Gordon E. Johnson

DEVOTIONALS from the Book of Job


God's final word to Job and he listens

Job 40 -41

Gordon E. Johnson
Rio Grande Bible Institute

Still Another Review of God's Mercy and Grace to Job in his Sufferings

God had earlier issued His challenge to Job in His initial word with a pertinent question. "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me" (Job 38:2, 3).

While God's first words to Job may appear to be harsh, they were was both necessary and true. Job indeed had had a deep heart relationship with God. God informs the reader of that fact in the prologue. Job's profound struggles in the loss of all that was dear to him were compounded by the absence of any overt sin on his conscience. In fact, he was the obedient priest of the family when his material belongings, family, wife and health abruptly collapsed around him without warning (Prologue 1-2).

In the succeeding months Job would seek an answer to his plight. In the midst of doubt and darkness on occasion, the clouds cleared. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (13:15). "Surely even now my witness is in Heaven" (16:19). "For I know that my Redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on the earth . . . in my flesh I shall see God" (19:25-27).

His three friends compounded his confusion with the accepted reasoning of the day--so great a sin, hence so great a just punishment. Job rejected out of hand their accusations with anger, sarcasm and indignant self-defense (4-26). In Job's more quiet contemplation he reviewed his past good life and the high social standing his associate had given him until that fateful day. God held His peace and listened (27-31).

The timely coming of a courteous Elihu with God's perspective gave Job a truth to consider. "Why do you contend with God? For He does not give an accounting to any of His words . . . Then He opens the ears of men to seal their instruction . . . and conceal pride from man."  Elihu further amplified God's ways: God speaks in dreams, in vision, with chastening on his bed and finally, a messenger, a mediator, one in a thousand -- a gracious foreshadowing of the Messiah to come (33:13-28). Truly this was a timely word from God to Job.

Into the crucible of Job's confusion, sincerity and self-righteousness, God now raises the issue with His rhetorical question. "Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer" (40: 2).

It may be that God's fifty questions to Job without a single answer could have confounded Job. But in reality this was God's more gentle approach to His own son in the faith. These realities could lead Job eventually to contemplate His sovereignty and from that position reflect upon His knowledge and love for him in the midst of his suffering.

If God is so powerful as to say to the sea: "This far you may come but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop (38:11)." If God knows the dwelling place of light, the treasury of the snow, how to bind the constellations.  If he knows where the young lions feed, the wild donkey, the senseless the ostrich that waves proudly its wings and to the horse to which He gives its strength and to the eagle its flight (38:19 - 39:27). Surely He could measure and control Job's sufferings.      

Franz Delitzsch states God's wisdom precisely. "Thus does God work exceedingly strangely, but wondrously, apparently by contradictions, but in truth most harmoniously and wisely, in the natural world."[1] To have spoken directly to Job, the Creator to the creature could have consumed him. But to speak of His infinite power, order and control of His world enables Job at least to respond from a sense of distance.

Job's response was brief and pointed but did not satisfy God's heart. "Behold, I am vile [contemptibly mean]; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand on my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer. Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further" (Job. 40:4, 5).  He asserts he will stop talking. He admitted abjectly that he knew nothing of what he spoke.

He surely must have been more than convinced of his ignorance by the 50 questions he could not begin to answer. God's more gentle and indirect approach to Job by illustrating His absolute sovereignty over His world would leave Job with no other recourse but a deeper self-examination.

Job's human promise, for what it was worth, was he would speak no more. However, God knew Job's problem was much more deeply rooted; it was his pride and self-righteousness, not yet faced nor even felt or understood. His problem was not "what" he might not do but rather "who" he really was. Jeremiah warns his people in their critical situation. "If you return, then I will bring you back; You shall stand before Me; If you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as my mouth" (Jeremiah 15:19). This painful separating process was God's to begin.

God's Curious Rhetorical Question Explored    Job 40: 6-14

God addresses Job just as He had done it earlier, but His strategy now would probe much more deeply and highlight Job's root problem. Again out of the whirlwind He speaks: "Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.  Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?  (vv. 3, 4). This blunt statement is muted somewhat by the rhetorical question that leaves the possible result to be determined.

No more explosive accusation could be leveled against God Himself than that what He poses to Job.  Taken at face value, in effect Job is putting God on the witness stand and the roles are completely reversed. This, however, is truly inconceivable. 

In Job's true heart of heart he would never have entertained such a thought. His accusation was not the unvarnished rebellion of a godless sinner but rather the perverted logic of Job's confusion -- Job's erroneous view of God as his enemy in his circumstantial dealings.  But God must deal with such latent defiance, but again it will be a more merciful approach to Job's deeper problem.

Job appears to have reversed the role of the Creator and the creature. As strange as that may seem, for the moment God accepts that "charade" almost like a game of the unlikely. Now  follow a series of logical questions that define what would be Job's "new position as God!"

"Have you an arm like God?  Or can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, and array yourself with glory and beauty. Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him.  Look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low; tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together,  bind their faces in hidden darkness. Then I will confess to you that your own right hand can save you" (vv.9-14). What searing irony!

Surely this is the most unlikely paragraph in the Bible. Is God role-playing a game guessing the outcome as children would do? Could He be supposing the impossible to draw a profound negative conclusion? Is this divine irony at its best? 

God asks these two rhetorical questions which presuppose the self-evident answer from which He deduces an even more unlikely result. "Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you."isconclsuis.TIs this sanctified iraaonya  nsacrcasm  yet hiddenwithin t he  unlikely God ismakingpowerfuls teemtns in t he forem ofrhetoricalstates.
A rhetoricalstateme is mentant to be  considered thogughtly. the anser I s evidne   from the verymenaing attached tot heword.
Notice the word "also."  Since Job is acting as God would act [by Job's illogical reasoning], God would in effect be abdicating His role as the unique savior of the world!ismself would negate his authority and agree with thte Job Unthinkable.

Let us examine more closely this supposed reversal of roles. Note the nine commands: thunder, adorn yourself, array yourself, disperse, look on the proud [twice repeated]. Tread down, hide and bind. If Job is to play the role of God, these nine commands are his very first duty to accomplish. He can do no less. In the heart of the commands is the one singular sin of pride repeated twice for emphasis. To humble the proud is not only God's prerogative but more than that, it is his imperative duty.  He can do nothing less.

God here highlights the sin of pride. Pride was the earliest sin that arose in the celestial world. The anointed cherubim while contemplating his God-given beauty supposed that it was his to enjoy and exhibit (Ezequiel 28:14-19). The "mystery of iniquity" reproduced itself in heaven, later in exponential terms in our parents in Garden of Eden and that has cursed every succeeding human being.

Human pride threatens God's person, His righteousness and justice at every turn. God is categorically opposed to pride in its every form. Its more subtle form is found in Job's self-righteousness and ours. God is now dealing with Job's pride, unknown to him, as it is to us so very often.  

Job had long hoped for God to testify to his relative innocence before his friends. "Job is not worthy that his cause should be acknowledged on the part of God before he has come to a penitent recognition of the wrong by which has sinned against God. God would be encouraging self-righteousness if He should give Job the testimony of his innocence, before the sin of vain glory, into which Job has fallen, in the consciousness of his innocence, is changed to humility, by which all uprightness that is acceptable to God is tested.[2]

The last speech of God to Job in Job 40 ,41 will highlight not only his majesty in the creation  of the last two ultimate creations of power and strength, the Behemoth  and Leviathan but implicit is Christ's own humbling in becoming flesh of our flesh and hence our savior. "Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you (40:15). Note carefully these three little words that make a startling comparison, not in terms of His infinite wisdom in creation but rather of His grand design in the creation of our parents made by Him in His image.

Hebrews bears out the last few words. " In as much then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death, He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage  (Hebrews 2:14,15). "Here also His mode of action is a deep lowering of Himself. It is Jehovah, the God, who at length begets Himself in humanity, in order to convince men of His love.[3]

An Example of God's Power    the Behemoth    Job 40:15-24

By general consensus the Behemoth was the water ox of the Nile or the hippopotamus, a creature described as solitary, supreme and sovereign in its right. "See now his strength is in his hips, and his power is in his stomach muscles . . . his bones are like beams of bronze . . . He is the first of the ways of God; only He who made him can bring near His sword . . . he lies under the lotus trees . . . Indeed the river may rage yet he is not disturbed" (vv. 16-23).  This imposing creature as God describes him is God's ultimate power far beyond the ability of Job to tame or control.

Once again God does not directly attack Job's pride, but He treats him like a child observing in wonderment a huge creature of God's making and control.  Once again Job is reduced to less than nothing in the presence of the Behemoth. But there is still more to come that will establish God's sovereign right to do as He, and He alone, may chooses for reasons of His power, love and future mercy about to be revealed to Job.

The Final Example of God's Right to Reign over His Creation    Leviathan  Job. 41:1-34

If the Behemoth was not enough to prove God's exclusive right to rule in His creation. In even greater detail, God describes the awesome power of Leviathan, a sea creature of impressive strength, defense and total invulnerability.

With a divine sense of humor, God describes the catching of a crocodile [the suggested Leviathan] with a simple rod and reel! It would have been humorous, if it had not been so outlandish. "Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook, or snare his tongue with a line which you lower? . . . Will he speak softly to you?  . . . Will he make a covenant with you?  Will you play with him as a bird or will you leash him for you maidens? . . . Lay your hand on him; Remember the battle – never do it again" (vv.1, 3 -5, 8). Thirteen questions in all. What exquisite irony on God's part!

God concludes the inquisition with a categorical fact. "No one is so fierce that he would dare stir him up. Who then is able to stand against Me? Who preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is "Mine" (vv.10, 11).

Take note of the abrupt change from Leviathan to God Himself, a sharp reminder to Job that He speaks directly to him but only in terms of comparisons. Job is His child and God will always stand with him, but as a child he must be corrected for reason now known only to God.

Job must have felt that "dagger" in his heart. In his time of darkness and self-righteous defense, he had questioned God's integrity and His right to do what He pleases to do in Job for His own reasons. If in the animate and inanimate world, His hand guides and guards its best interests, can He not do the very same to His very own whom He created in His own image?

God's affirmations are multiplied in His descriptions of Leviathan in even more graphic and poetic terms than the earlier Behemoth. He speaks of his limbs, his power and graceful proportions, his rows of scales are his pride, his eyes, his mouth as burning lights, his heart is hard as stone even as hard as the lower millstone (vv.12-24).

The very last moment has come for Job to hear God's devastating description of Leviathan in terms which echo perfectly His last personal word to Job himself. The last word spoken always has ultimate meaning and value. "On earth there is nothing like him, which is made without fear. He beholds every high thing; He is king over all the children of pride" (vv.33, 34).

The book of Job ends with the explicit statement that pride is totally incompatible with a holy God who promotes brokenness and humility as the greatest virtues of a believer's life.

Once again the message to Job was that all that had occurred to Job in his unexpected suffering was focused on his heart owning his pride and self-righteousness.  It was not his overt sins confessed and forgiven, nor his exemplary walk before his family; Job had a deeper lesson to learn that would issue finally in God's purpose to bless and reward doubly His servant.

Mrs. Penn-Lewis sums it up well: "Job had said that Jehovah had taken away his right, but the Lord declares that Job has no "rights!" As sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, Jehovah is under no obligation to any creature. None can demand aught of Him as a right. On the contrary, they must acknowledge His claim!  "MINE" is written by Him upon all things - animate and inanimate - under the whole heaven."[4]

[1] Franz Delitzsch, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids;Wm B.Eerdmans Publishing Company) 1956, Vol 2, p. 348.

[2] Ibid, Vol.2, p. 352.

[3] Ibid, Vol 2, p. 355.

[4] Mrs. Penn-Lewis, The Story of Job, a Glimpse into the Mystery of Suffering (Bouremouth:The Overcomer Book Room).1903, p.188.