Job’s Positive Message: The Creation Motif that Changes Everything

lightning

What is the most depressing book of the Bible?  Most would say Job takes the cake, hands down.  Job lives a righteous life, but God still allows Satan to destroy his family, his belongings, and his health with such ferocity that Job wishes he could just die and be done with it.  And if that’s not bad enough, when Job asks God why this has been allowed to happen, the answer comes back: “Who are you to question Me?”

Most people find the book a little discouraging, honestly, because it doesn’t give a satisfying answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

But consider this:  perhaps that question wasn’t the purpose of this book at all!  Perhaps the book has a much greater message, more powerful and encouraging than we could ever imagine.

If you really examine the Book of Job, you’ll find a clear creation motif running throughout the entire book.[1]  This “creation theme” brings unity to the different portions of the book, tying the narrative and the later dialogues together.  And if you pay attention to this recurring creation motif, the book’s main idea begins to come into focus:  God is bigger than we can possibly imagine, and He is in control no matter how bad things seem to us.  He has always been in total control of things, and He always will be.

A little too idealistic, you say?  Take a look for yourself:

Creation Convinces Job that God is in Control

Job faced a dilemma.  When he observed nature, it was painfully obvious that God was in sovereign control over the fate of every living thing.  Job didn’t understand why God had allowed his suffering, but he didn’t question for a second that God was the One in charge.

Job appeals to nature itself to testify to his moral purity (31:8, 12, 38-40), and tells his friends to ask the animals, the birds, the fish, and even the earth itself, what has caused his suffering.  In Job 12:9-10, he says, “Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? The life of every living thing is in His hand.”  While Job struggles with why the Lord seems to be angry with Him, it is clear that he views creation as proof of God’s sovereignty.

Creation Convinces Job’s Friends that God is in Control

Job’s friends may disagree as to why Job is suffering, but they all agree wholeheartedly that God maintains sovereign control over the universe.  Each friend refers to creation to prove God’s greatness:

  • Eliphaz (4:9-11), Zophar (20:27-29), Bildad (22:15-18), and Elihu (36:26-37:24) all refer to nature as proof of God’s sovereign control over the world.
  • Elihu describes the way God manages the lightning and storms, concluding that He “does great things that we cannot comprehend” (37:5).
  • Eliphaz tells Job that if he will submit to God’s correction the wild animals would be at peace with him, because even the wildest of animals do God’s bidding (5:23).

Does our suffering mean that God has abused his power, then?  According to Elihu (37:23-24), the Almighty God “will not oppress justice and abundant righteousness, therefore men fear Him.”  Gregory W. Parsons argues that the use of the word fear in this passage means “reverential trust,” and that Elihu is saying that the idea that God is ultimately in charge should inspire us to honor God and trust Him completely.[2]

God Uses Creation to Prove that He is in Control

In his divine answer to Job’s questions, the LORD uses creation language to tell us a few things about the universe:

  • The World Doesn’t Revolve Around Man – In Job 38-41, God mentions many other parts of Creation, but is completely silent about humanity.  Scholars agree that this was a purposeful decision.  The marvelous creative activity of God reminds us “how puny man is in comparison to the power of God, the Creator of all,” lest we think too highly of ourselves.[3]
  • God is a Loving Father Who Nurtures & Cares for His Creation – Some would accuse God of being impersonal or unconcerned with what we’re going through.  God, however, uses procreation language to show that He cares for His creation as a mother cares for her children.  He describes giving birth to the sea and swaddling it in darkness (38:8-9), calls Himself the Father of rain and ice (38:28-29), and says He gives food to the ravens when they cry out to Him (38:41-39:4).
  • God’s Wild, Unpredictable Creation Brings Beauty and Excitement – The awful descriptions of the mighty Behemoth and Leviathan (40-41) are presented as examples of the beautiful handiwork of God.  We humans want life to be safe and predictable, but according to Pelham, the utopia we dream of would be nothing but a “straw world.” He says that “God’s world is wild and beautiful, whereas the world of Job and his friends is cramped and narrow.”[4]

Throughout these examples, the LORD makes His point:  if He can care for the vast, untamed universe, then He can certainly care for us.  Harris reminds us that “there is great comfort here,” since it means we are not alone and do not suffer according to blind chance, but live under the protective shadow of a Sovereign God.[5]

Job Gets Positive

After realizing the awesome power of God and His sovereign control and wisdom, Job repents in dust and ashes (42:1-6).  While at first Job questions God and His motives, he now says, “but now my eyes have seen You” (42:5).

Once we begin to see God for Who He really is, we’ll understand how puny our problems are compared to His vast, unsearchable wisdom and strength.  He has created a wild and beautiful world for us to enjoy (it would be pretty boring otherwise), and He watches over us as a Loving Father each and every moment of our lives.  Instead of questioning God, we’re left thanking Him for His protection and worshipping His greatness.   We no longer need an answer to our question about why bad things sometimes happen, because compared to the glory of God our problems are totally eclipsed – they simply don’t matter anymore.

I can’t think of any message more positive or uplifting!

Maybe the Book of Job isn’t so depressing after all.


[1] J. Gerald Janzen, “Creation and the Human Predicament in Job,” Ex Auditu: An International Journal of the Theological Interpretation of Scripture 3 (1987): 45-53.

[2] Gregory W. Parsons, “The Structure and Purpose of the Book of Job,” Bibliotheca Sacra 138:550 (1981): 147.

[3] R. Laird Harris, “The Doctrine of God in the Book of Job,” in Sitting With Job: Selected Studies on the Book of Job, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 168-69.

[4] Norman Habel, review of Contested Creations in the Book of Job: The-World-as-It-Ought-and-Ought-Not-to-Be, by Abigail Pelham, Society of Biblical Literature 12 (2012), 1-4.

[5] R. Laird Harris, “The Doctrine of God in the Book of Job,” in Sitting With Job: Selected Studies on the Book of Job, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 170.

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