Job 38:1 “Then God answered Job out of the whirlwind and said…”
Over the years, the book of Job has become increasingly precious to me. I’ve probably considered myself more righteous that Job – assuming that in trials I would not have the same doubts, fears and questions he so openly expresses. Of course, that is just sinful hubris. Whether I express them or not – I do indeed have them nevertheless. I just don’t want to admit it.
And then we come to these closing chapters. And here, after all the theologizing is done; after all the attempts at “Biblical counseling” from his 3 friends; after Elihu’s attempt to re-frame everything by serving as God’s defender rather than as Job’s prosecutors as the other were – God speaks. And it is a marvel.
When I was growing up, there was a chorus which was popular in the Churches our family attended. We seldom (if ever) sang the verses which had to do with willingness to serve God wherever He might seem fit to send us. Instead, the chorus took on a life of its own – a prayer to hear God speak. It went:
Speak, my Lord, speak, my Lord,
Speak, and I’ll be quick to answer Thee;
Speak, my Lord, speak, my Lord,
Speak, and I will answer, “Lord, send me.”
In more recent years, we’ve seen both a spate of books like A. J. Russell’s poorly conceived “classic” – “God Calling” – and teachings from multiple ministries supposedly providing the key to hearing God. By which is usually meant God directly communicating some data we desire in answering a question of life, or some specific direction in decision making and the like. I won’t go into all of that here, but want to keep with the amazing account we have here in Job.
The ancient expositor John Chrysostom (AD 347-407) comments on this opening verse: “Since the cloud is a symbol of heaven, it is as if God wanted to place heaven itself over Job, as if he had moved his throne near him.” In more modern dress – God speaking to Job out of the whirlwind is equivalent to pulling up His chair to sit and lean in to speak.
What a glorious and gracious God.
No one argues but that Job was in dire straits. His grief was genuinely and legitimately overwhelming. And from his perspective, there was no way to reason through why he was suffering as he was. He wanted answers. The way we do. He wanted direction – what to do and how to do it – especially in terms of ending his excruciating circumstances. He was hurt, confused and in agony in both body and soul.
Now one thing was for sure – delving into the mystery of evil with his theologically savvy friends didn’t do it. Trying to sort out why some of the wicked prosper so much while at the same the righteous suffer – didn’t yield any fruit. Being unable to tie any specific sin or sinful pattern directly to his suffering was a dead end. And if he took his comforter’s advice – he had no idea what it was he was supposed to repent of to get the relief they promised, should he do so. He was stuck. And what he thought he wanted was 2-fold, an explanation, and a chance to plead his case with God face to face. Neither would be forthcoming. Though the latter would almost get there.
So what does this text tell us then? What does it say about hearing God? One thing above all others. For in this encounter when God pulls his chair up to speak with Job – he receives no answer from Him either. He receives no new data with which to bring light to his darkened and depressed soul. He gets no vindication. God does not reveal even one new thing to him – the kind of revelation so many of us seem to thirst for.
What does Job get? The one thing he needs the most: God’s self-revelation. That’s what renewed to his soul. He gets God Himself, up close and personal. So it is the text says “Yahweh answered Job.” All of a sudden, the covenant name by which God revealed Himself to Moses and to Israel makes its appearance. And with it, the simple reminder that God is perfectly wise; orders and administrates every minute aspect of His creation, down to the feeding of unseen (by human eyes) animals; has designed all with infinite precision; and that in that wisdom and power – is simply to be trusted and worshiped for who and what He is.
As I have often concluded in this book, the thing we need most, is not to know the “whys” of life – but the Who behind it all.
God simply drew close – and revealed Himself afresh.
So let me ask you today – have you set aside things for a few minutes to let God speak to your soul out of His Word? Not looking for new data. Not looking for answers. Not looking for high and shaking experiences. Just reading His Word so that He can pull the chair up close and remind you who He is that loved you so, that He gave His only Son, that by believing in Him, you might have everlasting life. Quieting yourself long enough for His Word to sink in, to refresh you in who and what He is. To rest and marvel that He has ordered, and still administrates every sub-atomic particle of His universe – which must by default include you, and everything pertaining to you – and everyone else. God of the nations. God over all governments. God over nature. God over pain, sickness, disease, loneliness, helplessness, confusion, weakness, sin and sorrow. God. Yahweh. The personal “I am that I am.”
Nothing else is what is needed. As when Jesus spoke to Martha in Luke 10 about Mary: “but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” And what was that? To sit as His feet and listen to His teaching (v. 39). And where do we get that? Open your Bible.