Storm and Silence (By Lynne McCarthy)
Text Job 38-42 (Ps 142)
Observe So end the dialogues between Job and friends. The final chapters are given over to God, a whirlwind (power symbol!) of 42 questions hurled at Job, no explanations, inviting only silence.
Question 1: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? (38:1) God roars Genesis 1 in His first round: Where were you when… I was laying the foundations of the earth, measuring, separating sea and land, morning and evening, light and dark? Can you do this… make snow[LM1] , hail, rain, ice, thunder, stars, constellations, clouds, lightning? Have you done…?
More relentless jabs, chapter 39: What about the earth? The animals? What do you know about running all this? Lions and ravens, mountain goats and wild donkeys, oxen and ostriches, horses and hawks and eagles? Who controls them, their births,[LM2] deaths, territories, their strength to run and soar and nest far above?
And then: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” (40:1) No answer. Job can only put his hand over his mouth and whisper, “… I will proceed no further.” (5b)
The barrage doesn’t stop: Can you tame that immense land beast Behemoth[LM3] (40:15)? And the terrifying sea-riding Leviathan (chapter 41)? Can you manage their chaos?
Job recognizes his utter smallness. He has met Truth and is bested: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know….” (42:3b) Recognition becomes repentance[LM4] : “… therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:5-6) His friends? God rebukes them for not quite getting it. They must offer atoning sacrifice, for they spoke badly; God tells Job to pray for them. Prayer and offering God accepts; -- and then?
The astonishing epilogue… Restoration!
Beyond anything Job could hope: … the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…. And Job died, an old man, and full of days. (12, 17).
Interpret Hebrew tradition equated prosperity with godliness (chapter 1), but Job’s rapid descent into poverty, disease, disgrace, completely counters this equation. The rigidly moralistic friends pile on the guilt – your sin brought this on, you know! God intervenes to set things straight -- who’s in charge here? In the blistering interrogation from his Maker, Job has finally met God (and His quite different agenda) Whom he’d demanded to meet, Whom he’d really been addressing all this time.
The whole point is that Job trusted God. Why all this happened is irrelevant. For Job, God is sovereign. Job’s innocence and integrity are confirmed; he knew God, all along.
Apply In our suffering, we wail, “Why me?” “What have I done?” “Why is God punishing me?” Lost in the wilderness of not-knowing, we plod through deserts, stumble over sharp rocks, heartsick, exhausted, despairing. What to do?
Determined to focus on God’s unchanging nature, we entrust ourselves through His Spirit to Him who made heaven and earth. His grace strengthens our will to relinquish fixating on our feelings or situation. Ignoring pious platitudes or pat answers, we cling to His Truth, His Life. And then? Ah…!
We encounter merciful Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).
Ask When I’m lost or down or sick and lonely and frightened, am I willing to abandon introspective self-pity and seek You? Would you strengthen my will to trust You even in suffering, sovereign King? Do I truly know You as Lord of my life?
Pray Thank You, God of true comfort, that You know all things. Search me in this isolating, lonely time. Reveal Yourself anew: good, just, holy. Thank you, Lord of my life, that I can bring pain and grief and uncertainties to You because You listen, and care. I don’t need reasons or answers. I need You.
Song: Psalm 142: To God I Made My Sorrows Known Bruce Benedict
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.