Summary: If you've ever travelled to a place where the culture was different than yours, you know how clueless you can feel. Job's "culture" was different than God's. It's no wonder he felt lost in the midst of his suffering...
How many of you have travelled to a place where the culture was noticeably different than yours? At times, didn’t you feel totally clueless? I’ve seen the bewildered look on American businessmen’s faces who came to Japan where I grew up. When meeting with a Japanese client for the first time, the American would stick out his hand for a handshake, while his Japanese counterpart would bow low in traditional Japanese greeting. It ended up looking like the American was about to karate chop the prostrated head of the Japanese! I knew what both men were thinking: “What’s the matter with this guy? Doesn’t he know how to greet?” The two men had different ways of doing things, and both no doubt thought the other man was “weird.”
Job thought something similar about God. After losing his wealth, his children, and his health—after putting up with his friends who blamed Job for his misfortune, Job demanded an audience with God. He felt that God was being unreasonable in his treatment of him. Job wanted the chance to point that out and hear what God would say in his defense. Job thought that this would bring him peace on his unpredictable path, just as we often think that if God would just tell us why he does the things he does, we too could be at peace. But what God would teach Job is that the way to find peace is by relaxing under the umbrella of his wisdom—even when that wisdom, like an umbrella, is often opaque and beyond our ability to see through clearly.
Our text began with Job’s cry: “…let the Almighty answer me” (Job 31:35b). No longer does Job call God “LORD” as he did in the first two chapters. “LORD” is a title in the Old Testament that emphasizes the gracious nature of God. But Job doesn’t see anything gracious or loving about God’s treatment of him. He only feels the weight of the Almighty’s thumb pressing down on him like someone trying to get the last bit of toothpaste from the tube. Job felt that God was squeezing all life and all hope from him. What was God up to? Job wanted to know, more than that, he demanded to know.
Would God answer Job’s summons? Yes, and no. The Bible records these words: “Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm…” (Job 38:1). Isn’t that interesting? It was the “LORD,” the God of faithful love who responded to Job, but he did so out of a violent windstorm. And God did not respond to Job’s questions. Instead, the LORD had questions for Job. “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (Job 38:2-3).
Do you see the irony here? Job had blustered against God like a creaking fan that delivers more noise than relief. God, on the other hand, addressed Job from what may have been a Category 4 tornado! If God had come close enough, he would have ripped Job apart. But that was not God’s intent. God would put Job in his place, yes, but he had not come to destroy him. He was after all still the LORD, the God of faithful love.
So, what questions did God have for Job? Let me offer a sampling. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? 8 Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb…10 when I fixed limits for it …11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? 21 Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years! 22 Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail? 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’? 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…? 2 Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 38:7-8, 10-11, 21-22, 34-35, 39-41; 40:2)
With a series of rapid-fire questions, God helped Job realize how much smarter he was than Job. Did Job (do you) know how exactly God created the world? Did Job (do you) know how God controls the lightning, which to our observation seems to strike the earth with no discernable pattern? Did Job (do you) know how God provides for all the animals of the earth from the proud lion down to the scavenging raven? No, Job did not know, as he humbly admitted: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5).