August 10 2014

Job 38:4–18

ESV Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements– surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? 12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, 13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. 15 From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken. 16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

?Christian singer and songwriter Rich Mullins is probably best known for his song “Awesome God.” He was surprised to find that most people misunderstood the meaning of the song and specifically the phrase “awesome God.” It does not mean that God is awesome in the sense that he’s “great,” “cool,” or even “amazing.” Rather he is awesome in a way that proclaims God much in the same way our catechism does. Our God is a God to be feared and loved, one who punishes sin and sends his Son to die for us. One who does things our mind cannot fully comprehend. Awesome in that he is quite our superior; he rules over us, he executes his wrath and judgment on sin, and he loves us enough to die even for his enemies. A God of justice and mercy; a great transcendent God who transcends time and space, yet a close personal God who lives with us and lets us cry on his shoulder as he whispers quiet comfort and peace in our ear.

He is a God who made us and all things, and holds even the furthest star and greatest constellation in his hand. It is of that kind of awesome that our God reminds us in our Old Testament Reading for today. In Job 38, and continuing in the next chapter, God speaks out of a whirlwind to remind Job of the many things he had done, things that Job cannot even begin to comprehend, things that even our scientific, logical minds cannot fully understand.

By contrast, then, before such an awesome God,

Who, Ultimately, Are We?

To understand this passage, we need to understand a bit more of what’s going on in the Book of Job. Job had it all: wealth, family, health, and, most important, a strong faith. But the evil one took it all away. Job’s flocks were stolen, his children all died in a freak storm, his body became covered with sores that were so bad that the only way he could find relief was scraping the sores with pottery shards (2:8). Even Job’s wife told him to curse God and die (2:9), to give up on the one who made him, and to blame the Lord for all his problems. Three of Job’s friends came, not to console him, but rather to get him to admit that God was punishing him for a hidden sin of some kind or another.

For a while, Job kept a strong faith, not blaming God nor denying his provision and care. Eventually, though, he began to waiver, call God unfair, pleading to confront God and defend himself (31:35–37).

God, then, calls Job out for challenging him and accusing him of being unjust. In fact, he says Job is one who “darkens counsel by words without knowledge” (38:2).

In other words, Job is speaking of things he knows nothing about! It’s almost as if God is saying to Job, “Who are you? You who know nothing—why do you tell me about my creation?” “Who are you to question me?”

Fact is, Job didn’t comprehend the complexity of God’s amazing creation, from its vast dimensions to the intimate details of placing the precise limit for the seas. Neither do we, in spite of all our boasting and scientific knowledge. Take for example water, one of the simplest compounds in nature. This simple molecule is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, however, it is the key to life. Without it there would be no life. You see, water is one of the few compounds that is less dense in the solid form than in the liquid form at the freezing point. That’s why ice cubes float in your glass of water, but if it didn’t life could not exist on earth. This rather simple little molecule has marvelous properties and is the key to all life. Like us, Job thought he understood good and evil, life and death, but God reveals through his questions that Job really had no clue of what he was talking about.

Job’s problem was not a blatant sin against God’s commands, but a confusion about his relationship with God. Job was basing his relationship with God on his own knowledge about who God is and what he has done. Job was placing his intellect over his fear or trust or faith in his God.

Sometimes when we read and hear about these Old Testament characters we chastise them for their lack of faith, their imperfections and problems, without realizing how much we are like them. However, we, too, may not be quite the people of faith we think we are. We, too, live more on our knowledge than by our faith. We place our trust in what we know, or think, is right, instead of on the one who is the source of all knowledge. Our knowledge about ourselves is often skewed and we naturally think of ourselves as being better than we actually are. Our knowledge about our creation is growing, but the more science discovers about creation, the more questions come up.

Our knowledge about God is incomplete, as he reminds us in Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Knowledge is very important. That’s why we have schools and Sunday Schools, to teach our children (and us) more about God’s creation, ourselves, and our God. But our knowledge is far, far from complete—in fact, it’s quite faulty!—and we are not saved by our knowledge.

So God is speaking to each of us: “Who are you?” he asks. You who think you know so much, as if you think that knowledge makes me like you more. If you are trusting in your knowledge, then I simply say, ‘Who are you?’?”

And we answer: “Why, we are forgiven sinners, our faith is no stronger than Job’s, but we are forgiven no less than every other sinner. This forgiveness does not come from our knowledge of God or his creation, but as a gift from the one who created this world and its seas, the one who commands its wind and waves. We cannot fully understand God’s plan to save mankind, which would lead God’s own Son to die on a cross. We cannot comprehend how this Son of God, Jesus, would rise from the dead, conquering sin, death, and the evil one once for all time. We cannot reason in our minds that water poured over a child “included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word” would create faith in the promises of our Savior, Jesus.

What God has done goes against all logical explanation, yet it is absolutely true! Believe the promise with all your heart, doubt it not, that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, your sins are forgiven. Trust that because of Jesus’ resurrection, you have the promise of life forever with him. Cling to the promise that in your Baptism you are his!

Walk by faith, not sight; trust in your Savior, not what you think you know. Believe that if God asked, “Who are you?” you could honestly answer, “I am a sinner, forgiven and set free by Jesus’ death on the cross.” Trust in him and not on your own understanding. Amen.

 

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