The recent hurricanes caused me to reflect on Job 38:1-11:
Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind,
“Who is this who darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man,
for I will question you, then you answer me!
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measures, if you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
What were its foundations fastened on?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut up the sea with doors,
when it broke out of the womb,
when I made clouds its garment,
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
marked out for it my bound,
set bars and doors,
and said, ‘You may come here, but no further.
Your proud waves shall be stopped here?’
These words of the Lord, of course, were meant as a rebuke to Job and, particularly, his “friends.” For they had attempted to explain Job’s suffering in terms of God’s will or His punishment. Perhaps another way to think of it is that they thought they knew the hidden will and mind of God. God did not tell them why Job was suffering, but they presumed to speak for God.
Thus, God “answers” their presumptions and challenges them with a series of rhetorical questions. The point which God is making is that they do not know everything and cannot speak where God Himself has not spoken.
In times like the recent Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and the earthquake in Mexico, many people become like Job’s friends, attempting to explain the suffering in terms of God’s will or His punishment. Yet, God does not tell us that this is so. In fact, if we reflect on the book of Job we ought to be humbled, as he was, and realize that we are not God and do not know what He has not revealed to us. That is the purpose of God’s words to Job, to humble him and to cause him not to speculate in what might be, but rather to trust in what is.
Therefore, instead of attempting to speak for God, we are called to trust in what He has clearly revealed. And what He has revealed is that He is Lord over creation. We see it in Job. We see it in Genesis (and in the introduction to John’s Gospel where he echoes Genesis) and throughout the Old Testament. We see it in the New Testament when Jesus creates (e.g. wine from water at the wedding at Cana), heals, walks on water, and calms the storm.
We don’t have all the answers, but we have the one that truly matters: that the Lord God – creator of all things – came in the flesh to redeem and restore His creation. This is the Gospel which we confidently proclaim. We may suffer in this life, because this present world is fallen and marred by sin, but the Lord is restoring it to the perfection in which He originally created it. So, like Job, we can trust in this future restoration and our own bodily resurrections into it, believing with him:
But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.
In the end, he will stand upon the earth.
After my skin is destroyed,
then I will see God in my flesh,
whom I, even I, will see on my side.
My eyes will see, and not as a stranger.
(Image: The pre-incarnate Christ talks with Job. Book of Job in Illuminated Manuscripts. List of Byzantine Manuscripts with Cyclic Illustration. Mount Athos. Megisti Lavra Monastery; By Unknown – user, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10827565 )