Job 38 Commentary: This week I left work one day and I was puzzled. I had so many questions. Why am I here? Things are so hard sometimes. Why has God allowed things to transpire in my life that are painful and difficult? Why, why, why?
And thankfully God’s questions to Job came to my mind. And God through his word started asking me some questions.
Paul – do you really understand everything I’m doing in your life? Would you ever be able to begin to comprehend all of the things that I am working in your life – not to mention throughout the universe! – for my own glory and for your good? You can stop your questioning my goodness now.
And I’m not sure if I’m the only one who has experienced something like that. Have you gone through that exercise in your mind this week? Have you been tempted to question God’s goodness or his justice in your life or in this world? Have you allowed God’s questions to Job to be redirected to you?
Well, we’ve seen God ask so far 12 questions to Job. He’s asked…
Q1: Who is this?
Q2: Foundations of the Earth
Q3-4: Measuring the Earth
Q5-6: Foundation and Corner Stone of the Earth
Q7: The Sea
Q8: Bring the Morning
Q9-10: Source of the Seas
Q11-12: Death and Darkness
And that’s where we ended last time. So, let’s turn our attention to Job 38.
We’ll be covering verses 18-33, Lord-willing this time.
Job 38 Commentary: Q13: Earth
And so, I had just mentioned that God was asking questions about the realm of death as we ended last time. But now at this point God returns to the land of the living and questions Job about the earth.
18 Hast thou [perceived/understood/considered] the [breadth/expanse/vast expanse] of the earth?
[declare/tell me] if thou knowest [it all/all this].
Did Job understand how wide the earth is? I don’t know – perhaps he did. In fact, if you do a search on the internet for this question you’ll learn that the earth is 7,917.5 miles around at the equator. Don’t forget that half a mile at the end there!
You can also discover at the tips of your fingers that the surface area of the earth is 196.9 million mi². That’s the total land that covers the earth.
Did Job know this? Again, I’m not sure.
But perhaps the question is not so much a matter of knowing bare facts – just like I can type a search phrase into a web browser and have the answer spit back out at me. But maybe the point of God’s question is more – “have you, Job, personally experientially seen the vast expanse of the earth? Have you walked around on all of it, seeing every one of those nearly 200 million square miles? Have you walked around the earth at the equator for all of those nearly 8,000 miles?”
And as God asks that question and Job and all of us answer with blank stares – then God is able to say, “Well, I have seen each and every square mile – as if God works in miles – of the surface of the earth.”
And that kind of thought gives God reason to challenge Job. Did you hear that last line of verse 18? What do you think of God’s question there?
He said “[declare/tell me] if thou knowest [it all/all this].” That question is a little forceful. God is challenging Job.
He’s indicating that Job has been implying that he knows everything. Why does God do that? It’s because Job has been maintaining his righteousness – and that’s fine. But he’s been doing so at God’s expense. He’s been making himself look good – that’s fine – but in the process he’s been insinuating that God is bad.
Job has been demanding God to explain his ways to him. But to do so would not even make sense to Job. God’s ways include and involve managing everything on the earth and in the sky and in the water and even in the realm of the dead. How would a human even comprehend God’s total dealings in all of those areas? We couldn’t understand. We wouldn’t have time to listen to his response. We would die of old age by the time he got done explaining everything.
Instead, God wants us to trust him to do right in this world and in our own personal lives.
And when we don’t trust him – when we question and doubt his goodness and justice – you can expect God to challenge you a little bit. He might even sarcastically indicate that you know everything! He’s done it before.
Job 38 Commentary: Q14-15: Light and Darkness
Well, God’s next question deals with light and darkness in verses 19-21.
19 [Where is the way where/In what direction does] light [dwelleth/reside]?
and as for darkness, where is [the place thereof/its place],
20 That thou [shouldest/may] take [it/them] to [the bound thereof/its territory/their borders],
and that thou [shouldest/may] [know/discern/perceive] the [paths/pathways] to [the house thereof/their homes]?
21 [Knowest thou it/You know], [because thou wast/for you were] [then born/born then/born before them][?/!]
[or because/and] the number of thy days is great[?/!]
So, what is the source of light and darkness? That’s God question. Where do they dwell? As if they had a home.
And God is so earthy and graciously condescending to Job as he speaks of – as it were – taking light back home. As if the light or the darkness could stray a little and Job could gently lead that little ray of light or that little bit of darkness back to its home.
And of the course that idea is laughable! It’s a humorous picture. It’s actually rather absurd.
And it’s a level of absurdity that matches Job’s insinuations and implications about God and the way that he works in this world. God says that Job is acting as if he existed before God created light on day 1 of creation week.
Job thinks that he has God’s routine down pat. God punishes wickedness and rewards goodness. No questions asked. No exceptions. God is pretty much bound to this oath – that he never really agreed to.
But the moment that we think we know exactly what God should do in any given situation is the moment that we pretty much place ourselves in God’s position.
A human being can be rather unpredictable. And we understand that that’s a normal thing. And we allow our fellow-humans to be sort of unpredictable.
And yet, we somehow feel that God – who is infinitely beyond us – is bound to be predictable according to our own human reasoning? Something’s wrong with that picture!
And when we start thinking that we can get God and his ways of dealing in this world into our little box – don’t be surprised if he comes back at you and tells you that you’re acting as if you have existed from before day 1 of creation week.
And I can tell you that only one being existed before day 1 of creation week. Who was that? God, right? Well, you’re not him. So, stop acting like you are.
That’s God’s message to Job – and even to us. Where are we acting as if we’re God? As if we alone know the correct course of action? As if we can dictate to God what he ought – and ought not – to do?
And I’m getting ahead of the text – but wherever we realize that this is what we’ve been doing – playing God – then we need to do as Job will do in a few chapters and repent. Stop thinking that way. Change your mind about that erroneous way of thinking.
And when we don’t understand God’s ways – his fathomless, unsearchable ways – we can and we need to trust his awesome wisdom.
Job 38 Commentary: Q16-17: Snow and Hail
Well, God continues to question Job on the matters of snow and hail in verses 22 and 23.
22 Hast thou entered [into the treasures/the storehouse(s)] of the snow?
or hast thou seen the [treasures/storehouses/armory] of the hail,
23 Which I [have reserved/reserve] [against/for] the time of [trouble/distress],
[against/for] the day of battle and war?
So, God pictures snow and hail as if they were artillery that he stores up so that he can use them in battle.
The point is that God can call upon these elements whenever he wants. They are at his disposal. And so, the question once more for Job is – would you even know how to make it snow? Are you omnipotent so that you could make hail fall from the sky?
And once more the answer is, “No.”
Well then, a follow-up to that question of course is, “If you don’t know how to make it hail and snow and if you’re not strong enough to make that happen – but I am! – then can’t you trust my wisdom even in your suffering?”
Job 38 Commentary: Q18-19: Lightning and the East Wind
And, God continues by asking Job about lightning and the east wind in verse 24.
24 [By what way is/Where is the way that/In what direction is] the [light/lightning] [parted/divided/dispersed],
[which/or] [scattereth the east wind/the east wind(s) scattered] [upon/on/over] the earth?
So, this question is directional. Who determines where light or lightning is parted or divided or dispersed? Who determines how the east wind is scattered?
And both lightning and the east wind can be devastating. Who has power over such devastating and potentially life-threatening elements?
God alone has such power.
And Job wouldn’t know the answer to this question that God just posed. By what way are these things directed? No one knows.
No one except for God.
Then why do we act like we know it all when it comes to what’s happening in our lives? We clearly don’t understand a great many things in this world.
Job 38 Commentary: Q20-21: Floods and Thunder
Well, in verses 25-27 the Lord asks Job about floods and thunder.
25 Who [hath divided/has cleft/carves out] a [watercourse/channel] for the [overflowing of waters/flood/heavy rains],
[or/and] a [way/path] for the [lightning of thunder/thunderbolt/rumble of thunder];
26 To [cause it to/bring] rain on [the earth, where no man is;/a land without people/an uninhabited land]
[on the wilderness/on a desert/a desert], [wherein there is no man/without a man in it/where there are no human beings];
27 To satisfy [the desolate/the waste/a devastated] and [waste/desolate] [ground/land];
and to [cause/make] [the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?/the seeds of grass to sprout?/it to sprout with vegetation?]
So, God asks who is able to bring floods from rain storms onto a parched land with no one living there.
Now, you might think that God is solely interested in sending rain to areas with human creatures. And that perhaps he does that because he is so concerned for mankind.
But God says here that he sends rain sometimes where no rain has fallen for a long time – and he does this in places where humans don’t live. Nevertheless, he does it.
Do you know why? I can understand God sending rain to provide for those made in his image. But why would he be concerned to send rain into uninhabited places? I don’t know. I don’t understand it.
Quite frankly, if I were put in the place of God for a day – this task would completely slip my mind. I’ve never thought about it before.
And that’s the point. God does things that we have no idea he would do. But he knows they need to happen and he’s powerful enough to make them happen.
And this question once more like all the others should humble us.
Job 38 Commentary: Q22-23: Rain and Dew
Alright, next in verse 28, God asks Job about rain and dew.
28 [Hath the rain/Does the rain have] a father?
or who hath [begotten/fathered] the drops of dew?
So, God pictures the rain and dew as children and he asks – who’s the father? And the point is – how are they made? How does rain and dew form? And who decides when they should be brought forth?
Who is responsible for creating the rain and dew? God alone.
Job 38 Commentary: Q24-25: Ice and Frost
And in a related set of questions, in verses 29 and 30, the Lord asks Job about the origin of ice and frost.
29 [Out of/From] whose womb [came/has come/does emerge] the ice?
and the [hoary frost/frost] [of heaven/from the sky], who [hath gendered/gives birth to] it?
30 [The waters/Water/When the waters] [are/become(s)] [hid/hard] [as with/like] a stone,
[and/when] the [face/surface] of the deep is [frozen/imprisoned/frozen solid].
So, God dealt with liquid water in verse 28 – but now he deals with solid water. He asked about the father of the liquid water in verse 28 – but now he asks about the mother of solid water.
So, where does frozen water come from? Who makes that? Who has created the processes to bring that into existence?
It’s God. And when in a few months you complain about the white stuff that just keeps falling from the sky – or when you’re complaining as the wet stuff falls from the sky – as it has been doing a lot lately – well, in a way you’re kind of insulting the one who created it and sees fit to send it.
And you might not – and I might not! – like the snow that makes my way to church hazardous – and I might not like the rain that prevents me from having soccer practice with my Park and Rec team.
But in those situations, let’s come back to the idea that God knows what he’s doing. He’s not mistaken in his choice of weather. There’s a purpose behind all of it that you and I are not aware of.
And of course we need to take our minds from the weather that we might not like – to any sufferings that we have in this life. And we should have the same exact thoughts about our sufferings as we need to have about the rain and snow.
It’s alright. God’s in control. God is all-wise. He is all-powerful. He knows what’s best for us. Even when we don’t like it. Even when it’s inconvenient – even dangerous! Even when it hurts.
Job 38 Commentary: Q26-27: Pleiades and Orion
So, next, the Lord turns his gaze from earth toward the heavens beyond the clouds and he asks Job about two groups of stars in verse 31.
31 [Canst thou/Can you] [bind/tie] the [sweet influences/chains/bands] of [the…] Pleiades,
or [loose/release] the [bands/cords] of Orion?
Now, I’ll be quite honest. I don’t know exactly what the Lord is asking here.
I know that the Pleiades is a group of seven stars. They’re also called the Seven Sisters. And that group of stars is near – at least to our view from earth – the group of stars known as Orion. I also know that Orion is famous for “his” belt – a line of three stars that resemble – to the imaginative mind of ancient man – a belt. And that’s all.
I don’t know what these “sweet influences” or “chains/bands” might be. I saw an article on Answers in Genesis that says that these seven stars are slowly moving apart. Maybe that’s what the Lord is talking about.
Maybe the “bands of Orion” is a reference to that belt of three stars.
And I think I’m OK with not fully understanding what the Lord is asking – because actually that would support what he’s saying here.
If the Lord were to appear to me and ask me if I could do these things – bind the bands of the Pleiades and loosen the cords of Orion – I would say, “Not at all, Lord! I don’t even know what you’re talking about! How would I be able to do it?!”
Job 38 Commentary: Q28-29: Constellations and the Bear
And, now, in verse 32 the Lord continues his questioning Job about groups of stars and he includes one more of them by name.
32 [Canst thou/Can you] [bring forth/lead forth/lead out] [Mazzaroth/a constellation/the constellations] in [his/its/their] season[s]?
[or canst thou/and/or] guide [Arcturus/the Bear] with [his/her/its] [sons/satellites/cubs]?
So, God continues his questions in the realm of the heavens. And he’s asking Job if Job can cause constellations to appear in their appropriate time.
And constellations are seasonal. Certain ones appear in the northern hemisphere at certain times and certain ones appear in the southern hemisphere.
And it happens like clockwork. And we can look at that and explain it as the earth’s tilt and rotation around the sun causing that to happen. But who makes the earth rotate around the sun? And why doesn’t the earth go rolling head over heals instead of remaining steady in its tilt? And you could think of numerous other questions as to why constellations come around at their proper time every year.
And observational science will never be able to completely answer any of those questions. And that should bring a little humility into the heart of the smartest astronomer. Because this kind of thing is in God’s hands alone. And it’s no problem for him to make sure this happens – every year, right on time.
And as we become observational scientists of our own existence – our own lives – we need to have a good dose of humility. We can’t be like Job and his three friends – trying to explain every little detail of how God should or does work in our lives. Let’s be humble and allow God to be God.
Job 38 Commentary: Q30-31 Rules of Heaven on Earth
And so, having considered the constellations in the heavens, the Lord asks Job what he knows about the rules that govern the heavens and if he might be able to bring that rule to bear in the earth in verse 33.
33 [Knowest thou/Do you know] the [ordinances/laws] of [heaven/the heavens]?
[canst thou/or/or can you] [set/fix/set up] [the dominion thereof/their rule] [in/over] the earth?
And this might touch on some of the questions that I just asked in the last verse. Why do planets rotate around the sun in our solar system? Why does the earth rotate the way it does? Why is it tilted a certain way?
Well, do you know why? You don’t – but we’re given somewhat of an answer here. It’s because God has ordinances and laws that govern these things. And those rules govern even how the earth behaves. And you and I and our fellow-man – we have just barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the laws that govern outer space – the heavens beyond the clouds. Gravity and inertia and all sorts of other concepts. We see just a glimpse. But God sees the whole picture.
Now, have you ever tried to find your city on map of the world? And maybe you find it – and then you notice how much else is on the earth. How large it is. The great expanse that is our earth.
And then in your mind you zoom out into outer space – maybe looking at the earth from the moon. Have you ever seen pictures of that? And even the earth itself looks small.
Brothers and sisters, you and I are very small. We occupy a very small plot of land that is a very small part of a very small planet within a very small solar system within a very small galaxy within … a very large universe.
And God has set rules for his universe and for our galaxy and solar system and planet. And he makes sure that everything that needs to happen is actually happening. He has it all under control.
God knows what needs to happen throughout the entire universe. And yet he has not forgotten about you. He knows what’s best for your life – and will you believe this? – he is doing what is best in your life.
And you might not understand what he’s doing or why. Job didn’t either. But you and I can trust this all-wise, all-powerful God.
When we can’t understand God’s ways – and can you? Can you completely understand anything that God does in this universe? More and more – I feel like I can’t. I can’t fully understand what God is doing and how he’s doing it and why he’s doing it.
But when we can’t understand God’s ways – we must trust his wisdom. In this universe. In nature. In creation. And especially in your life and mine.