Giving Orders to the Morning
Nov 03, 2019 04:53AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
One of my favorite books of the Bible is also its oldest: Job. If you are at all familiar with Job, you know that he ends up being the subject of a challenge that Satan issues to God. Satan claims that Job, a successful, wealthy man with a big family, only praises God because life is easy.
Read that last part again: Because Life is easy.
If you have any doubts at all in the Christian faith, whether you are inside or outside it, isn’t that the ultimate question? Are believers in it for the blessings only? Do they only lift their heads and hearts in moments of providence and prosperity?
I love everything about this book because even though it reveals very “dark nights of the soul,” as Mother Teresa would say, it honestly addresses one of the biggest existential questions:
Is God real and worth trusting when evil seems to prevail?
Maybe you have asked yourself that question. I certainly have—countless times over my lifetime.
God in His sovereignty allows Job to be tested but not overpowered. In this permission He consents that Satan can take away from Job in terms of wealth, health, and family, during which time, the book perhaps slips into the darkest depths of the human spirit. Job is left devastated to the extent that his own wife tells him to “curse God and die.”
And as he sits in his painful boils, having lost everything, three friends sit with him, silent for the first few days. That seems to be a comforting scenario until they open their mouths, and in their longwinded, self-righteous speeches (know anyone in your life who tends to do this?—yeah, me too), they focus entirely on an if-then equation:
“If this is happening to you, then you surely must have sinned.”
Oh, Friends, do you know how very damaging that is?
In these chapters of prideful tirades, perhaps the three friends are earnestly trying to help Job. It would appear that they are attempting to find that magical formula of understanding God. And to their credit, there was no Bible to consult at the time. They had to go on what they had been told of God’s character.
But in their responses, we see the limits of human wisdom. Our own understanding only takes us so far.
Another, younger friend then joins, claiming to have a better answer, and yet, he says very much the same thing.
And Job—who claims throughout that he is not aware of any of his own sin and therefore why is God ignoring his pleas—is confused, disillusioned, and feeling targeted. He does not know the behind-the-scenes bet Satan made about him.
But He also doesn’t know that God placed limits on what Satan was allowed to do.
Do you need to remember this in your own life? I surely do. Read it again.
It isn’t until Job 38 of 42 chapters of Job that God speaks to Job, and what He says puts the entire situation back into proper focus. He does not seem to scold Job, but rather, He asks him to consider if Job truly can say that he (Job) knows all things. He gently but firmly offers the perspective of His own sovereignty and omniscience.
Notice that He answers Job “out of a whirlwind." He is so powerful and His glory so great, He cannot fully be seen by Job.
Job 38:1-11, ESV
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
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'?”
Whenever I go through a difficult season of woes, I find this chapter and the one after it to be an amazing reminder of the mighty, powerful, in-control God we have. He knows every hair on our head. Nothing happens without His say-so.
I read this book this summer after a painful year. In it I felt so understood reading how Job’s friends, perhaps well-intended, could not bring him the comfort and wisdom that only come from God. I found myself yelling at them and telling Job to hang on and wait on God. And in so doing, I was really telling myself. I was asking God to help me in my unbelief.
This Fall, my Bible study group is working through Job, and this time, God’s voice is the one I hear over all the loud clanging of human advice. And it is so very precious.
One of my favorite passages is God offering Job a poetic question, but within it is great revelation.
Job 38:12-13, ESV
"Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?”
In asking Job if he commands the morning, God reveals to Job, his friends, and all of us the answer to the question: “Where is God when it hurts?”
He reminds Job that there is order in the chaos precisely because He is God. When He commands the morning, He “lets the dawn know its place.”
We are no different. The dawn must follow God’s commands, but in that very way, it is under the tremendous affection, power, and protection of its benevolent Creator.
The passage goes further, though, doesn’t it? I don’t want you to miss this.
God causes the dawn to know its place precisely because He wants to shake the skirts of the earth and shed light on wickedness. To reveal that which is not good.
Perhaps that is not on our minds when we are suffering. We become self-focused and inward. But God’s plans are always in place. He is not ignoring evil. In fact, He is shaking the skirts of the earth to free us from it.
Did you know the ultimate “shaking the skirts” of its evil can be found in the sacrificial death of God’s Son Jesus Christ on our behalf? Because He died and rose again, the final skirts are shaken! The evil is defeated! If you trust in Him, you are under the eternal covering of the spilt blood of Jesus. Evil can flick you, but it no longer has victory over your life.
So when those painful seasons of life come, I encourage you to read Job 38 (and 39) and listen to what God is saying to Job and to us. With our finite minds, we cannot understand why certain evil or suffering is allowed at times, but God knows, and He has set its expiration date through His Son Jesus.
Amen and Amen.
1 Corinthians 15:55, ESV
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
A lionhead rabbit breeder, you can follow her buck Cloud, doe Sookie, and their kits @thegivingrabbitry on Instagram.