Proper 24’21 (Feast of St. Luke)
17 October 2021
Job 38.1-7, 34-41
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

Almighty God, you heal the brokenhearted, are great in power and unlimited in wisdom: Grant us eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to perceive your hand at work among us; and grant us also, faithful hearts like your beloved servants, Job, and Luke, through Christ our Lord. Amen. – The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

Welcome to the third installment on the life of Job. Last week, Job, after facing repeated cross-examination from his friends, and offering repeated defenses, felt abandoned by God, and was unable to perceive that God was with really with him. In the midst of this very dark and shaky place, he is then confronted by a fourth ‘friend’ a younger man named Elihu. Now Elihu had been listening (somewhat impatiently) to the old guys making their arguments to Job, and he was chomping at the bit to summarize their staid arguments and of course, like every newer generation, feels compelled to make improvements on the ‘inadequate’ efforts of the older generations.

Elihu wasted no time in making a quick summary and then moves into the new and improved argument as to why all these troubles had befallen Job. Not only did he bring additional information for Job’s consideration he added this: “Bear with me a little, and I will show you, for I have yet something to say on God’s behalf…for truly my words are not false; one who is perfect in knowledge is with you.” [1] As the noted author Frederick Buechner put it: [Elihu] “added the idea that the destruction of all Job’s property and the death of all his children and his leprosy were probably just God’s way of helping him to improve his character and sharpen his sensitivities.” [2] Ah yes, character building – ‘Job, God’s just doing all this for your own good!” Just what everyone who is the midst of horrific suffering wants to hear!’ And to say that Elihu had a problem with narcissistic pride would be putting it mildly as he informed Job that the “one who is perfect in knowledge is with him.” The one who had it all figured out was standing before him, and was ready to straighten everyone out, including Job.

God has been so patient and quiet for the previous 37 chapters – until now. In typical Old Testament fashion, the God who has appeared in floods, rainbows, burning bushes, and columns of fire, now appears to Job in the midst of a whirlwind, and speaks directly to him. For better or for worse, Job actually heard from God. Now he doesn’t just have book knowledge, or head knowledge, but a real experience with God – and what he got was peculiar.

God doesn’t provide Job with any of the answers to his questions! In fact, he provides no answers at all, but instead, asks Job a bunch of questions, how peculiar. What could God be up to? Let’s examine some of God’s question he fires back at Job.

God’s very first question is a “who question”: “Who is this?” Like a phone call with a bad connection, God asks:” Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? I will question you, and you shall declare to me.” God scores the first point: Job, and his four friends for that matter, we speaking “words without knowledge.”

God’s second question is a “Where question”: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” God goes on: “Who determined its measurements – surely you know!” God continues this line of questioning: “Or who stretched the plumbline upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid the cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” These questions are pointing to a relationship between the Creator and the created.

Then God takes it up several notches by asking Job about his abilities: Can you command the waters to flood over you? Can you send the lightning in the directions you want and do they answer to you? Then God goes back to who questions: “Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together?” Then back to questions of ability are brought up to Job: “Can you hunt the prey for a lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions? Who provides for the raven its prey. When its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?”

Isn’t it fascinating that at the conclusion of 37 chapters of intelligent arguments, theological wrangling and maneuvering, God takes Job and his friends (who are overhearing all of this) back to where everything began, to the vey creation itself. Out of nothing – God made something! God starts with something very concrete, and begins with how the earth was constructed. He then uses examples form the animal kingdom to describe the great complexity and marvelous processes by which the creation operates. God has always known that when humans seek for answers what is crucial is for them to ask the right questions. By God bypassing Job’s charges he helps Job to understand that he isn’t even asking the right questions. All of the questions God asks have the same answer – God. Who made it? God. Who made a cohesive design? God. Who can lead the lions to prey and who can feed the ravens? God. All the questions directed to Job about ability all have the same answer – No! Can you do this? No. Can you do that? No.  All of these questions reveal God’s immortality and humanity’s mortality, God is infinite and we are finite. These questions lead Job, and us to question our questions, but not to stop our questioning. As God transforms us, we become more and more able to ask better questions, and we are transformed in the process.

In the life of Jesus, we see the same fingerprint of divinity coming through in the way he would answer a question with a question, as one writer noted:

We ask questions for information; Jesus asks questions to provoke transformation. We ask questions for answers; Jesus asks questions for awareness. Jesus asks questions to confront the listener with their own thought process, preconceptions, assumptions, and beliefs.[3] God also wants to mirror for us our conceptions and misconceptions.

One way to see ourselves in Job is to think of all the times we have been the proverbial armchair quarterback. As I have often said, I was an expert parent until I became one. I would judge harshly parents who were late to church, “What’s up with them? Can’t they get their act together? Do they not think church is important enough to get their kids ready on time?” It’s embarrassing to remember some of my conceptions and misconceptions about the reality of raising children.


Think of someone like our Governor, all we see is what he says during a press conference or where he came down on an issue or piece of legislation. He could easily ask us “Who are you? Where were you when I was in a back office arguing with lawmakers or committee members for hours on end before the press conference? Can you keep calm and rational, when you are under 24/7 scrutiny and evaluation?” Clearly there is much we don’t know, much we aren’t aware of, and stories we’ve never heard, and that if we had we would have much more understanding.” How much more must these dynamics be true of God. 


We should keep asking our questions, as flawed and imperfect as they are, for that is the only way we can ever come to a better understanding of God. But we shouldn’t be surprised if God asks us a question por two back, and God’s question will transform our ways of thinking, our ways of behaving, and our ways of living. Amen.




[1] Job 36.1-4 NRSV

[2] Buechner, Frederick, Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who, (Harper & Row Publishers: New York, 1979) p.66