we may not understand, yet we do not need to completely understand. Our God is in control, and we should live in the confidence of that precious truth.
Previously Job thought he had a good understanding of God and His ways, but he now admits that he is woefully ignorant. There is much more to God than he ever imagined! Job's words are not those of someone who has been disciplined and chastened. These are the words of one who has gladly been a student of God and is rejoicing in his increased understanding.
When Job says he abhors himself and repents in dust and ashes in 42:6, what does he mean? Job has just admitted to having a limited view of God and being ignorant. I don't believe he is repenting of sin so much as he is turning from his former view of God and self. He has realized that he is little more than dust and ashes compared to God. He is certainly sorry for some of the rash things he has spoken.
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.