The wicked are denied their light, and their upraised arm is broken (Job 38:15).
We can see the picture in our mind’s eye: a clenched fist above a raised arm. It’s a show of defiance.
Admirable, if in protesting injustice. Despicable, when raised in defiance of the Sovereign Lord.
At one time, Job of Old Testament times felt that God had exposed him to some of that injustice. Was it right that all of his children died in one storm? Was it fair that he lost his crops and flocks? Did he really deserve to be afflicted with painful sores from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head?
Wasn’t God acting like a child who pulls the wings off of a fly just to watch it suffer?
Job isn’t alone in asking such questions. Many have wondered “Why do bad things happen to me when I am not at fault?” We might add, why do babies get murdered? Why do gifted athletes grow feeble? Why must everyone die?
Though we cannot change these things, we want to raise our protest. Many agree with words the poet wrote about dying: “Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Bitter anger, fierce rage, this is the natural human reaction to unwanted events that are outside of our control.
Even if we acknowledge that no person apart from Jesus is actually good, in that all have sinned, it still bothers us to see that people who love their Savior God sometimes end up with the greatest disappointment and suffering in life.
At one point, Job said that he would like to drag God into court to have him give answer for his actions. To his surprise, God did answer. “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” he asked out of a storm cloud.
This was the beginning of a long series of questions aimed at Job. It starts,“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:4)
Question after question pounded in the message that Almighty God operates on a level far above human knowledge or ability. He is the creator of the stars and controller of the seas. At his command lightning strikes. Under his watch, lions are fed, and mountain goats give birth. He gives the war horse its strength and orders the eagle to fly—and much more.
Eventually, the challenge came:“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2)
Not surprisingly, Job backed down: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more”(Job 40:4).
Maybe Job had nothing more to say, but God did. The Lord continued, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). The interrogation continued.
Finally, Job admitted, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). He added: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6)
There is only one recourse for those who raise their clenched fist toward heaven: Repentance.
When tempted to challenge the God of grace and glory, it is best to repeat the words of Job:
“I put my hand over my mouth.”
We close our mouth and listen to God. From God’s mouth comes truth and forgiveness.
We pray: Eternal Father, strong to save, too quickly we find fault with you. Too easily we seek to justify ourselves. Too often we raise our puny fist in protest. Forgive our rebellious thoughts. Delete our empty threats. Deflate our bulging egos. Override the foolishness of our arrogance with the mercy of your holy love. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military