In Which God Gets Sarcastic, and I Know Nothing

Yesterday I finished the book of Job, and because it has been a while since I read it, the ending was quite a whirlwind experience for me! We’ve spent 37 chapters building up and building up, hearing ABOUT God, but not FROM God in regards to Job’s suffering — and then finally, in chapter 38, BOOM! God arrives — in a thunderstorm!

“Where were you [Job] when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set or who laid its cornerstone — while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? … Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” (Job 38:4-7, 21 – emphasis added)

WOW. God is sarcastic!! He is clearly on a mission to put Job in his place and remind him Who’s really in charge here! And Job gets it pretty quick, because after God’s first speech all Job can say is “………….Oh. Right.”

God goes on to deliver yet another speech where he specifically addresses Job’s questions about justice — namely that Job has no right to question God’s justness. But what I love the most about God’s response here is that after he totally chews Job out, he then gently and graciously affirms Job’s perseverance and righteousness throughout this whole ordeal. (And he totally puts Job’s “friends” in their place at the same time!)

“I am angry with you [Eliphaz] and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. … My servant Job will pray for you and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.” (Job 42:7-8, parts – emphasis added)

Let’s break this down here. Job, while he did complain and question a lot, never went beyond questioning God’s motives. He speculated that perhaps God was unjust, he cried out at his own suffering, he protested his innocence and demanded that God allow him a chance to vindicate himself — but he never definitively said that he knew what God was doing. In other words, Job never allowed his sense of theological rightness to eclipse his devotion to God. Eliphaz & Co., however, did nothing BUT that. They were focused only on telling Job what they “knew to be true” about God. They acted like they had all the answers and refused to either empathize with Job or admit their lack of knowledge (and thus God’s supremacy).

So what does this mean for us? I think the entire book of Job can be boiled down thusly: God is God, and we are not. That’s SUPER simple, and I wouldn’t suggest telling that to someone who’s just lost a loved one and is struggling with grief as Job was, but I really think that’s the point God’s trying to make in this story. Just because God usually punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous doesn’t mean it’s okay for Eliphaz & Co. to put God in the box that he always does that. God is bigger than their box. And just because Job is a righteous man and healthily questions God doesn’t mean he couldn’t stand a reminder that he doesn’t run the world.

The point here is that none of us really knows what God is like, or what God might do, or why. We may know a part of God. We can learn some about God from reading the Bible, and from living our lives with God and experiencing what that means to us. But we cannot fathom God, and anyone who says they can is kidding themselves.

The true basis of faith, then, is uncertainty.

Real faith doesn’t mean knowing God will save you in the nick of time — real faith means not knowing if God will save you and trusting God anyway. And that’s really, really hard. Because uncertainty is a pretty shifty thing to build your whole life on. But for me, the only thing I know is that I just don’t know. And that will have to do.


4 thoughts on “In Which God Gets Sarcastic, and I Know Nothing

  1. Really nice thoughts, Rebekah!  That would make an excellent sermon.  I’ll have to keep those ideas in my pocket for if I ever preach on Job!


  2. Further thoughts on Uncertainty: I have been reading Hebrews recently, which defines faith as “the evidence of things not seen” (11:1 KJV) or even “being CERTAIN of what we do not see” (NIV).  So although we may be uncertain from a “certain” (pun intended) point of view, it seems that faith serves as a sort of “spiritual evidence” by which we can be sure of things about God and his character, will, and ways.
    God is unfathomable, and we can’t understand most of what he does, as you so eloquently set forth.  I am also thankful that God did reveal part of himself to us so that we CAN know some stuff.  Some examples: Paul tells us that “God’s invisible qualities…have been clearly seen, being UNDERSTOOD from what has been made” (Romans 1:20), and that we “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:7,10,12,16).  Also, 1 John is written “so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life” (5:13); and Jesus tells those who believed him that if they hold to his teaching, they will “KNOW the truth.”
    I “know” (haha) that God’s ways are higher than ours, and I don’t want to be prideful and pretend to know everything (like Job, I was not there when God laid the earth’s foundation!), but at the same time I’m honored that God has chosen to reveal some parts of himself to us…like his creation, like JESUS, and the strange “certainty in uncertainty” that is faith.  Awesome!


    1.  @Menn Well-said! I agree — I think acknowledging my inherent ignorance of God makes me appreciate what I DO know even more! Because that way it’s not about “getting it right” — it’s about following what I know of God as best as I can. And that’s a lot less stressful than trying to be right all the time! =)


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