Posted by: mikebackup | October 16, 2009

Think big

Think big

Job 38.1-7, 34-41

The LORD Speaks
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?

The book of Job is quite unique in Biblical literature in the way it reflects on the human condition and God’s place within that. It does this with profound pathos, we as the reader are drawn into feeling profound pity, sadness and even anger at the way Job suffers. Within the broad sweep of the narrative it is easy to draw out meaning for us today. At the centre is the reality, as later proved and preached by Jesus that we are called to be suffering servants. And as with Jesus on the cross we may well feel abandoned by God, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”.

The verses we have here are later on in the book, and throughout the suffering endured by Job, God has been noticeably absent. Job has been tested to the limit and is broken and defeated. Then from nowhere God appears and speaks directly to Job. At this point the positive news for Job is that God is there and is listening. God affirms that there is a single creator of all that exists. Whilst Job is insignificant in comparison – ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?’ – the implication is also that there is no other god. Job may question God, but then, there is no one else to whom such questions can be put1. The bad news is that God is not going to follow the expected route of giving him comfort. On the contrary God bombards Job with questions, that hammer home the message of ‘how dare you question your creator’.

However, the aim is not simply to crush Job. Rhetorical questions provide the vehicle for God to demonstrate his delight in all that he has made. Indeed, those who see God shared in this joy at their own creation, for ‘the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy’ (38.7)2.

God is encouraging Job and us today to see the divine perspective on life and creation. We must think bigger than our own situation whilst at the same time putting our trust in God no matter what happens. We know that we live in a fallen world, and the consequences of that mean that evil and suffering have a grip.

Think back to the early Christian church, how many men, women and children suffered and died as a result of trusting God. The Roman Empire looked to crush Christianity and the penalties for being a Christian were severe, from being eaten by lions as public entertainment to all other most barbaric forms of execution including crucifixion. Where was God when that happened? Atheists are keen to point out that it proves the only possible reality that there is no God and religion itself has been the single biggest cause of suffering in human history.

Those Christians were suffering servants, but they did not die in vain. They proved faith in God’s love can beat anything. If you lived 2000 years ago, which would you think would survive, a tiny breakaway peaceful but highly persecuted Jewish sect called Christianity or the all conquering Roman Empire? God’s plan in our fallen world was going to happen through the dedication of his suffering servants, who despite their own suffering, would enable God’s love, values and presence to be known by so many millions of people. They were able to get a God perspective on their own lives.

Hang on a minute you say, isn’t what you’re saying in direct tension with Romans 8.28 – ‘God works for the good of those who love him’? No not at all, and it is the story of Job that helps to give a fuller perspective on that Romans passage. God works for the good in that overall divine sense for those that love him. It means our individual experience maybe to endure suffering to the very end. We may not live to see the good works that will come from that suffering, but we must have faith that God will use it for good in that bigger divine plan for the whole of our fallen world. That is difficult to come to terms with, but from a Christian perspective, that’s exactly what Jesus, and the early apostles had to face.

God will work for the good of all those that love him, but it might not be what we personally hope that will mean. As Christians we must abandon the difficulties of our own lives and focus on the divine plan. Paul understood this brilliantly:

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 7-10.

Let us remember through all our days that the weaker we are, the stronger we are in Christ.

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