“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38:8-11 ESV)
In this week’s reading from Job, the Lord God states clearly that He alone has power of the sea and all the forces of nature (Job 38:8-11). Jesus takes this role as well as He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, proving to His disciples, and to us, that He is Almighty God. This demonstration caused the disciples to wonder at who Jesus was. That He was God Incarnate was something far beyond their understanding since it was not within the scope of their theological worldview. And even today, the concept of God as Trinity is something we cannot understand or explain. This is as it should be. As Job and his friends found out, God is so complex that He is ultimately beyond our comprehension.
And yet God has revealed Himself most fully in the person of Jesus Himself. And what we learn from Jesus is that God is above all, loving and compassionate. He loves sinners so much that He came to die for them that they might be forgiven.
In this world of darkness and suffering, we Christians are called to let our light shine so that our words and lives disclose the truth of salvation and love in Jesus. We cannot hold back the gospel out of fear or the difficulties and persecution we will encounter. After all, Jesus is in the boat with us and we will always successfully ride out the storm. He will provide us with the right words to say at the right time.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” (Job 38:4 ESV)
Many of us often wonder why God allows some much suffering and pain in the world, in our lives. Throughout the book of Job, Job and his friends struggled unsuccessfully to come to terms with that problem. When the Lord spoke at last, He asked Job a question that revealed that neither Job nor his friends were in any position to offer an opinion or assessment on how the Lord should manage and run the universe He had created. They cannot because they did not see things from the Lord’s perspective and had no access to or knowledge of all the Lord knows, no clue has to how He runs things or why. The Lord proceeded to demonstrate how small human knowledge is, so that humans have no justification for calling Him unjust or unfair. His series of graphic yet unanswerable questions ought to make each one of us keep our mouths quiet and never again boast of our “wisdom”.
The Lord began with the origin of the world. No man was there to see this, so we really cannot accuse God of mismanagement. We stand helpless before the aspects of creation that the Lord speaks of. So-called natural events seem to occur with random unpredictability and without reason or logic; but the Lord controls all of them, sets their limits and uses them for His own purposes. We humans label God’s power as “mother nature” and spend a lot of time and energy trying to prevent or control natural disasters, severe storms and climate change. Yet the best science and government can do is make predictions, attempt to minimize risk, and repair the resulting damage. As we have seen in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy these things have limited value. The best thing man can really do is to place himself in the hands of the Lord, trust Him and ask for mercy, forgiveness, wisdom and the strength to endure. We do not have to know those reasons why God allows such things to happen to us, but it helps us to have faith and trust that His ways are always right.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 ESV)
In John 3, Jesus cites the example of the serpent in the wilderness to signify that He would bear the sins of mankind in Himself. This incident is found in Numbers 21, an account of the Israelites’ murmuring against God. Here they voiced their dissatisfaction with the food the Lord had provided. After 40 years, the people were still looking back to the good food they had in Egypt. They forgot that they had been slaves there. And in addition, after 40 years, you would think that experience would have taught them the consequences of complaining against the Lord’s provision.
The Lord punished Israel with a plague of fiery serpents. These snakes, fiery red or copper-colored, fell on them with devastating consequences. The people cried out in repentance and the Lord provided salvation. The odd thing is that the salvation was in the form of a bronze serpent. All the people who had been bitten had to do was look at it and they would be saved from death. Those who thought that doing such a simple thing was stupid, pointless or foolish died.
In this incident we see that the very thing that caused death was a symbol of life. This of course is a type for Christ. He became sin on the cross. What was deadly brought life. All who look to His cross in faith are saved from death. Those who refuse to look to the cross because they insist they know better or think that looking at a man crucified in despicable shame is foolish or unscientific and cannot possibly make a difference to them, will die.
In the midst of trials and difficulties, I have often been tempted to look back fondly to the good old days before I was a Christian. I often think things would be better if I went back. But then I recall that I was always in bondage to shame and fear. And I had no relief because the one who shamed me most was the one I feared the most: the Lord. Now I know Him and am sure of His unconditional love. Why would I want to go back?