God Is God and I Am Not
Topic: Expository Passage: Job 40-41
I imagine that at some point we have all enjoyed watching a friend get in trouble. Maybe as a kid you were at your buddy’s house, and both of you were in a goofy mood. You get a little too crazy, and, crash, down goes a lamp. Your friend’s mom storms in, grabs him by the collar, and lets him have it. You’re in the background having a blast watching him get in trouble.
But it’s not so fun you’re the one in the crosshairs. You can probably remember a time when a parent, teacher, coach, or employer decided to make an example you and called out your stupidity in front of everyone. It’s awkward, you’re ashamed and embarrassed, and you just want crawl in a crack.
Imagine how Job feels in chapters 38–41. He has boldly claimed that God has mistreated him and has demanded that God give him justice. Then God shows in a frightening whirlwind to declare his greatness and Job’s weakness. Then God hits Job with wave after wave of questions in order to put Job in his place. Ouch!!
Last week, we finished God’s first speech in Job 38–39. God begins to humble Job by highlighting his wisdom and power through his orderly design of the earth, moon, sun, and stars. Last week we saw how God demonstrated his sovereignty and care by creating the animals with their unique gifts and by watching over them and meeting their needs.
It’s quite a speech. By the end, Job is feeling pretty small and pretty embarrassed. He’s ready to repent and move on. But God’s not done, so Job has to strap in for round #2 in Job 40–41. In these chapters, God continues to pound the most foundational truth in all the world—God’s supreme power and glory.
God understood that more than Job needed to know the reason for his suffering, he needed to know who God is and that he is trustworthy. The same is true for us. When I see God rightly, everything comes into focus. God begins in 40:1–14 by arguing…
I. We have no authority to question God (40:1–14).
In these verses, God and Job have a short conversation, before God offers a couple more examples of his greatness from creation. First…
God rebukes Job for correcting God (vv. 1–5). Verse 2 gives an important window into why God addresses Job as he does (read). Remember that Job is suffering unimaginable pain and grief, but he knows nothing of God’s conversation with Satan in Job 1, and he has no idea why any of it is happening. It all seems incredibly unjust. Therefore, most of the book is a record of Job and his friends grappling with the ways of God. Job has said some great things, but he has also claimed that God is treating him unjustly, and he has demanded an explanation.
Therefore, when God speaks, Job, his friends, and all of us are eagerly anticipating an explanation. We all want to know why this is happening. But surprisingly, God instead launches into a sharp discourse on his glory. He doesn’t say anything about why Job is suffering.
The reason is here in v. 2. Job has offended God by attempting to “contend with the Almighty” and by believing he has the authority to “rebuke God.”
So, we may look at Job’s speeches and be fairly impressed with his faith and integrity. And to be fair Job has done pretty well. But he has repeatedly set himself up as an equal to God’s wisdom and authority, and God will have none of it. He says that it is absurd that the creature would argue with the Creator and rebuke God.
That’s so important, because all of us like to think that we are wise and that God must answer to us. We try to use God to pursue our agenda, and we bend his character and his will to fit what we want. But God is here to say, “I’m God, and you are my creation. I make the rules, and you submit to them. You answer to me, not me to you.”
That may sound harsh, but the most loving thing God can do is to tell us the truth and to help us rightly see him and rightly see ourselves. Thankfully, Job gets it (vv. 4–5). These are some beautiful words. But God wants to drive this spirit of humility even deeper. In vv. 6–14, God declares that…
Man has no authority to make demands of God (vv. 6–14). Despite Job’s confession, God’s stern tone continues. In v. 7, he challenges Job to put on his “big-boy pants” so that God can question him.
Then in vv. 8–9, God asks some foundational questions regarding man’s relationship to God. He asks, “Do you have the right to ‘annul my judgment?’ ‘Would you condemn Me?’” It’s absurd, but people do it all the time. How many people out there have grown bitter against God, because they are angry at his purposes? Or how many times have you heard someone say something like, “I could never believe in a God who would condemn people to hell.” Or, “I could never believe in a God who chooses only some for salvation.” We do this all the time.
But why is it so offensive to God? The reason is that these challenges are supremely arrogant, because we don’t have any authority to challenge God. So, in v. 9, God asks, “Have you an arm…” The arm is a sign of strength, so God is saying, “You don’t have the strength to challenge me.”
Then God gets really sarcastic in vv. 10–13. In v. 10, he says, “Hey Job, if you want to challenge me, then why don’t you put on your royal garments and make your stand before me. And if you such a great king, (v. 11 says), ‘Disperse the rage of your wrath; Look on everyone who is proud and humble him.’” Verse 12 adds, “Why don’t you ‘Tread down the wicked in their place.’ If you are such a great king and you have everything figured out, then why don’t you fix all the injustices you say I ignore.”
Then God says in v. 14, “Job, if you have power and authority to do all these things, ‘Then I will also…’” This verse is very important, not just for Job, but for every question and challenge we would pose to God. God says, “I will submit to your questions and critiques only when your power equals mine.” When is that happening? Never.
The Apostle Paul perfectly captured God’s point, when he said in Romans 9:20–21, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”
We don’t like that. But it’s true. God has absolute authority and freedom to do with us whatever best accomplishes his purpose.
And let me emphasize that we will only enjoy rest and peace when we embrace this reality. You will be frustrated and anxious as long as you try to be the center of your universe and to push your purposes on God. But when you “Take (Jesus’) yoke upon you and learn from (him)…you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29).” This is so crucial that God continues to drive it home in vv. 15–24, which declare that…
II. God alone controls behemoth (40:15–24).
Some of you have probably been waiting since the beginning of this series to discuss what behemoth is in Job 40 and leviathan in Job 41?
It’s a fascinating question, because God is clearly describing 2 incredible creatures, but neither description perfectly fits any animal that is alive today. As a result, there are several popular views of what these animals are.
The most common evangelical view is that behemoth is a hippopotamus (or elephant), and leviathan is a crocodile. But the problem is that several of God’s descriptions don’t fit these animals. For example, 40:17 says that behemoth “moves his tail like a cedar,” but hippos and elephants have little tails. There are similar problems with saying leviathan is a crocodile. Leviathan is pretty clearly a sea creature, but crocodiles live in rivers, and they simply aren’t as magnificent as what God describes leviathan to be.
Because of this, liberal commentators normally claim behemoth and leviathan are mythological creatures such as dragons and sea monsters that never really existed except in fanciful tales. However, God clearly assumes that these creatures are real, and he clearly states that he made them (40:15, 19). Therefore, we have to dismiss this view.
As such, I think the best view is that behemoth and leviathan are creatures which are now extinct. Some young-earth creationists actually believe that behemoth was a brontosaurus, a massive plant-eating dinosaur and that leviathan was some kind of sea-dwelling reptile. These animals were still around, when Job was alive or stories of them were still being told. I certainly think that’s possible, and I think it’s also possible that God is describing some other extinct animals that we know nothing about.
It’s hard to know exactly what behemoth and leviathan were, but regardless God’s basic point is very clear. God describes behemoth as the most powerful creature on land. Verse 16 says he has powerful hips and stomach muscles. Verse 17 says he swings his tail like a cedar beam. And v. 18 says, “His bones…” Verse 23 says that he can wade through a raging river, and stand firm, and v. 24 says that no one can capture him. Whatever behemoth is, he is a powerful, impressive creature.
And in v. 19 God makes his central point regarding behemoth (read). Behemoth is a powerful creature. He is “first of the ways of God,” but he is nothing in comparison to God. “Only He who made him can bring near his sword.” God easily controls even behemoth.
So, God is making a strong point to Job that, “I alone am in control. I alone am sovereign. And Job, if you can’t control behemoth, then what makes you think you can rule the world and execute justice like I can? And if you are not in control, then why would I have to answer to you?” God’s absolute power means he does not have to explain his ways to us.
Now, maybe you find that unsatisfying. Doesn’t God owe Job a better answer for why he has allowed him to suffer than, “I don’t have to explain myself because I’m more powerful”?
We have a hard time with that, because corrupt human powers have conditioned us to distrust power and demand accountability. Maybe you’ve heard the line, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So, we wonder if God is truly being cruel, and our society has conditioned us to believe it is virtuous to demand that God be held accountable.
But of course, the problem with that thinking is that God is not a greedy billionaire mogul or a power-hungry politician. Rather, righteousness is one of God’s defining attributes. Psalm 145:17 states, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works.”
Yes, we don’t always understand how God’s righteousness and grace intersect with evil and suffering, but that doesn’t mean that even the darkest parts of God’s purpose are unrighteous or cruel. It simply means that we don’t understand, because God is infinite, and we are small. God says in Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” This is a crucial point, which God continues to drive home in Job 41, where he states…
III. God alone controls leviathan (Job 41).
As I already noted, it’s impossible to know for certain what animal God is describing, but whatever it is, it is a powerful, intimidating creature. Sure, it seems to have some similarities to a crocodile, but it appears to be on an entirely different scale.
Just as God describes behemoth as the king of land animals, he now describes leviathan as the king of sea creatures. Psalm 104:25–26 support this idea when they state, “This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great. There the ships sail about; there is that Leviathan which You have made to play there.”
Leviathan clearly lives in the sea, but it seems to be some kind of reptile. Verse 30 seems to indicate that he is capable of coming out of the water. As well, v. 12 says that he has “limbs,” and v. 22 says he has a “neck.” And notice vv. 15–16. His armor is so strong that notice that human weapons are impotent against it (vv. 26–29). The part that is a bit of a head scratcher is vv. 18–20, where God seems to describe leviathan as able to exhale fire. Those who believe this is a mythological beast say, “See, this just another tale of fire-breathing dragons with no basis in reality.”
In response it’s very possible that God is simply using poetic license to describe leviathan spraying water, which looks like fire when the sunlight hits it a certain way. I think it’s also possible that we should take these verses more literally. For example, there are beetles alive today that are capable of ejecting a hot chemical spray that burns predators. There’s no reason to believe that leviathan could not have had a similar capability.
It’s kind of fun to imagine what this creature was, but we must make sure that we don’t miss God’s main point. Specifically, throughout Job 41, God mercilessly drives home the fact that Job cannot control leviathan.
Notice all the sarcastic questions that begin the chapter (vv. 1–2). God pictures Job as out in a boat with his fishing pole. Leviathan is the ultimate big one, but even if Job hooked him, there’s no way he’s going to reel him in.
Then in vv. 3–4, God asks if leviathan would ever beg for mercy from Job or try to make a peace treaty with him. Yeah right! Leviathan doesn’t fear Job. Of course, we already saw in vv. 26–29 how human weapons were useless against this powerful, strong creature. Verse 27 says, “He regards…”
As a result, notice the conclusion in vv. 33–34. For as powerful and wise as Job and his friends like to think they are, God says, “You don’t rule leviathan, behemoth, or (as we saw last week), even smaller creatures like the wild donkey or the hawk.”
So, what is God’s point? The answer is in vv. 10–11. In other words, “Job, if you can’t stand up to leviathan, then what makes you think you can stand up to me? Job, I don’t owe you anything, because you and everything else in the universe belongs to me. I made you.” God uses leviathan’s power to declare his infinite power and to put Job in his place. Therefore, I’d like to pull all of this together into 3 responses we should have to these 2 chapters.
Acknowledge God’s authority as creator. God is the potter, and I am the clay. And until I truly embrace this reality, I will never see myself, God, or the world around me correctly. And I will never enjoy the peace and rest that comes with absolute confidence in the Lord.
That’s so important, because our humanistic tendency is to look at these chapters as harsh and rude. But God knows that even for someone suffering like Job, there is no greater need than to see God for who he truly is. Job needed to see God more than he needed to be coddled. So see God in all of his power, glory, and knowledge. Trust his righteousness and justice. And then embrace the fact that he is the potter, and you are the clay. This reality needs to result in a 2nd response for some.
Receive Christ as Lord and Savior. So many people today view religion as nothing more than a helpful tool to live a better life or a ticket to eternity in heaven. But if God is Creator and Lord, then the gospel is not just a great offer that God REALLY hopes you will accept; it is an authoritative command to repent. In fact, that’s what it is. Acts 17:30–31 state, in light of the fact that God is Creator and Lord, “God…now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world.”
Maybe you have never truly come to grips with the fact that God is your Creator and someday he will judge you for your deeds. You are accountable. But you don’t have to face the judgment you deserve, because Christ already bore God’s judgment on the cross, and he can be your Savior if you repent of your sins to him and receive his gift of salvation. If you’ve never done that, I hope you will do so today. If you are a Christian a 3rd response is…
Embrace God’s purpose. Like Job and his friends, we all naturally want to be able to control what our lives will be. We don’t want to be clay; we want to be the potter, because we aren’t quite sure that we can trust the Lord. So, even as we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, let’s also remember his righteousness and grace.
Again, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28–30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” We have no reason to fear the purpose of God, so embrace whatever God has and obey whatever he commands. Submit to the sovereign and good purposes of the Lord.