Pocket Theology and the Magnificent Whisper of God
Main point summary
Whether it be the realm of the dead, everything we can see in the created universe, or all of the chaos and power of evil; God is absolutely sovereign over all of them! Yet, God's displayed power in all of this is just a whisper from Him and merely the outskirts of His ways.
Pocket Theology and the Magnificent Whisper of God
Why is it that we have this deep-rooted desire to manage the unmanageable? Take a zoo for example. We take a wild creature like a lion and put it in a cage and then have people pay money to come and look at it. We take something that is dangerous and create an artificial environment in order for people to have an up close personal experience with it. We have this yearning for a three foot away encounter with a powerful creature knowing that under the right circumstances it could crush you in an instant (Daniel 6:24). What if I told you that we as Christians at times also try to do this with God? Whether we realize it or not, there are times in our lives that we try to put God into a box. Just like the lion in a cage, we at times desperately try to contain Him into our own little theological structures so that we can try to get a handle on Him. Yet, when we really think about it, we know that this impossible. It reminds me of that scene in C.S. Lewis's book The Last Battle which is the final book in his Chronicles of Narni a. King Tirian is attempting to explain to the Dwarfs that Aslan is not a myth and that he is actually a real lion - The Great Lion. The Dwarfs want nothing to do with King Tiran's "made up story" about Aslan because they had already been fooled once by the Ape's imitation of the fake Aslan. One of the Dwarfs named Griffle says to the king, " And you have a better imitation I suppose! No thanks we have been fooled once and we are not going to be fooled again ." " I have not, " said Tirian angrily, " I serve the real Aslan ." " Where's he? Who's he? Show him to us !" said several Dwarfs. " Do you think I keep him in my wallet, fools ?" said Tirian. " Who am I that I could make Aslan appear at my bidding? He's not a tame lion ." Just as C.S Lewis's Aslan could not be contained in a cage neither can the great Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). How often do we unintentionally make the mistake of thinking we can just pull God out of our wallets on a whim to help us or to help others make complete sense of what we/they are going through. How often do we unintentionally take comfort in knowing that God is packaged neatly fitting nicely in our back pockets? Unmanagebale Storms of Life As we begin to look more closely at the the life of Job I think there is one thing that we and Job have in common. The common thread is the reality that pain and suffering always seem to come at the most inopportune times and always seems to blow into our lives without any kind of warning. Everything in life is smooth sailing then out of nowhere the storm hits - and sometimes hits hard? All of a sudden life is turned upside down and you feel like you don't know which way is up. If you are at all familiar with the book of Job you are well aware of the hurricane of a storm that blew into his life (Job 1:18-19). In fact, in the very first chapter we see that Job weathered a couple of different storms. One storm took away all of his children and possessions while the other storm took his health. In all of this, the reader is shown that God in his sovereignty allowed Job to go through the storm. Processing the Pain When the storms of life hit us, like Job we often find ourselves trying to process the pain and suffering we have just experienced. Most of the time we try to wrap our heads around what has just happened trying to make sense of it all. This was Job's experience. If we read up through Job 26 we get a vivid picture of how Job is trying to process everything that has just happened in his life. How does one process something of this magnitude? How does one even begin to make sense when the spiritual hurricane of death and destruction wipes out everything you have in your life and leaves you only able to lick your wounds (Job 2:7-8)? Yet in all of this we see a glimmer of hope. Glimmer of Hope Shattered Three of Jobs closest friends ( Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) get word of what has happened to him. And as any good friend would do, all three of them decide to visit Job to show him "sympathy and comfort" (Job 2:11-13). However, what happens in the next 24 chapters leaves Job even more lonely. The reader comes to realize that his closest friends are not really good friends at all. Instead of providing hope, wisdom, and comfort they end up feeding him theological truths that are detached from a love for their neighbor and friend. All three of Job's friends end up being what Job describes as miserable comforters (Job 16:2). Job desperately wants his friends to see how shallow and hollow their wisdom is. He eventually wants them to see that in their wisdom they have actually tamed God. He wants them to see that they have placed him in their back pocket and have thrown out sterile theological truths in hopes that he (Job) would come around to their point of view and understanding of God. Job's three friends pull out one pocketed theological discourse after another in an attempt to get Job to come to his senses. The Problem and its Potential Solution Job knows that he has a problem. His friends say that it is his sin that is the root cause of his suffering. However what really distresses Job in all of this is that he so firmly believes that he is in the right ( Job 9:15 ). Furthermore, we know that Job is in the right because we are told so in Job 1:1 , Job 1:8 , and Job 2:3 . Job knows he is a sinner. He doesn't deny that fact ( Job 9:1-3 ). However he believes that something deeper is happening. Shaft of Light In the midst of all of his pain and and suffering he sees a shaft of light piercing the darkness. This shaft of light shines forth from the heavenly courtroom. Job 9:32-35 For he (God) is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself. It is here where Job realizes that maybe, just maybe, if there was someone who could come between he and God and arbitrate for him then he might have a chance to meet God face-to-face in the heavenly courtroom. If there was just someone who could lay his hand on both he and God, then maybe he could stand before God and plead his case. This shaft of light not only gives hope but it also illuminates another problem. How can mortal sinful man even stand a chance at having a fair trial before a holy and transcendent God? He realizes that he doesn't have a chance in the universe to stand face-to-face with God and argue his case. Job's friends, on the other hand, believe that he is crazy to think such a thought. It is in these last words of Bildad to Job where Bildad "sets Job straight" with his "pocketed wisdom" and says, Job 25:4-6 " How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not pure in his eyes; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm !” It is here in Job 26 where we see Job begin to take up his final discourse aimed directly at his friends and what he says about God is absolutely stunning! Job's Sarcastic Response Job 26:2-4 “ How you have helped him who has no power! How you have saved the arm that has no strength! How you have counseled him who has no wisdom, and plentifully declared sound knowledge! With whose help have you uttered words, and whose breath has come out from you? " Job is finally fed up with their "pocketed wisdom" and he lets his friends know it. "My dear friends, please let me know where your great and wonderful wisdom has come from? I've just got to have more of it! My life wouldn't be complete apart from it! I've gone through this difficult period in my life and you have been so helpful!" Releasing the Lion In verse 5-13 Job takes his three friends to task by unleashing the sovereignty of God over everything TO INCLUDE all evil and its resulting disorder. Just take a moment to read these verses and see how Job begins to release their tamed lion (not that God's needs releasing but you know what I mean). Job begins to understand that God is sovereign over all of the evil and the chaos and suffering it has brought into his life. Then we read of one of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture. God's Sovereign Whisper Job 26:14 " Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand ?" Job concedes that even though everything he just said was true about God, nevertheless there is something even greater about him that not even he can fully comprehend. Job says that what he knows about God and what is displayed in his creation (seen and unseen) are just tiny whispers compared to the thunder of his power. They are only the outskirts and fringes of his power and ways . That should give us all goosebumps! Deeper Wisdom Every time I read Job 26:14 and meditate on this deeper wisdom and power of God I cannot help but be reminded of that wonderful scene in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . Towards the end of the book, there is this powerful scene that takes place after Susan and Lucy had been crying over the death of Aslan who died in Edmund's stead. They had just witnessed the White Witch and her minions humiliate, shame and kill the Great Lion. Then in midst their pain and sorrow something magnificent happens. When Susan and Lucy finally see the Great Lion alive again that two young girls ask what this all means. C.S. Lewis writes "It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward." Job has confidently declared that there is a deeper wisdom and power that we simply cannot completely wrap our minds around. As Job's three friends attempted to contain God into their tiny boxes of wisdom, Job completely goes the opposite direction. The theology of Job's three friends is devoid of a power to save sinful man and does not confess God's sovereignty over all forces of evil. To be honest with you, I don't know how much Job understood about the future grace of God that would be extended to him through Jesus Christ. However, for us, living on this side of the cross, we can see it as clear as day. What was once a shaft of light has now become the radiant glory of God spilling over into every nook and cranny of the universe. We can see with clarity that Job did indeed have a Mediator - the Mediator between God and man - Jesus Christ ( 1 Timothy 2:5-6) . Holding on to God's Magnificent Whisper Job's theology wasn't a pocketed theology. It wasn't a perfect theology (Job 9:21-24) but it certainly wasn't a caged one. He held on to the hope of the power of God's magnificent whisper. He clung for dear life on the fringes of God's ways knowing deep within his soul that there was a wisdom far deeper than even he could comprehend. Even though Job could only see in a mirror dimly, we do know as we look back on his life from this side of the cross that he would one day meet the Great Lion of the Tribe of Judah face-to-face. He would meet The Man, his Mediator who would place one hand on his (Job's) shoulder and one hand on his (Jesus') Father (Job 9:33) bridging the gap between sinful man and holy God. One day Job would eventually learn about an even greater spiritual hurricane of suffering that his Mediator would take in his stead. A Mediator that would take the beating of the rod that Job justifiably deserved. It would be the thunder of the rod on the back of Christ (Isaiah 53:10) that would shake the universe (Matthew 27:50-51) and make it possible for Job to stand in the presence of God without any fear or dread (Job 9:34-35). Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Then Job answered and said:
Then Job answered Bildad (this time cynically) for the third and final time and said the following:
“How you have x helped him who has no power!
I'm so glad that you who are so powerful are able to help someone so weak such as me!
How you have saved y the arm that has no strength!
You are so strong that you have saved someone so weak such as me!
How you have z counseled him who has no wisdom,
You have so much wisdom (as opposed to me) that you have been able to provide me with advice,
and plentifully declared sound knowledge!
and you have great quantities of unimpaired life experience!
With whose help have you uttered words,
I am so grateful for this wisdom and knowledge that I have to know where it came from,
and whose breath a has come out from you?
and exactly who was the person that gave you such saving and comforting wisdom? Who was the person who gave you such marvelous words of wisdom?
The b dead tremble under the waters and their inhabitants.
Bildad, let me tell you something about the source of true wisdom. True wisdom, unlike yours, comes from the sovereignty of God. Let me start unpacking this by telling you about God's sovereignty over creation and I will start with the dead. Even the dead shake involuntarily before God.
Sheol is c naked before God, 1
The place of the dead is like a person without clothes before God. He sees it all.
and d Abaddon has no covering.
and in fact the angel of the bottomless pit is seen and naked before God. Not even the realm of the dead is out of the sovereign control of God.
He e stretches out the north over f the void
Now that you have seen that God is sovereign over everything below, let me tell you something about His sovereignty over everything in the heavens above. God stretches the heavens over the earth
and hangs the earth on nothing.
in fact He suspends the earth on absolutely nothing.
He g binds up the waters in his thick clouds,
In fact the weather is not even random. God amazingly stores up all of that water in the clouds
and the cloud is not split open under them.
and somehow the clouds do not let loose the rain apart from the command of God.
He covers the face of the full moon 1
He is sovereign over the moon
and h spreads over it his cloud.
and when you can see it and when you cannot see it.
He has inscribed i a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.
He has set a boundary at the horizon. When you look out over the waters and see a divide between the water and the sky, know that God is their Creator and is sovereign over all of this.
j The pillars of heaven tremble
The mountains shake
and are astounded at his k rebuke.
and are shocked at his admonishment.
By his power he l stilled the sea;
Bildad, God is even sovereign over all evil and chaos. By His power he stilled the sea which represents evil and chaos;
by his understanding he shattered m Rahab.
by his understanding he broke into many pieces the fleeing serpent which also represents evil and chaos.
n By his wind the heavens were made fair;
By his breath he makes order out of chaos and evil;
his hand pierced o the fleeing serpent.
his hand he destroys the evil fleeing serpent.
Behold, these are but the outskirts of his p ways,
Bildad observe this, that everything I have just told you are only the fringes of his ways and power,
and how small q a whisper do we hear of him!
and this breath of God is merely a tiny whisper we hear from him!
But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Moreover, this great and awesome deeper wisdom and power nobody can fully understand!