Monday, September 19, 2005

The Kind of Person God Is

Job's asks for an audience with God. He wants to face God and demand some answers. In chapter 38, Job gets his request. God shows up, but he doesn't answer any of Job's questions. Instead, God has some questions of his own:

Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
Or who laid its cornerstone --
While the morning stars sang together
And all the angels shouted for joy?

Job 38:4-7

Why does God do that? Why ask Job questions he can't possibly answer?

Is it to show that he's smarter than Job? Is it because he's just tired to Job's whining? Is God warning Job: "If you don't stop all this crying, I'll give you something to really cry about"?

I don't think that fits with what we've learned about God's character and nature thus far in the Bible. God doesn't seem that interested in flexing his muscles and intimidating humans. That would be like me demanding that my kids be impressed with how strong I am. They're kids! Only an immature person does stuff like that. "Look how strong Daddy is. Aren't you impressed? You better be!"

God is pointing out Job's limitations -- especially Job's finite mind and limited perspective. But -- as OT scholar Ellen F. Davis points out: "God's questions indicate something important about the kind of person he is -- the kind of person who creates in such a way that the morning stars sing together and anges shout for joy."

God asks:

Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
And a path for the thunderstorm,
To water a land where no man lives,
A desert with no one in it,
To satisfy a desolate wasteland
And make it sprout with grass?

Job 38:25-27

In Israel, life depends on water. No one would waste water because it was such a valuable commodity.

Q: Why would God water a land where no one lives?

A: God is generous for no reason at all. God is good for no reason. God does stuff like this without gaining anything in return. He gives for no reason other than it's his nature. God's long speech shows us a person who absolutely delights in creatures that are of no use to him whatsoever. God gains nothing from doing this. He does it because it is who he is.

God created donkeys that will never never be tamed and oxen that will never plow, ostriches that will never fly, hippos and crocodiles (behemoth and leviathan) that will never really be useful. This whole section is not really about nature or animals as much as it is about the God who made nature and animals. These creatures are pretty much useless, but God created and cares for them.

Why? Why would God create a world and fill it with useless things? Because that's who he is. He doesn't need anything, so he doesn't take this utilitarian view of creation like we do. Maybe this is what God means when he says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8).

God's motives are not our motives. We're always concerned with how something is going to benefit us; God doesn't need anything -- isn't lacking anything -- so he's not concerned with how a thing is going to benefit him. The God of the Upper Stage is gratuitously good and irrationally loving and ridiculously generous.

And I mean ever one of those words -- especially ridiculously. In fact, it was his generosity that brought the most horrible ridicule upon his Son Jesus when he was here on earth.

Job never finds out what happened on the Upper Stage. Instead, he finds out something better. He finds out the kind of person God is, and that's enough for Job.