Job 39: The Person, Not a Mere Formula
December 21, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
In many ways this chapter is better read than lengthily explained. The rhythm and power of it needs to sweep over us for its effect to be realized. It needs to be seen in context with the overall sweep of the book, and in that frame its purpose becomes clear. Job has been complaining about his undeserved suffering. His friends (so-called friends) have attempted to persuade him that he really does deserve to suffer in the way that he has. Job has refused to accept their case and has continued to ask why this is happening to him.
Now God comes and questions Job. And in this chapter these questions continue. They are all designed not so much to provide Job with an answer as to present Job with The Answer, the Person of God himself. Job encounters God, and in doing so discovers how little he really knows. The questions in this chapter focus on the animal kingdom:
“Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?” (39:19).
Job does not make, maintain or control the animals around him. How can Job possibly understand the greatest problem of them all—the rationale and explanation for suffering and evil?
Through this process of questioning, Job is gradually brought face-to-face not with his own mortality but with his own finitude: there is much that Job does not know. He is not God, and to realize the un-Godness of yourself is the first step to wisdom. Or as the wisdom literature puts it: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
When we see things from this perspective—with a view of God that is suitably massive—then it changes our perspective on all things. Even suffering. A child cannot understand the problems that beset an adult. A child must trust his father when faced with a danger that he cannot perceive or notice. There are times when a child appears to be hurt—a flu shot, for instance—for which his own infancy cannot then grasp the purpose. True suffering and trauma is a far worse problem than such childhood bumps and bruises, but the principle is similar. How much more are we unable to understand the creation of the universe, the origin of evil, and the purpose behind all our sufferings. We cannot control or create the animal kingdom; how can we think that we can understand our own bodies, frail as they sometimes are, or our minds and hearts with their convoluted layers upon layers? But, God in his questioning of Job shows, when we come to hear from God, we find not so much the answer to our questions, as questions that show us that we have been asking the wrong question. We meet a Person, not a solution: The Person, not a mere formula.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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