The Wonder of the LORD

The Wonder of the LORD

As we saw last week, for an undetermined amount of time God allowed Job not only to undergo deep grief, loss, and physical suffering but also to have his suffering compounded by friends who insisted he was somehow to blame for his suffering. Through numerous exchanges throughout the book, Job made the case for his innocence before his friends and also expressed a desire to make his case before God. And in the end the LORD promised to give him an opportunity to do so as he spoke to Job out of the storm stating, “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.”[1] But before allowing Job to answer, the LORD reminded him about who he was. He is God who made all the world come into being. He is God who sustains and cares for that world. He is God who rules over its seasons, weather, and every creature he has made. And after highlighting some of the many ways that God provides and rules over the world he has made, we arrived at chapter 40 where the LORD again spoke to Job asking, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”[2]

Job did answer God but only briefly as he confessed, “4 I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.”[3] Upon being reminded by God that he is Maker of heaven and earth—and we are not—Job repented of his questioning. He no longer felt the desire or need to make his case before God. And then the LORD spoke to him a second time out of the storm (or whirlwind), again stating, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”[4] This time the LORD began by addressing a matter at the heart of this entire book: Is God just in his dealings with his creation? Starting in verse 8 of chapter 40 we read how the LORD asked Job, “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”[5] God is just. And simply because we’re not always able to see or understand his justice doesn’t mean we have the right to accuse him of being unjust. For if we do accuse him, we are guilty of condemning him to justify ourselves. I sometimes say—with tongue pressed firmly in cheek—“If I were sovereign of the world, this is what I would do” or some version of this. So, for example, the seminary has given students off next week for their second reading week break but this makes no sense to me given that the following week there’s a Thanksgiving break at the end of the week. Well, if I had my way, I would move Reading Week #2 to Thanksgiving week and so allow students time to drive and be with friends and family for the holiday. But I don’t have my way. And though we may think that we’d like to have the final say in how things run, whether at the macro– or the micro– level, would we really? If I can’t even figure out why our vacuum cleaner isn’t working rightly, how could I possibly run a seminary well, much less the world? My point is that when faced with situations beyond our control, even those in which we find ourselves suffering the effects of a fallen world or even of our poor or unwise choices, we should trust in God’s greatness and providence and goodness and justice, not question it. We shouldn’t assume that our suffering is tied to God’s injustice or inability to rule over his creation. We should never condemn him to justify ourselves for to do so is to display great foolishness for it indicates that we have lost our fear of God and have instead embraced evil rather than shunning it and fearing God as Job and other wise ones do.[6]

Well next, and still in chapter 40, the LORD continued to remind Job of the difference between us and him by asking, “9 Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like his 10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.” God is sovereign. God in his providence is sustaining the creation he has made. He is ruling over that creation. And that creation bears witness to his glory and majesty and beauty for all creation reflects the glory, majesty, and beauty of its Maker. As David also testifies in Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”[7]

And God’s rule extends, of course, to those whom he’s made in his image and who thereby are the special objects of both his wrath or salvation, of eternal death or eternal life. Beginning in verse 11 of chapter 40, the LORD continued to address Job in stating  “11 Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, 12 look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. 13 Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. 14 Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.”

Next, as he had also done earlier, the LORD turned to the world of nature to remind Job of the wonder of that creation. Still in chapter 40 he told Job, “15 Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox.” Now “Behemoth” is a transliteration of a Hebrew intensive form of a word meaning beast.[8] Part of the exaggerated description given of this great beast then follows: “16 What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! 17 Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit. 18 Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like rods of iron. 19 It ranks first among the works of God, yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.” Despite the greatness of this beast of the earth, it is no match for God, its Maker, for he is its Maker.

In the next chapter the LORD speaks of Leviathan,[9] a great beast of the sea. And the LORD similarly asks Job, “1 Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? 2 Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook?…. 5 Can you make a pet of it like a bird or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?”[10] And again the LORD notes, “10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it. Who then is able to stand against me? 11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”[11] Right. If we’re unable to rule over or even stand in the presence of the greatest and most fearsome creatures in God’s creation, what makes us think we have the right to rule over or stand against the awesome God who made that awesome creation?

And Job again was given an opportunity to respond to the LORD. As we read in our morning’s passage, the final chapter of the book, Job answered starting in verse 2, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job had understood well the point in what the LORD has spoken to him. God can do all things. No purpose of his can be thwarted. Therefore we should trust him in all things knowing that nothing that takes place in heaven or on earth, in the seas or in the skies, in the world of nature or the world of humanity, in the supernatural or the natural world, lies outside of God’s purposeful and sovereign care. Job then responded specifically to the question the LORD had first posed to him when he spoke to Job out of storm, or whirlwind.[12] As stated in verse 3, Job went on to say to the LORD, “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’” And Job responded by contritely confessing, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” Though in the midst of his suffering and pain, Job had understandably lost sight of the greatness of the God whom he feared, in listening to all that the LORD had to say to him, Job had come to understand and appreciate just how big God is—and just how small we are.

And then Job in verse 4 again restated the words the LORD had posed to him:[13]4 You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’” And Job’s response to this question was similarly contrite, “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.” Faith and sight aren’t quite the same, are they? Though Job’s faith in and desire to be obedient to God and his mandates hadn’t changed throughout—and despite—his ordeal, Job had come to feel that God owed him a hearing. Job had demanded an audience with his God and Maker and Judge that he might prove his innocence before him. But now that he had had a personal encounter with the God he had previously known by faith, Job came to realize just how great and mighty and awesome and wonderful his LORD and Maker was. His former faith saw but a shadow of the reality of who God really is.

In a brief section following this exchange the LORD also addressed Job’s friends as he said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”[14] As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, throughout Job’s misery, his friends insisted that surely he had done some evil or wrong that had resulted in Job’s horrific tribulations. But they were wrong. And the LORD made sure to let them know that they had been wrong regarding the source of Job’s suffering. Therefore he told Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to “take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves.” Job’s friends were rebuked because they had wrongly argued that Job’s suffering was due to some wrong he had done. Yet they were the ones who had been wrong in making such allegations. And for their calling Job’s righteousness into question, the friends had to make atonement; they had to offer a reparation for their sin that they might be reconciled both to God and their suffering friend, Job.

But the reparation wasn’t just in one direction. In order for the reconciliation between Job and his friends to be made complete, the LORD went on further to tell his friends, “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.”[15]  Now can you imagine how incredibly difficult it would be to pray for those who have persecuted you in such a manner? To ask forgiveness of those who have kicked you when you were down? To embrace those who added to your misery by accusing you of being deserving of it? Years before God in Christ came to earth in the person of Jesus, the LORD had Job live out his teaching of loving his enemies and praying for those who persecute you for though he wasn’t an Israelite, Job was a son of his Father in heaven for he believed and followed the one, true God. This one LORD was calling Job to be like his heavenly Father who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous as he cares for all the world he has made.[16]

And then the LORD stated again to Job’s friends, “You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.”[17] Notice that four times in two verses, verses 7–8, the LORD refers to Job as “my servant” indicating, as we noted the first week we looked at this book, how this phrase underscores that Job had a special relationship with God.[18]

Well, when the friends had offered their sacrifices and Job had prayed them, “the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.”[19] Thus did the LORD forgive and vindicate Job; thus was Job’s relationship with God restored; thus were the friends’ relationships with God restored. This is such a beautiful example of what loving God with all of our hearts, souls, mind, and strength entails. And, so, too was the relationship between Job and his friends restored. Though they had sinned against him “seventy times seven times,”[20] Job, at the LORD’s behest, had obeyed as he forgave and prayed for his misguided friends.

And in the LORD’s immeasurable kindness and compassion, we read in verse 10, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” And Job’s restoration extended beyond being reconciled to his friends. As stated in verse 11 “All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.” And so at last Job’s suffering had come to an end. And the end of this suffering included the critical component of his social isolation coming to an end for now he had seen his LORD and Maker and Redeemer and had his fellowship with his friends and others within his broader social circle restored.

And not only that but Job’s material possessions were also restored. As recorded in verse 12, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.” This is twice as much as he had had—and lost—before.[21] And what is more, although there is no way in which one’s lost children could ever be replaced, in time the LORD blessed Job with more children after his ordeal was over. So we’re told in verse 13 that he came to have, “seven sons and three daughters.”[22] And though we’re not told anything regarding his sons, in verse 14 we’re provided the names of his daughters, all of which translate as precious items—Jemimah, meaning dove; Keziah meaning either cinnamon[23] or a type of perfume;[24] and Keren-Happuch meaning a container of antimony, a highly prized eye-shadow.[25] And we’re told not only that “Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters,” but also how, contrary to Ancient Near Eastern custom in which typically only sons were allotted an inheritance, Job “granted [his daughters] an inheritance along with their brothers.”[26] These women, and the father who raised and honored them so were beautiful and rare indeed!

Lastly we’re told, “16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” Like the patriarchs who went before him, Job lived to a ripe old age. In the end, as the voice ensemble sang this morning, Job’s title was read clear. He bid farewell to every fear and wiped his weeping eyes. He was able to smile at Satan’s rage and faced a frowning world despite the earth engaging his soul and fiery darts being hurled. And though a wild deluge came and storms of sorrow fell, in the end Job safely reached his home, his God, his heaven, his all.[27]

This brief consideration of the life of Job should be a powerful reminder for all of us about the wonder of our LORD:

First, he is the One who made everything that exists. Think about that. He made the stars in the heavens; he made the sun; he made the moon; he made the grass and the flowers and the trees; he made every animal; and he made us, in his image, that we might have a relationship with him—the LORD and Maker and Giver of life—and with each other; and with all of his created order.

Second, he not only created all that exists but also sustains and cares and provides for it. If God were to withdraw his presence and sustenance for even a millisecond, everything would return to dust. But he doesn’t withdraw. He is present and actively caring for the world he made and that reflects his glory and majesty. God’s creation points to the reality and power of who God is.[28] And if he provides for and watches over the raven and the horse and the greatest beasts on earth and sea, how much more will he provide for and watch over us who he made for himself?

Third, though God is all-good and all-loving, for reasons we cannot know he allowed his creation to rebel. And this rebellion, at both the spiritual and human level, is the true source of the evil and suffering that creation experiences. The story of Job reminds us that Satan’s tactics never really change for he will do all in his power to try and get us to curse God. Yet if we keep Job’s example before us, perhaps we, too, will be able to resist this terrible temptation. For even when Job had lost all who were near and dear to him, and all his possessions, and even his health, he never cursed God thus proving Satan wrong. And so we are reminded that though we may not know reason for our suffering we can nonetheless always trust in God’s power, and wisdom, and goodness, and love towards us.

Fourth, part of the wonder of who God is that when relationships are ruptured in this fallen world, he desires that they be reconciled. He seeks to restore us to a relationship with himself. As was the case with Job, we are his servants to whom he will ever remain faithful even when we are faithless.[29] And God seeks to restore our relationships with one another. Even when we, as Job’s friends did, act as enemies towards each other, we are called to seek and grant forgiveness that our oneness with God and each other might be repaired.

Dear Job didn’t know he would be Job. That is, Job didn’t have the advantage of having a portion of his life recorded and writ large that he might understand the mystery and wonder of who God is. And in the end, despite his pain and grief and suffering, the LORD’s assessment of Job proved to be true. So we would do well to consider and reflect upon and learn from the life of Job, the servant of the LORD, and seek to be, like him, “blameless and upright” as we fear God and shun evil.[30]

Let us pray.

[1] Job 38:2–3.

[2] Job 40:2.

[3] Job 40:4–5.

[4] Job 40:7.

[5] This sentence is reminiscent of what Jesus later had the landowner say in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:15: “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’” Literally this could be translated, “Is your eye evil, because I am good?” Greek:[ἢ]οὐκἔξεστίνμοιὃθέλωποιῆσαιἐντοῖςἐμοῖς;ἢὁὀφθαλμόςσουπονηρόςἐστινὅτιἐγὼἀγαθόςεἰμι;

[6] As God said “to the human race” earlier in Job 28:28: “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

[7] Verse 2.

[8] The Zondervan NIV Study Bible suggests in its textual note that perhaps a hippopotamus or elephant is in view. Regarding Job 40:15 it notes, “Much of the language used to describe him in vv. 16–24 is highly poetic and hyperbolic.” The Reformation ESV Study Bible note on this verse also suggests “poetical extravagance” in describing what is most likely a hippopotamus even though this word often refers to cattle in other contexts.

[9] See also Isaiah 27:1: “In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword—his fierce, great and powerful sword—Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.” and Psalm 74:14: “It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.” The Zondervan NIV Study Bible textual note on Job 41:1 suggests this might possibly be a crocodile. The Crossway ESV study Bible again agrees on this identification.

[10] Job 41:1–2, 5.

[11] Job 42:10–11.

[12] Job 38:1–2: 1 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”

[13] Job 38:3: “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”And again in Job 40:6–7: 6 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm: 7 “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

[14] Job 42:7b.

[15] Job 42:8a.

[16] Matthew 5:43–45a: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

[17] Job 42:8b.

[18] The first sermon in this brief consideration of Job was October 21, 2018, Have You Considered My Servant?on Job 1:1, 2:1–10. Other noteworthy examples of servants referred to as “my servants” by the LORD may be found in Numbers 12:6–8: he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”; 2 Samuel 7:5a:“Go and tell my servant David,…” The following are references to the Suffering Servant of the LORD fulfilled in the Person of Christ Jesus: Isaiah 42:1: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. Isaiah 52:13: See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Isaiah 53:11: After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

[19] Job 42:9.

[20] See Matthew 18:21-22: 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

[21] Job 1:3: …and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys…..

[22] Earlier Job had lost seven sons and three daughters. Job 1:2: He had seven sons and three daughters,…. Job 1:18–19: 18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

[23] Zondervan NIV Study Bible.

[24] Crossway ESV Study Bible.

[25] Zondervan NIV Study Bible.

[26] Though  not common, another instance of daughters being provided an inheritance is recorded in Numbers 27:1–11: 1 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward 2 and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” 5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord, 6 and the Lord said to him, 7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. 8 “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’” See also Numbers 36:1-13: 1 The family heads of the clan of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, who were from the clans of the descendants of Joseph, came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. 2 They said, “When the Lord commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 Now suppose they marry men from other Israelite tribes; then their inheritance will be taken from our ancestral inheritance and added to that of the tribe they marry into. And so part of the inheritance allotted to us will be taken away. 4 When the Year of Jubilee for the Israelites comes, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their property will be taken from the tribal inheritance of our ancestors.” 5 Then at the Lord’s command Moses gave this order to the Israelites: “What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. 6 This is what the Lord commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan. 7 No inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors. 8 Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of their ancestors. 9 No inheritance may pass from one tribe to another, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.” 10 So Zelophehad’s daughters did as the Lord commanded Moses. 11 Zelophehad’s daughters—Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah—married their cousins on their father’s side. 12 They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father’s tribe and clan. 13 These are the commands and regulations the Lord gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.

[27] When I Can Read My Title Clear. Words by Isaac Watts, 1707; Arr. By Dan Forrest; Traditional American Melody from Kentucky Harmony, 1817.

[28] Romans 1:18–20: 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

[29] 2 Timothy 2:11–13: 11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

[30] Job 1:8, 2:3: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”