God finally answered Job—but with questions Job could not answer.
It is never fun to be in God’s waiting room. If Job could speak with us, he probably would verify the difficulty of waiting on the Lord. Job’s story, told in the Bible book bearing his name, is that of a godly man who literally lost everything and wanted to plead his case before God.
His affliction begins in chapter 1. God does not speak to Job until chapter 38. But when He does speak, His words change Job’s view of both himself and the Almighty.
God’s First Response: Creation
After listening to the conversation between Job and his four friends, who basically told Job he was being punished for being evil and a sinner, God finally intervened: “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1):
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. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (vv. 2–7).
God asked Job to explain how the world was created. What holds it together? What was it like when all the “sons of God” and “morning stars” (a reference to angels) rejoiced at the world’s creation?
Who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, “This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!” (vv. 8–11).
Fifteen times (38:31—41:7) God asked questions that began with the words can you. For instance, “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion?” (38:31). These questions establish God as the sole, all-powerful, sovereign Creator of the universe. His power is absolute over absolutely everything, and His knowledge is perfect and infinite. Man will never know the tiniest fraction of what God knows—which is everything about everything—and Job, being a man, could not even explain the basics of the natural realm in which he lived.
The Lord asked Job if he ever “commanded the morning” (v. 12) or “entered the springs of the sea” (v. 16) or saw the “gates of death” (v. 17) or “entered the treasury of snow” (v. 22). “By what way is light diffused, or the east wind scattered over the earth?” (v. 24).
God questioned Job about the seas, wind, heavens, and weather—basic elements over which people have no control or real grasp of how they function. Then He asked Job to explain how various animals survive in their extreme and diverse environments and how they bear their young.
Theologian Dr. Charles Ryrie stated that within all these illustrations “lies the wise purpose of God.”1 God designed the universe with order and structure—be it nature, the animal kingdom, or the struggles and testing Job was facing. “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?” God asked (40:2).
Job’s reply was simple: “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You?” (v. 4). Suddenly, Job began to see how puny he was compared to the omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty, eternal God. He couldn’t even begin to discuss what he was going through with God because God operates on a completely different plane. Job was beginning to grasp an important biblical concept: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8–9).
God’s Second Response: Power
Then God questioned Job concerning divine power: “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). If Job thought his suffering was unjust, then he thought God was wrong in allowing it. But God is never wrong nor unjust.
Job thought he could reason with God and discuss his situation with Him. He wasn’t wrong to ask why such tragedy befell him, but he was mistaken to think he and God could be on equal footing and that he could persuade the Almighty He was in error.
God then reminded Job about two frighteningly powerful creatures He created: the behemoth and Leviathan (vv. 15–24; 41:1–34). Some commentators say the behemoth is a hippopotamus, but the text seems to indicate a much more powerful beast. According to Answers in Genesis, “It appears God is describing a sauropod dinosaur [behemoth] and a fearsome, now-extinct sea creature [Leviathan].”2
[Behemoth] eats grass like an ox. . . . His strength is in his hips, and his power is in his stomach muscles. He moves his tail like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are tightly knit. His bones are like beams of bronze, his ribs like bars of iron. He is the first of the ways of God; only He who made him can bring near His sword (40:15–19).
Leviathan is described much like a dragon: “Smoke goes out of his nostrils, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. His breath kindles coals, and a flame goes out of his mouth” (41:20–21). Some have seen these creatures as mythological, but the way God addressed Job (“look now at the behemoth” and “can you draw out Leviathan?”) implies they were real animals (40:15; 41:1).
These creatures were so fierce even the mighty feared them and were “beside themselves” (41:25). Job could not stand before these beasts, let alone stand before the God who created them.
Job’s Response: Repentance
When God finished speaking, Job detested himself and repented in humility: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. . . . Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:2–3, 6).
God is so far above us we will never be able to see the world as He does. He has purposes we know nothing of. We are puny in His sight. As King David wrote, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Ps. 8:3–4).
We are minute in the vastness of the universe. Yet, God loves us, has made us “a little lower than the angels,” and crowned us “with glory and honor”(v. 5).
Even Satan’s attacks could not provoke Job to curse God. In fact, he declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Despite all he went through, Job did not sin, which is why he stands as an example today of how the righteous should handle suffering.
His friends, however, were a different story. God was angry with them, “for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (42:7). He demanded they take seven bulls and seven rams to Job, who would pray for his friends and sacrifice the animals for them (v. 8).
When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord “restored Job’s losses. . . . Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning” (vv. 10, 12).
Theologian Roy Zuck wrote, “Job did not receive explanations regarding his problems; but he did come to a much deeper sense of the majesty and loving care of God. Thus he came to trust Him more fully, knowing that His ways should not be challenged. Though often inexplicable and mysterious, God’s plans are benevolent and beneficial.”3
So often we have no idea why we suffer. But like Job, we need to learn to trust the Lord, who never makes a mistake.
- Charles C. Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, NKJV (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1985), 804, n Job 39:13–17.
- “Behemoth and Leviathan,” answersingenesis.org (tinyurl.com/aig-B-L).
- Roy B. Zuck, “Job,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1:776.