When people hear the name Job, it’s amazing to me how many talk about his patience. Maybe they have read the book of James in the New Testament and taken his interpretation of Job’s perseverance and patience. When I read the book of Job, I definitely get a sense of Job’s perseverance, but I’m not so sure about Job’s patience. In fact, his words to his friends and to God seem anything but patient to me. Job’s words seem direct, demanding, accusative, and questioning.
As we approach chapter 38, we must remind ourselves of everything that has happened to Job. Although he was blameless and upright, his whole world has fallen apart. Everything you can imagine in Job’s world has been taken away. His children have all died. His possessions have been plundered. Job’s health has become unbearable. Job’s friends have come to try to ease his pain, but all they have done is accuse Job of sinning and tell him that he needs to get right with God and all will be well again.
Eliphaz has told him that the world is just . . . you reap what you sow. The righteous will prosper, and the wicked are punished. In the end, don’t worry, because all will be okay. If you want to be prosperous again, agree with God and return to the Almighty. Zophar has said that the world works. God is just, and sometimes God’s ways are too complicated to understand. Trust in God and turn back to God. If Job will direct his heart rightly, then God will bless him again. Bildad has said that the wicked will be punished. We may not always think so, but they will. If you want to be prosperous again, seek God. We assume that all of these suggestions come from well-intentioned friends to help Job deal with his suffering and unfortunate situation.
Job has denied that he has sinned and feels that his friends have whitewashed the truth. Through his suffering, he has lamented to God and now wonders why God hasn’t answered. Job wants his friends to stop talking about him and to look at him and see the truth of his situation and suffering. Job complains that God is absent and that God’s silence suggests that God is Job’s enemy. The lack of God’s response means that God is acting in a sinister way.
Job vows that the problem is not with him, but rather, the problem is with God. In chapters 29–31 Job begins to put God on trial. He talks about the past when he always loved God and was a leading citizen in the community. People came to him for help and advice. But now his entire world has fallen apart, and Job sits on a manure heap with sores all over his body. Finally, Job takes an oath of innocence and subpoenas God to answer. If God doesn’t answer, Job says, then it means that God is guilty. Although Job has asked and even demanded that God speak, God hasn’t spoken in thirty-six chapters. Although Job has taken God to trial and demanded an answer, God hasn’t mounted a defense.
Although we often want quick and pat answers from God, more often than not, we find that we cannot pressure God into answers. But finally, in chapter 38, God speaks! God speaks at length! Basically for almost the rest of the book of Job, God has lots to say. The silence of God is broken with a dramatic entry, and God comes speaking out of a whirlwind with a force that would blow anyone away. Instead of giving specific answers to issues of justice, however, God takes a different approach. God asks how Job can speak words without knowledge.
Do you know people who speak words without knowledge? People who are full of hot air? Have you ever encountered someone claiming to have the truth, when in fact, their message is far from the truth? Have you ever thought you had something all figured out, when in fact, you had only part of the information and needed to get the full story? Have you ever needed a larger perspective than the one that you possessed?
In chapter 3, Job cursed creation; here, God begins to give Job a different perspective of creation. Job goes on a God-guided tour of the cosmos! In our passage, Job is shown the first two corners of the cosmos . . . the foundations of the earth and the waters of the sea. Job has limits, but God’s role in creation is vast and limitless. God is architect and builder. Everything has a role and a place. It’s as if God says, “OK Job, you’ve asked me lots of questions and accused me of certain things; now you stand up and be accountable . . . take a new look and see if you have the same questions or opinions.”
Job cursed creation, but God doesn’t answer Job in kind. God has something to teach us and can sometimes overwhelm us with new perspectives and new insights. Instead of making statements, God asks questions (Who? Where? What?). Instead of giving answers, God puts the ball back into Job’s court to make a new opinion. Instead of resolving questions about justice and injustice, Job is overcome with a new vision of the grandeur of God. God offers Job something more valuable than answers. Job meets the answerer, and that is enough.