Parade of small mysteries.
Last chapter God went meta and mega: the stars, the start of time, the gates of death, the lowest depths, pouring out the sea and causing dawn to happen.
These mysteries were added to the mystery of Job’s own suffering.
Today God talks on the human scale, about things Job could conceivably understand. Man has dominion over the animals, right?
But even these things are outside Job’s comprehension or control.
Man can tame lions but not wild donkeys. Why? What sort of cosmic joke are the flightless wings of an ostrich, why did God do that? The reference to the ‘wild ox’ – now extinct – is a humorous image, like saying ‘why can’t you plough your fields with a hippopotamus?’ And so it goes.
It’s not the massive rebuke Job’s friends predicted God would have for him, nor does it directly address Job’s sense of injustice, as he craved.
These are gentle, delightful absurd teachings. The commentator suggested they represent the only humour in Job. Bringing a smile to his suffering face.
Even just that perspective is an implicit message… its not all about me.
While not answering directly Job’s questions, the oblique answer is that Job’s sense of injustice has misunderstood the rules by which the world works.
God isn’t angry or condemnatory about that, he expects it. He simply points it out in the gentlest sweetest way possible, and asks job to continue trusting him.
It goes right back to God and Satan’s disagreement over Job in the prologue. God says he’s an example of true wisdom, he fears God and shuns evil. The Devil says he is purely transactional, his ‘fear of God’ is only as deep as his love of the good things God has given him.
God’s teaching is bolstering his side of the case.
The lesson from the animals is two fold. Appreciate the limits of your own understanding. But also appreciate the God-like insight you have in being able to attain wisdom that animals never can.
They are indeed transactional, as the devil said man is. But we are made in God’s image. Job felt forgotten, but he’s cherished. In chapter 1 and 2, God actually brags about Job’s wisdom to Satan.
Man’s ability to attain wisdom means his conception of God is bigger than the source of his next meal. Job’s very tortured, complex heart is demonstration of that.
Job has gone further than most in understanding how little our own understanding can overcome evil, or reveal God. And God here leads him further again on that.
That Tim Minchin song I linked previously won’t stop rolling around in my head, showing how much I have in common with an atheist…
Family sharing white wine in the sun, the people who make you feel safe, his picture of heaven.
His jet-lagged baby daughter passed around ‘like a puppy at a primary school’ (makes me cry every time) …his picture of the infinite value of humanity.
We could both argue these values confirm the truth of our views, pushing us further apart when instead we share more than we think.
But God’s gentle refusal to buy into the paradigm of human logic and sense in this passage? There’s the rub!