A Series of Articles on Job 38-42
God has a very powerful way of bringing Job to a place where he acknowledges that he may have a limited perspective on things. Job has experienced suffering at a level few humans can even grasp. In the midst of dealing with his suffering Job was visited by his “friends.” As their question and answer sessions proceeded, Job was eventually accused of wickedness and sin, which they believed brought on Job’s sufferings. In the back and forth that ensued, Job called upon God as his witness to defend and verity his innocence. Now God has “shown up” - literally. He will eventually vindicate Job, but before He does, He asks Job a few questions to help him with perspective in his situation.
That often is our problem in the midst of suffering. We battle with wondering whether we have done something sinful that brought our situation to pass. We struggle with the thought that we are being punished and that God is angry with us. That is why we are suffering. For those who have not committed a sin that is being visited with discipline, things are even more difficult. And it is in navigating those difficulties that we can lose perspective and begin to wonder about God Himself. We can even toy with questions about His sovereignty and management of our providential circumstances. God does come to Job spectacularly - and He will come to us as well. The thing is that if we expect Him to explain Himself in the matter, we may be greatly disappointed. God comes, not to explain Himself to us, but to reveal Himself to us - and that is what He does with Job.
God reveals Himself with a series of questions. His first is this: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Wow, now there is a doozy of a question right at the start. Where exactly were you when I started it all? When the foundation for all that you know, see, and experience was laid? I didn’t see you there. That is a question that honestly needs to be asked, not just of Job, but on a much larger scale - to all of humanity (especially of those who are scientists).
God reveals Himself to us in ways we can grasp and here, God uses building terms to help Job grasp what He is saying. The Lord first speaks of laying a foundation. Yet, we know that there are no pillars or supports on which the earth rests - no massive Titan who carries the earth upon his shoulders. Job understood that because he said in 26:7 that God, “hangs the earth on nothing.” This is poetic language and as such we need to be careful not to understand it in a literal way. In fact, what we see here is God using building terms such as . . .
- Who laid the foundations of the earth?
- Who set it’s measurements?
- Who stretched the line on it?
- On what were its bases sunk?
- Who laid its cornerstone?
All these terms were used in building structures for mankind. Footings had to be dug, measurements made, lines stretched to establish plumb, a cornerstone put into place off of which the walls and foundation would be laid. These are all things the construction industry would do. But how exactly would this be done on a world scale? How would this be done for the entire universe? It is quite a task when a man would attempt to build a home. It could take months or years based on the size of the home or the structure. Solomon’s temple took seven years to construct. Multiply that times a trillion to just get things started when you think of the earth and the solar system. But that is what God is asking Job.
This is a question impossible to answer with the understanding of Job’s day - but take a moment and consider that question in light of the Hubble space telescope. Consider the wisdom needed to intricately lay the paths of a trillion stars and planets. That isn’t even a trillionth of what is actually in the heavens. Were you there when God made all of this? Where were you? Exactly. You didn’t even exist except in the future understanding and plan of God - Who by the way, made it all.
What is fascinating about the four chapters in Job we are considering is that God does not use them to answer the reason behind Job’s suffering and pain. He does not use them to explain the circumstances of Job’s trouble. In the end what God does is to ask Job whether He is as great, eternal, wise, powerful, good, and perfect as God Himself. That may seem like far less than Job should receive. But Job would vehemently disagree with you on that matter. He would rejoice in having been able to receive such a full and magnificent revelation of God. Job’s response would be to tell us it would have been better for him to have kept quiet and trust in God.
My guess is that there are probably many who do not like that answer. To be left without a specific why - and even more pointedly - why me - is not enough to those in a sinful condition. They deserve more. They deserve answers. They deserve an explanation - even from God - to justify why He would allow such things. In all honesty - they would eventually find that a God who does not answer the questions by which they put Him on trial - is not a God they are wanting to accept - let alone know, love, or serve. OK - but their trial and eventual denial of Him will not remove Him from His place. You see, God is God and we are His creation. Just because we do not like that will not change it. (Please understand that God is not just ultimate power and authority, but also ultimate goodness, kindness, mercy, compassion, and love.) We often don’t get it because we are infinitesimally small and greatly lack perspective. That is why God asks the question, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”
Our perspective is very limited. It is dominated by self-interest and a heart that is bound by sin and rebellion against God. If we truly want to understand things, we need a much bigger perspective. When we see God through the revelation of Himself to us, our perspective changes. When we see Him . . . nothing else matters any more. Seeing Him is enough. At least that is what Job would tell us.