Today’s Reading: Job 38-40
Today’s Reflection: Job 38:2
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
What is this text saying?
After Job and his friends have finished their conversation about Job’s plight, God finally responds. His oratory to Job begins with this provocative question.
Why is it important?
In some ways I believe the Book of Job is the most important in the Bible, because it deals with the question most central to the human experience—fairness and justice. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do terrible things sometimes happen to completely innocent people? And why does a loving, all knowing, all powerful God allow these things to happen to us and the ones we love?
After suffering the tragic loss of his wealth, his children and his health Job never questions God’s authority or His righteousness. But Job does ask several questions of God: Why was God punishing him (Job 7:17-21)? How could he plead for justice? Where and to whom (Job 9:11-12, 19)? And why did God let these things happen (Job 10:3)?
When God finally responds in Job chapters 38 to 41 He says a great many things, but He never actually answers Job’s questions. This is a crucial point. When Jesus was on earth there were many instances when He was asked questions that He did not answer. He would instead make a seemingly unrelated statement in response, or ask a question, or tell a parable. Jesus wasn’t avoiding these questions. He was saying something profound to the questioner. He was telling them you’re asking the wrong question. You’ve missed the point. His seemingly roundabout responses were meant to get the people asking that question back on track to the truth God was revealing to them.
God’s avoidance of Job’s questions means something. Job, with his concerns about the justice of what has happened to him, has completely missed the point. By extension, when we ask the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people? Even God’s people?’ we’re completely missing the point.
So what then is the point?
In Job chapters 38 to 41, God expounds upon the vastness of the universe, the breadth, depth, boundless majesty, grandeur, complexity and beauty of all creation. Repeatedly, God asks Job where was he when all of this came into existence? Who was responsible for it all and who sustains it all? At this point Job realizes that God has an understanding of events he could never have. As Job himself says, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).
God makes it clear to Job that He has every element of the universe, from the largest celestial phenomenon to the tiniest microscopic detail, under His command. And this scope includes all of the events of Job’s life. Despite the fact that Job couldn’t understand what was happening to him or why, at no time was Job’s life not under God’s complete control (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7).
How can I apply this?
God wanted Job to trust Him. He wants us to trust Him too.
The assurance that every element of our lives is under God’s control is meant to offer us comfort. It should comfort you to know that when you lose a job, or a relationship ends, or a loved one dies, God is still in control of everything in your life.
I suspect that for many of us this knowledge is anything but comforting. This is because we often believe we know better than God what should and should not be allowed to happen. We have a notion of what we ‘deserve’, and we judge God based on these assumptions.
This is us ‘missing the whole point’.
I’m not going to try to explain why ‘bad things happen to good people’, why evil exists, why the innocent suffer, why loved ones die, why tragedy happens. God did not attempt to defend Himself from Job in this way and I’m not going to fall into that trap. That too would be ‘missing the whole point.’
The point is that God’s ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). The fact of the matter is our lives are part of an epic so vast we—like Job—can barely begin to grasp it. The truth is, if God were to give us the answers to these questions, would we be able understand them any more than Job could understand where the storehouses of snow and hail are (Job 38:22)? What God does need us to understand is that He’s still the one in charge of everything, and no matter what happens in our lives we can have complete confidence everything He has said, everything He has promised, every hope He has given us will come to pass (2 Timothy 2:13).
So then, why should we trust God?
If you’re reading this message you are a recipient of God’s grace (favour you don’t deserve—2 Timothy 1:9) and mercy (spared punishment you do deserve—Psalm 59:16), no matter what your circumstances are. Just as God’s sustenance ensures the seas don’t break beyond their borders (Job 38:8-11), that the hawk soars (Job 39:26) and the horse retains his might (Job 39:19), God has ensured eternal life is available to you (John 3:16). No matter what you’re going through God is still working to guide you to choose the salvation He offers (Romans 10:9-10). The plans God has for us are for good (Jeremiah 29:11) and the eternal outcome He is working towards for us is infinitely more important than the hurts and pains along the journey there, no matter how grievous they may seem at the moment. The same is true for our loved ones, both those here and those we’ve lost.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 – For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Our afflictions are light in comparison to the promise of eternity. Our problem is we can’t conceive of eternity. We don’t see everything that God says is. We see things through a glass, dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). Our perception is off, and because of this right now our afflictions don’t look so light. This is why God reminds us He is in control, and asks us to trust Him. To have faith in Him, and believe in the unseen things that He promises will be (Hebrews 11:1-3, 6).
Though suffering and afflictions are not things we seek out, we must understand that each of us will encounter them (Philippians 1:29). Paul writes that we must learn to be content not only when we abound, but when we are abased; not only when we are full, but even when we are hungry (Philippians 4:11-12). God has warned us about what we would experience when (not if) we went through the floods and flames of life’s challenges. He cautioned us about the valley of the shadow of death, not to avoid it but to know to expect it. God also says one other thing in each of these instances: He tells us that He will always be with us in these challenging times (Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 23:4; Philippians 4:13).
God understands that if we’re obeying Him and living as He instructs us, it may be confusing for us to see our lives appear to unravel as Job’s did. This is why He reassures us that if we’re living according to His purposes for our lives, He is taking everything that comes into our lives and working it out for our good (Romans 8:28).
Furthermore God has told us trials and temptations will not always be. Sin will end (Hebrews 9:26), and death will itself die (1 Corinthians 15:26). What we suffer and struggle with now is only for a time. It will not last forever.
That our focus should be on the eternal (Matthew 6:33), does not mean that we are expected to ignore the here and now. Nor does it suggest that what you suffer and struggle with in this life has no importance, either to you or to God. There is a reason why Paul instructs the church to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). There is a reason why Jesus, about to raise Lazarus from the dead, took the time to cry and mourn with Lazarus’ family first (John 11:35).
God understands that loss and suffering hurts. He also understands that hope heals. What He asks is that while you’re hurting, don’t lose hope. Keep your faith and trust in God. He is still in control.
Psalm 31:24 – Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD.