The first thing that used to come to my mind was when I considered Job was, poor him. In one day, the flocks that made him wealthy and the children he loved were taken from him—not because he had done anything to deserve such tragedy, but, well, just because. And when that all wasn’t enough for the master destroyer, Satan, Job had his health taken from him as well.
The few things he didn’t lose? His friends, who questioned his character for chapters upon chapters, and his wife, who not only scoffed at his steadfast faith (understandably, as she had just lost ten beloved children), but told him to curse God. And then die already.
Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. – Job 9:2
Poor Job, indeed.
But then, if we forge on through nearly forty chapters, we get to hear the response from God for which Job has been yearning.
However, God doesn’t explain the conversation in heaven with Satan that started the ball of turmoil rolling. He doesn’t tell Job not to worry, that he’ll have all his possessions restored and be blessed with ten more children.
Instead, he says, “Gird up your loins now, like a man.” – Job 38:3
Gulp. That sounds pretty harsh at first, as if God were telling Job to stop whining and act like a man despite all he’d been through. But I see it more as God encouraging Job to take a breath and prepare himself for the next thing—the next battle, the next trial, or just the next words from God that might be hard to hear, but are necessary for Job’s betterment.
Then God says, Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. – Job 38:4
To paraphrase: “So, where were you when I created the world?” It’s as if God were telling Job to get a fresh perspective, to look at things from an eternal point of view. Hidden between the lines is the reminder that God can see endlessly into our past and into our future, and all of it is for our good.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
Does God guarantee it will all make sense? No. He stops short of that, but the promise in Romans 8:28 still brings peace and comfort, if we will allow ourselves to rest in it.
After that statement comes many vivid descriptions of the natural world, all meant to remind Job of God’s power and purpose in his creation.
Then, God gets to the really good stuff. He begins to describe some of his most masterful, awe-inspiring creations: first, the dinosaur believed by many creation scientists to be brachiosaurus.
Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar….His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron….Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not: he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth. – Job 39:15-23
Next, God describes another fearsome creature and compares himself to it throughout the passage.
None is so fierce that dare stir him up: who then is able to stand before me?….Who can open the doors of his face? His teeth are terrible round about. His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal….By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning. Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out….Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear. – Job 41:10-29
Doesn’t that sound exactly like a fire-breathing dragon?
(Interesting note: the word neesings comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to sneeze or snort.”)
Imagine that. God describes these incredible creatures to Job as if he could personally relate to them, so that Job could get a crystal clear image of God’s might and glory. Job lived among dragons and dinosaurs!
After God concludes, any frustration Job has been holding onto dissolves, and he responds with humility and grace.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. – Job 42:5, 6
After studying these final chapters in Job’s story, my gut response to all that happened to him has changed. No longer do I just shake my head and think “poor Job.”
Instead, I am moved and encouraged not only by his questioning of God, but by his gracious and suitably humble reaction to God’s ultimate response.
What inspires you about Job’s story? As always, I’d love to hear from you.