Preaching Series on Job

[This is Week 4 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]

Psalm 23
"Psalm 23," John August Swanson. Used by permission from the artist. Image © by John August Swanson.  Artwork held in the Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.

July 24, 2016

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Commentary on Job 31:35-37; 38:1-11

[This is Week 4 of a 6-week preaching series on Job.]

Week 4

Job 31:35-37; 38:1-11

Job ends his speeches with a long oath of innocence, and calls on God to answer him. After some speeches by another “friend,” Elihu, God does indeed answer Job. God shows up. And God takes Job on a whirlwind tour of the cosmos, displaying creation in all its wildness and beauty.

There is much one could say about these God-speeches. For one thing, humanity is hardly mentioned in them. In fact, there are passages that seem to suggest that humanity is not the center of creation (38:25-27; 40:15). God seems to take delight in exactly those creatures and places over which humanity has no control. The Sea, the wild animals, Leviathan — these all have an intrinsic value that has nothing to do with their usefulness for humanity. This vision, of course, has major implications in our ecologically-minded age.

Another observation: God gives a place in creation to forces of wildness, including the Sea (the ancient symbol of chaos), but God also places boundaries on them (38:8-11). The world is not allowed to descend into chaos, but neither is it rigidly controlled by its Creator. God gives his creatures the freedom to be who they were created to be, and that freedom is a great gift to human and animal alike. In this vision of creation, the world is not an entirely safe place for human beings, but it is a world of order and of beauty, and its Creator delights in it.

God does not address Job’s suffering directly, but in this vision of creation, Job’s vision is expanded. He is invited to take his eyes off himself and his suffering, and to see the world around him. He is invited back into life again after great suffering, and in the last chapter of the book, he accepts that invitation.