The Lord Answers Job
April 27, 2014 / No. 3721
Dear Radio Friends,
Today, we come to the last section and the climax and conclusion of the story of the life of Job, in chapters 38-42. In the segment of this last section, God answers Job (chapters 38-41). That is what we are going to consider today. We cannot look at all of God’s answer in one message, so I want to read the first four verses of chapter 38 and we will talk about those verses today.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
That question of God is followed by seventy-seven more questions that God puts to Job to show him His power and to show Job and man how puny they are.
Before we get to God’s answer to Job here, we want to see that Job wanted God to answer him and that this desire for God to answer him grew throughout his experience in his suffering.
In the beginning of the book (chapters 1 and 2), Job rests in the sovereignty of God and he makes an amazing confession there from his suffering and in his loss: “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Sometimes we see this in believers when first suffering comes. They make an amazing response of trust in God’s grace and sovereignty. But, with the passing of time, the pain of Job’s experience sets in. So, in chapter 3, Job begins to ask why. “Why was I born, why do I still have life when I have to go through such suffering?”
Then Job’s three friends begin to speak. They bring him no comfort, but they only put questions in the mind of Job. With their faulty theology, they say to Job that “anyone who suffers like you do must have done something extremely wicked.” And they called Job to repentance.
Job responds to his friends remarkably well. First, he affirms his trust in God. We have looked at some of these confessions of Job. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” And: “He knows the way that I take, and when I have been tried, I will come forth as gold.” Also, Job insists to his three friends on his innocence, that his suffering was not the direct result of some sin in his life. And he was right.
But, as he talks, Job becomes confused. If that is true, that he did not bring this suffering on himself, then why, why is God treating me as He would treat an enemy? So Job begins to question the justice and the love of God. And he demands that God speak to him and explain Himself. We see this increasingly throughout the book. In chapter 10:15 Job says, “I am full of confusion.” In chapter 13:22, 24 he says: “Let me speak, and answer thou me…. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?” And then in chapter 23:3-5, Job makes this request: “Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.” And then at the conclusion of his very last speech, in chapter 31:35, Job says this: “Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me.”
After Job and his three friends have argued and spoken, Elihu, a younger friend of Job who has been listening, speaks. And Elihu’s speech fits this way. He prepares Job for the answer of God. He does the job very fairly. He deals with what Job has said, not false assumptions about what Job has maybe done. And he says to Job, “You are not right in what you say when you accuse God of not being fair, when you question His justice and love.” He reminds Job, “God is greater than man, and so God need not explain Himself to you.” And as Elihu concludes his speech at the end of chapter 37, he speaks of the power of God in the weather, the winds, the clouds, the rain, and the storm. And, while he is speaking, a storm brews from the north and God comes and speaks from a whirlwind in answer to Job’s request.
But God’s answer is not really what Job expected. Job wanted to lay it all out. He had not done anything to deserve this. “God, please explain yourself to me.” Instead, God comes with an awesome display of His power and majesty. And that is enough to answer Job’s suffering.
We see this power and majesty, first, in the manner of God’s answer to Job: a whirlwind, or a tornado. God reveals Himself and His power other times in Scripture this way. We think of Mount Sinai, or when God came and first spoke to Elijah in a storm. This shows the power of God. Perhaps you have experienced a hurricane or a tornado or a typhoon or at least seen the destruction that they can bring.
Out of the storm God spoke. And He showed His greatness to Job. We can be sure that Job and his friends trembled at the whirlwind. In His first words to Job, God rebukes him (chapter 38:2, 3). “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” The counsel here is God’s counsel, God’s eternal and all-wise decree and plan for all things. We read about it in Isaiah 46:9, 10: “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
When Job spoke, he challenged, he darkened God’s counsel. He did that by speaking ignorantly, by entering into things that he did not know, the secret things of the counsel of God. When did he do that? He did that when he said that God treated the wicked and the righteous in the same way. He did that when he accused God, his loving Father, of being his enemy. He did that when he said that God was not fair. He did this when he questioned the love of God and when he wanted to put God before his questions. He darkens counsel without knowledge.
We see here how seriously God takes our words. Job had done nothing to sin. It was simply his words. And Job is called into account because of his words. Jesus says we must give an answer for every idle word that we speak. We also see here how careful we must be in our judgments, that we not enter into the secret things of God. Sometimes when we complain about God’s providences in our life that is exactly what we are doing. So God rebukes Job: “Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge?”
In verse 3 God continues His rebuke. He says to Job, “Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.” Here God puts Job in his proper place. In those days they wore the long robes with a girdle or belt around their waist and they would draw up the robes and tuck them under the belt so that they could be more agile in order to run or to wrestle. We remember Jacob wrestling with God. This is what God is saying now to Job. “Job, you want to fight? Gird up your loins.” You see, Job had it wrong. He thought that God should answer him and God is saying to Job, “No, Job, I don’t answer to you. You must answer to me. And so I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Job, since you seem to know so much, then answer these questions that I will put to you.” And then, with the words of verse 4, God asks the beginning of 77 questions that He puts to Job. This one, in verse 4: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
Now, about these questions, we want to notice a few things.
The first is this, that God in these questions never gives to Job an explanation for his suffering. We have an explanation for it. We, and the angels in the presence of God, know that God had a discussion with Satan at the beginning of the book. But God never told Job about this contest. Yet, what God says to Job here in these questions is enough to answer Job’s sufferings. By revealing His own greatness and power, He tells Job all that he needs to know. We do not always need an explanation. But we do need to know the greatness of God.
The second thing with these questions is that we see God arguing here from the lesser to the greater as He puts to Job questions concerning the creation. He says to Job, “If you cannot understand My lesser ways in the physical realm, how do you expect to answer my greater dealings with men and My eternal purposes with regard to the salvation of souls?”
Also about these questions, we notice that they are intended to humble us. If we cannot answer these questions, which are easy for God to answer, then does not that show us how puny we are, and how silly then to have a high opinion of ourselves and to think that God owes us something, that God owes us an explanation?
Then we should also notice about these questions that they show us that the God of power is a God who is trustworthy. He is saying to Job, “If I can take care of all these things in the created realm, then cannot I be trusted to take care of you? Do not challenge Me, Job. But rather submit to My ways. Trust Me.” There is wonderful comfort there for us. The God whom we trust is the creator of the universe who has every creature in His care, and who perfectly designed everything with a purpose. What is that purpose? It is the salvation of His people in Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1 we read that all things were made by Him and for Him. At the center of creation, at the center of God’s care of the creation and providence and of all the purposes of God, is Jesus Christ. And God created the universe as the stage on which He would reveal Himself in Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer. And in that counsel and purpose are included all of God’s people because, as Ephesians 1:4 tells us, we are chosen in Him, that is in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world.
And God is saying to Job here, “There are ordinary things in the creation, daily occurrences, that you cannot explain. But I know what I am doing here, and if I can take care of the creation from day to day, then trust My counsel and purposes for you as well. Job, all you need to know is that I am God.” And that is the answer to the suffering in the life of Job and to suffering in our lives as believers, too.
In the end, God is God. God can be trusted. So we submit to Him. And when we do not seem to have an answer when our way is very dark and difficult, the best thing that we can do is meditate on the greatness of God and worship Him.
God brings Job back here to his first response in which he confessed (ch. 1), “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” God says to Job in verse 4 (of chapter 38), “Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
That first question that God put to Job contains three outstanding attributes of God, which we must think of especially in our sufferings. The first is God’s eternity. “Job, were you there when I laid the foundation of the world? I was there in the beginning, Job. I was there before all time began. Where were you then, Job? You were just a name in my mind and counsel. I loved you then, I had you in mind then when I created the world. I knew your time and place and circumstances in history. But as for you, Job, you knew nothing of this, then.” In Psalm 139 we sing these words: “Ere into being I was brought, Thy eye did see, and in my thought, my life in all its perfect plan was ordered ere my days began.” God is eternal. And we are finite creatures of time. Over against the eternity of God, our life is like the flash of a falling star in the night sky. It is like a blade of grass that withers in the sun, like a shadow that is gone in a moment, like a dream that is forgotten, like a vapor that vanishes. And yet the eternal God knows our life and our times.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? In that question we see, second, God’s wisdom. “Job, were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?” In this picture or question, and in the following verses, God uses the illustration of a building contractor with a plan. He is saying to Job, “I laid the foundations of the earth. I measured the earth. I marked it out. I used a line to measure it and to make sure it was in place. This world did not come into being by a chaotic big bang that brought everything into existence.” But God had a perfect plan. He had measurements. He knew the weight and the breadth and the position of the earth. He put it all in its place. He holds it in its exact position in relation to the sun. All the intricate details of the creation that make life possible for us are according to God’s wise plan. And when we look at the wisdom and the knowledge of God we see how little we know and how impossible it is for us to understand the ways of God. “Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
And then, third, in that question we see the attribute of God’s power. And, really, the rest of God’s speech, the next 76 questions, focus on this attribute: God’s power in the work of creation and His care of the creation. First, He takes Job to all the inanimate creation. God asks Job, “Can you do these things, can you command the waves, can you stop them, can you call the sun forth in the beginning of the day? Can you call clouds to bring rain? Can you make ice? Do you understand a snowflake? Can you produce star-clusters? Do you know the number of the stars? Did you position them to form constellations?” And then He brings Job to the world of animals. “Do you feed the ravens or the lion? Can you make animals reproduce? Did you create the large variety of animals with all their distinct characteristics—the forgetful ostrich that can run faster than a horse, the grasshopper that fearfully jumps away, the horse that stands strong in battle, the eagle that soars high as a bird of prey and gently cares for her young? Do you know the power of behemoth, a great beast of the sea, or of leviathan, a great animal on the land? Can you stand against them?” And the point God is making to Job is this: “I am the eternal, wise, almighty God who does all things and man cannot begin to understand even My works in the creation. How much less My ways and My purposes that are eternal?”
And so here is the answer to Job’s suffering, to our suffering: Know God and trust in Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word.
Now, perhaps you think that there is a lack of mercy and sympathy in that kind of an answer, that God’s answer to Job only produces terror and awe. So I want to finish by pointing to the grace of God in this revelation to Job.
God does not come to Job to terrify him, but to put His hand on Job’s shoulder and say to him, “Job, look around you. Look around you at My work. Remember who you are and remember where you fit in My work and trust Me, Job. Trust Me.” The very fact that God answers Job is an act of mercy. That comes out in the name that the Holy Spirit uses for God here: It is the name Lord, in all capital letters, the name Jehovah, the covenant name of God, the name that shows His faithfulness and His mercy, God’s personal name. Yes, God comes in majesty and power, but He also comes in love to Job.
And that is how God speaks to us today, too, through His Son Jesus Christ and in the Scriptures. In Hebrews 1:1, 2, we read this: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” How thankful we should be for this. God does not speak from a whirlwind, but He has spoken by His Son who came down and lived and walked among men, who suffered in our place. And all the beauty and glory of God is revealed in Jesus Christ. He speaks to us by Him as the One who has atoned for our sins and adopted us to be His children. He speaks to us today in His Word, not to terrify us, but He stooped down in the gospel to call us to Himself.
Yes, He is a God of justice and power, a God who, as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us, is a jealous God and a consuming fire and who will reveal Himself at the end of time as Judge, from whom the ungodly will hide in terror. But as believers, we need not be terrified. Yes, we must come before Him with reverence and awe, a silence and trust. But also a confidence and assurance, trusting His love in Jesus Christ. God in mercy speaks to us.
Let us pray.
Our Father who art in heaven, we adore Thee as God over all. We trust Thy power, Thy wisdom, and Thy love. And we thank Thee that Thou hast spoken by Thy Son and that we can be assured that because of His sacrifice nothing can ever separate us from Thy love. Help us, Lord, to trust. We pray it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.