Job 38:1-38:41 Re-viewing God

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repeat yesterday… integrating Reason, Emotion, and Intention … more about heart than mind… “God is God, and I am not.” …one whole, integrated God.. polytheism a splintered psyche… indescribably gentle, yet hard as stone…nothing compared to God’s care

Job 38:1-38:41

No, that isn’t a typo, this really does repeat yesterday’s devotional. Soon after I finished, I realized I wasn’t happy with how I handled God’s speech. Rereading it this morning, it occurred to me that I was too reductionist. In particular, I only dealt with the rational part. But, Transformationalism is about integrating Reason, Emotion, and Intention into a coherent whole. So, please allow me to start over – not ignoring what I said before, but complementing it.

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Wow! God is speaking. Who would have thunk it (other than Elihu)? The very thing Job most longed for has been granted to Him. This isn’t some mere deux ex machina* it is the very thing the whole book was leading up to. God wants to communicate with His children. Of course, that doesn’t mean He’s willing to communicate on Job’s terms:

Who [is] this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

I read this as a strange mix of chiding and respect. On the one hand, God is mocking, or at least inverting, Job’s earlier claims of him calling God to account. On the other hand, God is at some level treating Job as an equal, even if only rhetorically.

Then follows some beautiful imagery. One problem with my earlier analysis is that I overlooked the emotional aspect of the process God was taking Job through. This is IMAX-level visuals, not mere verbal soliloquy. God is working through Job’s senses and feelings, not merely logic. In fact, that’s probably one of the main points: Job’s ultimate issue is more about his heart than his mind. At the price of a long article and slower pace, let’s just walk through the whole thing to get a better feel for it.

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Its not just that God was working, but that He worked in a way that filled beings with joy!

Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

I’ve heard that the Hebrews considered the sea evil, as demonstrated by its banishment in Revelation. In that context, this isn’t just a manifestation of God’s power, but His protection.

Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment. And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.

God isn’t merely describing the scope of His power, but its intent: to punish the wicked (rasha’). God glories in His ability to use natural forces to punish evildoers.

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all. Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?

God is Lord over death itself. The springs of the sea (nebek yam) may be as much theological as geological (cf. abyss). Even the depths of evil are no stranger to God.

Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?

Loosely translated, “Who do you think you are?” God is really putting Job in his place. Yet, not in a destructive way. In fact, that is precisely how Job will find liberation — by accepting that “God is God, and I am not.”

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

God is Lord over war (milchamah). Hmm. It suddenly feels like God is taking over the whole Greco-Roman pantheon. Of course, that’s probably just because these are all powerful natural forces, which the Hebrews ascribed to one God, which other races treated as disjoint beings.

Wait a minute. That’s actually a profound difference. God is in fact asserting that He is unity, that all the multifaceted universe — the good, the bad & the ugly — is under one sovereignty. The apparent conflict and confusion we see from our limited viewpoint is an illusion. Reality is one whole, integrated God.

Which ties back into the core theme of transformation. From a psychological perspective, transformation means integrating my own emotion, reason, and intention into one whole human being — by working through the painful experiences that caused me to splinter. From a theological perspective, maybe it means accepting that all the apparently diverse phenomena of the world is the work of one whole, integrated God. Which would make polytheism a reflection of a splintered psyche, unable to cope with integrated reality.

Wow. Deep.

Moving on:

By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth? Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.

I love this imagery. One the one hand, God is indescribably gentle in his use of water (t@’alah). He satisfies the desolate (saba` show’ ), and nurtures (tsamach) the tender herb (deshe’). Yet He is also as hard as stone (‘eben) — but even that is caring, if one views the depths (t@hown) as evil. Soft towards the weak, hard towards evil. I like that.

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?

This must’ve been mind-boggling back then. Sure, nowadays everyone’s heard of gravity, and Newton’s elegantly simple laws (chuqqah) which govern (mishtar) celestial motion. But if you just look at the sky, and try to understand the motion of the planets, and the apparent motion of stars, it can get incredibly complex.

Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are? Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together?

Fascinating. Somehow God is tying clouds (`ab) and lightning (baraq) to innards (tuwchah) and perception (sekviy). Maybe if we knew those latter words better we’d understand the parallelism. Yet, again, wisdom (chokmah) and control (shalach, shakab) are tightly coupled.

Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

Even here, we see God implying His provision (kuwn) for the animals. He hears their cries (shava`), and fills (male’) with good things. Not just because He can, but because He wants to. Job may be proud of his compassion for the poor, but that’s still as nothing compared to God’s care of all creation.

Whew. There’s clearly a lot more going on here than I noticed the first time around. I guess I’ll be taking the rest of God’s speech a little more slowly.

Prayer

God, please forgive me for the times I try to rationalize you down, and miss the depths of your heart. Help me to listen, and to feel, and to know You — not just the things You say. Teach me Your oneness, that I may become truly one. In Jesus, by the Spirit, to the Father. Amen.

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