Summary: A poem of Creation.
WHERE WERE YOU?
After all the crying and sighing, moaning and groaning of Job (and I do not blame him for it); after all the blaming and shaming, sharing and tearing of his ‘miserable comforters’ (Job 16:2): “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).
We notice two things here. First, it was “the LORD” who answered. Literally, YHWH. This is the first time that this name has been used for God since the prologue (Job 1:6; Job 2:1). In the intervening chapters, Job and his friends refer to God with the more impersonal ‘El’ - perhaps not recognising that our God is a God who is near, as well as a God who is far off (cf. Jeremiah 23:23). As Christians, we are enabled to approach ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3) with the intimacy of sons, addressing Him as ‘Abba’ (Romans 8:15)!
Second, it is only YHWH, the covenant LORD who is able to speak: not some impersonal ‘god’. Baal cannot speak: he cannot even hear, no matter how much his so-called prophets dance and prance and lance themselves (1 Kings 18:26-29). On that occasion, the LORD answered by fire (1 Kings 18:38); but on this occasion, by a voice “out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).
The LORD’s reply to the complaints of Job consists in a series of sixty questions of His own! [Have you noticed, Jesus also answers questions with questions (e.g. Mark 11:28-30)?] This is not in order for the LORD to accuse or condemn Job: Job has already been certified righteous (Job 1:1). No indeed, even in our questionings of God’s ways in our lives, the LORD still views us as the righteousness of God in our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-22): and the final testimony of the LORD after all Job’s questionings is that he is the one who is righteous rather than his companions (Job 42:7)!
Amid all our perplexities in life, the LORD is not lurking in the wings waiting to condemn us: instead, He is waiting at the gate, inviting us to take a walk with Him in the garden. So, any measure of rebuke in the words “Who is this?” (Job 38:2); “Where were you?” (Job 38:4); “Can you…?” (Job 38:34), etc., is mitigated as we learn more of Him in this grand tour of Creation. So, gird up your loins, and listen to My questions, and see if you can answer them, says the LORD (Job 38:3).
I can remember walking with one gentleman, who would point out and name the flora and fauna (plants and animals) as we passed by. Or as a child, those family drives with our parents, having the beauty of the mountains, the sea - the trees even - pointed out to us. Yet did we ever really consider, ‘the LORD God made them all’?
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4-7) distracts us from our perplexities and silences our complaints. It mutes the ‘science falsely so called’ (1 Timothy 6:20) which seeks to gag our faith by replacing inquiry with dogmatic theories. It humbles us, making us to stand in awe: for ‘He has done all things well’ (Mark 7:37).
Who was the ‘midwife’ who set the limits of the sea when it burst forth from the womb, and swaddled it in clouds and darkness, saying “thus far and no further” (Job 38:8-11)?
“Here your proud waves must stop” (Job 38:11) tells us that those limits were set from the creation of the earth: but also, in the scientifically observable reality of an eroding coastline, its times were set as well. Not only are all things created by the LORD, but they are also temporally upheld, kept, sustained, by the LORD: His works of Providence complement His works of Creation.
Another question is “Can you?” (Job 38:34-38). We talk about weather a lot here in Britain, but I suspect that science stands as impotent to make weather as Pharaoh’s magicians were to make lice (Exodus 8:18). Even the numbering of the clouds is beyond our capability, let alone “the tilting of the water-skins of heaven” (Job 38:37)!
Or, “Can you hunt the prey for the lion?” (Job 38:39-40). Etched on the rim of a famous drinking vessel, we find the words: ‘The eyes of all wait upon You; and You give them their meat in due season’ (Psalm 145:15).