Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. (Job 38:4)
What would we think of an eight-year-old boy who questioned everything his parents did under the assumption that he knew best? With every decision he felt the need to interrupt and give them his opinion as to which path to take. With every action he showed his dissatisfaction. And imagine his input extended beyond kids’ books and bikes to how to budget finances, how to raise him and his brother, how to live life.
Such an eight-year-old telling his elders what to do would quickly become a problem. Who is this one who has not yet lived a decade to tell grown-ups what is best? It would be unseemly, disrespectful; it would mock the natural order. Yet this is a poor analogy to the strangeness of our telling the eternal God how to rule his universe, how best to parent his children, what he should and shouldn’t do in the world he created.
It serves us well to learn this refrain:
You’ve been God for a long time.
You’re the final word;
You’re the finish line.
Everything’s going to be alright,
Because you’ve been God for a long time.
If we do not learn this lesson now, we may learn it in a most terrifying and humbling way, as Job did.
Will He Curse God?
The drama opens with God boasting about the uprightness of Job before his courts. Satan, not denying the claims, seeks to give an account for why Job is righteous: God has protected him. Of course he fears God; he has received everything he could ever want. He is wealthy, has a massive family, and stood in good health.
The stage is now set for this assertion to be tested. Satan goes forth (with God’s permission) and causes Job to lose nearly all he has in one day of tragedy. His wealth, his health, his children — gone. His wife is left to him, but she, speaking after the serpent, tells him to curse God and die. In the ashes of what used to be his life, he declares: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
His friends come and mourn with him — and then argue with him. Job’s suffering must be his fault, they thought. After Job and his friends go back and forth, up and down, round and round debating the subject, Job has sinned in saying some things against God, questioning his governance of all things.
When God finally answers Job, he does so not in a gentle, comforting voice, but out of a whirlwind, calling for Job to “dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:3). He then asks,
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? (Job 38:4–7)
Job is speaking about the perplexity of his suffering; God responds by asking about the creation of the world. Who is he, a man born of dust, existing for a day, to question the Creator? He has wandered some from his initial worship and lowliness. He has forgotten that God, the Creator, has been God since before the beginning. He has been God since eternity. Shall Job finally discover wrongdoing in God? Shall he find reasons to question and critique his sovereign rule?
And was this reminder not a mercy to Job?
When we realize that God is still God in our suffering, a million insecurities behind the questions get answered. He is still on his throne. He still is Creator. And in Christ, he is still Savior. The sun still shines full blaze behind the clouds of our suffering. The world is still held in orbit by his Almighty hand — he does not lose one star; will he lose us? If he can hold creation firmly in place, he can fix us firmly in faith — no matter what happens. The world can catch us singing in the darkest valleys, because our Father has been a faithful Father for a long, long time.