Last week, we started the book of Job. We looked at what happened to him, and the response of Job’s friends.
This week we will focus in on God’s response to Job, and see how it relates to our lifegroup. In Job 38, God finally responds to Job and his three friends after 37 chapters of silence. What God says might be surprising, and maybe a little disheartening.
Job 38:2–7 (NLT)
“Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?
As you read through God’s long response, you find that God reminds Job of His own immensity and power. He directly responds to Job’s questions in his grief and gloom. Remember, Job’s circumstances made him wish for death, or even that he had never been born. In direct response, God talks about light and life. He points Job back to creation itself, to the stars, angels, moon, and sun… To brightness and birth and life-giving rain. “Who are you?” God asks Job. “Are you the Creator God who has spoken everything into existence and who’s very being sustains all life in the universe?”
God’s response leaves us as readers with a lot to interact with. Robert Alter, author and professor observes, “Many readers over the centuries have felt that God’s speech to Job is no real answer to the problem of undeserving suffering, and some have complained it amounts to a kind of cosmic bullying of puny man by an overpowering deity.” It is easy to feel this way when you remember that God is speaking to a man who has lost not just his fortune but multiple children at the beginning of the story. However, we would be wrong to read God’s words as bullying or cruel. Alter continues, “God’s thundering challenge to Job is not bullying. Rather, it rousingly introduces a comprehensive overview of the nature of reality that exposes the limits of Job’s human perspective, anchored as it is in the restricted compass of human knowledge and the inevitable egoism of suffering.”
Ultimately, God’s response to Job is a challenge and invitation to practice a kind of faith that moves far beyond cheap, shallow expressions of wishful thinking. God allows Job to cry out and rage and weep for nearly 35 chapters. When He does reply, God responds directly to Job’s initial cry of despair in chapter 3. The implication is that God has been present to Job from the very beginning and subsequently throughout his many cries and prayers. While God does not answer Job’s question of “Why?” He also does not rebuke Job for asking the question, expressing his doubt, voicing his rage, or questioning God’s motives. Instead, He reminds Job of His unlimited power and Job’s limited perspective. God invites Job, after he has had the space to mourn, complain, doubt, rage, and ask all his questions, to practice a deep abiding faith.
Job represents humanity as a whole and the ways we are confronted with the reality of suffering and pain during our lives. Imagine you are Job and this is what you hear God say to you after you have spent many nights expressing your hurt, anger, doubt, and suffering. It may help to think of a time in your life where you have suffered deeply. Notice what is going on inside of you when you hear God’s words.
What do you feel as God replies to Job’s despair?
Does His response make you uncomfortable or angry?
Does it bring comfort and relief?
Have you ever voiced your anger, pain or doubt to God in times of deep suffering in your life? If yes, what was God’s response to you? If you have not, what would it have been like to direct your anguish to God?
Let’s talk about our group for a minute. Take a moment to reflect on the past two months in community group. Have there been discussions or moments where your community has been in disagreement? For instance, maybe it was a disagreement about an interpretation of Scripture or a practical decision such as what the group’s next best way of serving should be — even a difference of conviction about what is a good life decision or what God requires of our lives. Did the parties involved (and the community as a whole) practice our shared value of unity in this moment? What would it looked like for each person involved and the community as a whole to practice unity with each other?
How can we better work through our difficulties and disagreements together? What can we do to better practice unity, even when we don’t like the way things seem to be going?