google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Job - Why God? - Part 9

Study 9: Job Ch 38:1–40:14

The voice from the whirlwind


Finally, at last, after all the human argument, the LORD speaks out of the storm - or the whirlwind as most of the translations translate the word here. Even now if we expect conclusive answers to all the questions Job and his friends have thrown up we are going to be disappointed. There are some answers but also some fundamentally unanswered questions; questions that will never find an answer in this world. it is a huge passage but it all needs to be read together. It will lose its force if I break it up into short bits. So here it is.


Perhaps the first thing to notice in the very first verse is that it is the LORD, Yahweh, who is speaking. This is the personal name of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob given to Moses at the burning bush. I have been referring to God as the Lord throughout these studies because I reckon that is the way that we commonly think of him. By doing so we tend to confuse God the Father with Jesus, but that is no bad thing. But in fact ever since the beginning of the arguments at the start of chapter 3 he has been spoken of as God or God Almighty. Suddenly the relationship is much closer.

Job has been dismayed by not having the felt presence of God with him. He said: “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.” Now, suddenly, the Lord is there in front of him in somewhat terrifying fashion.. Not quietly, soothingly, but in the whirlwind. In C. S. Lewis’s famous children books Aslan, the lion, stands for Christ. The children are warned, “ he is not a tame lion”. Our God, the same as Job’s, is not tame.

We started study one with 4 questions:

  1. does the cause/effect principle operate in the moral and social world?
  2. has the Lord left us with a basically chaotic world? 
  3. how can we live wisely in this sort of world? and
  4. can we trust in the reliability of God if he presides over this sort of world?

To these we must now add a fifth from Elihu’s arguments - are the problems of life caused by the Lord’s need to discipline us for our good? But this last is not considered in these chapters.

We have, I think, a clear answer to question 2: yes, this is a chaotic world. most of the first of these chapters is about the chaos of the weather. In many parts of the world the weather does tend to change according to a fairly steady pattern: warmer (or cooler) every day than the day before. It doesn’t work that way in the UK where a weather pattern scarcely exists! There was clearly enough variation in the weather of the land of Uz for it to be described as chaotic. The next chapter adds to that impression of uncontrollable chaos. 6 animals are described. The first 4 are all just about as wild and untameable as they could possibly be. The last 2, the horse and the hawk, though tameable are depicted as fierce and wild. Chaos rules. OK.

The trouble is that the systematic theologies and the Bible dictionaries, drawing on a wide range of scripture say something quite different. Things like: “God upholds his creatures in ordered existence … and governs all events, circumstances and free acts of angels and men.” They can, of course, quote a wide range of texts about counting the hairs on our heads and sparrows falling etc. and are quite right in what they say. This is one of the points where the Wisdom literature (Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs) challenges the more conventional outlook of the bulk of Scripture. It is a useful and important challenge. God is in control, but we are not God, so to us it all looks thoroughly chaotic as it did to Job and his friends. Some people seem to think they are only being properly spiritual if they relate everything, good or bad, immediately back to the hand of the Lord. But that is not what the book of Job does. We have been told that all the calamities that fell on Job had a secondary cause. So, although in the last chapter of the book we shall read about “all the trouble the Lord had brought on him” that doesn’t remove the sense that the events described in these 2 chapters are at a second order remove from the Lord and the pervading sense of a chaotic world right through the book and particularly in these last chapters. From our perspective the world is a chaotic place as it was to these guys.

Question: have you thought through how you think about and deal with the traumas of life?

Be aware that not everybody will have the same answers to that question. Everyone’s answer will depend on many factors such as personality, church culture, society culture, experiences, etc. it is important to have thought these things out and to have an answer to that question so that you do not lose faith when trouble hits. To say “I no longer believe because this or that happened” is pathetic. The book of Job is designed so that will not happen.

The answers to questions 1 and 3, concerning the cause/effect principle and the way to live wisely are not much in view here. But they don’t need to be. The whole book has repeatedly raised the CEP only to show that it does not work, either directly in context or by contrast with the terrible disasters that afflicted Job. Living wisely has also appeared throughout the book. In this passage we are asked “who has the wisdom to count the clouds”, obviously expecting the answer “only the Lord”, thus emphasising that he is the true, only and complete source of real wisdom. We are also told that the ostrich lacks wisdom simply because the Lord did not give her wisdom. Only in the fear of the Lord, in honouring and trusting him, is wisdom to be found.

When we have finished probing and analyzing we need to be careful that we have not missed the real force of this speech from the whirlwind. In total it is saying: look at this world in which you live; thrill to the never ending pageant of the weather; be awe struck by the variety and the majesty of the animals that inhabit it; realize how small and insignificant you are. When you, Job, have regained your sense of proportion, stopped agonizing about an impossible desire for what you think would be justice, only then will you be able to accept you are where you are and start living again, start moving forward, gain wisdom. And as it was for Job, so it is for us.

Unfortunately many of us will have one big disadvantage Job did not have. So I want to share with you one huge question to which I do not know the answer. It comes to my mind because these chapters are so full of the natural world. I am a small town boy who has always loved the countryside, enjoyed the wind and the rain as well as the sun and escaped to the hills and the country as often as possible. So these 2 chapters are very meaningful to me and give out a great picture of the Lord and his ways.

Question: But most of the world’s peoples live in big cities with concrete underfoot and smog overhead. Perhaps that describes your circumstances. If so, how then, where then, do you get your pictures of the Lord from?

I know many people live vibrant and meaningful spiritual lives in such situations. I hope you do. But how? Think about it. Discuss it with your friends and draw strength from what the Lord tells you together.

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