The book of Job is a fascinating, heartbreaking, and sometimes head-scratching account of God's dealings with a man who by all accounts was righteous man. As tragedy after tragedy befell him, Job doggedly held to his trust in God. At the same time, though, he wanted answers from God. Why, if he had followed God faithfully and passionately, would these things be happening to him? In our ears that sounds like a fair question doesn't it? However, Job had friends who didn't think so. A good portion of the book is taken with the "comfort" they offered him--which basically amounted to, "Job, God is good and this must be happening because you are sinful. So what have you done?" One young man in particular, a fellow named Elihu, took pains to ask these same kinds of questions. He asserts that God is great, that we can't understand Him. He says in Job 37:23, "The Almighty, we cannot find Him..." God, who is not without a sense of irony, picks this moment as the time to show up and answer Job's questions.
What's fascinating, though, is that God's answers, the explanations that Job has been so hungry for, are shown to be beyond his reach. God doesn't explain; rather, He points out to Job why Job can't understand. With question after question, from chapters 38-41, God says, "Job, you couldn't get it even if I did explain it to you." And those chapters are great for reminding us of the greatness of God, of who He is and who we are.
This morning one specific question stood out to me. And it's not the one I would have thought. There are some amazing questions God puts to Job. Some give us a glimpse into the parts of God's creation in which He delights. In 39:5-12 God affectionately speaks of the wild donkey and the wild ox; He joys in their freedom and in their strength. In vs19-25 of the same chapter He seems to take special delight in the fierceness of the war horse. Other questions soar poetically, such as 39:26, "Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings toward the south?"
The question that grabbed my attention, though, was the first question God asks Job. 38:4, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth." Nothing particularly memorable about that, right? No poetic language, no wild and free animals; no power of creation or mysteries of God here. Just a simple, straightforward question: "Job, where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Where were you, Job, when I began building the earth on which you now walk, the earth onto which you were born? Job, where were you when I decided the laws by which this earth would be governed?"
I suppose the reason this question was so memorable to me is because of its simplicity. What would be the answer to it? How could Job respond? "I wasn't yet here, Lord. You hadn't yet knit me together in my mother's womb, fearfully and wonderfully making me. I hadn't yet breathed air (which You created) into the lungs You gave me, thereby drawing the oxygen that is necessary for life (which you breathed into my nostrils) into the body You fashioned from the earth--the earth You created."
God's 1st question to Job could rightfully have been His only question couldn't it? "Job, you are asking many questions. Let me ask you one." And the discussion could have ended there. But God wanted to make the point abundantly clear--both to Job and to us. He is far greater than we are. He is far wiser than we are. He knows things we don't know, He understands things that are beyond our ability. And while it isn't wrong for us to ask Him to help us understand, it is wrong to question Him. Why? Because we are unable to take hold of who He is, much less of what He does.
In 37:5 Elihu said, "God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend." Elihu may not have had it all right, but that statement is good theology. God does great things that we can't comprehend. But even when we can't comprehend, we can trust. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, even though we are led there by the Lord who is our shepherd, we will fear no evil. Why? Because He is with us. We can rest in His presence when we can't understand His plan.