The book of Job has been the subject of reflections from August to October. This is the final reflection on Job. Relying on the Revised Common Lectionary’s readings for Tuesdays, I have drawn on nominated passages from Job to offer us encouragement and to guide our living week by week. The passage for today is Job 38: 39 – 39: 2. These verses require introduction, however, with Job 38: 1-3.
Job 38: 1-3 (NIV)
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”
Job 38: 39 – 39: 2 (NIV)
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?
39: 1 Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth?”
This latter passage gives us just a taste of the questions God posed to Job. It is preceded by a section of beautiful and evocative poetry in which God challenged Job with questions about the secrets of inanimate creation. From Job 38: 39 and through Job 39, God moved on to questions to do with animate creation and especially those creatures little known to humans. Chapters 40 and 41 then posed questions to Job about two animals in particular.
Why did God pose such questions to Job? God was refusing to “play the game” by “rules” that men had devised. Job had been hoping that God would speak and vindicate him; Job’s friends had been hoping that God would rebuke him. God did neither. Instead, God challenged Job with questions in order to correct and to educate him but not to punish him.
God’s questions had the intended effect. Job realised his impertinence. He began to regard God as God! We read Job’s words in the final chapter of the book (Job:42).
3 You asked, “Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?”
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
4 You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”
5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.
Reading God’s challenges to Job, I am reminded of this verse from Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (9: 20): “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”
How do we perceive God?
- Do we regard him to be aloof, far off and disinterested in his creation?
- Do we think of a threatening, wrath-filled, vengeful Judge?
- Do we perceive him as divine Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Sanctifier of the entire universe, of all of planet earth and of every human being who has ever been born?
Is our concept of God too small? Do we need to reflect again, perhaps re-reading chapters 38-41, to pray for God to reveal his glory to us and, as was the case with Job, do we need to “repent in dust and ashes”?