Job 38 is a chapter of scripture in which we are reminded of just how limited our understanding is when compared to God’s wisdom. We often look at situations or circumstances and come to conclusions that are based on our understanding (which is always greatly limited, especially when compared to God’s wisdom). An important point to keep in mind when reading Job chapters 3-37 is that God has been silent. These 35 chapters contain the wisdom of men; namely Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. We should also note the wisdom of one woman, Job’s wife, was demonstrated in chapter 2 when she advised Job to “Curse God and die!”
Job’s friends, like his wife, had come to the conclusion that Job’s circumstances (having lost all of his children, his servants, and his livestock) were a result of God’s judgment for some kind of sin that Job had committed. We know this is not the case based on the very first verse of the book… “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Job’s friends came to mourn with their friend and to comfort him. They sat silently with Job for the first seven days and seven nights, just providing companionship to their grieving friend. The next 35 chapters record much discourse spoken by both Job and his friends. Much of this discourse contains biblical principles and great reverence for God. However, this discourse also contains conclusions and recommendations that are based on limited understanding.
God remains silent during this time, though no doubt listening as Job and his friends dialogue. Job yearns for God to speak and explain the source of his current circumstances and grief. God begins to speak in chapter 38, however, He does not directly answer the questions put forth by Job or his friends.
Job Chapter 38…
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 2 “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
The phrase “Out of the whirlwind” represents the power of God. The term “whirlwind” is used in other scriptures as well to describe the power of God: God brought Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1-11), God’s presence is in the whirlwind (Psalm 77:18; Nahum 1:3), God’s coming is like a whirlwind (Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13 and 23:19) and God appeared to Ezekiel in a whirlwind (Ezekiel 1:4).
God’s question, Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge, may have referred to Elihu as he was the last speaker prior to God beginning to address the group. However the question is applicable to everyone present…Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu – as all five men have spoken without accurate knowledge of what we read in chapters 1 and 2.
God didn’t expect these men to know what they could not know; rather, He expected them to appreciate that there were aspects to the matter known to God but hidden to man. Their lack of knowledge regarding these aspects is why the matter seemed to make no sense. With man’s limited knowledge… the matter made no sense. With God’s complete knowledge… the matter makes sense.
3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
Job felt, and complained in previous chapters, that he was battling against God. In reality, Job has been battling against Satan. Job has insisted that God give him answers. God now declares that He will ask the questions and Job will give the answers. God’s questions are unanswerable… by any man! Which is the purpose of the questions… to help man understand and acknowledge his own limited knowledge.
David Guzik comments… “The questions God had for Job were simply unanswerable and were meant to show Job that he really had no place to demand answers from God. Yet to see this appearance of God to Job only as a rebuke is a grave mistake. God has now appeared to Job. Job’s greatest agony was that he felt God had abandoned him, and now he knew he was not abandoned. Like any true revelation of God there were plenty of elements that would make Job feel small before the greatness of God; yet it could not take away from the massive comfort Job felt in simply being once again consciously in the presence of God.”
Similarly, Smick comments… “Job learned through the theophany that God had not abandoned him. And it gradually dawned on Job that without knowing why he was suffering he could face it, so long as he was assured that God was his friend.”
The key to enduring difficult situations does not lie in understanding what has caused the situation or why you are having to endure the circumstances (though we often find comfort in being able to explain the situations and circumstances). The key to enduring difficult situations is knowing that God is present to guide you through the situation regardless of how difficult it may be.
And now the series of questions begins… The very first series of questions takes us back to Genesis 1… the record of God creating the earth…
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Where was Job during this time? Was any man (or woman) present? Man had no part in creating the foundations of the earth. The creation of the earth was created before man was even created.
These questions serve to remind Job that there is a world outside of himself. We often begin to see the world as revolving around us (as an individual). This world was created by God… for God. He is the creator… we are the created. When we forget this relationship (creator and created) we begin to lose sight of who is served and who serves.
Our worldview plays a very important part in our life. When our worldview puts us at the center, we begin to lose control and feel helpless… because we were never really in control. Therefore, we begin to lose hope and begin to despair. When our worldview puts God at the center, we recognize that we (and everything else that was created) is here to please Him. We recognize that He is in control. We then only have to choose whether to turn our life over to Him or do battle against His will. What we refer to as believers and unbelievers… saved and unsaved.
Next, God discusses the boundaries of the seas.
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors, When it burst forth and issued from the womb; 9 When I made the clouds its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band; 10 When I fixed My limit for it, And set bars and doors; 11 When I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!’
The ocean is a powerful thing. Many ships (and planes) have been lost to powerful seas. The disciples were greatly afraid while in a boat during the storm… “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Mathew 8:25). But we are told… “[Jesus] arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” (Mathew 8:26).
Of course Job had no understanding of how God set boundaries for the seas or how he contained the waves. Even without this understanding… Job could have a peace in knowing that God does have the powerful seas under control. God can, and does, control those things that we cannot.
In verses 12-18, God discusses the nature of the earth.
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place, 13 That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 It takes on form like clay under a seal, And stands out like a garment. 15 From the wicked their light is withheld, And the upraised arm is broken. 16 “Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? 18 Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this.
Have you ever determined when morning would arrive? -I have sat in deer stands on many mornings, freezing… wishing that the sun would come up so that I could feel the heat of its rays. But no matter how much I wanted to… I couldn’t rush the morning. The morning doesn’t answer to me…. it’s not in my control.
At other times, I have stood in a trout stream floating flies on the current as the sun came up… what a beautiful sight. Just wishing that morning would last for hours. But the sun rose high and the temperature would begin to clime. Again… all I could do was watch the day go through its cycle.
To this day, we are still limited in our knowledge of the depths of the sea… Have you entered the springs of the sea? Have you walked in search of the depths? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?
The breadth of the earth?… we know the answer to that one today (or at least we think we do). The earth is 24,901 miles around… though I’m not sure who pulled that tape measure?!?!?! That dimension is around the equator. If you measured around the poles it would be 27 miles less because the earth is not a perfect sphere. It is kind of “squashed” or “flattened down” at the poles. Again… who took these measurements?!?!? Again, there is no way for Job to know the answers to these questions. Nor does Job need to know the measurements of the earth. But God, the designed and the builder, knows the perfect dimensions for the earth.
In verses 19-24, God questions Job about the nature of light, darkness, and the sky…
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, 20 That you may take it to its territory, That you may know the paths to its home? 21 Do you know it, because you were born then, Or because the number of your days is great? 22 “Have you entered the treasury of snow, Or have you seen the treasury of hail, 23 Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, For the day of battle and war? 24 By what way is light diffused, Or the east wind scattered over the earth?
Anderson comments… “Here light and darkness are personified and associated as mysterious beings whose place is beyond man’s reach. They need a guide to help them find their way home. God can do this, but Job cannot.” Again… far beyond Jobs authority to control.
Hail is frequently a tool of judgment against God’s enemies, as seen against Egypt (Exodus 9:24), the Canaanites (Joshua 10:11), apostate Israel (Isaiah 28:2), and Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:22), and against a rebellious earth in the Great Tribulation (Revelation 16:20-21). Anderson comments on snow and hail… “Here it is supposed that God has them stored in His treasuries (the Lord thinks about snow the way a man thinks about gold!).”
Snow and hail are viewed differently by man and by God. Being able to command the snow and the hail are not just powers to brag about… but for God a tool to be used – a weapon to be used as needed.
In verses 25-30, God questions Job’s ability to direct the rain, lightning, and humidity…
25 “Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, Or a path for the thunderbolt, 26 To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, A wilderness in which there is no man; 27 To satisfy the desolate waste, And cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass? 28 Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? 29 From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? 30 The waters harden like stone, And the surface of the deep is frozen.
Man continues to try to control the water. Look at all of the issues that we deal with when we have a lot of rainfall or hurricanes. Abundant rain or drought? Frost or dew on the ground? Lakes or frozen tundra? We have very little, if any, effect on any of these traits of nature. Not because it is uncontrollable… just that it is beyond our understanding and abilities. God is in complete control of all of this.
In verses 31-33, God moves out to the constellations…
31 “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the belt of Orion? 32 Can you bring out Mazzaroth in its season? Or can you guide the Great Bear with its cubs? 33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you set their dominion over the earth?
If we can’t control the raindrops of the dew drops… there is no way that we can bind the constellations!! We’re still trying to figure out what is out there! …and how many of them are out there!!
In verses 34-38, God questions Job on his ability to command the weather or impart wisdom in the human mind…
34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, That an abundance of water may cover you? 35 Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, And say to you, ‘Here we are!’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart? 37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven, 38 When the dust hardens in clumps, And the clods cling together?
In verses 25-30, God questions Job about his ability to control the flow of the rain, lightning or even the state of the moisture (water, frost, or ice). Here in verses 34 and 35, God questions Job about his ability to even call for rain or lightning. Not only can Job not determine how much or what state the water comes in, he can’t determine whether or not the rain or lightning comes at all.
In verses 39-41, God has Job consider who cares for the animal kingdom…
39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 40 When they crouch in their dens, Or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait? 41 Who provides food for the raven, When its young ones cry to God, And wander about for lack of food?
Job can’t control the stars and the constellations. Job can’t control the rain or the lightning. Job can’t instill wisdom into the mind or understanding to the heart. God has just moved from the constellations (something that man has difficulty wrapping his mind around the vastness of) down to the ravens (a small creature that man often gives little thoughts to the needs of).
The lions are in need of food… Job can’t do anything about their needs. The ravens need food for their young… again, Job is powerless. But notice that God points out that the young ones of the ravens cry to God when they are in need of food. Even the baby ravens know to turn to God with their basic needs.
From the largest (the constellations) to the smallest (the ravens), God cares about and cares for everything around us. How much more He cares for us and will take care of us.
God showed Job that man was completely unable to cause rain. Charles Spurgeon took this idea and likened rain to the grace of God. Charles Spurgeon wrote… “If both Houses of Parliament were to be called together, and the Queen were to sit upon her throne of state, and they were unanimously to pass an act ordering the rain to fall, he that sitteth in the heavens would laugh, the Lord would have them in derision, for the key of the rain is in no hand but that of Jehovah. It is exactly so with the grace of God. You and I cannot command it. The presence of the most holy men in our midst would not of itself bring it. The most earnest preaching, the most Scriptural doctrine, the most faithful obedience to ordinances, would not make it necessary that we should receive grace. God must give it; he is an absolute Sovereign, and we are entirely dependent upon him.”
In light of the vastness of God’s creation… In light of all that we can’t understand or control… Despite the inferiority of understanding that we (as humans) have… Despite all of the difficulties and trials that we endure; Remember that of all of God’s creation: we were created in His image! We were created for a purpose! We were created for eternal fellowship with Him!
When we consider the list of questions presented to Job and recognize the superiority of God’s knowledge and ability over ours, we stand in awe. This should bring the comfort to us that David had when he went against Goliath… complete confidence to carry through with the task at hand.
As we look around at our world today, we hear a lot of discussions of similar substance to what Job’s friends had to offer… “words without knowledge”. Many individuals out there are eager to address an audience for a few minutes in the spotlight. They offer a lot of words that sound good… but lack any true substance. The listener goes away having had their ear tickled, but with no substance of value in their lives. Look to the individuals who offer godly wisdom that draws you closer to God and a dependence on Him. Look to God for knowledge and understanding that surpasses man’s wisdom. Yearn for the word of God and His fellowship as you navigate the circumstances at hand.
The fear [respect, reverence, piety] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
May you be guided by His wisdom and blessed by the presence of His glory.