1 October 2010

Job 38:1-21; 40:3-5

"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." (38:4)


After 37 chapters in which Job and his so-called comforters reflect on the catalogue of calamities that has befallen him, God speaks. "Out of the whirlwind" comes the voice of God. And what does God have to say? God does not pat Job on the back for being patient through his trials. God does not lend a sympathetic ear to Job's complaints. God does not apologise for the deal with Satan that started off this tale of woe. Instead, God issues a stern rebuke to Job, challenging the basis of his complaining.

God asks Job to reflect on the great gulf that separates them. Job wasn't present at creation. He doesn't have the power to control the fierce elements. Job isn't able to understand the mysteries of the world that are so far beyond human experience. This is a powerful statement of the place of human beings as one small part of God's great creation that is bigger and more complex than they can begin to comprehend. God reminds Job that God is God and Job is not. In response, Job seems cowed, and acknowledges to God that he is in no position to question God's doings.

This passage can be put alongside the opening chapters of Genesis, the great creation psalms such as Psalm 148, and thebeginning of John's Gospel, as the basis for a biblical account of God's creation of the universe. It makes clear the diversity of the created order and God's magnificent oversight of all its various elements. There is a strong sense that without God's power and graciousness the creatures of God would be in peril, with threatening elements let loose on them. God's work is breathtakingly huge in scale and beyond all human imaginings.

To Ponder

God's message to Job is a sobering one, putting him firmly in his place. In what ways do you think it could be relevant today?

In the verses between these two passages, God describes the intimate care God provides for all kinds of animals. How do you respond to this picture of God's relationships with creation beyond the human?

To what extent is the awe-inspiring figure who speaks in these verses an image of God you are familiar with?

Bible notes author

David Clough

David Clough is Professor of Theological Ethics in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester. He is a Methodist local preacher, a member of the Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment and the Faith and Order Network and drafted recent reports on peacemaking and climate change on behalf of the Methodist Church.