God’s Glorious Restraints
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38:4-11)
When was the last time you were truly surprised by something or someone? How do you react when you are driving and someone cuts you off, causing you to slam on your brakes? When I am driving and someone does something completely unexpected I jump and gasp a little. But there are times I prepare myself for unexpected driving events, such as when trucks surround my little Toyota on a highway under construction with temporary shifting lanes. Job thought he was ready to die with proper knowledge of God after suffering for no apparent reason—he wanted God to hear his case. Instead of providing Job with a Q & A session as he requested, God conducted his own question and answer hearing for him. Only God’s questions were aimed at Job’s lack of knowledge, which clearly surprised him (Job 42:3). Here is a call for us to examine the limits of our understanding of God, embracing them to remind us that we are finite creatures, but God is infinite, exhaustive, and omniscient.
“Where were you…?” “Since Job was not around when God created the earth and did not see the plan there are obvious gaps in his knowledge of its execution.” (1) Job also did not know that God had restrained Satan in his testing of Job’s faith when God commanded Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” (Job 2:6) In the passage from Job 38, God mentions his controlling and restraining commands over nature by measuring the earth with a line, sinking its bases, laying its cornerstone, and shutting in the sea with limits after he released it. God placed the stars in the sky resulting in joy for his children when the darkness might otherwise be overwhelming. I imagine that Job’s humbling was accompanied by great delight in hearing from his God, who had not forgotten him but had a much bigger purpose for his suffering—to remind us all of the Lord’s superintendence over the world and all his creatures, including Satan.
“God questions Job so that Job may come to a greater measure of self-knowledge. His lack of clarity about God reflects his lack of clarity regarding himself. In a series of questions about the natural world, the Lord reveals to Job just how little he actually knows. If Job does not understand God’s ways with nature, how can he understand God’s ways with mankind? Job has displayed impatience and presumption, of which he should repent. True piety is not based on comprehending all about God but on trust in His wisdom and goodness.” (2)
We often think of our lacks and restraints from illness, injury, weakness, financial shortcomings, inadequacies, or circumstantial limitations to be a problem. Most of us know that our circumstances are not the problem, but instead, our attitudes or perspectives need biblical realignment. Rather than pray for resolution of the restraints God has placed on us, why don’t we see if we can correct our view for God’s bigger picture? As Christmas approaches, where will our minds go? Will we be consumed with thoughts of food, gifts, and arranging for family gatherings, or rejoice that Christ chose to be born to die for our rebirth? How about starting with Thanksgiving as the time of praise for God’s plan for the world and salvation in Christ and limits over all creation for his glory and our good?
(1) The Reformation Study Bible, Job 38:4, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
(2) Ibid—Job 38:1-40:2.