At the end of the book of Job, God comes down and challenges Job. This is truly epic and for good reason. The entire book has worked up to this point in proving God right. In essence, the book revolves around two courtroom scenes: one in heaven and one on earth. So far, God has shown Himself right in heaven by His unfailing sovereignty and purpose. On earth, we have seen that Job and his friends are not right. Job’s friends do not have the wisdom to condemn God and Job has become hypocritically self-righteous. All this shows that in trying to condemn God, man not only fails to do so (because he does not know enough) but condemns himself. At this point, by process of elimination, the only one right on earth is God.
However, that is not enough. God is not merely right because everyone else is wrong. God is right because He is right. So now God enters the fray to establish that point. With a string of massive questions, He will show He is not only right in Job’s immediate situation but for all time. There is a reason that these chapters amaze and humble us. These chapters provide the ultimate reasons God is right.
How does this work? The initial chapters (Job 38-39) deal with knowledge. Sometimes in thinking about the world or suffering, we believe we know better than God. What God aims to do in these chapters is demonstrate He knows all that we do not know.
What do we not know? We could frame this around the classic questions of who, what, when, where, how, and why. God points out that Job does not know what is happening in the earth or sea (Job 38:6-11). He does not how to make the world work for he does not know how to command the morning (Job 38:12). He does not know where all things are because he has not entered the springs of the sea (Job 38:16). He does not know why things happen because he has never ventured to the place where even the weather is planned out (Job 38:22-23). Job also does not know when things happen because he does not control the constellations which govern seasons (Job 38:32).
With cosmic questions that span heaven and earth, space and time, stars and seas, God shows that Job’s knowledge is not even a minuscule fraction of all that is in creation, of all that God knows fully well. Contemplating these questions carefully is insightful for us because they show how small we are and how big God is. We, like Job, do not know the what, how, where, why, or when of the universe.
However, there is one question missing from that list: who. All of us know Who knows the answer to the above questions and God’s point is that answer should have been enough. How often do we second guess people’s decisions only to find out when all the facts come in, they made the right call? The same applies to God. In suffering, we may question God but God’s questions to Job remind us that we barely have any of the facts. However, God possess not merely more information but all of it. When all is revealed, we will know without a shadow of a doubt that He is right.
Job, though, could argue that perhaps some of God’s questions about the universe are not relevant to the issue of his suffering. Perhaps it is trivial information and not pertinent information. Job might believe he has the key information so that he would know better than God on what to do in his situation. In light of this, God continues to ask Job questions focused upon how the world works. God asks Job if he knows how to ordain life (Job 38:38-39:4)? That is crucial in the area of suffering. But Job does not know how to cause life to reproduce in all creation or to sustain life across the world. God also wonders if Job has not merely knowledge or information, but knowhow (Job 39:5-12). Does Job have the knowhow to control events on earth (Job 39:19-25) or in heaven (Job 39:26-30)? The answer to all these questions is no.
Sometimes in suffering we think we “know better” but really we know nothing at all. We do not even know enough to do the most basic tasks of making the world work much less of how to resolve the problem of evil in this universe. God has this knowhow though. In fact, He has demonstrated it every moment since the beginning of creation! We simply do not know more than God and cannot condemn Him. Conversely, He knows everything, He perfectly knows what He is doing, and so what He is doing is perfect. He is right.
That leads God to ask Job if he can find fault with the Almighty (Job 40:1). At first, Job’s answer may seem pretty satisfactory. He confesses that he is insignificant and that he will not speak. While this may appear pious, it is not good enough. The goal is not merely for man to be silent but for God to be right. Consistently, Job cannot just say nothing; he must confess that God is right. Thus, God launches into another series of questions. This time, God inquires into Job’s strength and abilities. The specific angle of these question is found in Job 40:8: “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?”
This verse discusses if Job has the power to override what God has done so as to do it better. That way Job could condemn God and justify himself. In life, we often think, “If it were up to me, I would have done it better.” And sometimes, we even might think, “If I was God, I would have done it this way …” God challenges whether that attitude of “I can do it better” is legitimate. Do people really have that kind of power and skill?
God brings up animals to illustrate His point. First up is the behemoth (Job 40). Some have identified this animal as a hippopotamus or water buffalo; however, the physical characteristics do not match. Furthermore, there are ancient depictions of men killing these animals which would undermine God’s point about how man could never contend with these beasts. Seeing the behemoth as some kind of dinosaur is appealing for these reasons. More to the point, the name “behemoth” is important because it has the idea of “supreme beast” or “super cow.” Throughout the book, Job and his friends have ridiculed each other comparing each other to the beasts (cf. Job 18:2; 35:11). God now introduces the super beast so as to ridicule them all. How can they think they are better than a beast when they do not even remotely compare to the strength of a super cow?
Indeed, the behemoth shows that man does not have the raw strength or might to control this world. Every body part of the behemoth from legs, belly, bones, and tail exudes massive power (Job 40:15-18). All creation understands and seeks shelter in its might (Job 40:19-23). And man would never dare to fight it (Job 40:24) which proves the point. If man cannot even overpower a beast, why does he think he could control the entire creation better than God? He is far too weak.
God presents another animal: the leviathan. The leviathan, like the behemoth, is most likely some kind of dinosaur. However, the name “leviathan” is important because it is used as the mascot of Satan. This even happened earlier in the book (cf. Job 3:8). God’s point then is simple. If man cannot even control the mascot of evil, why does he think he possess the ability to control evil itself?
God ridicules any notion that man could remotely manipulate the leviathan in any way. What is man going to do — reel it in with a measly fishing hook (Job 40:1)? Is a leviathan going to fall in love with a person and so do whatever he wants it to do (Job 40:3)? Man does not have the power or stature to even overwhelm this beast, much less the rest of creation and the problem of evil.
God concludes by asking if man is going to shoot the leviathan with harpoons or fishing spears. We do not even know if those are the right translations of the Hebrew terms. However, the sound of these words is what matters. They sound like a little pebble bouncing off of the leviathan’s plated armor. Throwing a small pebble at such an animal will not hurt; it will only make it mad. At this stage, man trying to assert his power over creation has not made things better. He has only made things worse!
Thus, we might think we can do things better. But that is not merely not true but the opposite is true. We exacerbate a bad situation. By contrast, in Job 41:11 God declares: “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”
God has exposed that Job (and all humanity) lack the knowledge and power to really evaluate what God is doing or to do things better. However, God has all that man lacks. He is perfect in knowledge and power. Therefore, God declares He does not owe any ideas or any effort to anyone. His plan is perfect and there is no improvement. He knows what He is doing and has the true ability to control creation. He does not make things worse but redeems. He is right.
Job acknowledges this in the end. In response to this overwhelming display of God’s knowledge and might and in light of his own utter ineptitude, in Job 42:6 he declares: “Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Job repudiates all he has said. He is wrong and God is right.
With that, God is right in heaven and on earth. He is right in every place and in every way. And even when we do not understand that He is right, we must trust that He is for that is the truth even as the sun shines whether it is blocked by clouds or not.
Job learns this in a way we might not expect. It is not merely in his discussion with God but in the very ending of the book. The book concludes with the fact that Job dies. That seems pretty anti-climactic. Why end on such a dour note? In context, Job had longed to have his day in court and wished that a Redeemer (Job 9:33; 19:23-25) would intervene for him in forgiveness (Job 7:21) and resurrection (Job 14:13). At his death, Job’s wishes are granted. At that moment, Job entered heaven, met his Redeemer, and realized that all along God had answered his wishes. He had done what Job himself acknowledge would make God ultimately right. Job grasped that even though he could not see it at the time, God was supremely right. This too reminds us that when our faith becomes sight, we will realize what has always been true: God is always right.
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