Can You Do It?

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Job

Job 38-39, “Can You Do It?”

Have you ever been in the middle of a rant & all-of-a-sudden realized you were over your head?  Debating with a teacher – talking smack in sports – mouthing back to your parents, etc…  You had gotten yourself really puffed up with pride, but the moment the other person started to speak or to act, you realized how deep in trouble you actually were?  That is likely the exact feeling Job had the moment Chapter 39 begins!

Job had lost everything because of incredible trials that Satan had put upon him.  The Devil had been allowed by God to try Job (because God was so proud of Job & loved how Job feared God righteously), yet the Devil was not allowed to kill Job.  Left alive, Job wallowed in his misery & though he was surrounded by “friends,” his friends never brought him comfort.  Instead they blamed him for his trials & suffering.  Thus began a long debate between Job, and Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  To the three friends, their false theology said that God only allowed the wicked to suffer – since Job was suffering, it meant he must have been wicked & he deserved his punishment.  Job was far better in his theology, but in the end he slipped into pride, claiming that God must be unjust since Job had been righteous & deserved no suffering.  A fourth friend (Elihu) spoke up at that point, affirming that God was indeed just & perhaps allowed Job to suffer to warn him away from future sin.  Yet even Elihu seemed to slip into the idea that Job deserved his suffering & in fact, deserved more than he actually received.

Were the book to have ended there would leave Job (and the reader) in a state of hopelessness.  There had been no real answer for God’s allowance of Job’s suffering (other than the prologue in Ch 1-2).  Job had no idea of what went on behind the scenes – all he knew is that he was in misery & though he held fast to the promise of God’s future deliverance, that promise would have seemed rather hollow if the Deliverer God would have been unjust.

Of course, the book doesn’t end yet – God Himself offers His response to Job in a series of rhetorical questions that leaves Job reeling & discovering very quickly how much over his head he actually was!  Yet there’s an obvious question in all of this: why are God’s questions so harsh to Job?  Is God disciplining/chastising Job here?  Yes…there’s no doubt that God is chastising Job.  For all of Job’s earlier righteousness, he had slipped into pride – thinking that he was more just than God.  That attitude needed a stern correcting, and God doesn’t hesitate to bring correction.  Yet don’t miss the love of God that’s on display here.  For all of God’s rebuke that He gives Job, God shows how much He loves Job in all of it.  Hebrews 12:5–6, "(5) And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; (6) For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”" []  God’s chastisement of Job is a demonstration of His love for Job. … Think about it, God did not HAVE to respond at all.  More than enough speeches have been given at this point & God (because He is God) does not owe any of us an explanation for anything.  Yet God DOES respond.  Although we may not get the exact answer we’re looking for here, God loves Job enough to remind Job of what’s most important in all of this: the glory of God Himself.  God is all-powerful, ever-present, and all-knowing – there is nothing that escapes His attention – from the vast expanses of the universe, to the details of the animal kingdom.  THIS is our God, and He can be trusted at all times with all things.

Job 38 (NKJV)
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 2 “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? 3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

  1. God made quite an entrance!  Elihu had seen a storm gathering on the horizon (Job 37:1-5), and now the storm draws near, seemingly dropping down a tornado from which God speaks to Job.  Keep in mind that this is no ordinary storm (as the one that took the life of Job’s children); this is a “theophany” – a physical appearance of God.  As the Angel of the Lord appeared in a pillar of cloud before the children of Israel (Exo 14:19), so did God appear in a whirlwind (like a pillar of cloud) before Job.
    1. Interestingly enough, the whirlwind only gets a brief mention…it’s the statements of God that gets the primary focus here.  As awe-inspiring as the vision must have been, what was vastly more important was the word of God. … Be careful about getting too caught up in the “flash” & “spectacle” about some claims about God.  God sometimes uses these sorts of things to grab our attention, but they’re rarely the most important part.  God will always bring us back to what He’s got to say.  [Elijah & the still small voice]
  2. What does God say?  Depending how you count, He’ll have around 70+ questions to ask of Job.  Job had wanted to take God to court & be God’s prosecutor, but Job quickly found himself being the defendant instead!  First question: who spoke?  Obviously God was not ignorant (similar to God asking Adam & Eve where they were in the Garden); God was simply making a point.  Job had spoken rashly, with the assumption that on certain issues he knew better than God.  On the contrary – God says Job “darkened counsel by words without knowledge”…i.e., Job didn’t have a clue what he was talking about!  To know better than God means that Job would have to know more than God – and God’s going to prove this isn’t the case!
  3. Before God gets to the rest of the list, He gives Job a bit of warning, telling him what many men have heard from their fathers: “Stand up boy, and take this like a man!”  KJV: “gird up your loins” = lifting up a loincloth between a person’s legs to make it easier to run when called upon.  The idea is preparation.  Job’s been clamoring for a chance to hear directly from God, and now God is saying, “You’ve got your wish – but you’d better prepare yourself for the experience.  I’ve got some questions of my own!”

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?

  1. God first turns His attention to the inanimate universe – the physical creation all around us.  Like a wise carpenter, God created the earth – symbolically laying its foundation & taking its measurements.  It’s always been interesting that in Jesus’ earthly trade, He was a carpenter’s son…God had always been in the creation “business.” J 
  2. Question: did God literally measure out the foundations of the earth as a carpenter would use a tape measure?  Of course not.  This is called “anthropomorthic” language – words that give human attributes to Almighty God.  God is simply using language & pictures that Job would readily understand to help him comprehend how God was intricately involved in every detail in creating the universe.  The opening verses of Genesis make it perfectly clear: Genesis 1:1–2, "(1) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (2) The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." []  No one assisted God in this task – no assistance was needed!  God did the work in & of Himself.  In the opening act of Creation, we see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in complete unity in glorious action.  John 1:3 affirms that all things were made through Jesus (the Word) & without Him nothing was made that was made.  HOW did God do it exactly?  We don’t know.  All we know is that by the word of God’s mouth, creation came into being – and that is enough.
    1. It seems that every few years new debates take place within the Church about the creation of the universe.  We expect the atheists to disagree with us, but Christians can sometimes get into very heated debates about the same things.  Be careful not to miss the forest for the trees.  Obviously, we need to stick to the truths revealed in the Bible – but the most important aspect about Creation is the God who created.  May we be careful to keep our focus upon the glory of God!
  3. Notice what happened as a result of God’s creation of the universe: “the sons of God shouted for joy.”  The “sons of God” & the “morning stars” are likely a reference to the same thing: the angelic heavenly hosts.  They seemed to have been witnesses to God’s creative act & they gave God praise as a result.
    1. This ought to be our same reaction when we look around & see the universe around us!  The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1).  How can we NOT give God praise when we take in the wonder of creation?

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!’

  1. Beyond the overall universe, God starts looking at individual aspects, like the seas.  On Day 2 of creation, God set a limit between the water in the atmosphere & the water in the oceans.  On Day 3, God let the oceans & seas be gathered together & the dry land appear.  It’s an amazing thing to consider that the oceans have a limit designated by God…especially when we consider that at one point the entire world was flooded!
  2. The very ability to exist on this planet is a demonstration of the power & grace of God!  The earth could be completely flooded (but it’s not).  The earth could be too hot by being too close to the sun, or too cold by being too far away (but it’s not).  The earth could have the wrong atmosphere if the gasses of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc., were in a different combination of quantities (but it’s not).  And the list could go on.  There are an incredible number of circumstances that have to exist “just right” for life to occur – and they all do, right here on planet earth.  This is the grace of God in action.

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.

  1. On Day 1 of creation, God had created the light (likely from His own glory & radiance; the stars were not created until Day 4), and He separated the day from the night.  What’s so interesting here about God’s description of the dawning of the day is that He basically describes the rotation of the earth.  When God speaks of the “clay under a seal,” He’s referring to cylindrical vessels that were commonly used to leave impressions upon clay by rolling it over the soft clay.  In a like manner, the earth seems dark and impression-less in the night time, but when day comes (as the earth turns on its axis), all the details of the land are revealed & “stand out like a garment.”  The light also brings justice in that the wicked lose their cover of night & their deeds are exposed.
  2. Obviously, God’s point here (as in elsewhere) is that Job can do none of these things.  Job wasn’t present for creation – he wasn’t around when the seas were founded – he wasn’t around to split the morning & evening – those things are impossible for ANY man; but not for God.  To be able to question God’s judgments, Job would have to be able to do all of those things – Job is thus far severely underqualified.  God goes on…

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.

  1. Speaking of God’s omnipresence – there’s no physical place in this universe where God is not; He is transcendently present everywhere at all times.  God alone is able to be present in the deepest depths of the ocean currents & still able to be present in Sheol (Hades/the grave).  God knew the diameter & circumference of the earth long before any scientist was able to discover it.  He’s measured out the heavens with the span of His hand & weighs the mountains (Isa 40:12).  There is nothing that is beyond Him & no place He cannot enter.  Psalm 139:7–10, "(7) Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (8) If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, (10) Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me." []
  2. THIS is our God!  We serve & are saved by a God without limits!  There’s no place you can go where God cannot reach you; as a child of God there’s no place you can be where He cannot find you.  He knows all things & is present in all places.  And yet THIS God loves you distinctly & individually – He knows you by name!  Amazing!

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?

  1. Going back to the idea of light, God challenges Job to find where it all comes from.  Is it stored up in a warehouse somewhere?  If so, where would it be?  Obviously only God knows these things.  Interestingly enough, science today confirms that light does indeed travel.  Photons travel at 186,000 miles per second from its source that gives the appearance of being instantaneous, but it certainly isn’t.  It takes approximately 8.5 minutes for light from our sun to reach planet earth.  Job obviously would have no way of knowing that, but God did – and implies as much when He speaks of its paths.
  2. God also makes a point of Job’s relative youth.  Culturally speaking, someone’s age was an indication of their wisdom (which is why Elihu stayed silent for so long – he was much younger than the rest of them).  Yet if Job is claiming to be so wise in the ways of justice, why doesn’t Job know some of these things that are so very basic to God?  Job is not old at all, compared to the Lord God (the Ancient of Days); Job’s life has been just a blip!  For God to be questioned by Job is similar to a parent being questioned by his/her toddler.

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?

  1. God not only controls the light, He controls the weather.  He can use weather patterns for whatever purposes He so chooses.  God specifically implies that He uses snow & hail during times of “battle & war.”  At least two invasions of Russia failed due to its winters (Napoleon & Hitler), and Scripture gives many examples of God using hail in warfare.  (Sodom, Egypt, Revelation)

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.

  1. Beyond the sovereign control over the weather, God has His sovereign purposes for the weather.  He is the One that sends rain to bring forth the grass, and the dew that later freezes into frost.  Seasons change at God’s command & by God’s purposes.
  2. Keep in mind that none of what God is saying here denies the scientific explanations behind all of these events.  We know today how the water cycle works & what temperature water freezes at, and much more.  Yet we need to keep in mind that science NEVER replaces God; at its best (and purest form) it explains God’s creative design.  Science tells us how water freezes; God is the One that makes the freezing possible & designed the process in the 1st place.

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?

  1. God turns Job’s attention to the stars & constellations.  Beyond being involved with the intricate details of planet earth, God is involved with the intricate details of stars that are literally millions of light years away from us.  There is no corner of the universe over which God is not absolutely sovereign.  The sheer magnitude of these things ought to blow our minds completely.  Here we are: tiny little humans on a speck of a planet called earth, which orbits a relatively small star we call the sun.  Yet God exercises His power over every single constellation in the universe (the Mazzaroth).  What can Job do in comparison with that?  Nothing.

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?

  1. Speaking of the weather again, showing God’s control over the thunderstorms & the ability to bring droughts or relieve droughts.  Man has no control over such things.  We can barely predict the weather, much less control anything about it.  Yet God can do all of these things.
  2. Don’t miss vs. 36: God is the one who gives wisdom & understanding.  For all of Job’s complaints about the lack of his understanding, what he perhaps forgot is that God is the one who grants understanding in the 1st place.  God knows why He runs the universe the way He does.  If we happen to have a glimpse of the way things work, it’s not because we are so smart & figured it out on our own; it’s because God us has given us understanding. 
    1. We need to give God glory for all good things!  Anything about the universe that we discover through science ought to be done with glory given to God.  Any new understanding we get in a medical breakthrough ought to give glory to God.  Any new way of understanding each other ought to give glory to God.  These are not accomplishments of man in order to lift up “mankind” in our own little idol (which is often what we end up doing); these are discoveries that God graciously gives us in order that we would glorify Him & serve Him & one another better.

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?

  1. If I were the one to make the chapter breaks in the Bible, I would have put one at verse 39.  God obviously changes His examples from the inanimate universe to the animal kingdom – the lions & ravens ought to have gone with the other animals.  (Chapter breaks & verse numbers are not inspired.)  God is going to go through a list of various animals, showing the differences between them & His perfect design of each one.
  2. The overall idea here is that God provides for the animals.  He’s the One that feeds the lions & the ravens.  Both are carrion creatures: the lion kills the prey & the raven eats what the lion leaves behind.  (Gruesome, but true. J)  But they don’t go hungry – God is the one who provides for them.
    1. Not unlike what Jesus taught us about the sparrows & the lilies of the field. … Matthew 6:30, 33-34, "(30) Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? … (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." []  God is more than capable of taking care of the animals; surely He’s also more than capable of taking care of us!

Job 39 (NKJV)
1 “Do you know the time when the wild mountain goats bear young? Or can you mark when the deer gives birth? 2 Can you number the months that they fulfill? Or do you know the time when they bear young? 3 They bow down, They bring forth their young, They deliver their offspring. 4 Their young ones are healthy, They grow strong with grain; They depart and do not return to them.

  1. As a shepherd & farmer (Job apparently had many flocks in Ch 1), Job was very familiar with animal husbandry.  He had likely helped many of his own sheep give birth.  Yet who helps the wild animals?  God.  God has no need of human assistance when it comes to the wild mountain goats or deer.  Their young are born & God granted them the instinct to be able to roam free on their own.  Job didn’t even know when & where all of this took place – yet God oversaw it all.

5 “Who set the wild donkey free? Who loosed the bonds of the onager, 6 Whose home I have made the wilderness, And the barren land his dwelling? 7 He scorns the tumult of the city; He does not heed the shouts of the driver. 8 The range of the mountains is his pasture, And he searches after every green thing.

  1. The domesticated donkey depended on human farmers for survival, but not the wild donkey.  God designed the wild donkey to be sturdy on its own in the wilderness & able to fend for itself.

9 “Will the wild ox be willing to serve you? Will he bed by your manger? 10 Can you bind the wild ox in the furrow with ropes? Or will he plow the valleys behind you? 11 Will you trust him because his strength is great? Or will you leave your labor to him? 12 Will you trust him to bring home your grain, And gather it to your threshing floor?

  1. KJV says “unicorn” here, but likely the reference is to the aurochs – a now extinct wild ox that roamed throughout Asia & Europe.  These were notoriously fierce animals & unsuitable for farm work.  Job would be too afraid of it to trust it, yet God is powerful enough to tame it.

13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s? 14 For she leaves her eggs on the ground, And warms them in the dust; 15 She forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may break them. 16 She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers; Her labor is in vain, without concern, 17 Because God deprived her of wisdom, And did not endow her with understanding. 18 When she lifts herself on high, She scorns the horse and its rider.

  1. Again, KJV differs here, comparing the peacock with the ostrich (rather than the ostrich with the stork).  The behavior described in the context certainly describes that of an ostrich.  Ostriches tend their nests at night, but in the day time often leave & it’s not uncommon at all for ostriches to step on their own eggs, crushing them.
  2. Note that even in this, God designed the ostrich that way.  God specifically says that He “deprived her of wisdom” – IOW, God designed the ostrich to be stupid.  It may seem strange to us (why would anyone design a creature that way), but God’s point is that the ostrich’s stupidity is not a mistake or an accident; it was God’s purposeful design.  God has His own reasons for designing the ostrich that way – just like God had His own reasons for allowing Job to suffer.  Job needed to trust God & His reasons.

19 “Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? 20 Can you frighten him like a locust? His majestic snorting strikes terror. 21 He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He gallops into the clash of arms. 22 He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; Nor does he turn back from the sword. 23 The quiver rattles against him, The glittering spear and javelin. 24 He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded. 25 At the blast of the trumpet he says, ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, The thunder of captains and shouting.

  1. Keep in mind that to ancient minds, the horse was not just a pretty animal or a beast of burden; the horse was a war machine.  Horses did not fear battle, but would ride fiercely into the midst of a blood-strewn battle.  Again, this is by God’s design.  God designed the horse to be courageous & a warrior.
  2. Those who have worked around wild horses understand that it takes quite a bit of time & skill to tame a horse.  They can be downright dangerous to humans, simply because of their size & speed.  Yet to God, it’s no problem at all.  God is the one who clothed his neck with thunder!

26 “Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, And spread its wings toward the south? 27 Does the eagle mount up at your command, And make its nest on high? 28 On the rock it dwells and resides, On the crag of the rock and the stronghold. 29 From there it spies out the prey; Its eyes observe from afar. 30 Its young ones suck up blood; And where the slain are, there it is.”

  1. Regarding the hawk, God designed its migration patterns & gave it the instinct to fly.  God designed it to kill & gave it piercing eyesight to see from high in the rocks.  Job could have only dreamt of flying like a hawk, yet God is the one who designed the hawk (and all the birds) to do exactly that.

As God turned the tables on Job & started questioning him, Job quickly found himself in over his head!  God demonstrated His power in the act of creation – His sovereign power over the workings of the universe & physical planet – His creative wisdom in designing the animals for their specific purposes.  If God has the wisdom to rule over the grandness of the universe & the wisdom to rule over the minutia of the animals (from the mighty lion to the single-cell amoebas), what can God possibly lack wisdom of in our own lives?  Nothing at all!

That’s God’s point to Job.  Job had questioned God’s wisdom & justice & God shows that Job had no need to do so.  Yes, God is disciplining Job here, but God shows His love for Job in His response.  God takes the time to show that He indeed has His own sovereign purposes within His design & the things He allows.  We may not know what those purposes are, but God does. (Job didn’t know them for the animals; how could he understand God’s purposes for the spiritual events behind the scenes?!)  The bottom line?  If God can be trusted with the universe, God can be trusted with everything else in our lives.  He’s got a track record to prove it.

Perhaps you’ve had a tough time as of late trusting what God has allowed in your own life.  Take the time tonight to cast yourself upon Him again, remembering everything that God can do (and has done).  He’s got a perfect track record – you can trust Him.


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