Please turn to Job 38:1-4 and read the response of God to Job in his suffering.
Another new character has entered into the scene in the preceding chapters of this book. There had been the three friends who repeatedly brought accusations against Job. Then Elihu came on the scene. Elihu spoke very clear, plain words. God used Elihu as the one through whom to speak His own words. The three friends had not given any consolation. They had not spoken according to God’s will. But they had irritated and afflicted the man of Uz. Elihu was used by God to prick Job and to bring Job to an awareness of his sin-an awareness of the fact that though the sufferings and afflictions were not on account of God’s wrath and hatred for Job, nevertheless Job ought not exalt himself so piously. He ought to submit himself and to acknowledge that he had done wrong. He had questioned the goodness of God. He had cursed the day of his birth.
But Job is not ready yet to submit to the words of Elihu. Though they pricked, though he is silent as he finds no words to reply to Elihu, Job does not yet confess his own sin and weakness.
Jehovah now, in all of His power and authority, comes to speak to Job. Jehovah does not speak to Job with that still small voice with which He spoke to Elijah in I Kings 19:11, 12. But Jehovah now comes through the storm. He comes to rebuke Job because Job, in the midst of affliction, has not continued uncomplainingly. He has complained. He has spoken harsh and wicked words.
In the midst of the storm Jehovah comes. Clouds and darkness surround the earth. Stormy winds whip through. And through those stormy winds comes the voice of Jehovah in the whirlwind speaking to Job. The speaker here makes clear who He is: “I laid the foundations of the earth.” He is the Creator of heaven and earth. Jehovah! Jehovah here reminds man of His own greatness and glory. He is the One who is the living God, a God of power.
We, as creatures, must trust in Him and depend on Him at all times. Who are we, but creatures. We had no hand in the creation. Nor did Job. Adam was not involved in it any more than we. God did not consult with men before making the world. God created the world as the glorious, all-powerful God of heaven and earth. We ought not, therefore, to expect that He would take counsel from us as to how to govern His world, as to how to deal with the people whom He has created. That which God established is forever. And that which God establishes He continues to work according to His perfect plan.
Who is man to find fault with God’s work? God’s work will endure to all eternity. And God’s work of redemption is no less a wonder than that of creation. The work of creation is a wonder. God called all things out of nothing! He spoke and they were. And redemption is an equally great wonder – grounded in Jesus Christ, the foundation and cornerstone, the One whom God had ordained from the very beginning to be the One through whom the creation would be redeemed and restored. The love of God for His people, for His redeemed creation, is eternal. His Fatherly hand must be seen in all the events of our lives. None of the promises which God has given us in His Word ought to be challenged or doubted. The church stands firm on the basis of God’s promises. Jehovah, the covenant God of love, comes to Job.
Job had felt isolated from God. He had experienced God’s chastening hand in a very hard and difficult way. He felt as though God were dealing with him as with an enemy. You and I, perhaps, have felt that at times-that fierce, chastening hand of God. We may have experienced afflictions and difficulties which make us think that God has removed His love from us. But now God speaks unmistakably. And Job hears God’s voice. All the men had had their say. Yet, the issues were not resolved. It was time for God, the God of truth and judgment, to speak. He would reveal all righteousness and hypocrisy. He will determine the judgment which fits the situation. Job had silenced the three friends, but he could not convince them of his integrity. Elihu, on the other hand, had silenced Job, but Job was not brought to acknowledge his faults. Jehovah now comes with sharp words for the three friends, as well as for Job, to convince them of their wrongdoing. Job is even brought to cry out, “I have done wrong.” A saint of piety, but nevertheless, no different than we. He had given evidence of his sinful nature. Sinful language had erupted out of that nature. But now he is brought to see the love and mercy of God. God alone can convict of sin by the power of His Spirit. And God now answered Job, assuring him of mercy, by restoring Job into favor with God.
Although sharp words must be spoken here by God, God comes to Job as the God of love. Many names had been given to God by Elihu, Job, and the three friends. The names God and Almighty are the two most common names of which they spoke. These names expressed the power, the might, and the sovereignty of God. But God now comes as Jehovah, the LORD, the One who was the covenant God of love. In that love sharp words must be spoken. Who is this man who has responded so foolishly and presumptuously? Who is this man who has quarreled with God for what God has done? Can it be Job? Can it be the one who is perfect and upright? Has he so forgotten himself as to act in this manner? In the context of the covenant love of God, God comes to Job and speaks these words. He does not come merely as the sovereign Lord, but He comes as the Redeemer. And the purpose of God’s speech is not to condemn but to restore, to restore to Job a knowledge and assurance of his salvation, and to do so in a way of bringing him to see his own error.
How does God come to Job? Out of the whirlwind. The Lord speaks to Job in a very forceful manner. God often shows Himself to us in power because of our rebellion. There are so many times that we do not hear God when He speaks to us. When God speaks to us through our afflictions and adversities, when He speaks to us through the events of our lives, so often we do not hear Him. And He must shake us so that we hear.
God here shakes Job so that Job, unmistakably, is able to hear. Job had cried out, in chapter 31:35, May the Almighty answer me. But Job never expected this kind of an answer. God comes to Job with a vivid storm, and then with questions which are intended to bring him indirectly to the consciousness of his wrong and of the absurdity of the challenges which he has brought against Jehovah, questions which are intended to bring Job to see how foolish he was in contending with Jehovah. God did not here intend to frighten but to bring down the pride and haughtiness of Job and the friends. God had to show Job a terrible force in order that Job might be humbled and brought to see his own wrong.
God often employs this method to make known His mighty voice. He spoke to Elijah out of the storm. God conveyed His will to Israel repeatedly in thunders and lightnings, out of the storm. God uses these means to bring to a knowledge of His righteousness and love. “I will demand of thee,” He says, “answer thou me.” The examination begins here powerfully in chapter 38 and it continues all the way through chapter 41 of the book of Job. Rapid fire questions come, intended to open Job’s eyes to his place before the Almighty. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding…. Who shut up the sea … when I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness as a swaddlingband for it, and brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place?” And on and on Jehovah brings sharp words to Job concerning all of nature and the ordering of God in nature, demonstrating Jehovah’s sovereign power, His sovereign control of everything in earth, including the most minute as well as the greatest things here below.
God then charges Job with ignorance and presumption in what he had said. Job had esteemed himself above God. Who art thou to believe that thou knowest better than Jehovah?
So easily we do the same. We believe that the difficulties, the sufferings, the trials are not necessary, that they need not be so severe. Who are we to know, better than Jehovah, what is good for us? When Scripture tells us who we are, Scripture empties us of all pride. It shows us that we are inclined to sin, that we are nothing by nature, that, apart from God, we can do no good, that we are unrighteous. Pride would puff us up. Pride would tell us that we are of great worth, of great value in ourselves, in our own strength. But in ourselves, there is nothing but wretchedness. God, therefore, by His Word empties us and renders us devoid of all glory. There is nothing in us for which we can command attention and glory. But our only worth and value is in the fact that God has chosen us to be His own. God has chosen us to be His children, to walk and to live in the midst of this world as shining lights, testifying of His goodness. And though there is nothing in ourselves for which we can commend ourselves, our value, our worth, our confidence is rooted in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Job had darkened the counsel of God by esteeming himself above that counsel, by trying to say that that counsel of God (that is, God’s eternal plan with respect to his life) was a bad plan, an evil plan. Darkening the counsel of God is a great sin before God. Concerning God’s counsel we must admit that we are without knowledge. There is a deep and tremendous depth that we cannot fathom. We are out of our realm if we would pretend to account for them, if we would pretend to explain them. But, instead of explaining them, a humble and obedient faith submits to them, and a humble and obedient faith is able to see and understand more than all the philosophers and theologians of our day and age. We are able to see that God, indeed, is good in all of His ways.
That arrow by which God strikes Job (who art thou, O man, to reply against the Creator, the Redeemer of heaven and earth?) is an arrow which sticks fast in Job. And Job, in his repentance, responds in chapter 40:3ff. “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.” Then in chapter 42, the first verses: “Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” Job is brought to apply this word to himself.
And the response which God demands of Job is expressed: “Gird up now thy loins like a man.” If you desire to come against Jehovah, to question His goodness, His counsel and His plan, then ready yourself for a tremendous encounter. God, seemingly, mocks Job, as if to say, “Make yourself like a giant and see what you will gain from it all. Puff yourself up in your own wisdom. You believe yourself to be so great and to know everything, even more than Jehovah. Then stand up now, and gather all the forces of the world against Me. Display everything you have – all your money, all your wisdom, everything. And you will find that you have nothing. You have no ground to speak against the Almighty God.”
God uses these words to bring Job to a higher understanding of his own folly and pride. And God oftimes has to speak to us with that sharp, harsh word to remind us too that in man there is only foolishness and vanity. Instead of power there is only weakness. Instead of righteousness there is filth and dirt. We are as fragile clay pots. Who are we to reply against God? God desires, rather, that His name and His works be held in the highest reverence and, therefore, that we never take the truth of HisWord lightly, that we worship Him in fear and in truth, that we walk before Him in wisdom and in knowledge, and that we confess from day to day that even though we cannot understand God’s ways with us, His counsel and plan are perfect and right. And we pray, Teach us to learn to fall before Thee in holy fear and reverence.
God demands of Job, Declare if thou hast any understanding. If Job is so bold as to question and impose his own ideas on the will of God, let him face and answer all of these questions now which are brought to him. Who is the One who determines all the events of creation? Who is the One who determines all of the small and large aspects of nature? Is it man? or Jehovah? Those who pretend to have understanding and believe it is man, let them give proof of it and show. And let their folly be displayed.
But those who have the gift of faith, may they submit themselves in humble acknowledgment that it is God alone who works all of these wonders. It is God alone who performs all things. Therefore, as we stand before Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth, the Creator as well as the Redeemer, may we show ourselves humble, willing to submit to His perfect will. And may we express that our confidence is to be found in Him alone.
In that way we will be thankful in adversity and patient in prosperity. And we will be able to taste and to see that God indeed is good.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, teach us to submit to Thee. Humble us before Thy face. May we acknowledge with Job our own sinfulness. So often we have responded in our trials and afflictions in pride. Humble us and teach us that Thy ways indeed are good. Amen.