Job Lesson 6
SUBJECT: Wisdom and Power
CENTRAL THEME: God’s wisdom and power are unfathomable.
INTRODUCTION: Have you ever had the thought that things would be different if you were in charge? Can you think of some situation that happened where you would have made a better decision than some other person who was ultimately wrong? OH, IF I WERE KING!!! Unfortunately, most of us always answer to someone else and it’s not unusual for us to think that we would treat people better and always be fair and just with everyone else. Has it every crossed your mind to accuse God of being unfair because of life’s situations? Job raised this issue, and God responded by reminding Job of His credentials. Today, we will consider God’s justifiable and authoritative claim to be, well, GOD!
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT:
Throughout the Book of Job, the four friends argued that Job’s only relief from suffering would come after his repentance. As we have seen, they assumed Job was holding onto a sinful reliance on earthly gifts rather than loving the Giver of those gifts. Job maintained that the answer to his questions regarding suffering would come from God. Ultimately, he believed God would vindicate him and prove his claims of innocence to be true. For this reason, he longed for the opportunity to meet with God. In chapter 38, Job was finally granted what he desired. However, their face-to-face meeting did not go the way he anticipated. Ready to confront God for all the suffering he endured, Job found himself being confronted by God.
In God’s first speech proceeding from a whirlwind, He confronted Job with questions—questions for which Job had no answer. This should not surprise the reader. After all, what human was there when God created the world and can give an account for how it was made (Job 38:4-7)? How could any human find the source of the sea or explain how to control it (38:8-11)? Has any human being been to the realm of the dead and lived to tell about it (38:16-17)? Is there any human who can command the morning, control precipitation, or intimately know the heavens above (38:12-38)? Even when it comes to the creatures of the earth, what human being can demonstrate complete dominion over the animal kingdom (38:39–39:30)? Absolutely no one. Thus, in the first speech, God put Job in his proper place. The wisdom and power of God towered over Job to bring him to a place of humility.
Now that Job was made aware of his ignorance, he responded by pledging silence (40:3–5). In His second speech, God inquired of Job’s power compared to the other creatures God had made (40:6–41:34). Job responded by humbly submitting to God’s authority and apologetically showing remorse for his earlier wild words (42:1-6). Even while Job had defended himself against his friends’ accusations, he admitted here his insufficiency for the mysterious purposes of God. In this section of the book, the Creator-creature distinction is on full display in God’s monologue and questioning of Job.
EXPLORE THE TEXT: JOB 40:1-14
Objective Statement: Every believer should acknowledge his or her limitations in this life. God asks Three Questions that reveal the weakness of all mankind in comparison to Almighty God.
QUESTION #1 – CORRECT ME? (vs. 1-5)
Verses 1-2 say, “1 Moreover the Lord answered Job, and said, 2 Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.”
After His initial barraging Job with questions (chaps. 38–39), illustrating Job’s lack of power and wisdom, God landed a final question to end His first speech. The question was simple yet powerfully profound: “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct Him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.”
God asked Job to justify his heart’s intent in approaching Him the way he did. Whenever the line between Creator and creature is blurred, error and idolatry result. We see this in the actions of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3). Humans are made in God’s image and likeness; He is not made in ours. Many missteps in theology are on account of the implicit idea that God must act as we would act, or that humans can fully understand the ways of God where they have not been revealed. CAN ANYONE DEFINE THE TERM “ANTHROPOMORPHISM”? (Well, it is when the Bible uses manlike characteristics to describe God. God is not a human, but in order for the human mind to understand any of God’s characteristics they must be described in human conceptions that people can grasp. That is why we talk about God having hands, or eyes, or love, so that we can visualize what God looks like and how He responds). God reveals Himself to us in human terms, but we must not think our limited understanding is the ultimate reference point for God’s actions.
What mere creature would dare to contend with “the Almighty” and instruct Him? The usage of the name “Shaddai” is enlightening for understanding the foundation of this speech. This name is sometimes translated “My God” or “Almighty.” Therefore, Job was speaking to the Almighty God, the One who created the heavens and earth and all creatures that dwell therein. The name “Shaddai” carries with it the meaning, “the overpowerer.” This reminds us that it is impossible for anyone or anything to keep God from accomplishing His sovereign decrees. In this section of Job, God gave Job an intensely clear and awe-inspiring description and display of His power. No one can thwart God’s will, and no creature can fully understand His ways.
Verse 3-5 – “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, 4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. 5 Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.”
Knowing that Job intended to confront Him, God revealed Himself as the Almighty to humble Job and to quiet his “mouth.” In other words, God set Job straight before He began to address the perceived unfairness of his suffering. When God demanded a response, Job did so in proper form. Job really had nothing to say, even though God invited him to do so. Job rightly recognized that these matters were beyond his understanding. In fact, they are beyond the reach of a human’s power of knowledge. It is clear that Job realized his ignorance in these matters and his mistake in suggesting that he might reprove God.
Job had previously thought he would put God in His place, but it was God who set Job in his proper place here. In relation to Almighty God, Job rightly described himself as small and “vile.” For this reason, Job covered his mouth and remained silent, just as others had once done in His presence (Job 29:9). Job knew better than to fire back at God. While he had spoken in previous chapters, now that he had an audience with God, he regretted his prideful intent. Isn’t it interesting how brave we can be when we are not in the midst of our accusers? We can talk a mean game can’t we? In sum, God challenged Job to explain his credentials to correct Him, leading Job to admit that he could add nothing more to what he already had said. He thus pledged to remain silent.
It is not necessarily wrong to question the Lord as He works out His will in the world, and particularly in our lives. It is not wrong unless we become sinfully adamant that He justify His actions. Human beings may have questions about how God rules His world but have no justification for demanding answers for circumstances they do not deem appropriate. Oftentimes children will ask their parents “why” questions when they are told to do something. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, unless the child’s questions reveal a heart of rebellion or their actions are disobedient. Sometimes the parent’s explanation “because I told you so” should be enough.
As Christians, we must remember that God is the Creator and we are the creatures. Furthermore, we do not know enough about creation to understand all of God’s ways. Only God knows the beginning from the end, and we must learn to trust His wisdom in working out His purposes. Most times the proper response to God’s work is not to question Him but to be silent before Him. How many times have we sat in silence before God? (Consider the lost art of meditation upon the Word of God!) The answer to this question may reveal our disposition before Him.
QUESTION #2 – QUESTION MY JUSTICE? (vs. 6-9)
“6 Then answered the Lord unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 7 Gird up thy loins now like a man: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. 8 Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? 9 Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?”
Even after Job’s admission of insignificance and his decision to quiet his mouth, God continued. In fact, God launched into a second speech directed squarely at Job and intended to search his heart. At this point it is clear that God was not done; Job had not yet fully learned his lesson. Therefore, in verses 6-9, God “answered … unto Job out of the whirlwind.”
The Lord called Job to prepare for another set of questions. The call was to stand and provide an answer. In fact, God ordered to Job to “gird up thy loins now like a man.” God asked, Job, are you ready to “disannul my judgment?” The irony of this conversation is clear: Job knew how it felt to be questioned and judged by those who had drawn wrong conclusions about his circumstances. Here the tables turned, and God was showing Job that he had overextended his perceived judgments about the hidden purposes of God in his life.
Throughout this book, Job had agreed that sinners should suffer but did not see himself as meriting the suffering he experienced. Therefore, Job probably believed that his suffering had been unjust. Perhaps Job was more concerned with defending his innocence than he was defending God’s justice. After all, Job had unfairly questioned God’s justice (v. 8). In essence, Job thought that by allowing the wicked to seemingly flourish and the innocent (himself) to suffer, God did not render fair judgment. But as we have seen, there are times when things do not seem to be happening according to our perspective of what is just. For Job, he thought earlier these were strong judgments to land against the Almighty.
Even still, God did not explain His purposes in permitting Job’s suffering. As He unrelentingly questioned Job, we begin to understand that God’s purpose is to demonstrate that He alone has the wisdom and power to sovereignly decree what happens in the lives of His creatures. This becomes clear from God’s reference to His “arm” (vs. 9a), which is another anthropomorphic metaphor for God’s power providentially deployed in human history. In the Bible, the “arm of the Lord” is a vivid image of God’s power in both salvation and judgment. (See Ex. 6:6; 15:16.)
It is not only God’s arm but also His “voice” that reverberates like “thunder”, displaying His unrivaled power. This is evident in Psalm 29:3-4: “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Both of these images of God’s arm and voice are utilized to evoke visions of God’s majesty and unrivaled power. The purpose was to put Job in his proper place.
Believers must be careful to avoid viewing God as unfair and unjust. It is important to note in this passage that God did not explain the meaning of Job’s suffering. In the case of Job, as with many of us, suffering is a mystery. Job came to accept the mystery because he feared and respected God. Because Job came to know who God is in light of what He had revealed, he was able to accept what God ordained even though he didn’t understand God’s ways. God chose not to reveal these mysteries to Job, and He didn’t have to. God is God and does not owe His creatures an explanation for all of His acts. Even if God laid out the blueprint for His purposes in Job’s suffering, would Job be able to bear it or to agree with it? Probably not. Like Job, all humans have a limited perspective. This reminds us that our response to God’s will, even in suffering, matters. The point is, we must learn to trust God and continue trusting Him when we cannot grasp His plan and purposes.
QUESTION #3 – SAVE YOURSELF? (vs. 10-14)
“10 Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. 11 Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. 12 Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. 13 Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. 14 Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee.”
Once again, it becomes clear that Job could not answer God’s questions. When it comes to justice on earth, Job was making claims about things beyond what he was able to comprehend or accomplish. God is unrivaled in power and majesty; in comparison, Job was insignificant. Mankind, the crown of creation, pales in comparison to the Creator.
In Scripture, God alone is declared as being adorned “with majesty and excellency” and clothed “with glory and beauty” (See Ps. 47:4; 93:1; 96:6.) Yet here, God challenged Job to adorn himself with such qualities. If Job could adorn himself like God, then he could act like God and execute justice on the wicked. God continued with His challenge. He told Job to “behold every one that is proud, and abase him, to tread down the wicked and to bind their faces in secret.” Underneath this was the reality that Job did not possess the righteous nature necessary to execute justice and bury the wicked. Therefore, he had no right to question God in these things. God and Job were not equals.
The speech ends with God’s conclusion. Unless Job was able to do the things listed above, there was no reason for God to treat him as an equal and explain His actions. Job knew all too well that he could not deliver on these challenges, much less deliver himself from what God had permitted to befall him. In the end, God challenged Job to see that if he were truly more knowledgeable and just than God, then he should be able to adorn himself with splendor, put down the wicked, and save himself from calamity. However, Job remained silent.
The way God engaged Job in this passage reminds all of us that there are times when our mouths should stop before the great Creator and righteous Judge over all the earth. Job began to find true wisdom in bowing down before the Lord in reverent fear. There is nothing or no one who can thwart God’s sovereign will, which is providentially worked out in human history. As Christians, we should find comfort in this truth, knowing that God is at work even when we do not understand our situation or see how it will be used for His purposes. Only God has the wisdom and power to rule His creation. If God is the Creator of all things, then He has the right to govern creation according to His will. If God is the sustainer of creation, we must learn to trust that He will do what is good and right according to His purposes. As Creator and Judge, God always has the last word. Therefore, all of our judgments must proceed from Him, because in the end every knee will bow and agree that what God has done is right and just.
This distinction between God and humanity was first blurred at the fall in Genesis 3 and is diminished anytime we assume God’s intent, question His actions, or rebel against His will. While He denies us the ability to draw near to Him and cross the Creator-creature divide, God sent His Son as a man to draw near to us. While Job met God face to face with the intent of accusing God, God accused Job. However, Jesus took upon Himself our sin so that we can stand in the presence of our Creator as creatures without accusation. The good news of the gospel is the ultimate example of God’s good and perfect will being worked out in the world through suffering. Job may not have been given a reason for his suffering. But we have been given the reason for Jesus’ suffering, namely, that we would escape the eternal suffering that is just for all of us. There is no place to question the justice of God in the cross. Jesus died for us, in our place, as the just sacrifice for our sin so that we could be vindicated in Him.
God’s speech to Job here may seem a little unsettling; however, in what ways is it a sign of mercy compared to how God could have justly responded?
Remember our Objective Statement: Every believer should acknowledge his or her limitations in this life. God asks Three Questions that reveal the weakness of all mankind in comparison to Almighty God.
QUESTION #1 – CORRECT ME?
QUESTION #2 – QUESTION MY JUSTICE?
QUESTION #3 – SAVE YOURSELF?