June 24, 2018  Pentecost 5  Job 38:1-11  J.D.Roekle

 

Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm.

He said:

2    “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?

3    Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.

4    “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?

Tell me, if you understand.

5    Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!

Who stretched a measuring line across it?

6    On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—

7    while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

8    “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,

9    when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,

10  when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,

11  when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;

here is where your proud waves halt’? 

 

The Ways of God Are Beyond Us

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          Are you a person who likes to give feedback on things?  When I get my oil changed, they had me a postcard and ask me to fill it out and mail it in.  When I get my haircut, I get an email the next day asking me to fill out a brief survey.  Look at the bottom of your McDonald’s receipt and you will find that they will give you a buy one get one free deal if you go online and fill out their survey.  All around us, people are looking for feedback.  How are we doing?  What could we be doing better? 

          That kind of thinking carries over into our thinking about God.  Maybe God needs my feedback too.  Maybe he needs some advice from me.  If he would just listen to me for a second, I think I could reason with him about what’s going on in my life.  Then maybe he would change his course.  But is God really asking for our feedback?  Is he really looking for advice?

          Job seemed to think so.  He said: “I desire to speak to the Almighty

and to argue my case with God.”  On more than one occasion, Job had expressed his desire to give God feedback.  To give God advice. 

          Of course with Job we might think he had good reason for it.  If anyone had the right to question God and to argue his case with God, it was Job, right?   Remember his situation?  God had allowed Satan to inflict a lot of pain and suffering on Job who was a blameless and upright man.  Review the first two chapters for yourself and you can see the pain inflicted on Job.  For starters, he was robbed of all his wealth; then he was robbed on his family – his sons and daughters were all killed; finally, he was robbed of his health, with painful sores infecting his body. 

          And then top that off with advice he was receiving from those around him.  His wife told him to curse God and die.  His friends were telling him that he was to blame for this because of sins he must have committed.  Job’s head was being filled will various ideas about what was going on.  Is it any wonder that Job wanted to give God some feedback? 

          Job isn’t alone, is he?  Whenever we question God, aren’t we seeking to give God some unsolicited feedback?  Some unsolicited advice?  We may have similar things going on in our lives as Job, or we just may question why God allows certain things to happen in our world.  Maybe God could use my input? 

          When we question God, God does answer us.  He answers us in his Word.  But he doesn’t give us the answer we may be expecting.  After hearing Job’s solicitations to have an audience with him, God responds to Job in our verses for the first time.  And as God often does when he appears, he does it in dramatic fashion: he answers Job out of a storm.  He does this to signal the importance of what is happening: the Almighty God is stooping down to talk with his creature. 

          The words God speaks to Job are really a rebuke:  ““Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” 

          Job has some beautiful confessions at times.  After he found out his wealth and his family was wiped out, in faith he said:  ““Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”  And later on after commiserating with his friends and opining about his suffering, he confessed his faith in his risen Savior:  “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!” 

          On one hand, Job’s faith came through loud and clear.  At other times, he expressed his doubts.  He tried reasoning things out.  In doing so, Job said many things that just served to confuse things.  To confuse the truth.  And God called him out on it.  You don’t really know what you’re talking about! the LORD told him.  I’m here to set you straight and to set the record straight. 

          That certainly happens with us too.  We attempt to explain the unexplainable.  We use our reason to do it.  When we have no real answer, we try to provide the answer ourselves.  We try to persuade God to our way of thinking. 

          Can we convince God?  Not likely.  God sets us straight as he did Job.  He rattles off a series of questions to Job relating to the creation of the world.  Were you there, Job? God asks.  In asking these questions, he was putting Job in his place.  He couldn’t have possibly understood how God did what he did in laying the foundations of the universe.  If that’s the case, how could Job possibly understand the design of God’s plan for him? 

          There’s another important point to this first series of questions God asks of Job.  God pictures his work like that of a builder who speaks in terms of foundations, dimensions, and measurements.  Constructing a building isn’t just a matter of putting up walls and throwing a roof on top.  It takes careful planning.  An architect draws up plans and blueprints with careful measurements.  During the building phase itself, builders carefully plan and measure things.  By using this comparison, God is reminding Job and us that God does things in an orderly fashion.  He has created the world in an orderly way.  It was well planned out.  There was specific purpose behind everything that God created. 

          Only God was there originally at creation.  Only the stars in the sky and the angels witnessed a portion of his creating work.  He alone knows how he put the world together.  And God is an orderly God who carefully planned things from the beginning.  To question God’s plan for the universe and how he goes about carrying out his plan is presumptuous.  Are we foolish enough to think that we somehow know better than God? 

                    When we are faced with the reality of who God is, we must admit that the ways of God are beyond us.  That certainly is true when we consider what God allows Satan to do.  God allowed Satan to have his way with Job for the most part.  It appears that he allows Satan to have his way with us and our world at times. 

          While that is true, we do well in understanding a second point God is making through his second set of questions.  In this series of questions, God is comparing his command over the sea with a parent’s command over a small child.  God controls the sea just like a mother has control over a baby she has wrapped up in swaddling clothes and cradles in her arms.  God has control over the sea as a parent has control over an infant he puts in a playpen.  The infant has some freedom, but there are boundaries. 

          In Job’s case, this is a reminder that while God has allowed Satan to have his way with Job, Satan is still contained.  There is a limitation as to what Satan can do.  God is still clearly in control.  That’s true for our lives and our world too.  Satan may seem to have the upper hand at times.  But he is clearly is limited…and he knows it.  Remember that God is in control.

          And God being in control is always a good thing.  God approaches us from a mindset that is foreign to us.  He reveals that mindset in the name he calls himself: LORD.  If you look back in verse one, he uses this name, LORD, in order to reveal his mindset to Job and to us.  He wants us to know that his ways are truly beyond us.  And that’s a good thing.  He is a God of grace and mercy.  He is a God that seeks and saves that which is lost. 

          It is this LORD whose ways are foreign to us who has conceived a plan to rescue us from the beginning.  He has carried out that plan by sending his one and only Son Jesus to suffer and die for us.  It is this Savior, this Redeemer, who rose victoriously and now lives, as Job reminds us, whom we will see with our very own eyes one day.  And when that happens, everything will be made clear to us. 

          Do you have feedback for God?  Well, God doesn’t want your feedback or advice.  And unlike us, God doesn’t need any feedback or advice.  Especially not from imperfect people like us.  His ways are beyond us.  Thank God for that!  Let’s be content with knowing that God’s purpose in everything he does is always to bless us with his grace.  Amen.