Tuesday, 8 July 2014

(190) July 9: Job 40-42 & Acts 15

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what the conclusion tells us about all that’s gone before.

To ponder:
Having spoken, God challenges Job to “answer” or even “correct” him. Of course Job has nothing to say (40v1-5). How could he presume to correct the one who made, governs, understands and cares for all things, according to his faultless wisdom (chs. 38-39). Indeed, if we feel we might justify ourselves, when facing him on judgement day “every mouth will be silenced” in an awareness of personal sin and God’s holy majesty (Rom 3v19).
            Despite Job’s silence however, God has more questions for him. Job is prepared to discredit God’s justice in order to justify himself (40v8). Knowing that he himself is righteous, Job has been prepared to suggest God has done wrong by causing him to suffer. Instead, he should have accepted God’s ways are unfathomable yet always right, and that God must therefore have a reason. This is the response to evil and suffering the book has led us to, and is affirmed by Paul with respect to God’s justice in election too (Rom 9v19-21, 11v33-36).
            In what follows, God stresses that if Job shared his majesty and might by which he humbles the proud and crushes the wicked, then he could “save” himself by delivering himself from his sufferings (40v9-14). The sense is that power and justice go together. So God’s power is expressed in punishing evil men and thereby delivering the needy and oppressed. His point is probably that because Job does not have God’s power, he does not have the authority or ability to establish what is just in his own situation either. This is reserved for the king of creation.
            This understanding seems confirmed by the rest of the speech. Building verse upon verse, God beautifully describes two of his most mighty creations – “the behemoth” (40v15-24), possibly an hippopotamus (40v21-24); and “the leviathan” (41v1-34). God’s point is not made unless these are real creatures. However, the language is poetic, portraying the leviathan as we would imagine a dragon. Moreover, they are both probably symbols of chaos, showing that it too is part of God’s creation yet under his control. It is the terrifying strength of the two animals that is to the fore, and the fact that only God can tame them (40v16, 19, 24, 41v1-8, 12). The lesson is that if no-one can stand against these creatures, how much more can’t they stand against their creator (41v10). Indeed, we should be fearful of doing so. Of course, as we will see in the Psalms, we can be honest with God, expressing our struggles and calling on him for help. But this is a warning against confronting him and seeking to bend him to our will. God owns everything and so is not subject to our desires. No-one therefore has a “claim” against him he is bound to pay (41v11, unless, of course, it is to claim what he has promised in the gospel). Such reverent fear seems alien to the modern believer in our informal culture. But it is the only fitting way to approach God (Rev 4v9-11, 7v11-12).
            This is immediately seen in Job’s second response. The sense of 42v2 is probably that having been faced with God’s power and wisdom as creator, Job now truly knows that God has the right to do whatever he wants. And so he concludes that in denying God’s justice to justify himself, Job had spoken of things he didn’t “understand” and were “too wonderful” for him to know (42v3). Now his knowledge of God has moved from simply hearing to a greater clarity described as “seeing,” so Job repents of his presumptuous speech. Strikingly here, Job still hasn’t been told the reason for his suffering. He simply has to trust God recognising his ways are beyond his grasp. Certainly when we see God face to face after death, we will acknowledge that whatever we have faced (and whatever difficult doctrines we’ve struggled with), God has the right to do as he pleases, and much within his purposes is too wonderful for us to grasp.
            The surprise of 42v7-16 is that despite God’s challenge of Job, he is not angry with him. On the contrary, four times he calls Job his “servant” – a noble title, saying that Job had spoken what was “right” of God. This probably refers to the fact that throughout Job refused to condone a black and white view to God’s dealings with the wicked and the righteous in which the former always suffer and the latter always prosper. This would explain God’s anger at Job’s three friends. His response therefore commends the importance of accepting that his dealings with the world are mysterious and complex. And this may be why he does not rebuke Elihu, who at least accepted that.
            In order to escape punishment, the friends have to offer seven burnt offerings (symbolising devotion to God) and have Job pray for them. By contrast, God simply restores all that Job lost and more, and in a way that stresses blessing – in acknowledgement, wealth, complete numbers of children, beautiful daughters, inheritance for all, and long life. Job is therefore like Christ. He too suffered most terribly according to God’s sovereign purpose before being raised to a place of blessing and acknowledgement before the universe. He supremely proves that the righteous sometimes suffer, whilst also proving God’s justice in requiring his death to satisfy his justice at sin. And Christ’s submissive attitude, more than that of Job, is the model for how we handle hardship.
Praying it home:
Praise God for the clarity the cross brings to the message of Job in proving both that he has purpose in suffering and that he is just. Pray that you would live in humble and reverent fear before his majestic might.

Thinking further:
None today.
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