Note: This series is sourced from Discipleship Ministries, an agency of The United Methodist Church.
Stop. Stop right now before you read the rest of this Note. Get a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen (or any other resource necessary to do this next thing).
I’d like for you to draw or color an image that represents silence to you. If you’re not an artist or don’t feel like this is the right way, consider using the internet to search for an image and then copy it or print and color it. Alternatives might be one of the many coloring apps available on mobile devices. Find a way to creatively represent silence. Do this now and then come back to this Note.
Consider how this creative exercise fits in with the scripture and questions in the rest of this Note.
Though Job has not given up on God, Job seems to question God’s trustworthiness. Interestingly, God does not respond with illustrations of covenant faithfulness, but instead points to extensive displays of God’s power. Rhetorical questions highlight God’s power and knowledge, and at the same time put Job’s criticisms and charges against God in a different perspective. This response clarifies God’s ability to control the forces of this world (38:37-41), and also points to the uncontrollable nature of the world (the Behemoth and Leviathan sections in chapters 40-41).
Still, the response seems harsh. Perhaps God doesn’t like to be questioned. Perhaps God wants to silence Job and his friends. Perhaps God is communicating firmly and bluntly to avoid misunderstanding. In any case, it almost certainly seems surprising…
Job 38:1-7, 34-41 (CEB)
1Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
2Who is this darkening counsel
with words lacking knowledge?
3Prepare yourself like a man;
I will interrogate you, and you will respond to me.
4Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Tell me if you know.
5Who set its measurements? Surely you know.
Who stretched a measuring tape on it?
6On what were its footings sunk;
who laid its cornerstone,
7while the morning stars sang in unison
and all the divine beings shouted?
34Can you issue an order to the clouds
so their abundant waters cover you?
35Can you send lightning so that it goes
and then says to you, “I’m here”?
36Who put wisdom in remote places,
or who gave understanding to a rooster?
37Who is wise enough to count the clouds,
and who can tilt heaven’s water containers
38so that dust becomes mud
and clods of dirt adhere?
39Can you hunt prey for the lion
or fill the cravings of lion cubs?
40They lie in their den,
lie in ambush in their lair.
41Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry to God,
move about without food?
Consider these questions:
- Have you ever asked an ill-timed or foolish question that received a harsh reply? What was the circumstance? How did you feel?
- The verses above are just a sample of the many rhetorical questions God asks in chapters 38-39. What do these questions suggest about God’s power?
- What can we learn about God from how God answers job? Do you think God’s replay will help Job to trust God more? Does it help you? If not, what would help you?
Post-Sermon Update on 11/20
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
As I have said throughout this series, I have continued to grow in my understanding and appreciation for the book of Job. In particular, I am amazed by the rich progressive theology that (I’m sure) has been there all along – and yet that I’m reading and understanding for the first time.
In Sunday’s message, I recalled two quotes that I’d like to share with you again. This first quote is from John Shelby Spong in his book Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World (HarperOne, 2011).
Religion at its core is based on the arrogance of believing that human beings not only can discern the ways of God, but can also act in such a way as to control the actions of God.
It is so easy to buy into the transactional theology of God as espoused in so-called “prosperity gospels” and more, but at their core these are attempts to control God. I don’t believe this is possible or reasonable.
Another quote comes from Process Theologian Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki.
In a sense, this is the ultimate answer to the prosperity gospel preached by those would-be comforters. You think existence is a neat correlation between “live the way I think you should live,” “follow the politics I think you should follow,” “join the religion I think you should join,” and when you do thus and so, whatever that thus-and-so may be, only good things will happen to you! We are finite and fragile, we make mistakes as individuals and as society — it’s John Wesley who said in A Plain Account of Christian Perfection that “It is as natural to make a mistake as to breathe, and we can no more live without the one than without the other.” Because we are finite, our knowledge — even our beautifully crafted theologies — are human products that reflect our own cultures and times, even as we do our very best “to give an account of the hope that is within” (1 Peter 3:15).
God commands our attention when we overstep with what we think we know.
Consider these questions:
- What is something that you have been certain was an absolute truth about God where you later came to a newer understanding? How did you come to this newer understanding? Did it shock you or silence you or command your attention in some way?
- When is a time that God specifically shocked you or silenced you or commanded your attention? How did you respond? How did your understanding of God change? How did you change?