Sunday, January 11, 2015

Job 38:25-41 comments: God's absolute control over every event

25 ¶  Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder; 26  To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man; 27  To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? 28  Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew? 29  Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? 30  The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen. 31  Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? 32  Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 33  Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? 34  Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee? 35  Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? 36  Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart? 37  Who can number the clouds in wisdom? or who can stay the bottles of heaven, 38  When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? 39  Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, 40  When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? 41  Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

In God’s rhetorical interrogation of Job He asks several questions which may seem perplexing to us. In verse 25 a connection is made between lightning and thunder, which we know now that one causes the other. Aristotle, as late as the third century BC, attributed thunder to a collision between clouds.  The disturbing, again, implication in verse 25 is that even when there is flooding, God disperses overflowing water as He sees fit. This is a frightening prospect if we consider what the Bible is telling us that even in a seemingly random process God is in control. Did you ever imagine that?

If you remember the old Zen koan, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Here, God speaks about how He causes all things, even where man is nowhere around to witness the things. It rains in places where man is not to soak the parched ground and cause plants to grow that man will never see. Think about this. From the dense forests of Borneo to the jungles of Brazil there is life and there are events happening that we will never know about experientially. There are things happening a million light-years from us that we have no knowledge of now or at any time in our lives. Man is not the measure of all things. The universe God built for Himself. We are a part of His plan. But, we are not the only part.

Verse 28 places God squarely as the author of every drop of dew. Think of that. Imagine it, if you will. Every snowflake, the ice on a pond, the frost on the ground, all of it, every microscopic piece of it created by God, not just the result of a random process, an, “accident of nature,” but a direct execution of divine will. It staggers the modern mind.

The anthropologist, Susan Friend Harding, wrote, “The membrane between disbelief and belief is thinner than we think.” (41) Most Christians in America seem to believe in a caretaker God, like a gardener, watching over life processes and natural events that He can only affect in a minimal way by exerting Himself from outside of the process, by interrupting the process, like a landlord we call on to fix the plumbing in our apartment when it leaks. American Christians, even fundamentalists, can’t wrap their minds around the God presented in the Bible. They can wrap their minds around the God presented in their culture. That God is a sort of manager, or at times a warrior-king, or at times a big brother, and at times even a benefactor, but He is most certainly not the God presented in the Bible who controls every moment everywhere in His universe. He is neither surprised nor at a disadvantage when a thing happens. He either made it happen or permitted it to happen. Period. And that is just and right and as it should be, your fear, your grief, your pain, your discomfort notwithstanding.

God now moves masterfully in His speech to the farthest reaches of outer space, to the nearby atmosphere of earth, and into the human heart, the spiritual heart of understanding, emotion, and reason, to underscore His sovereign reign over the sum total of reality. He even speaks of causing clods of dirt and providing food for wild animals and birds. He does this, Himself. He is the author of it.

This is a different earth, a different universe, than what we are used to imagining. Be honest with yourself, when the snow piled deep in your yard you didn’t think of it being a direct act of God any more than when you started your car did you think that.  

We have lived for several hundred years in a universe we thought was governed by blind forces. The only difference between many Christians and atheists have been that Christians thought there was a benevolent and powerful entity who wound up those forces and who would intervene occasionally to interrupt those blind forces on the Christian’s behalf. Both are wrong. Dead wrong.

(41) Susan Friend Harding, The Book of Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 58.

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