Lord, teach me to mind my place vis-à-vis the Almighty.
Read JOB 38:1–41
The Lord Speaks
38 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.
16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
How many times have you felt overconfident about victory over a certain weakness, only to succumb once again?
The overpowering pain drives Job into the dark valley, where he demands God’s response to his “why?” questions. The long wait triggers Job’s final outburst: “let the Almighty answer me” (31:35), through which he boldly challenges God to come out of hiding. Out of the whirlwind (1, NRSV), the Lord finally speaks and in a distinctly adversarial tone. He articulates his plan for the universe (2), with special attention to cosmic boundaries (4–18), meteorological phenomena (19–30,34–38), and a variety of mammals and birds (38:39—39:30).
Job has repeatedly questioned God’s design for the cosmos, which seems to be chaotic and unjust. Interestingly, the Lord asks questions instead of answering. First, he challenges Job’s limited understanding by asking, “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without
knowledge?” (2)—which Job repeats in 42:3. The unrelenting list of rhetorical questions in the first divine speech bears on God’s design. Do these questions only mean to belittle, rebuke, and condemn the addressee? William J. Dumbrell concludes that, “There is no hint in these speeches that Job is being treated as a sinner; rather, he is being treated as one whose horizons need to be expanded” (The Faith of Israel, 258).
Samuel E. Balentine rightly points out: “When God addresses similar questions to Job, we should pause to consider whether the objective is to belittle a blatant wrongdoer or to embolden a true servant whose faith is faint but worthy. If all poetry is a ‘raid on the inarticulate,’ as T. S. Eliot says, then perhaps God’s rhetorical questions are a raid on Job’s despair about what seems incomprehensible” (Job: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, 634). It is noteworthy that God’s appearance and his choice of words are equally important here. The divine speech purports to broaden Job’s horizons, whereas the divine presence gives him a sense of closeness, despite his overwhelming feelings of despair. Both signify God’s approach to his beloved people—relationship building. Today we are so blessed to have both the Bible and the Holy Spirit within us.
Consider our woeful inadequacy in understanding the world, its operation and its many divinely placed features.
Lord, forgive us for obscuring Your will and plan without knowledge. Remove our ignorance by coming to speak to us so that we may see things from Your perspective.