Sermon Summary and Discussion Questions | Out of the Whirlwind, God Speaks
Job has come to the conviction that he does not live in a well-run world. What begins as a general lament before God in prayer gradually becomes a sinful complaint or charge before God, accusing him of mistreatment. If you, like Job, have suffered severely and even at times presume that you can better run the universe than God, lean in. The LORD has mercy for you in this speech.
Chapter 38 records the first of God’s two speeches to Job. God neither hurried not humbled himself to do what Job commanded. God was not obligated to answer Job, and he is not obligated to answer us. God’s answer to Job is mercy.
“Yahweh” is back. From chapters 3 to 37, the name Yahweh (translated “LORD”) is not used, but El Shaddai (translated, “God”) is instead used. The author wants us to be in no doubt that the one who speaks is the covenant making and keeping God. He speaks “out of the whirlwind” to remind Job that He is sovereign, powerful, and truly awesome and to humble Job. Yahweh’s intent is clear. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” –Job 38:2-3 God does not suddenly appear to answer Job’s questions, but to ask questions of Job. It is not God who is on trial, but Job. "I will question you, and you make it known to me."
Job has declared many wrong things about God in his poetic rage. The remedy is a walk with God through the created universe so that Job may discover his place and God’s. It starts from the farthest reaches of time and space and circles in closer and closer, even to the animals that Job takes for granted. The answer could not have been clearer. Not only were Job and his friends giving the wrong answers, but they were asking the wrong questions!
As a specific example, God point to the Ostridge. It is what it is—a silly bird, because God made it so. Why? Amid the profusion of creatures, some were made to be useful to men, but some were made just for God's entertainment and ours. God makes creatures that are odd. They do not appear to be useful. He makes them for his pleasure and ours, so he made a bird that cannot fly. The lesson: Job, if you don't understand why I've made the Ostridge, how can you expect to understand my purpose for your life? If you cannot grasp why I made the Ostridge, how do you think you'll understand the mysterious way that I govern the world?
God’s speech serves as a reminder to Job of how little he understands. God to Job: “If there are so many mysteries regarding what you observe, how are you going to critique me regarding what you cannot perceive?" God could justly have spoken to Job with pronouncements about himself and ridicules about Job. Instead, he asks Job rhetorical questions so that Job can gradually become convinced of his own ignorance. It is an expression of the kindness of God.
In summary, God says, "I have made no mistake. I know exactly what I am doing. My counsel is perfect. I have done nothing wrong. You have said wrong things and found fault with me; and, because I love you, you Job must now answer me." He says this to a man whose children he has killed and whose wealth he has confiscated. This is a humbling message, because we see ourselves in Job.
"Behold, I am of small account. What shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further." – Job 40:4-5 There is a transformation underway here. Job has no more questions, only confession.
God's speech cuts us down to size. We are limited in mind, puny in body. The first thing we must know is the difference between our place and God's and to begin to accept it. Job does begin to accept this even though God has not answered his why question.
Why didn’t God simply give Job a “behind the scenes” peek? Wouldn’t that have delivered ample strength and understanding to Job to endure and trust God? "It is one of the many excellencies of the book that Job is brought to contentment without even knowing all the facts of the case... The test would work only if Job did not know what it was for." Job is kept walking by faith and not by sight. Job never sees it all. He sees God. This makes it more applicable to us! How could we garnish hope and strength from Job’s example if he was given insight into the secret things of God to strengthen him in his trial when we do not receive such privy insight in our trials? What God tells Job in these two speeches comforts Job more effectively than if God had given him the background. "What Job finally saw clearly is that he could not see clearly."
Questions for Application
- What conditions of your life tempt you to question whether God is running the universe rightly?
- Do you see the kindness in God’s response to Job? Discuss why or why not.
- Why was it better for God’s glory that God not let Job peek into the “behind the scenes” of his trial? Why was it better for Job? Why is it better for us?
[by Taylor Mason]