Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action (literally: “gird your loins”) like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
and its features stand out like a garment.
From the wicked their light is withheld,
and their uplifted arm is broken.
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this. Job 38:1-18 (ESV)
The story of Job is one that most of us can identify with. Job is basically a person who most people would consider to be a “good guy.” He tries to do all the right things- bringing up his kids right, trying to do the things God wants, and so forth. Obeying the law is a good thing insofar as we are capable of doing it, but nobody can keep the law perfectly, and breaking one little point of it means you’ve messed up the whole thing. Job tried, but he was still an imperfect person who sinned, under the curse of the Fall, just like the rest of us.
The devil asks God if he can have his way with Job, insisting that Job only loves God because of the blessings God gives him. The devil is given permission to torment Job in all sorts of ways, but not to outright kill him. Job ends up losing everything during this trial. Job questions God as to why he deserved to be tormented, and Job demanded answers of God. Job was possibly the first to ask the pervasive question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Job’s friends tried to console him- and place the blame on him for his afflictions. Their logic was that if only Job had been a “better guy,” or if he could only have figured out what he did to cheese God off and stopped doing it, then maybe he wouldn’t be suffering. We do that to ourselves. We think that if we can only be good and follow all the rules that nothing bad will happen to us. Then we are shocked when we are brought to a place of suffering, illness or loss, even though these are the conditions of our fallen condition and our fallen world.
We can become incredulous in times of adversity, and we are often tempted into attempting to bargain with God, even though Jesus and the apostles who first proclaimed the Gospel to the world let us know in no uncertain terms that the people of God share in both the burden of the Cross as well as in Jesus’ resurrection into eternal life. (It’s called Theology of the Cross…)
Job’s friends don’t use the best theology to explain his plight to him. God doesn’t work on the quid pro quo system. We can’t bargain with God in the hope that our good behavior will garner us our “best life now” or comfort and a trouble free life. We have nothing to offer God except to confess our sins and to pray for Christ to have mercy on us. Even the abilities to confess and pray and believe do not come from us, but are gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here God reminds Job- and us- that we are beggars at the throne of grace indeed.
God reminds Job (and us) that He is the one in control. God is the one who set up the universe, the seasons, and the cycles of life. Who are we to question His wisdom- we who were nowhere to be found when He spoke the universe into being?
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)
In Christ alone we have hope. This world and its trials and pain and loss are not the end. He is the Author of all salvation, redemption, a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus is walking with us through this shadow of the valley. Death is not the end. In Christ, death and suffering and loss do not have the final say. We are forever in the care of the one who spoke creation into being. Trust Him.