Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Job 37-39: Listen! God is speaking . . .

Elihu finishes his monologue dramatically, as raises his voice to be heard over the storm.

"At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice!"

I picture him speaking over the storm. He raises his voice. His face turns red. He's waving his arms wildly. Of course I don't actually know any of that, but I'm pretty sure about the storm. (See 38:1)

God's voice thunders . . .
He does great things beyond our understanding.
He orders the rain and the snow and the rain.
His breath produces ice.

Listen to this Job, you don't know anything about God.
But we do.
Who are you to say you want to talk to God?

He's beyond our reach.

It's not that Elihu has said anything terribly wrong, but at the same time he declares the glory of God, his unknowable nature, he also declares that he knows exactly what God's thinking--Like Job's other friends, he speaks for God and God's character when he says, "God punishes the sinful. That fact that Job is experiencing tragedy proves he's being punished, which proves that he is sinful. And I know."

And suddenly everything changes. God shows up and declarations of God's power and his unknowable nature pale. He answers Job out of the storm and says, "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me."

Who are you to question me? To speak for me?
Where were you when I made the world? Go ahead, tell me.
And who marked off its dimensions. Go ahead and explain if you can.

Have you figured out life and death?
Go ahead, explain it all to me.

Of course they can't.
None of us can.

But like Job's friends, who see tragedy and point to Job's sin, we also conclude that natural disasters must be due to sin.

Those tragedies must be God's punishment for grievous sin.
And yet, no natural disasters befell Nazi Germany or Southern Americans who sold African children into slavery, separated mothers and children, and no diseases afflicted pastors who supported the cause of slavery using Scripture or supported Jim Crow laws and shielded KKK members from prosecution.

God is beyond understanding.
His ways are beyond tracing out. (See Romans 11)

And like Job, who complains that God has unjustly afflicted him, we demand protection from illness, accidents, and death. We demand success and prosperity. Just because we serve him.

We suffer from so much confusion.
What we really need to is to set our eyes on him and focus on his greatness.

Face to face with God, Job recognizes his error, and falls before God. "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer--twice, but I will say no more." (Job 40:4-5)

What can Job say? Face to face with God, with his holiness, with his unspeakable glory, none of the rest matters.

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