Wednesday, April 26, 2017

When Bad Things Happen To Good People: A Study Of The Book Of Job. Day 52, The Lord Talks Of Fierce Creatures

The Lord has been speaking of the universe, the earth, and the animal kingdom. Today He talks about very large animals that He created.

"Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox. What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit. Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like rods of iron. It ranks first among the works of God, yet its Maker can approach it with His sword." (Job 40:15-19) The identity of this creature is not known. Some scholars believe the hippopotamus is intended, while others think it may be an animal now extinct, such as the woolly mammoth. I found one commentary that suggested it was a dinosaur, but unless something is seriously wrong with our way of dating fossils, it appears as though dinosaurs were long gone before mankind came on the scene.

"The hills bring it their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby. Under the lotus plants it lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh. The lotuses conceal it in their shadow; the poplars by the stream surround it. A raging river does not alarm it; it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth. Can anyone capture it by the eyes, or trap it and pierce its nose?" (Job 40:20-24) Who can tame such a creature other than its Maker?

Now the Lord moves on to a huge water creature. "Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook or tie down its tongue with a rope? Can you put a cord through its nose or pierce its jaw with a hook? Will it keep begging you for mercy? Will it speak to you with gentle words? Will it make an agreement with you for you to take it as your slave for life? Can you make a pet of it like a bird or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?" (Job 41:1-5) There are other references to Leviathan in the Scriptures. Its identity is as unknown as that of Behemoth. Some scholars believe it was a mythical creature of ancient Canaanite cultures, but the Lord speaks of it in the book of Job as if it is a literal animal. Many commentators think it is the crocodile, and part of its description would easily fit the crocodile. We don't know whether this creature still exists in our day, but it evidently existed in Job's day, and it was as wild and free as the animal called the Behemoth.

"Will traders barter for it? Will they divide it up among the merchants? Can you fill its hide with harpoons or its head with fishing spears? If you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! Any hope of subduing it is false; the mere sight of it is overpowering. No one is fierce enough to rouse it. Who then is able to stand against Me? Who has a claim against Me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to Me." (Job 41:6-11) The Lord has been proving His awesome majesty to Job who erroneously desired to speak face to face with God as he might speak to another man. Job forgot for a while that they were not equals. He could not drag God into court and force Him to give testimony about His reasons for allowing suffering. The Lord says, "You are unable to subdue any of the fierce creatures I have made. How then can you presume to approach Me and accuse Me of wrongdoing? You have said things about My character that are not true. I created all things and I own all things to do with as I please; even so, I have not behaved with unrighteousness. I am faithful to My creation and I am faithful to you."

"I will not fail to speak of Leviathan's limbs, its strength and its graceful form. Who can strip off its outer coat? Who can penetrate its double coat of armor? Who dares open the doors of its mouth, ringed about with fearsome teeth? Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together; each is so close to the next that no air can pass between. They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted." (Job 41:12-17) This part of Leviathan's description corresponds with the crocodile, but as we continue on it will sound more like a dragon.

"Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn. Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out. Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds. Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth. Strength resides in its neck; dismay goes before it. The folds of its flesh are tightly joined; they are firm and immovable. Its chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone." (Job 41:18-24) Old Testament scholar Elmer Smick states that Leviathan is used here as a metaphor for Satan, the one whom the Bible calls "that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan". (Revelation 20:2) The Bible begins and ends by depicting Satan as a serpent, both in the book of Genesis and in the book of Revelation. Elmer Smick says that when the Lord speaks of His power over Leviathan, "He is celebrating His moral triumph over the forces of evil. Satan, the accuser, has been proved wrong though Job does not know it."

"When it rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before its thrashing. The sword that reaches it has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin. Iron it treats like straw and bronze like rotten wood. Arrows do not make it flee; slingstones are like chaff to it. A club seems to it but a piece of straw; it laughs at the rattling of the lance. Its undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge. It makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment. It leaves a glistening wake behind it; one would think the deep had white hair. Nothing on earth is its equal---a creature without fear. It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud." (Job 41:25-34) This is the end of the Lord's speech to Job. We expected more of a conclusion, that the Lord would wrap things up in a way that makes sense to us. We thought He might provide an explanation that satisfies our longing to understand why He sometimes allows bad things to happen to good people. Job probably expected an explanation like that, but if so he didn't receive it. Instead he received a fresh glimpse of God that was bigger than anything he had ever imagined. He must acknowledge the fact that there are purposes of the Lord which no human being can fully understand. We don't know how He created the animals, creatures both wild and domestic. We don't know why He created certain creatures. We don't know how He enables birds to fly or fish to swim or why He made the hippo so large and fearsome or how He formed the scales of armor on the crocodile. We have no idea what led Him to make some animals fearless of humans and other animals willing to be helpers of mankind. If we can't comprehend the simple things of the natural world, how can we begin to understand the complex things of the spiritual world?

God says, "Job, I am so much bigger than you will ever know. My intelligence created all these things and they serve me in the ways I have chosen. No creature exists without a purpose. No human is born without a destiny. No good things and no bad things happen without a reason. I am in charge of all that exists. You may question Me if you like, but I don't owe you an explanation. You wouldn't understand it if I gave it. My thoughts are very different from yours and My understanding is so much greater than yours. I'm not going to answer your questions about your own situation, Job, but I'm going to expand your mind and stretch your faith. I'm going to ask you to trust Me even when you don't understand Me. I'm inviting you to grow in ways you never dreamed of. Are you willing to believe I love you even when bad things happen? Will you follow Me even when you don't know where we're going? If you can step up your faith in this way, and if you can leave your comfort zone, I will do for you what I promised the prophet Jeremiah: 'Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.' I won't answer the questions you've been asking Me, but I will reveal Myself to you in new ways and I will speak to you, telling you the things your heart needs most to hear. Are you willing to come on this journey with Me?"

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