How many people have thought they could run the world better than God? I believe this crosses the mind of every human at one point or another. If there is a God, why is the world like this? Why is there so much evil? Why is there suffering? Why are there natural disasters? Why is there pain? We, in our infinite wisdom, would surely do a better job in this world than what we see. Job has questioned his own circumstances and the way God runs the world. Job is righteous. He is blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. But, despite his righteousness, he is suffering immensely. Job has greatly desired to come into God’s presence so that he could present his case before God. Now God is going to make his presence known and answer Job.
Get Ready! (38:1-3)
The paragraph opens with the Lord answering Job out of the whirlwind. God coming in a storm is the way God often reveals himself. God’s presence is frequently pictured as a storm. Recall what happens when God comes to Mount Sinai in the exodus.
On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. (Exodus 19:16–19 ESV)
Notice how God comes to Elijah in 1 Kings 19.
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. (1 Kings 19:11 ESV)
When Ezekiel saw the Lord in a vision for his prophecy, notice what Ezekiel saw.
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. (Ezekiel 1:4 ESV)
Consider the first words God says to Job.
Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. (Job 38:2–3 ESV)
Using different translations, God asks: Who is this who questions my purposes, my counsel, my plans, my wisdom, and my design? Make yourself ready to answer the Lord! Brace yourself! This is a picture of getting ready for work or for battle. Job wanted this contest. So listen to God: “I will question you, and you make it known to me.” Job, it is time for you to answer me. Job thought he would ask such penetrating questions and would compel God to answer (cf. Job 23:2; 31:35). Job, you think you know. But you are completely in the dark, lacking counsel and knowledge. You are speaking and you do not know what you are talking about.
The Creator (38:4-15)
God describes the creation in 38:4-15. You will notice that the question begins with “Where were you” (38:4) and shifts to “who determined” (38:5). Job lacks knowledge to God’s great power. “Tell me, if you have understanding” (38:4). “Surely you know!” (38:5). God’s point as he begins is to show that everything is purposefully ordered, which is good (cf. Genesis 1) and is rejoiced over by the creation and by the sons of God (38:7). Not only was the creation good but the design of how creation runs was also good. The order God made brought cosmic joy.
Verses 8-15 focus on God’s power. God has the power to shut in the sea and giving it limits (8-11). God has the power to make the day begin and the night end (12-15). But there is an important metaphor that God is using here. God is not only speaking about his power over the inanimate creation but also over evil. Remember that these discourses have been poetry. In the scriptures the sea and the darkness frequently represent evil and wickedness (cf. Revelation 12:17-13:1). We can see that this is what God is doing because of verse 15, “From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.” God did not randomly add a sentence about the fate of the wicked. This paragraph about the sea and the darkness are pictures of God’s control over the wicked.
Evil has limits (38:11) and nothing is beyond God’s authority (38:15). The wicked love the darkness but God does shake out the wicked (38:13). There is will be a time when the light will rise and shake out evil. Job has criticized the fact that the wicked prosper and seem to continue without justice falling on them. Please notice that God declares that there will be a time when God shakes out the wicked. But here the hard message God gives in this paragraph. There is a specific place in the created order for evil (38:8). Even evil has a purpose in God’s order. God limits the evil (38:11) and nothing go beyond God’s authority (38:15).
This is such an important concept that is easy to forget or not consider. God could have judged Satan and his angels before the creation of humanity. But God did not. God could have judged the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, and dealt with evil in Genesis 3. But God did not. God could have judged the world and ended it with the murder of Abel and dealt with Satan then. But God did not want. God does not cause evil. God does not take pleasure in evil. But God does use evil for his purposes. All of the creation has a purpose and operates within the perimeters of God’s created order. Evil does not operate outside of God’s design. We saw this in the first two chapters of Job. Nothing that happened to Job operated outside of God’s knowledge or outside of God’s approval. God is sovereign over all things. If God did not want evil to run right now, then it would not run right now. But this is the order he made in this universe and it is purposeful. Wickedness is not excluded from God’s power.
Ruler Over Inanimate Nature (38:16-38)
Now God asks Job challenging questions regarding nature. Can you explore the depths of the sea? Then how can you explore the depths of God’s mind and purposes? (38:16-18). The light and the darkness are controlled by God (38:19-21). God’s power is seen in the storehouses of snow and hail (38:22-24). God can use the creation to bring trouble! We have seen God do this with the ten plagues in Exodus 9 and use hail against Canaanite kings in Joshua 10:11. God has the power to bring water and rain to the middle of nowhere so that life is given. Job, can you put the rainwater where you want and where no one is at (38:25-27)? Job, do you know where all this water comes from (38:28-30)? How did all the ice get to where it is at? Tell me, if you know, Job. Who can control the stars (38:31-33)? Did you put those constellations there so that they do not move? Yet those stars are all under God’s control. Can you control the rain and the lightning (38:34-38)? Can you call for it to fall with your voice? Job is to consider his complete insignificance before God. Who are you to question the purposes and designs of God?
Ruler Over Animals (38:39-39:30)
God continues with the same questioning but now shifts to the living creation. Can you provide food for all the animals (38:39-41)? The circle of life has been established by the wisdom and power of God. Do you have control or knowledge of the inaccessible animals who hide in inaccessible caves to give birth (39:1-4)? Do you have the power to give freedom and provisions to the animals in the wild (39:5-8)? Did you make the wild ox, which is so powerful, unusable for man to tame (39:9-12)? Consider the ostrich. God made the ostrich foolish and yet it still survives (39:13-18)? Job, did you make the ostrich like this and yet it still lives? Did you give the horse its strength (39:19-25). The horse is mighty and fearless in battle. Job, did you do that? Did you give the hawk and the eagle their amazing vision as birds of prey (38:26-30)? Now, why does God do all this besides to give all humans who read this a dose of humility? God’s point is in Job 40:1-2.
Will You Contend With The Almighty? (40:1-5)
The Lord answered Job (HCSB, NET, NKJV). This is God’s answer. Job finds fault with the way God runs the world. Job, let’s see you do it. Let’s see your wisdom and power. You have a very limited vision and very limited wisdom. It is easy to criticize what you are not doing yourself and are unable to do. Job, are you really going to reprove God? The word “contend” is often used to speak of confronting another in court over a breach of contract obligations. Are you going to say that God has failed in his obligations? Are you going to say that God is not holding up his end of the deal?
This is an important message. We are no position to tell another person how to do something about which we have no knowledge whatsoever. This would be like me coming to your work and challenging you on how you do your job when I have never done your job, lacking knowledge and wisdom in such matters. It would be like you telling how I ought to do my joy when you do not have the knowledge or understanding about preaching. Yet we do this with God, telling him how he ought to run the world when we do not have the knowledge or wisdom in the slightest. We need to keep quiet and let God do his mighty works. Job speaks from ignorance and often so do we.
This is how Job does respond. Job says that he has spoken too much (40:3-5). I am nothing and what answer can I give to the Lord Almighty. God has a purposeful creation. There is a purpose to the universe. The world runs the way it does because God made it that way. He allows suffering to happen because that is how he made the world and he allows evil to continue because that is how we made the world. Who are we to challenge the creation order when God saw the creation order as good and the spiritual beings rejoiced over it? Do not contend with the Almighty that he is failing his obligations toward you or toward this world! Everything is going along according to God’s plan. Be humble and have faith in God’s works, God’s purposes, and God’s designs. We do not need to know God’s purposes but to simply trust in his wisdom.