Chapter 9: The Voice of God (Job 38-39; Job 42:1-6)
God has spoken at various times and in various ways in the past. God spoke at creation and called all things into existence out of nothing. Prophetic messages were communicated to His people in dreams and visions. He manifested Himself as the Angel of the Lord with words of assurance in burning bushes, as well as in full battle array. He even spoke to Balaam through a donkey. His voice was heard rumbling from the fiery cloud that covered Israel in the wilderness. But one of the most remarkable messages of God ever recorded came from a whirlwind.
When Job’s hope had vanished, God came in the power and strength of a tornado. Seated on an ash heap, scrapping his sores and lamenting his loss, Job repeatedly called out for God’s justice. He sought his day in court to argue his innocence before God. With great self-righteous confidence he cried out in protest to the Lord, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come to His seat! I would present my case before Him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which He would answer me, and understand what He would say to me. Would He contend with me in His great power? No! But He would take note of me. There the upright could reason with Him, and I would be delivered forever from my Judge” (Job 13:15-24; 23:3-7). In his last recorded speech before seeing the Lord he cried out, “Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.” (Job 31:35-37). The pious prince became a humble pauper in God’s presence.
God and the Whirlwind (Part One)
All of Job’s pompous, presumptuous protests fell silent the day God answered Job out of the whirlwind (Job 38-39). While Job’s friends wearily counseled him, out of the north, dark storm clouds were brewing on the distant horizon. They were coming right towards them (Job 1:19). As the winds increased, bolts of lightening pierced the darkness, thunder rumbled across the plains, and Job may have had flashbacks to the windstorm that killed his ten children. Elijah, the last of Job’s counselors, hurriedly completed his remarks as all eyes were upon the funnel cloud spinning and twisting in their path. He challenged Job’s insistence on arguing with God. “Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge? Why are your garments hot, when He quiets the earth by the south wind? With Him, have you spread out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror? “Teach us what we should say to Him, for we can prepare nothing because of the darkness. Should He be told that I wish to speak? If a man were to speak, surely he would be swallowed up. Even now men cannot look at the light when it is bright in the skies, when the wind has passed and cleared them. He comes from the north as golden splendor; with God is awesome majesty” (Job 37:14-24).
The dancing funnel cloud drew near. It was the most awesome terrifying display of God’s power in nature one can imagine. The churning twister sounded like a mighty freight train speeding through a tunnel. Lightning bolts and rumbling thunder were deafening. As the eye of the hurricane rested over Job there was an eerie silence. He was in the eye of the hurricane with God.
God has met with men in whirlwinds in other times and places (cf. 1 Kings 19:11; 2 Kings 2:11). The Lord spoke to Elijah out of a tornado and then caught him in it up to heaven. God also spoke with power and authority on the Day of Pentecost when a mighty rushing wind filled the house where the Apostles had been praying. Yes, God has spoken to men out of a whirlwind, but most clearly in these last days through His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). God speaks today to us through His written Word and the Holy Spirit. Everything Job longed foran impartial advocate, a loyal friend, and a kinsman redeemerwere fulfilled in Christ.
With the black funnel cloud whirling around Job, God spoke to him (Job 38:1-3). He began with a gentle yet forceful rebuke, “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Notice Job wisely gave no answer. He was breathless, seated in this incredible, whirling spectacle. All his previous verbal hype about arguing with God and wearing his crown of righteousness like a prince seemed inappropriate and insignificant in His presence. Then the Lord spoke a frightening challenge, “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer Me.”
Job had questioned God’s justice and sovereign rule. He pleaded for the opportunity to put God on the witness stand so He could answer for Job’s innocence and explain to him and others why his hurt and pain were clearly unjust. He had questioned why God permits the wicked to prosper while the righteous suffer. Why did he have to face bankruptcy? Why did his children have to die so young in a windstorm? Why did he have to endure the pain and agony of a hideous disease that deforms, debilitates, and destroys? Why couldn’t he vindicate himself before God and men by extolling his virtues, works, and accomplishments? Why? Why? Why? God did not answer any of these specific questions, but He gave Job and all who read this book, all that we will ever need to know in order to live by faith in the goodness of God’s sovereign will.
The Lord presents such a magnificent picture of Himself from creation and history that every generation must pause to consider His supremacy and grace. Our generation, caught up in the whirlwind of business and triviality, needs to hear the voice of God speak to us in the midst of our daily grind. We need a fresh glimpse of His majesty that will give us an appropriate fear of God. Only then will we be hesitant to defy God’s law and question His will. Only then can we begin to have wisdom. Only then can we understand our need of Christ to save us from the just wrath of God. Only then can we live by faith in the goodness and grace of God.
God then turned the tables on Job and put him on the witness stand (Job 38:4-7). He asked him questions about inanimate nature that only God could answer. He began by questioning Job’s whereabouts at creation, “Where were you at the foundation of the earth? Did you stretch the plumb line by which I laid the foundation stone? Were you there singing with the angels when the earth, the sea, and the sky exploded into existence?” (cf. Psalm 148:2-3). “Do you know when and how I created all these things? Were you there when the land and sea formed? Did you shroud the earth with clouds to water the earth and fill its rivers, lakes, and seas? Did you determine the precise limits of the monthly tides that break on the shore? Have you explored the depths of the seas? Have you seen the doors of the shadow of death?” (Job 38:8-21).
God paused long enough in his questioning of Job to say, “Tell Me, if you know all this?” Then in a staccato fashion, He continued His line of questioning: “Have you commanded light and darkness to shake the wicked?” (Job 38:22-30) Do you know how the sun rises and sets on the earth? Do you know how to make snow and hail serve your good purposes? How is light diffused over the earth and wind directed to serve your good purposes? (Job 38:22-30). Like a prosecuting attorney, the Lord further pressed the issue, “Have you watered desert wastelands to produce plants for your pleasure alone?” Here God was making a very important point. Even if no one ever sees a blooming flower, bush or tree, God sees and is very delighted in them. They declare His glory, and in this He delights.
Then God questioned Job’s power. “Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades or loose Orion’s belt? Did you ordain the orbit of the stars and planets that cluster the night sky?” Remember to imagine Job in the eye of the hurricane when God asked, “Can you lift your voice to the clouds and have rain cover you? Can you send out lightening bolts that submit to you and say, ‘Here we are!’” (Job 38:31-38). If Job could have answered even one of these questions, he still was not qualified to challenge God’s wisdom and eternal purposes...of which his adversity was but one.
Then God quizzed Job’s knowledge of animate nature. (Job 38:39-41; 39:1-30). “Can you provide food for lions and ravens that inhabit the earth and sky?” (Job 38:39). “Do you know when goats and deer give birth?” (Job 39:1). “Did you set the wild things free?” (Job 39:5). “Can you tame the wild things to serve your purposes?” (Job 39:9-11). “Do you have the wisdom of an ostrich?” (Job 39:17-18). That is a strange looking animal! She proudly waves her little wings around but cannot fly. She squats and hatches her eggs in the dust with little thought of wild beasts crushing them. She is harsh with her young, and treats them as if they were not her own. She buries her head in the sand without concern for the world around her. Even though God deprived her of great wisdom, she can run like the wind. The point being, God in His wisdom made every living thing for His pleasure and purposes. Even as the ostrich lacked wisdom, Job lacked understanding about his predicament. Hiding his head in the sand was not the solutiongaining a true vision of God was. Then God asked Job if he had given the horse its strength to serve men? Do either hawks or eagles fly by your wisdom? By what wisdom do they migrate and catch their prey?
After an exhausting time on the witness stand, God then questioned Job’s audacity to correct the Almighty. Now it is getting personal. God then asked, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He, who rebukes God, let him answer it.” He is saying, “You go ahead and instruct me on being God...I’ll listen if you can tell me how to run the universe as well as your life!” (Job 40:1-2). After all the mind-boggling questions about ecosystems and solar systems, God is asking Job and all of us, “What qualifies us to contend with God’s wisdom, justice, power, and grace? Which of us is able to understand the beginning from the end? Which of us is qualified to question our Creator? Which of us is able to make all things everywhere and always work together for good? Which of us is able to feed all living things on the earth?” The only one qualified for such things is God. Our part is to submit to the One whose ways are beyond our full comprehension. The Lord affirmed His wisdom to Isaiah, “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” (Isaiah 55:8). So if God has all the power, authority, and wisdom to do all these things, why are we so reluctant to trust Him when we need food, clothing, wisdom, and companionship? Why do we think there is chaos when there are dangers, wars, pestilence, and disease?
Job’s Response (Part One)
When God no longer spoke from the whirlwind, Job knew he had to give some kind of answer to the God of the Whirlwind. Spellbound and tongue-tied, Job could only answer, “Behold, I am vile” (Job 40:3-5). In other words, he was admitting he was unworthy and too insignificant to question God’s will and ways. Think about it for a moment my friend, have you ever questioned God’s ways? Have you held bitter memories and disappointments against God? Do you feel trapped and abandoned by God in a vortex of problems and pressures? Are you anxious over many things because you are not convinced of God’s goodness, grace, and love in His providence?
Job was seated in the eye of a twister and had no idea why he was there and what lay ahead. All he knew was that God was in control of all things. All he could focus on for the moment was seeing the massive display of God’s power swirling all around him. He dared not question God’s ways or will. Instead, he decided to shut up and put a hand over his mouth lest he say something even more stupid than questioning God’s holy ways and purposes. There is much to say about a man or woman who learns the wisdom of when to be quiet and when to listen to God and others. Proverbs 17:28 is great encouragement for those who do not know what to say at times. It says, “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” Job was wise and perceptive to let God do the whirling and speaking while he stopped whining and chastening Him.
Let me ask this over-stimulated, over-communicated, over-entertained generation the following questions: When was the last time we remained silent long enough to contemplate God’s majesty and power displayed in the night skies, the deep blue seas, the mountain forests, or the desert valleys? When was the last time we read God’s Word and just pondered the magnitude of His love and grace without interruption or lack of concentration? When have we contemplated the promises of God and chose to live by them? When have we thought more about heaven than about the problems of this earth? Job remained silent because God was not through with him yet.
God and the Whirlwind (Part Two)
God again answered Job out of the whirlwind. He challenged Job to prepare himself like a man for battle. “Would you annul My judgment and condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:6-14). In other words, God was asking, “Are you more convinced of your own righteousness than mine? Are you serious Job? Are you that driven to be justified, in your sight and the sight of men, by your good works that you question my righteousness?”
Then God asked Job in-depth questions about two beasts, the Behemoth and Leviathan in Job 40:15-24; 41:1-34. These are two mysterious creatures that were feared by men in ancient literature. Some say the “Behemoth” is the dinosaur, hippopotamus, or the elephant. Some argue that “Leviathan” is the crocodile, the Killer whale, or the great white shark. Now here is where the justice and power of God are at issue. God created both the “Behemoth” and the “Leviathan” to serve his good purposes even though they are the archenemies of men. If He created these two mythical creatures, this is a significant statement on God’s sovereign rule over all things, even the monsters of the land and sea and other things that threaten us. He can bring these creatures near to His sword while men flee in fear. They exist because He wills their existence to somehow, some way, accomplish His will.
Job’s notion of God’s justice and righteousness was being stretched. God also asks in Job 41:10-11, “Who is able to stand against Me? Who has preceded Me that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.” These creatures are mentioned in ancient mythical creation and astrological stories. But as God describes Leviathan, he seems to take on the personification of Satan. In Job 40:34, Leviathan is designated “king over all the children of pride.” Psalm 74:12-14 mentions this creature like the crushing of the Serpent’s head: “For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke (crushed) the heads of the sea serpents in the waters. You broke (crushed) the heads of Leviathan in pieces, And gave him as food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.”
It is suggested by some bible commentators that this creature is alluded to in Isaiah 51:9, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD! Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, and wounded the serpent?” Whether Behemoth and Leviathan are real creatures or symbolic figures is not important. What is important is to know that the God who spoke out of nature’s most violent storms and preserved Job is the same God who speaks to us in our hurricanes. He is able to use tornados, as well as men’s enemies, to accomplish His good purposes. Evidence of God’s power swirled around Job without hurting or touching him.
The hedge around Job was the most dangerous natural force on earth. The safest place to ever be on the earth is in the eye of God’s storm. Ask the disciples who did not believe Christ cared until he stilled the storm. He cares for His people even though they may have to ride out a storm, persevere through winds of adversity, or stand against the forces of hell.
Job’s Response (Part Two)
When God ceased speaking, Job attempted to answer the God of the whirlwind (Job 41:1-6). God had not informed Job that it was Satan who struck him. He did not know why these things had come upon him or what would happen next. But what he learned in the eye of the storm was the supremacy of God’s power and grace. He now knew God can do everything, except sin, lie, or make mistakes. God not only had the power and authority to do whatever He wanted, but does and will do everything He desires. This God can be trusted, however, because He is holy and sovereign. Whatever He designs or allows to enter our lives serves His good and ours. He also understood that nothing inanimate, animate, or human in nature can thwart God’s Holy purposeseven the choices of vile, wicked men and fallen depraved angels serve God’s pleasures. The lessons of the storm had been learned by Job.
Then Job openly confessed his foolish ways and words. Now after hearing and seeing God, he agreed that God’s ways are holy and best. His place was not to question or reason with God about what he did not understand, but to submit to Him who is eternally holy, just, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, immense, immediate, and full of mercy and grace. Then as an act of utter contrition, he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes. Being in the eye of the storm awakened Job to his own foolishness and sin. He grabbed a handful of dust and ashes and tossed them over him as a sign of his awareness at being a creature of the dust, destined for ashes if it were not for God’s grace.
God still speaks to us at various times and in various ways. Sometimes He speaks loudest in the eye of a storm. He speaks to us today through His Son, His Spirit, and His Word. We may not see His form or hear audible words, but He still speaks. Jesus still speaks comfort to storm-riders in John 20:29, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” He speaks today through Isaiah’s word, “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” (Isaiah 55:8). Our part is not to question or reason why, but to trust and obey God’s Word, especially when we sit in the dust and ashes of our lives. A day is soon approaching when God will come in golden splendor to judge the wicked and reward the righteous. Then we shall see our Kinsman Redeemer and rejoice forevermore!