(1). The First Controversy of God with Job <38:1—40:5>
(a). God’s First Challenge to Job <38:1—40:2>
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” <38:1-3 (NIV); cf 13:3; 23:3-4; 31:37>. The Lord answers Job where he is in the centre of his storm facing the anguish of suffering with no human solution, just as He answers all who experience such stress today; loss of income, deteriorating health, marriage break-ups, and all such things that way heavily upon us; during such times as we exhaust all human reasoning and emerge with no answers to our problems. In such times when we question God’s actions, or what may appear to be His lack of action, we question our faith, and question if our prayers are being heard; such as we have seen in the many debates between Job, his three friends, and Elihu. God speaks to Job’s impoverished view of knowledge in respect to His ways – the result of human reasoning and perception of Job and his friends, challenging and commanding him to respond to His questioning.
God then presents a picture to Job of the wonders of the earth and sky <38:1-38>, the awesomeness of animal life <38:39-39:30>, with humbling questions to show Job’s insignificance in comparison to God. Where were you Job, when the foundations of the earth were placed? “Tell me, if you understand.” <38:4 (NIV)>; “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this.” <38:18 (NIV)>; do you Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar or Elihu, have any idea how it all came about? Can human reasoning solve the mystery? Neither Job nor any one else can really understand the work of God in creation, neither can we fully understand life in the animal kingdom; we cannot understand the ways of the lions, the ravens, the mountain goats, the wild donkeys and ox, the ostrich, the horse, the hawk or the eagle; many hours have been spent attempting to gain an insight into their behaviour and life but no complete understanding is evident. There is the addition of sarcasm from God saying to Job; “Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!” <38:21>; surely Job, you should know all this since you were there at the beginning of creation. Such is the greatness and knowledge of God and the insignificance of the knowledge of mankind, so God challenges Job, and any one else who questions His actions: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” <40:2 (NIV)>.
Why did God challenge Job rather than correct his affliction and difficulty in understanding, did Job need to be humbled? Before we can challenge what God has done or is doing, we first need to seek His counsel <1 Kings 22:5>, for God is Omniscient – all knowing – and we can never fully understand the way or why He functions <Isa.40:13>. Job, no doubt did so, but rather than wait for God’s response, he and his friends attempted to reason by human knowledge.
(b). Job’s First Answer to God <40:3-5>
“I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.” <40:4-5 (NIV)>. In contrast to all his responses to his friends, Job has a brief reply to God; “I am unworthy”; here, the Hebrew word for unworthy can also mean “small” or “insignificant” (NIV Study Bible); and is always the response of one who is exposed to the glory of God <cf. Gen.32:30; Ex.34:8; Isa.6:5; Acts 9:3-5, 7>. He further states that he spoke once – twice; or, that he could speak many times or numerous words, but could not answer God’s questions; “I have no answer”.