Tag : bible

Song of Solomon: The Beauty and Danger of God’s Good Gifts

The unblushing and vivid descriptions of romantic desire and sexuality may unsettle readers of the Song of Solomon (also known as the Song of Songs). The language and imagery and subject matter of this book of divinely inspired poetry are not what most of us expect to encounter when we approach the Word of God. There is talk of physical attraction and passion and intimacy and desire, all of which we might think should be foreign to the sacred pages of holy writ. So what is the Song of Songs doing in my Bible? What does sex and romance have to do with what God wants to teach me?
God is not ashamed of or embarrassed by sex. He created it as a good gift to be enjoyed as a part of his wise design. He made it for a purpose. It wasn’t a slip up or mistake that God made us the way we are. The goodness of romantic passion and sexual intimacy is clear throughout the poetry of the Song of Songs. The woman has a great desire and love for the man, and the man treasures and longs for the woman. They describe one another and their love for each other with rich imagery of a luscious garden and the bountiful abundance of God’s creation. There is great beauty and sweetness in the poetry found in the pages of this book of the Bible. The woman in 7:10 tenderly says: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” A similar statement is repeated in 2:16 and 6:3; this highlights the wonder and loveliness of being committed to and loved by another person. Belonging to someone in love is a precious thing.
Even so, over and over again in the Song of Songs, the reader is offered an important warning about love in this refrain: “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases”
(Song of Songs 8:4).
The Song repeats similar words in 2:7 and 3:5. The writer surely wants us to understand the importance of proper timing and waiting when it comes to romantic desire. In a world that thinks and preaches that sex and romance are ultimate, this is controversial instruction. Many pursue sex without commitment and intimacy without loving loyalty. Others rush into relationships (and even into marriage) hoping to find quick satisfaction and fulfillment in romantic love. In the eyes of the world, sexual freedom is a right, romance is the aim of life, and the erotic is commonplace and profane and normal. Yet, the Song of Songs reminds us that romantic love and sexuality have their proper, God-designed context. Marriage is the only place for sexuality to truly flourish. God made sex to be enjoyed in the context of the committed relationship of marriage. The absence of waiting spoils the gift, distorts the purpose, and destroys relationships. Forcing love or intimacy without submitting to God’s plan only leads to heartbreak, disappointment, and unfulfilled desire. If we do not receive God’s gifts in the appropriate time and setting, we belittle the gift and dishonor the Giver. The gift is not the main thing; the God who gave it is. Therefore, he has the right to determine the right place and time for the blessings he bestows.
As the Song of Songs closes, it gives a sharp reminder of the danger and beauty that is found in romantic love:
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”
Love is intense and passionate and strong. It is fierce and fiery. In this striking language, there is a clear danger here. Love is like fire. It can be warm and useful and life-giving, but it can also destroy and hurt and burn with dangerous flames. Without the necessary boundaries and patience and commitment, many are hurt in the process.
So, the Song of Solomon lifts up the wonders and beauties of marital intimacy as a gracious gift of God. The book teaches us that we must not diminish or be embarrassed by sex because God created it as a good blessing, but we must also not elevate it or pervert it in such a way that ignores God’s protective design for such intense passion. This is no different than how we should respond to any other good blessing that God has given to us. It is amazing that God has designed our world in such a way that reflects his glory but also brings us joy as we behold his creativity and his graciousness. Yet, we can so easily abuse or take for granted the things that God meant for a specific purpose. Sex, money, food, work, pleasure, and so many other things are not inherently evil, but they can become incredibly destructive. When we trust God’s wisdom in receiving his good gifts on his terms, we increase our enjoyment in the gifts and in the one who gives us all good things.
We also are reminded that the commitment, love, and desire displayed so wonderfully in marriage was created by God to demonstrate his own covenant-keeping love for his people. Paul teaches us this in Ephesians 5:25-33: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
The relationship between husband and wife ultimately point to Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church. This was God’s purpose even from the beginning, that we see Jesus more clearly through the drama of a loving, God-honoring marriage. God gives to us so many amazing things to enjoy on this earth, but we must never forget that those blessings are always designed to point us back to the living and true God, the one who satisfies every need and who loves with perfect love.

Ecclesiastes: Out of Control

For “the Preacher” in the book of Ecclesiastes, life under the sun is confusing and chaotic, yet mercilessly predictable. Some things make no sense; sometimes bad things happen to those who are righteous, and sometimes the wicked prosper. Sudden and shocking tragedy can strike at any moment. Someone can work his whole life just for everything to be given to a fool. Life feels random and cruel. Yet, there is also a sense in which life is maddeningly predictable. Without fail, time marches on and all die. Everyone returns to dust. We are all subject to time and chance and death. In fact, those inescapable facts are what make life seem so futile and chaotic:
“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned, but time and chance happen to them all. Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Ecclesiastes (9:11-12)
A person can spend his entire life attempting to get ahead by being the wisest, the strongest, the fastest, and the richest he can possibly be, but that’s no guarantee of success. Death can come at any moment. The seemingly random events of life can upset any progress. And as the Preacher points out, even what is accomplished will be forgotten or given to someone else. It is no wonder that Solomon seems to give into feelings of despair, such as in Ecclesiastes 1:13- 14: “I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”
Over and over the refrain of Ecclesiastes rings out with dismal certitude: life is meaningless. It’s like trying to chase wind and grab on to a vapor. Every time you think you have a grasp on life, it slips right through your fingers.
When disorienting and disrupting events occur in our lives, like pandemics or death or financial calamity, we begin to see clearly what was always the reality: we are not in control. We often live with illusion that we are the captains of our own lives, that we can determine our own fate. Life often cuts in and reminds us of the disturbing truth that we are at the mercy of forces beyond ourselves, no matter how tightly we try to hold on to our own sense of power and control. So what’s the point of even living at all? If it doesn’t matter what we do, why try at all? Why live with wisdom and why try to obey God?
The message of Ecclesiastes is much more nuanced than we might think at first; it is not simply a cry of despair with a half-hearted exhortation to fear God tacked on at the end. The writer of Ecclesiastes recognizes that there is something within all of us that knows there is something more than the maddening realities of time, randomness, and death. There is more than what is “under the sun”:
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and
drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11-14)
We all know in the depths of our soul that we are made for something more, more than just returning to dust. Eternity is placed in our hearts by God’s design. Yet, the problem is that we don’t always see clearly this eternal plan. We don’t know how things work out in the same way that God does. Rather, we only see the tragedies in front of us under the sun. In other words, we aren’t in control. We don’t know what comes next. The eternal plan is beyond our ability to comprehend. That’s a frightening thing. To not know what is beyond the horizon, to not see the horrors awaiting around the corner, is truly humbling and disheartening. But in this same text, there is hope. In our daily toil (which sometimes feels like meaningless work), there are opportunities for joy and satisfaction. This is God’s gift to us. In all the randomness, there are daily beauties to behold: breath in the lungs, the chirping of the birds, little accomplishments in mundane tasks, the smile of a friend, or the taste of delicious food. Truly, recognizing that we are not in control and that we don’t know what comes next frees us up to enjoy the daily blessings that are given from God’s hand. There is loveliness today that I can enjoy. There are marvelous gifts for which to give thanks.
There is also the hope and confidence that we can have in knowing that God does in fact know the end from the beginning. He is working everything together, and his plans are secure. He is unchanging and purposeful. This is why we fear him and why we can trust in him. This truth makes sense of the concluding words of the book: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
Because God is in control of his eternal purposes and because he is in control of my life, there is little use in trying to figure out what is beyond our grasp. There is no use in predicting the future; there is no use in trying to manipulate the outcomes of the events in our lives. Rather, being faithful today, obeying God today, enjoying the gifts of today, and fearing God today are all things that are in my control. The outcomes are up to God. The eternal plan is in his hands.
In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us of the same truth that God is in control. He provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and so surely he gives us the good gifts that we need. Jesus gives us similar advice to what we learn in Ecclesiastes: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34).
We can seek comfort in odds and predictions and percentages or in our plans, but ultimately that is a futile pursuit. However, if we seek God and his will for us today and if we trust in him today, we can be confident in his provision. He will control the outcome; he will provide what is needed. His plans are secure even when life under the sun is not. In trouble and sorrow, God has given us a beautiful gift to enjoy called “today,” and he has placed eternity in our hearts for us to know that he is the one ruling over the uncertain “tomorrow.”

Proverbs: The Foolishness of Christ’s Wisdom

What is the key to success in this life? What does it mean to be wise? The book of Proverbs provides a clear and resounding answer that is perhaps summed up well by Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
That seems simple enough; trust in the Lord and his wisdom, and he will bless. Fear him and follow his ways, and everything will turn out well. That theme is a persistent one in Proverbs. The righteous are lifted up with success and blessing, but the wicked will falter. Those who rely on God’s wisdom will stand firm.
Some of the wisdom in the book of Proverbs is fairly conventional and obvious. The truth that working hard generally leads to better outcomes is no surprise to anyone. The benefit of seeking advice from wise counselors is a matter of common sense. Yet, there is also a host of wisdom found in Proverbs that is not as overtly practical or generally accepted. For instance, Proverbs teaches us that it is better to be poor and have integrity than it is to be a rich person who is crooked (15:16; 19:1; 28:6). While this is not too difficult to accept for us as God’s people, this is not wise by the world’s standards; if it was, then the world would live this way. Yet, the world often pursues wealth and fame and status without giving much consideration at all to integrity. And we see many successful people who are devoid of righteous character. So is it really better to be poor and righteous? Is it truly better to trust in God?

Wisdom that is even more shocking and counterintuitive is offered in passages like Proverbs 20:22:
“Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.”
Doesn’t it just make good sense to get even with your enemies? To protect yourself from future harm by showing them that you mean business? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it fair and just to repay evil? Not according to Proverbs. Proverbs 25:21-22 takes this even further:
for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
Do not simply refrain from returning evil to enemies; rather, actually serve them and show them intentional kindness. Forgiveness and love is better than revenge. Certainly, that seems to be foolish on the surface. What if your enemy is deceiving you? What if he will take advantage of your kindness? This advice from Proverbs does not seem to be primed to help things go well for someone who follows it. It seems to actually empower enemies to do greater damage. What is wise about that?
Another radical teaching concerns humility. In the book of Proverbs, humility is the true way to honor and success:
“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,

This nugget of wisdom is particularly questionable, at least from a worldly standard. Who has ever gotten rich by being meek and serving? Who has ever preserved their life by lowering themselves? What about survival of the fittest? What about taking what is mine?
Does the world really work the way that Proverbs says that it does? Proverbs 19:22-23 tells us, “What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” However, life seems a little murkier than the black and white picture that the book sometimes presents because things don’t always seem to work out for the righteous. Those who fear the Lord do face harm. Most people seem to desire qualities besides steadfast love. The wicked prosper, the poor are abused, and the humble are trampled upon. Sometimes the bad guys win, and the poor person stays poor. What are we to do with Proverbs?
Although there are no specific Messianic prophecies or references to Jesus in Proverbs, I cannot help but think about him as I read through the wisdom provided in this book of Spirit- inspired literature. Jesus perfectly fits the description of the righteous man as portrayed in Proverbs. He turns from evil and love his enemies; he forgives and always clings to the truth. He is generous to the poor and speaks up for the weak. He works diligently and fears the Lord and walks in humility. Even so, Jesus was not a man of riches and life and honor. He was a man of sorrows without a place to lay his head. His integrity and steadfast love did not make things go well for him, and it did not make him desirable. Where did Jesus’ meekness and love of enemies and commitment to truth get him? It placed him on an instrument of torture, executed as a shameful criminal. In the eyes of the watching world, Jesus died a fool. The way of Proverbs did not end in success for him. He gained no riches or honor in this life.

Proverbs 16:1-8 reminds us, however, that our sovereign God is in total control even when the wicked make plans for evil and seem to be winning in the world:
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.”
The Lord can use even the wicked to establish his purposes. The evil will be punished and iniquity will be atoned for and conquered by steadfast love. Man may plan to thwart God’s wisdom, but God’s will shall prevail. Those who commit their work to the Lord will be established. The cross and the resurrection are the ultimate vindication of this principle. Jesus wholly devoted himself to the work of God and was exalted in power even when the plans of the wicked appeared to have triumphed. While his humility did not result in riches and honor and life on this earth, he was raised to greater riches and honor and glory in his resurrection. The righteousness of his indestructible life prevailed over wicked plans. The foolishness of his love of enemies and his sacrificial humility was shown to be wise beyond measure.
Indeed, Paul reminds us that the way of the cross is foolishness from the perspective of the world: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it
is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:18- 20).
Trusting God’s wisdom does not always result in vindication and success in this life, but it will surely bring riches and honor in the life to come. The way of Jesus is the true way of wisdom in this world: walking in integrity, pursuing humility and kindness, loving enemies, and serving the weak. So when the Bible tells us that the Lord will make our paths straight when we trust in him, that path leads straight to the cross. That may mean a shameful death or ridicule or poverty or intense suffering. That path may mean being displayed as a fool to the eyes of the world, but that path will also lead to life with Jesus, and it will end in eternal riches of his gracious glory beyond measure or imagination.
“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5)

Psalms: Blessed to Bless the Nations

The book of Psalms, the songbook of God’s people, bursts with strong emotions directed toward the Lord of all creation. Joy, lament, hope, desire, desperation, mourning, wonder, and a wide range of human attitudes and experiences in relation to God are on display. One of the central themes in the Psalms, though, is the desire of God’s people to be blessed. Over and over, we see the Psalmists cry out for blessing, for steadfast love, for mercy, and for the presence of God. There is a deep desire to be known and seen and blessed the Holy One of Israel.
We know that God does indeed bless his people richly. He bestows grace upon grace. His paternal love shines forth with a passion to give good gifts to his children. But why does he bless? What is the deepest foundation of his motivation to bless an unworthy people? And what should our motivations in asking blessings of God be? What should be the root of intentions in pleading for blessing?
Psalm 67 provides some answers. In the first two verses, the Psalmist eloquently expresses a desire for the people of Israel to be blessed by God:
“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” (Psalm 67:1-2)
The first verse echoes the Aaronic priestly blessing given in Numbers 6:24-26 that the High Priest would pronounce over the people of Israel. Surely, God’s people need his face to shine upon them. They need to see him in his glory and grace. They need his blessings and his bright presence leading them on. Yet, the request for blessing is not merely one rooted in selfish neediness. Psalm 67:2 reveals a deeper reason for wanting to be blessed—”that your way be known on the earth, your saving power among all nations.” This line reflects Israel’s ultimate purpose as God’s chosen people. In a special way, they were to be blessed by God in order to bless the nations around them. They were to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), serving as God’s representatives to the world. Through Israel, God’s way and his power to deliver were to be revealed. As God blessed them with his presence and grace, they were supposed to channel that out among the nations as a display of God’s character and holiness. When the nations looked at Israel, they were to see a glimpse of the beauty of the face of God.
This becomes even more evident as we continue reading in Psalm 67:
“Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!” (Psalm 67:3-7)
Does the Psalmist ask for blessing for Israel selfishly? No, his greater desire is that all the peoples know and praise God. He repeats it four times in just a few short verses. The writer here wants the nations to experience the sweet joy and gladness and fear of knowing God, and he wants God to receive the praise he deserves among all peoples in the earth. The nations cannot be truly happy unless they are praising God. All peoples and nations exist for the praise of the glorious God of Israel.

The Lord doesn’t bless us because we are good; he blesses us to make his goodness known in all the earth. When his face shines upon us and when he gives gracious gifts to us, it is for the purpose of reflecting his light to those around us. God’s blessings fill us up so that we have gracious gifts to give others in the name of God. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16 in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
This statement comes right after Jesus talks about what it looks like to be blessed by God. In light of those generous and abundant blessings, our mission is to bless others so that others may see and glorify the Father in heaven, who is the giver of every good thing.
If we only ask for blessings from God for our own sake, we are neglecting God’s glory, his global purposes in the world, and love for our neighbor. If blessings flow to our hand and stop there, we have not truly understood who God is. He is deserving of all admiration and praise, and his name should be made known among all. And if we are hiding that light or hoarding our blessings, then we portray a dangerous apathy in our hearts toward others. The nations and our neighbors cannot truly be glad and they can never have joy unless they know God and praise him. Thus, if we love God and love others, we will make him known. We will bless because he has blessed us.

Viewing blessing in this way and seeing the world in such a way should drastically change our perception of the gifts that God gives us each day. If the deepest desire of my heart is to praise God and see him praised by the whole world, the blessings of my food, my car, my house, my job, my opportunities, my talents, my money, my connections, and everything else become about fueling my part in God’s grand global mission. In all of the good things in my life, my eye is always on how this gift can be used to make God seen more clearly and worshipped more fully in the world. My aim is always that all the peoples of the earth praise God. My mission is the gladness of the entire world in God. God blesses us to bless the world so that his name is praised!
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

Job: God’s Presence—Burden or Blessing?

When sorrow strikes and tragedy occurs, the common response of many sufferers is to point out the seeming absence of God. If he was here, this never would have happened. If he had not forsaken me, surely this trial would not be pressing in on me. If only God was present! Where are you, Lord? Are you even real? Do you even care? Or, are you aloof, standing off in some faraway place, indifferent to the problems of your creation?
While this may be a natural reaction for those enduring difficult circumstances, one of the most well-known sufferers did not always necessarily feel this way as he was crying out to God. In fact, Job sometimes felt the exact opposite amidst his misery. Job loses his wealth, his children, and his health, yet in Job 7, he certainly does not feel forgotten by God. Notice what he says:
“I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him visit him every morning and test him every moment? How long will you not look away from me, nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit? If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind? Why have you made me your mark? Why have I become a burden to you? Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be” (Job 7:16-21).
What is Job’s problem here? Does he feel as if God is absent? No, rather describes a kind of entrapment, an imprisonment under the watchful eyes of God. For Job, God is too present

because he cannot escape his testing, and he cannot avoid his apparent judgment. In other words, why does God care so much about what we do that he must always be watching and testing us? If God is so big and powerful, doesn’t he have better things to do than to monitor little creatures like us? For Job, God’s presence is burdensome, and he feels like a burden to God as well. He can’t even swallow his own spit without God noticing. In Job’s mind, it seems as if some failure has placed him in the crosshairs of God’s testing, yet he still feels innocent and undeserving of such immense suffering. In verses 16 and 21, it is clear that Job would prefer death than all this attention. He just wants it to be over; he just wants to be left alone. Basically, Job thinks, “If I am such a burden to you God that you have to make me suffer so much, why don’t you just end my life?” Weighty despair reigns in the heart of Job. God’s presence has become too much. He’d prefer a God who is detached and distant.
What Job doesn’t realize, however, is that God is not punishing him. He is not taking cruel pleasure in watching his every move to see if he trips up. In fact, the reader knows what Job does not: God is delighting in his servant and is watching him with love and compassion. While Job never comes to understand the exact reasons why he suffers greatly, he does learn a valuable lesson about God that shifts his perspective on the ever-present, ever-watching nature of the Lord.
After long complaints, prayers, and arguments between Job and his friends, God finally enters into the scene and answers Job in a powerful whirlwind. Take note of some of the things the Lord proclaims to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?”
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22)
“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does? Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time when they give birth, when they crouch, bring forth their offspring, and are delivered of their young?” (Job 39:1-3)
“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?” (Job 39:26-27)
In these passages, God pointedly lets Job know that he sees and controls things in the universe that are quite beyond man’s ability and viewpoint. He laid the very foundations of the earth and knows every measurement of our cosmos. He controls the snow and all the forces of weather. He knows when each mountain goat gives birth, and it’s by his power alone that the hawk flies. And these are just a few examples among many others that the Lord lists. In this humbling encounter with God, what does Job learn?
First, this kind of cosmic tour reminds Job that he is not the center of the universe, and he’s not the ultimate center of God’s attention. While he may feel like he’s got a target on his back, the Lord reminds him of the millions of happenings in God’s good world that God is overseeing, controlling, and working in for his purposes. There’s more going on in the world than just what is happening to Job. In comparison to all that God is doing and has done, Job is quite small.
Secondly, Job is able to see that God has a much bigger perspective than he does. He has no clue why he is suffering and feels like it is a great injustice, but God sees the grander plan. Since God is present in all places at all times and sees all of his creation, he is a much better judge of what is right and wrong. Job cannot see the good that can come from his suffering, but the all-seeing God can. God is intimately aware of everything happening to Job and how all those things can be shaped and molded for a greater purpose. So while Job felt oppressed by God’s all-seeing eyes in Job 7, he comes to see that God’s continual presence is really the only hope for any help or meaning in our suffering. We need a God who understands. If he was indifferent or aloof, he would be no help to us.
Thirdly, Job comes to understand that God is sovereign over even the tiniest details of his world. Not one mountain goat gives birth without God’s sustaining and guiding hand. Not one ostrich roams about except by the Lord’s wisdom. Because God is deeply involved in every aspect of his creation, we can know that he is sovereign over all the details of our lives as well. He orders and runs his world in a beautiful way, so that provides us hope that he cares for us by his powerful hand. This is not burdensome and oppressive; this is good news for sufferers. God knows us and the events of our lives better than we do, and he is compassionate for us as creatures made in his image.
Jesus taught about these same ideas in his life and ministry. In Matthew 10:29-31, he says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Fear, worry, and anxiety can be driven out by the knowledge of our sovereign God. Because he sees and knows and cares about each sparrow, surely he is watching over each of us with love. He takes care of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, so we ought to know that he will provide for us, even in our suffering. The ever- present God is not a burden to us; he is a blessing. And in the face of Jesus Christ, who became physically present with humanity and suffered with us, we are forever reminded of a God who not only loves us enough to walk with us in our pain but who is powerful enough to work our suffering for good. Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord!