The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of Job. The text is Job 38:1-11 and begins the section in Job frequently called Yahweh’s first speech. This is the moment Job, and even his friends, have been waiting for. They have been hoping the LORD would break His silence and set things straight, answer the questions, and reveal the “why” of what is going on in Job’s miserable life. However, it is important to note how the LORD does NOT answer the questions Job and his friends have been wrestling with. He ignores Job’s complaints and claims of innocence and refuses to support the accusations of Job’s friends—He just does not go there! This disappoints the readers of Job even today.
Job, as a book, is where most Christians turn in the hope of finding the answer to suffering. They also seek to understand the LORD’s role or power through all the slings and arrows we struggle with in this life. The term frequently used is “Theodicy,” which is an apology for God in the face of evil. What is God doing? What can God do? When will He do something? What is He trying to accomplish? Why does He allow/put up with/ bring suffering/give suffering? These are heavy and difficult questions.
The first place man tends to go is toward retribution theology—good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. This is the argument of Job’s three friends, as well as Elihu. “Job you must have done some terrible thing to be in the midst of this kind of suffering!” Eventually, after a long struggle with his friends and the suffering itself, even Job falls into this same trap… because as the Scriptures clearly show, retribution theology is nothing more than “works righteousness.” “Do good and God will love you, bless you big, and bring you to Heaven,” but “Do bad and it is H-E-L-L for you... both on earth and in the bowels of Sheol!” Human nature first turns us this direction, but God turns us back—just as He is about to do to Job in our pericope.
Truthfully, maybe disappointedly, Job does not answer any of our questions and neither does the LORD in His address to Job. The fact that the LORD answers Job is a great gift of love and mercy, but He does not provide the answers Job seeks. Rather, He teaches him about the relationship between God and man: Who God is and who man is in relationship to Him. So, the LORD’s address begins by saying; “You wish to question me Job? Stand up, gird your loins. I have some questions for you!” It is doubtful this is the direction Job was hoping their conversation would go!
+The fact that the LORD answers Job is a great gift of love and mercy, but He does not provide the answers Job seeks.
38:1 Grammatically, we see a Kethib—Qere set forward in this verse. Kethib is what was written and Qere is what was spoken. At issue is the strange and grammatically incorrect connection of the מִן (Min) to the noun. Thus, what is spoken is the preposition and noun as being separate. There is no change of meaning.
מִן הַסְעָרָה (Min has-se-a-Rah) “from/out of the whirlwind/tempest”
The whirlwind/tempest is the place, or origin of many theophanies in Scripture. For example, Elijah in the cave and then his ride to Heaven. Also see Nahum 1:3, Zechariah 9:14, etc.
38:2 מַחְשִׁיךְ (mach-Shich) root: חשׁך (khaw-shak) Hiphil: “to obscure; make dark” עֵצָה (e-Tzah) “counsel; plan” “Who is this that causes counsel to darken?”
־דָעַת בְמִלִּין בְּלִי(ve-mil-Lin be-li Da-at) “with words lacking knowledge” It is important to remember Job is not guiltless, nor is he correct in his theology.
In this discourse of Yahweh’s first speech, He presents Himself as Creator. Later, in verses 25-38, He more specifically presents Himself as LORD.
38:3 אֱזָר(e-zor) Qal: “to gird up; gird”
כְגֶבֶר (che-Ge-ver) from: גֶּבֶר (gheh-ber) “as a man; as a young man; as a strong, mighty man”
חֲלָצֶיךָ (cha-la-Tzei-cha) “loins; your loins”
The girding of loins is how one prepares for battle or a wrestling match. The language the LORD uses would not have been a comfort to Job!
וְהוֹדִיעֵנִי (ve-ho-di-E-ni) root: ידע (yaw-dah) Hiphil, imperative: “make me know”
38:4 אֵיפֹה (ei-Foh) “Where?”
בְּיָסְדִי (be-ya-se-di) root: יסד (yaw-sad) Qal: “to found; establish”
בִינָה (vi-Nah) “understanding”
38:5 מְמַדֶּיהָ (Me-mad-dei-ha) from: מֵמַד (may-mad) “measure; trace out; measurement”
קָּו (Kav) “string; measuring line”
38:6 אֲדָנֶיהָ (a-da-Nei-ha) from: אֶדֶן (eh-den) “pedestal; base”
הָטְבָּעוּ (ha-te-Ba-u) root: טבע (taw-bah) Hophal: “to be sunk; settled; planted”
יָרָה (ya-Rah) Qal: “to lay; cast; set”
פִּנָּתָהּ (pin-na-Tah) “corner”
38:7 בְּרָן (be-ron) root: רנן (raw-nan) Qal: “to rejoice; give a ringing cry; give a cry of jubilation”
יַחַד (Ya-chad) “together”
וַיָּרִיעוּ (vai-ya-Ri-u) root: רוע (roo-ah) Hiphil: “to rejoice; shout in triumph; cheer”
The LORD begins His questioning using the language of construction, as in the building of a building. God had a plan and implemented it, but no man, certainly not Job, was there to bear witness. The inference is clear: How can you question the LORD when you do not have enough knowledge? Undoubtedly, Job is hearing the message loud and clear.
38:8 The rest of this text deals with the origin of the seas. This would be understood as the original element of the world as seen in Genesis 1:2. As unfathomable and frightening as the sea is to a Hebrew of this era, the LORD makes it clear that even the sea is obedient to Him. Small wonder Jesus calms the Sea of Galilee, showing His power.
וַיָּסֶךְ (vai-Ya-sech) root: סכך (saw-kak) Hiphil: “to shut off; shut in”
בְּגִיחוֹ (be-gi-Cho) root: גיח (ghee-akh) Qal: “to burst forth”
38:9 וַעֲרָפֶל (va-a-ra-Fel) “thick darkness; heavy cloud”
חֲרֻלָּתוֹ (cha-tul-la-To) “swaddling bands” Note the use of “womb” in verse 8 and now “swaddling band” in verse 9. The sea is a mere infant in complete submission to the LORD.
38:10 בְּרִיחַ (be-Ri-ach) “bar”
38:11 ־יָשִׁית בִּגְאוֹן גַּלֶּיךָ וּפֹא (u-Fo ya-Shit big-on gal-Lei-cha) “here shall your proud waves/waters break/be stayed”
While our reading ends here, the questioning continues. Job, of course, has no answers. But why does the LORD even bother to show up and question Job? The LORD is teaching Job concerning who He is, who the LORD is, and what their relationship is with one another. This is the most important thing for Job to understand—not the nature of suffering, etc.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Job 38:1-11.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Job 38:1-11.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Job 38:1-11.