Finally, A Sight Worth Seeing

It takes a lot before we begin seeing God for who He is.

The things that blind us—our sin, our mindsets, our culture, and our religion—are like a burlap cocoon pulled taut over our eyes.

You’d think God would jump in and miraculously circumvent the problem.  That would be the expedient thing to do.

On the other hand, maybe not.

I’m reminded of a story I saw about a kid who helped a butterfly struggle out of its cocoon.  He wanted to use his “mighty power” to help the poor creature.  But the very friction of the struggle is necessary for the insect’s healthy development.  It stimulates the new wing structures, stretching and strengthening them for flight.  Because that necessary step was avoided, the wings remained shrunken and useless.  The butterfly was doomed for the rest of its life to crawl on the ground.

“Help” had hurt it.

God isn’t cruel. He simply knows our timing.  Job’s emergence from his own cocoon had come about through personal sufferings, difficult friends, and one acquaintance who had had a bit of authentic revelation to share with him.

Then the Lord showed up.  Not one minute sooner.

Still, He didn’t appear with kisses.

You see, during Job’s painful process he had worked himself into bitterness of soul.  That’s what happens when we rail against God.  It’s not like yelling at a pine stump.  Our anger at the Almighty can plunge us into an emotional swamp hard to escape.  If we’re not careful, God can end up on the same level of desirability for us as spoiled calf liver.

That’s why when God appears to Job in chapter 38, He mixes rebuke with rescue, exposure with encouragement.

1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind  and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

God then proceeds to challenge and correct according to what He is.  It will be a fine-tuning in light of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

And it’s effective.    That’s why we rarely see a sinner locked in a back-and-forth debate with God.  Nothing can stand up for very long in that kind of light.

First, God illumines a slice of His omniscience, simultaneously exposing Job’s poor, creaturely understanding of things.

38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
38:5 Who determined its measurements—surely you  know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
38:18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.
38:21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!
38:33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?

If you’re a person who likes to appeal to science and common sense as sources of final truth, you probably wouldn’t keep talking after this.  Everything we think we know about our universe comes from the calculations and opinions of other flawed human beings.

Job has a front row seat to the greatest divine display of his life.    It might have been the first time in a while since he’d felt like a grade-schooler.  This is what happens when omniscience confronts mortal pride and baseball card theology.

Next, God introduced a bit of His omnipresence.

38:16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?
38:17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
38:22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail…

If you tend to brag on your own experience—“been there, done that”—you might want to rethink using it as your trump card in an argument with God.   He only needs to ask a few questions before you realize you need to get out more.  Human experience is terribly limited.

God also demonstrates some of His omnipotence.

38:12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place,
38:31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?
38:32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,  or can you guide the Bear with its children?
38:33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?
38:34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a  flood of waters may cover you?
38:35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
38:39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40:9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder  with a voice like his?
40:10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor.
40:11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him.
40:12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.
40:13 Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below.
40:14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

Naturally, the answer to all the “Can you” questions is “No.”  The most accomplished classes of people in the world—the Noble Lariat, the genius, the philosopher, sage, and poet, who felt safe deriding God—must now hang their heads.  The sight of matchless power melts pride like a rancid stick of butter.

The time for big talk is over.

40:3 Then Job answered the LORD and said:
40:4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.
40:5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

Job asks no questions about the loss of his children, or why he has suffered catastrophic financial reversals.  He is no longer stuck in the caustic memory of three judgmental friends.  Gone are the loud, angry objections.

Glory has eclipsed everything.

Glory has at once humbled him, rebuked him, and rewarded him.

In the wake of Job’s experience, I’m reminded that there is a glory beyond this world.  Paul wrote of it:  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”  (Rom. 8:18).  Suffering and loss is never the end of the gospel.  The end of the gospel is the fully unveiled glory of Jesus Christ.

Lord, I don’t mind not understanding for a while,
And I don’t mind feeling small
When your glory manifests and proves every man a fool,
As long as I can be that happy fool who sees it.

 

Photo credit: “Job” by Bonnat

 

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