A Sermon for Proper 24: Job 38:1-7, (34-41), Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 7, Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45
Last week we heard the debate between Job and three friends. We don’t read the similar debate between Job and a 4th friend, Elihu. He goes on an excruciatingly self-assured, self-righteous tirade for 6 chapters (Mast). This morning we hear that Job gets what Job wants, well some of what he wants.
God answers Job out of a whirlwind, a typical sign of a theophany (the presence of God) which here indicates God’s displeasure (Isa 29:6, Jer. 23:19 and 30:23, and Zech. 9:1) (NISB). God does not answer Job’s questions about evil, and justice, nor does God condemn or humiliate Job (Mast). He does tell him to get ready for action requiring unchecked agility. (Newsom). What follows is fours chapters of question after question that challenge Job’s knowledge of all creation. What does Job’s knowledge of creation have to do with evil or justice? What is really going on in these verses?
The Book of Job one of the wisdom writings, which were written to teach us something. (Tucker, Jr.) But What? If we listen to Job carefully we hear he wants to debate God face to face; he wants to understand why he has been put through all this agony. He doesn’t get a face to face meeting, and that’s a good thing because it is dangerous to see God:
God tells Moses you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live (Exodus 33:20).
Moses tells the Hebrews Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived (Deuteronomy 4:33)?
Gideon says Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face (Judges 6:22)
Manoah (Samson’s father) tells his wife, We shall surely die, for we have seen God. (Judges 13:22).
What Job does get is that list of questions. And yes, they challenge his place, humanity’s place, our place, in the making of the cosmos but they also reveal the grandeur of the cosmos and the majesty of creation. They make clear that creation is well beyond human abilities but ~ it is the results of God’s will; (Tucker, Jr.). including the elements of chaos, which are present in the universe (Gaventa and Petersen). The questions reveal a cosmos way too vast way too powerful for Job to fully grasped (Gaventa and Petersen). They leave him befuddled (Tucker, Jr.). At the same time, they affirm that creation remains ordered by God (Tucker, Jr.).
In a peculiar way, the divine questioning the divine order seems to kindle trust. If God can create such wonders, stores of rain, ice and snow pathways for the sun, moon and stars provision for all wild animals and birds, even the predator lion, and the scavenger raven (Gaventa and Petersen) if God can control the chaos of seas & darkness then perhaps life is under divine control, not predetermined and manipulated but held within boundaries and establish a moral order (Epperly).
At this point, there is the possibility we run into ourselves. We know so much more about the cosmos and the workings of creation than those of Job’s time. We are on the verge of making a new kind of computer that takes advantage of quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of the smallest particles, which have interesting characteristics like ‘spooky’. We begin to think we can, or at least some people can fully grasp all the mysteries of creation. So, while creation, as described in Job, is certainly spectacular, it may not kindle the kind of trust for us as it did for the ancient students of Job (Mast).
But, we have a problem. The same physics that gives us quantum mechanics also reveals that what we can detect of the universe is about 5% of what is there. 95% of the universe is dark matter and dark energy, which have to be there to make the math of physics work, but we cannot detect it, or measure it, or know it in any way at all. So, maybe we are no so knowing as we might think. Maybe realizing we mostly grasp a tiny 5 percent of creation leaves room for a trust to emerge from the vast 95% mystery of creation that is both wild and beautiful, dangerous yet held within boundaries.
Last week we explored the power of God. It is not the power to move mountains or manipulate molecules creating or avoiding this or that event. The power of God is love. God’s reply to Job reveals a God who sings with such love that becomes such energy, that becomes such matter, both seen and unseen, that guarantees our existence. It is God’s love that is creating all that is, seen and unseen, beauty and chaos, light and darkness, known and unknown. It is God’s love that encloses the chaos, and the darkness. It is God’s love that limits the seeming randomness of life, not by controlling it, but by the loving presence that assures us that we are not alone; we never have been; we never will be.
That love is present to us, That Love is present to C and C grieving the death of a loved one, is present to S, J, and S who justifiably wonder “What’s next?” is present to all who are experiencing their own version of Job’s “Why me?” experience. I do not, and I cannot know what difference this makes to those who suffer the hurts of slings and arrows but with all my heart and with all my soul I know it makes a difference. Such love may be like that 5% of the universe we can see, it is what we know, and it comforts us. Just perhaps such love is also like the 95% of the universe we cannot see, we can’t know it, it’s beyond understanding but it must be, because it shapes how we live, and move and have our being.
Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary. 21 10 2018. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly>.
Gaventa, Beverly Roberts and David Petersen. New Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary. Nashville, n.d.
Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.
Keener, Craig and John Walton. NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Notes. Nashville: Zondervan, 2017.
Mast, Stan. Job 38:1-7, (34-41). 21 10 2018. <http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermonstarters/>.
Newsom, Carol A. New Interpreters Bible, Book of Job. Ed. Leander E. Keck (NIBC). Vol. III. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015. X vols. Olive Tree App.
Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob. New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.
Tucker, Jr., W. Dennis. 1 Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]. 3 6 2018. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/>.