1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors
when it burst out from the womb,
9 when I made clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed limits for it
and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal,
and its features stand out like a garment.
15 From the wicked their light is withheld,
and their uplifted arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this.” – Job 38:1-18 ESV
Job has expressed his desire to stand before God. He has repeatedly begged the Almighty for an audience so that he can receive answers to all his questions, relief from his pain, and the chance to be vindicated.
“O God, grant me these two things,
and then I will be able to face you.
Remove your heavy hand from me,
and don’t terrify me with your awesome presence.
Now summon me, and I will answer!
Or let me speak to you, and you reply.
Tell me, what have I done wrong?
Show me my rebellion and my sin.” – Job 13:20-23 NLT
“If only someone would listen to me!
Look, I will sign my name to my defense.
Let the Almighty answer me.
Let my accuser write out the charges against me.” – Job 31:35 NLT
Well, Job gets his wish. After a long and indeterminate delay, God breaks His silence. But if Job was expecting to get a chance to defend himself before God, he was in for a surprise. If he was expecting God to provide answers to all of his questions and absolve him of all guilt, he was going to be sorely disappointed.
The reader has been given an explanation for Job’s losses in the opening chapters of the book, but Job was left in the dark as to the cause of his pain and suffering. He had no idea about the conversations that took place between God and Satan. Job was completely unaware that this entire ordeal had been a test of his own faithfulness. God knew Job was “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8 ESV).
Even after Satan had destroyed all of Job’s flocks and herds and caused the deaths of his ten adult children, “Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22 ESV). Instead, Job had declared his faith in God.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:21 ESV
And when Satan appeared before God a second time, God had declared Job to be “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 2:3 ESV). God proudly boasted of Job’s faithfulness in the face of trials, telling Satan, “He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason” (Job 2:3 ESV).
Yet, when God appears before Job, He doesn’t divulge any of this information. Instead, He gives Job a much-needed lesson on His own sovereignty and authority. God has had to listen to all the arrogant claims and theological ramblings of Job and his four friends, now He is going to set the record straight, and He directs His words to Job.
God appears to Job in the form of a whirlwind. The Hebrew word is סַעַר (saʿar) and it can be translated as “tempest, storm, or hurricane.” This visible manifestation of God’s divine presence is called a theophany, and it is meant to allow human beings to see the invisible God. To Job, God appeared in the form of a storm. Moses and the people of Israel had received a similar glimpse of God when He appeared to them on Mount Sinai.
On the morning of the third day, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain. There was a long, loud blast from a ram’s horn, and all the people trembled. Moses led them out from the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the LORD had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky like smoke from a brick kiln, and the whole mountain shook violently. As the blast of the ram’s horn grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God thundered his reply. – Exodus 19:16-19 NLT
This description of God’s presence is meant to illustrate His power and glory. From the midst of the storm, “God thundered His reply.” He didn’t speak with a still, small voice, but He boomed out His words with power and authority. The same was probably true in Job’s encounter with the Lord. And the first words out of God’s mouth were in the form of a question.
“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.” – Job 38:2-3 NLT
God had heard enough. Everyone had been quick to share their opinions about Him but no one knew what they were talking about. Even Job had made some fairly condemning statements about God, declaring Him to be distant and even unjust. The longer Job had been forced to endure his pain without any sign of a resolution, the more accusatory he had become. He felt abandoned by God and wasn’t afraid to say so.
“The whole earth is in the hands of the wicked,
and God blinds the eyes of the judges.
If he’s not the one who does it, who is?” – Job 9:24 NLT
Job’s despondency had grown so deep that he lost all hope. He was convinced that God had already predetermined his guilt and punishment. Nothing was going to change.
“I know you will not find me innocent, O God.
Whatever happens, I will be found guilty.
So what’s the use of trying?” – Job 38:28-29 NLT
But God had heard enough of Job’s whining and was ready to pose a few questions of His own. This entire situation had begun as a test of Job’s integrity and faithfulness but it had somehow evolved into a test of God’s character. God was on trial and He begins a well-reasoned defense of His greatness and goodness. He does so by asking a series of rhetorical questions that are meant to disqualify anyone from setting themselves up as His judge, including Job.
God goes back to the literal beginning, asking, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much” (Job 38:4 NLT). The answer is obvious. Job was nowhere to be found when God created the heavens and the earth. Neither was Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar. None of these men were around at the beginning of all things, and yet they were quick to give their opinions about the One who brought all things into existence.
They could debate and speculate but they had no idea how God formed the earth or how He separated the seas from the dry land. These references to the creation account are meant to emphasize God’s power and authority. He rules over everything, from the wind and waves to the stars and galaxies. He caused the earth to rotate and revolve around the sun so that men might experience day and night as well as the changing of the seasons.
But God isn’t satisfied with stating His divine attributes of power; He wants to know if Job or his friends can replicate any of them.
“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear
and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth,
to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?” – Job 38:12-13 NLT
“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
Have you explored their depths?
Do you know where the gates of death are located?
Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
Do you realize the extent of the earth?” – Job 38:16-18 NLT
These questions are meant to expose mankind’s desire for self-deification. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the garden, man has been on a relentless quest to be his own God. Unwilling to worship and obey the one true God, humanity has sought to “be as God.” That was the promise Satan made to Adam and Eve in the garden when he offered them the fruit that God had declared off limits.
“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” – Genesis 3:5 NLT
Satan offered them the power to be their own gods. By disobeying God, they would be free to set their own rules and live according to their own standards. By rejecting God’s sovereignty they would establish their own autonomy or self-rule. But while autonomy offers the allure of god-like authority, it comes with none of God’s attributes. Men can create but they can’t replicate the power of God. Men are endowed with wisdom but it pales in comparison to the omniscience of God Almighty.
The apostle Paul provided insight into man’s delusion about self-deification and the self-glorification of human wisdom.
Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,
“He traps the wise
in the snare of their own cleverness.”
“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;
he knows they are worthless.” – 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 NLT
God wanted Job to comprehend the vast gulf that existed between God and humanity. Men are not His equals or peers. Their understanding of Him is limited and Job’s right to question His will or ways was not only unjustified but unwise. God ends His opening salvo with the command: “Tell me about it if you know!” (Job 38:18 NLT). He isn’t expecting Job to speak up; He’s expecting Job to shut up and listen to what He has to say. God is God and Job is not. The Almighty has had to listen to the ramblings of men, not it was time for them to hear the truth about God from the source of all truth.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.