Cross references: Job : Jer. Job : ver. Bible Gateway Recommends.
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Three easy steps to start your free trial subscription to Bible Gateway Plus. Create or log in to your Bible Gateway account. Enter your credit card information to ensure uninterrupted service following your free trial. And he continues:. 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 heavenly beings shouted for joy? Job Can you establish their rule on the earth? The point of these questions is to expose the massive ignorance of Job and his friends. Since we know so little about the vastness, complexity, and ordinances of creation, we are in no position to accuse anyone.
But note, the ignorance the Lord highlights in this passage is an ignorance about creation. Decision Making and Chaos Theory A recent development in science helps illustrate the point God is making to Job, for it highlights the interconnected complexity of life and the impossibility of our ever exhaustively comprehending it. It is called chaos theory. Put in simplest terms, it has recently been demonstrated that the slightest variation in a sufficiently complex process at one point may cause remarkable variations in that process at another point.
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The flap of a butterfly wing in one part of the globe can, under the right conditions, be the decisive variable that brings about a hurricane in another part of the globe several months later. We of course cannot ever approximate this kind of knowledge, which is why weather forecasting will always involve a significant degree of guesswork.
Book of Job
By analogy, this insight may be applied to free decisions. Because love requires choice, humans and angels have the power to affect others for better or worse. Indeed, every decision we make affects other agents in some measure. Sometimes the short-term effects of our choices are apparent, as in the way the decisions of parents immediately affect their children or the way decisions of leaders immediately affect their subjects.
The long-term effects of our decisions are never obvious, however. They are like ripples created by a rock thrown into a pond. They endure long after the initial splash, and they interact with other ripples consequences of other decisions in ways we could never have anticipated.
1. Understand God for Who He Is
We might think of the over-all state of the cosmos at any given moment as the total pattern of ripples of a constant stream of rocks thrown into a pond. Each ripple interacts with other ripples, creating interference patterns. Every event and every decision that takes place in history is such an interference pattern. They are the result of multitudes of decisions intersecting with one another in various ways.
And once each event or decision occurs, they then contribute to all subsequent interference patterns. And as the originators and ultimate explanation for their own decisions, they assume primary responsible for the ripples they create. Yet each individual is also influenced by the whole. Decisions others have made have affected their life, and these people were themselves affected by decisions others made.
From this it should be clear that to explain in any exhaustive sense why any particular event took place just the way it did, we would have to know the entire history of the universe. Had any agent, angelic or human, made any decision different than it did, the world would be a slightly different — or perhaps significantly different — place. But we, of course, can never know more than an infinitesimally small fraction of these previous decisions, let alone why these agents chose the way they did. Using a language Job could understand, this was essentially the point God was making in his first speech.
We finite humans have no means of knowing the innumerable variables that would explain why things happen the precise way they happen. Whether we are speaking of human decisions, angelic decisions, or the flap of butterfly wings, the creation is too vast and complex for us to get our minds around. Yet every detail affects the course of things in at least a small way. Hence we experience life as largely arbitrary.
It is a mystery. It is a mystery surrounding the vastness and complexity of creation. We experience life as arbitrary simply because we are finite. It rather had to do with a haphazard confrontation in the heavenly realm between God and an adversary that no one in the context of the narrative ever knew anything about. When all is said and done, the mystery of why any particular misfortune befalls one person rather than another is no different than the mystery of why any particular event happens the way it does. The mystery of the particularity of evil is simply one manifestation of the mystery of every particular thing.
The War That Engulfs Creation. The second fact God alludes to in his correction of Job and his friends concerns the warfare that engulfs the creation. Job , ; ; Psl ; Psl , ; Isa ; In order to make his point to Job, in a language Job could understand, Yahweh reminds him of his battle with both the raging sea and the cosmic monsters. Yahweh is reminding Job of the proud and hostile sea which, all Ancient Near Eastern people believed, must be kept at bay if the order of the world is to preserved.
Only the Lord can contend with this malevolent creature though even he needs a sword! From its mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap out. Out of its nostrils comes smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes. This cosmic beast fears nothing It cannot be captured or domesticated —8. Yahweh emphasizes the ferociousness of this beast not to call into question his own ability to handle it, but to stress to Job that this foe is indeed formidable.
The battle Yahweh is engaged in is not a charade. By reminding Job of the cosmic forces he must contend with, God again exposes the presumptuousness of the simplistic theologies of both Job and his friends. Neither considered the warfare that engulfs creation. Both simply assumed that things unfold the way Yahweh wants them to. It means that not everything happens exactly as Yahweh would wish. He himself must battle forces of chaos.
Another eminent Old Testament scholar, John Gibson, expresses the point even more forcefully. They are in fact set forth as worthy opponents of their Creator.
The Point of the Book of Job - Greg Boyd - ReKnew
They are quite beyond the ability of men to take on and bring to book. On the contrary, they treat men with scorn and derision, delighting to tease and humiliate and terrorize them…. We know next to nothing and can do next to nothing about these happenings.
Hence we experience life as an arbitrary flux of fortune and misfortune. The fact that neither Job nor his friends are ever told about the satan who began the whole mess reinforces this point. After the prologue the satan is not mentioned again. The main characters of this epic poem never learn what the reader knew all along. And this is precisely the point of the book. The mystery of the particularity of evil, which is no different than the mystery of the particularity of everything, is located in the mystery of creation, not the mystery of God.
And given this mystery, we must refrain either from blaming each other, or blaming God, when misfortunes arise.
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Rather, following the example of Jesus, we must simply ask, What can we do in response to the evil we encounter? Western Christians rarely take seriously the reality of the spirit world as a variable that affects their lives. The book of Job, the ministry of Jesus, and the Bible in general suggest that such formulaic thinking misses the complexity of the real world and is dangerous for just this reason. For three weeks Daniel fasted and prayed to hear from God, with no answer Dan Finally, an angel appeared to him and said,. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me twenty-one days.
Hence he usually works through mediators, both on a physical and spiritual level. It seems that Michael was now in need of his help in battling the spiritual powers that opposed God. People often assume that God has an unlimited number of angels available to him. But Scripture suggests that the nature of things in the spiritual realm is not that different from the nature of things in our physical realm. Because God has chosen to work through physical and spiritual mediators who are finite in number and strength, the way battles progress is influenced by the number and strength of agents fighting for or against his purposes.
Through this episode we gain a rare glimpse of the sorts of things that go on behind the scenes that affect our lives. Had the angel not revealed this information to Daniel, Daniel would never have known why it took twenty-one days for his prayer to be answered. It would have seemed totally arbitrary. In point of fact, the delay had nothing to do with either of these variables. Like humans, angels create ripples that create interference patterns with other ripples, for better or for worse. Yet we can know even less about angelic ripples than we can about human ripples. Conclusion Most of us do not like ambiguity.
Life is generally easier if we convince ourselves that everything is clear and simple. This, I believe, is part of our legacy of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Gen We have difficulty accepting our finitude and the massive ignorance and ambiguity that necessarily attaches to it.
In point of fact, however, the creation could only be experienced by finite beings such as ourselves as unfathomably complex and therefore mostly ambiguous. We have no means of ascertaining more than a minute fraction of the variables that factor into each and every event within this unfathomably complex creation. This is not because we are fallen: it is simply because we are finite. This is why our original job description — a job description God is yet calling on us to fulfill — involves very little knowing but a great deal of loving.
Hence the Bible repeatedly calls on us to love and refrain from judgment Mt ; Rom ; Jame Because of our fallen addiction to the forbidden tree, however, we want to know and judge. Hence we bracket off the complexity of reality and act like things are simple enough for us to understand. This is why many of us are compulsively inclined to judge people on the basis of the surface behavior we see, bracketing off the vast complexity of variables that affect and perhaps explain this perceived behavior.
And this is also why we are inclined toward simplistic, formulaic theologies. Yet, this theology works only so long as we can in fact bracket off reality. But when reality in all its unfathomable complexity and war torn horror encroaches in on us, our theology suffers and victims suffer. As depicted in the book of Job, some blame God, others blame people.
But, as the book of Job teaches us, both responses are fundamentally mistaken.