One place where modern folks might find the book of Job quite helpful is in how the Lord responds to the questions of Job. It is popular these days to tell everybody that every question they have is a valid one, a good one. We are told there are no stupid questions. We are told that everybody has the right to be angry with god—an obvious falsehood, but not one opposed by nearly enough people.
But consider Job. This man suffered. He went through a hardship that he did not earn through open rebellion against the Lord. And he had questions. Job did not understand why God was doing what god was doing. The actions of God had hurt Job. And Job felt like he deserved an answer.
If the modern Christian wrote this book, I think he would be likely to depict God as a friendly psychologist, listening, nodding, validating Job’s feelings. Perhaps a modern author would even have God tell Job what was up, opening the curtain to give Job a well-deserved peek. But that is not what really happened.
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.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Job had questions for God. Job demanded answers. Job let us know that he would not be satisfied until he could get from the Lord the answers he sought.
God turned to Job, and his first two questions make clear how this is all going to go. God asks who in the world this man is. He is darkening counsel through words without knowledge. That is God telling us that, as Job speaks, he is lowering the IQ of the room. Job is speaking without knowledge. Thus, Job is muddying the waters and not shining the light of wisdom. Job is decrying the unfairness of God, but Job does not know enough about ultimate reality to speak.
Then, in the second question, God turns to Job, tells him to get ready, and then asks where Job was when God laid the foundation of the earth. Are you as old as the planet, Job? If you are not, then how could you possibly think you know enough about reality to begin to question the God who created the universe?
Think of something you know nothing about: cooking, carpentry, plumbing, physics, musical composition, etc. I’m sure that one of those categories will suffice. For illustrative purposes, let’s say you know nothing about plumbing. A plumber, an expert plumber, the kind of plumber that Mario would be uber-jealous of, sets up a new bathroom for you. Imagine that you look at his work, and then begin to scold him for having used what is, in your opinion, the wrong tool to tighten up a pipe fitting. You look at him and demand that he explain to you how he could possibly have chosen the particular wrench he did. Would you not expect the expert to look at you and say, “Where were you when I set up my plumbing business? Have you been trained?”
Your question to the imaginary plumber is infinitely less insulting than was Job’s question of the Lord. Job has no knowledge, none whatsoever, to qualify him to demand that God explain himself. And the point is that neither do we.
God is holy. God is infinite in his perfections and wisdom. You and I are sinners, finite in our understanding. We have no right to demand God answer to us. We have no right to sit in judgment over the Lord as if we could evaluate his decisions. God is God and we are not. And the book of Job reminds us of this foundational truth. Indeed, who do we think we are?