Thursday, June 4, 2020

Scripture for the Day: Job 38:1-11

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:“Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?“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’?

Today’s text picks up towards the end of the book of Job. Job is a man well acquainted with pain – he endured the loss of his entire family, possessions, and health by no fault of his own and then has to defend himself to his friends who were convinced that he did something to deserve this kind of suffering. By the time we get to chapter 38, Job is wondering if God is actually just and demands that God come and explain Godself to him in person. He wants God to own up to the real cause of his suffering. God does show up and does so in the form of a whirlwind. Out of chaos God speaks, and instead of answering Job’s questions about the cause of his suffering directly, God responds by asking questions of a different kind. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth? Who do you think it was that determined its measurements? Were you there when I created the seas and sky and set their boundaries?” The text doesn’t explicitly say what Job was doing in the midst of this divine interrogation, but using my sanctified imagination, I envision Job on the ground – unable to move, unable to speak, unable to interrupt with defense – no other option but to be present in the chaos and listen. God carries on this elaborate speech for four chapters and challenges Job with more questions about the inner workings of the universe on both a macro and micro scale. At the end of God’s epic speech cycle, the only appropriate answer from Job is one born out of humility. Job is forced to admit that he wasn’t there at the beginning of creation and has no idea about the inner workings of the universe. He has no choice but to listen to God in the chaos and admit his own lack of wisdom and understanding.

When Job calls upon God to account for his suffering, he does so from a limited perspective. From his point of view, it seems as though God is not just. Remember, he did nothing to deserve his anguish! However, by sitting in the chaos and listening, Job’s eyes are opened to the greatness of God and the depths of God’s wisdom and intimate knowledge of every single detail of creation. Through God’s questions to Job, God reveals intimate knowledge of the universe, and Job, along with us, learns that God’s perspective is bigger than human comprehension. When God acts, those actions are made with complete understanding of the complexities of the entire cosmos – which is an understanding that Job (and we) do not have.

This leaves Job in a place of humility, and it leaves us there, too. We do not know what God knows. We cannot comprehend all the ways God is at work. We are invited to humbly trust that God knows what God is doing. Further, this text invites us, like Job, to sit in the midst of turmoil and listen. The great paradox here is that Job grows in wisdom by coming face to face with his own lack of it when he is confronted by God’s presence in a chaotic storm. In the chaos Job listens to God’s voice, acknowledges his own deficiency, and becomes wiser as a result. Like Job, may we also learn to listen that we might grow in wisdom which leads to humility. Amen.

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