You’ve Heard of the Patience of Job

By Jason Jackson

“Cry louder … maybe he is in deep thought; maybe he has excused himself; perhaps he is out of town; perchance he is asleep and must be awakened.” Accordingly, Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal. They cried from the morning to the middle of the afternoon in a frenzied display of paganism. The inspired narrative concludes, “But there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention” (1 Kgs. 18:29, ESV).

The reason is obvious. No one answered because no one was there. Baal was a carnal substitute for the true God —simply imaginary. Similarly, Paul prodded the idolatrous minds in Athens when he said, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man” (Acts 17:24).

Look around. Take a contemplative walk through heaven and earth, and the only reasonable conclusion is that these creations are the result of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20). Such was the experience of Job. God led him through an intensive course (Job 38-41) in “Lord of heaven and earth,” in which various features and creatures of the cosmos illustrated that “God is God” (Smick, 1036).

It was not, however, that Job doubted the existence of God. He simply wondered, and more than wondered: “What is God doing?” He knew intuitively, as we know from the historical background of Job 1, that he was not guilty of some secret, heinous sin. His three “comforters” were convinced otherwise. Yet Job was suffering beyond description, having buried his children in a day, lost his wealth, and suffered months of physical pain and humiliation.

Is God arbitrary? Is he in control? Is he amused? “Out of the storm” comes an emphatic declaration: the God of Job lives and cares for his servant (Job 38:1ff). It is Job who needs instruction — not God.

As far as we know, Job was never told the reason he suffered (i.e., Job 1). Actually, he did not need the information. If he could simply appreciate that the Creator is all-powerful and all-wise, he could rely on him no matter what. God has not left himself without witness, Paul would say (Acts 14:17). The most important questions about the nature and love of God are answered by listening to the testimonies of creation and revelation.

The biography of Job is really the biography of every man, for we do not always know the explicit reasons for our suffering. We do not “see” as the Moral Governor of the Universe “sees.” We can, however, rely upon the Lord of heaven and earth. He is our Creator and our Redeemer. He is in control and does not operate capriciously. Moreover, life and immortality have been brought to light for you and me through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10; cf. Rom. 5:8).

It was not for Job’s benefit alone, but it was for ours also, that God led the man from Uz through the humbling interrogation (Job 38-41). We, like Job, can lose sight of “who God is” while suffering. But when we encounter God in the world and in the word, we are reassured that God is the powerful Creator, the philanthropic Sustainer, and the perfect Ruler.

God, the Powerful Creator

God began the enlightening interrogatives with one of the most biting questions: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4). The Lord followed with a jabbing challenge: “Tell me, if you have understanding” (v. 4; cf. v. 21).

Job, who purported to have such insight at times, was asked, “Who determined its measurements —surely you know!” (v. 5). Like a massive building project, “On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone?” (v. 6). God alone — the powerful Creator — knows the intricacies behind such questions.

He introduced the subject matter for the Job’s course with this implicit charge: “You do not know the most basic facts about dirt (i.e., the earth). You are hardly qualified, therefore, to judge what happens on top of it.”

As the Creator, he controls the sea. He determined how far it can intrude upon the land, for the ocean is as a baby in the hands of its Maker (vv. 8-11).

God, the Philanthropic Sustainer

As the sun rises and sets, God sustains the created order with a loving interest for its inhabitants (vv. 12-15). The Lord invited Job to consider the morning. It takes hold of the earth like a skirt, and the wicked are shaken out of it. As the features of the earth take form and color in the morning sun, so God supplies a providential restraint on the wicked by design.

Jehovah asked Job, with a view towards the value of the morning, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began?” (Job 38:12). God was saying: “Job, before you were born, I caused the dawn to know its place. And after you were born, you surely didn’t take my place.” Robert Alden summarized: “Those are God’s responsibilities and prerogatives. So far he has never failed” (373).

The Creator inquired concerning the “depth” of Job’s knowledge. “Have you entered … walked … seen … comprehended …?” (vv. 16-18). “No. You have not walked the recesses of the deep, nor have you seen the gates of death. You do not comprehend the expanse of the earth — do you? If you do, tell me all about it.” These were more unanswerable questions for Job.

God enlightened him by considering light and darkness (vv. 20-21). They were represented as having homes. In the morning, light appears to come from somewhere. “Where does it come from, Job?” The Lord chided the patriarch, “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (v. 21).

“The suggestion that Job surely knew the answers to all these questions was God’s way of strongly remonstrating Job—because he presumed to question God’s governing of the universe, when in reality he could not answer even one of the questions” (Zuck, 168).

The Lord rehearsed some facts about weather with Job: snow, hail, lightning, wind, flash floods, rain, and ice (vv. 22-30). In consideration of the source of the storm, its path, and its effects, God interrogated his servant, “Have you been to the ‘storm factory’? Who fashions all the forms of precipitation?”

God further reflected, “Who made the ordinances of the heavens?” (vv. 31-33). It is the Almighty who holds the constellations in perfect order.

By an examination of other meteorological phenomena (vv. 34-38), the Lord of Hosts informed the high-minded that all of heaven and earth are within the divine administration. “From remote constellations to the day-by-day changes in the weather, it is all God’s doing. How, why, when, and where are questions subordinate to who. In dozens of ways God was saying, ‘I, Job, not you’” (Alden, 379).

The Lord created and controls the inanimate, and he likewise cares for the living. By taking into account the feeding of the great and the small (38:39-41); the procreation of the unattended (39:1-4); the freedom and survival of the wild donkey (39:5-8); the independence and strength of the wild ox (39:9-12); the humorous and perplexing behavior of the ostrich (39:13-18); the power and courage of the war horse (39:19-25); the majestic nature of soaring fowl (39:26-30); the Lord, in pictures, rendered intelligible what Job so desperately needed to know — God is the philanthropic Sustainer. In this way, the loving Creator clarified for Job, and every man, that the magnanimous nature of God is discernable, even in all of creation.

God, the Perfect Ruler

Job was speechless (40:4-5). He said that he would not speak anymore. He had more to learn, however, so God continued.

The Lord of all creation summoned Job to accept the top position for earth’s “Department of Justice.” He asked if Job had the divine power needed to do the job (40:9). He bided him to put on his regal array and “pour out the overflowings” of his anger (vv. 10-11). He suggested that Job, if he had the ability, could cause the wicked to be helpless and humiliated by a glance — judged and punished. These verses (vv. 7-13) prepared Job to consider the thought of verse 14. “Can you save yourself?”

Then God paraded two foreboding creatures of dinosauric proportions before the mind of Job — Behemoth and Leviathan (40:15-24; 41:1-34).

Behemoth was a herbivorous beast, requiring a huge amount of food (vv. 15, 20). He possessed tremendous abdominal strength, having a tail like a cedar (vv. 16-18). He was “the first of the works of God,” which indicated his size and power, not the chronology of his creation. He stood in the river when it was turbulent and deep (v. 23), as a playful child wades in an ankle-deep kiddie-pool. When the volume and velocity of flooding rivers can sweep away a 6,000-pound truck, one hardly thinks a 3-ton hippo is the best description for Behemoth (See: “Behold, Behemoth!”).

Leviathan was not a big-game animal, for pursuing him was unthinkable. God pressed the point with Job. “Does Leviathan plead with you? Does he speak softly to you? Will he bargain with you? Can you play with him, or make him a pet for your little ones?” No one dreamed of stirring him up. Even the sight of the dragon-like, serpent-like Leviathan petrified men (41:9). Yet he was only a creature. “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine,” the Lord affirmed (v. 11).

“The Lord’s point in providing this description is simply this: If man cannot contest successfully with the leviathan, he surely cannot stand against me (vv. 10-11), and that includes you, Job” (Jackson, 3).

By these grand object lessons, God focused the issue. “Does he [Job] have to argue that Yahweh is guilty of governing the world unjustly in order to prove his own innocence?” (Hartley, 534). Job’s knowledge was shown to be minute, and his power, feeble. God knows all, and there is nothing that is more powerful than he is. Since the dawn of mankind, the Creator has been governing by his omnipotent hand with a genuine concern for man. Nothing that occurs on the face of his earth — not even human suffering — is irreconcilable with his benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient nature.

Job, the Persevering Man

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job?” He endured, and the Patriarch became the greatest object lesson of the narrative. He now serves world-over as an example of perseverance despite limited knowledge. But when that knowledge is, “The Lord is compassionate and merciful,” it is enough (cf. Jas. 5:11; 2 Cor. 12:9).

Sources/Footnotes
  • Alden, Robert L. 1993. “Job.” The New American Bible Commentary. Vol. 11. Broadman & Holeman Publishers.
  • Hartley, John E. 1988. “The Book of Job.” The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Jackson, Wayne. 2002. “Job’s ‘Final Exam.’” Christian Courier. Vol. 38: 1-3.
  • Smick, Elmer B. 1988. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 4. Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988.
  • Zuck, Roy. 1978. Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Job. Chicago, IL: Moody.