Creator

Original Date: 
Sunday, December 4, 2016

Job 38-39; John 1:1-3, 14 The Fullness of Deity: Creator

Box Score vs. Being There
This year, I have season tickets to the University of Northern Iowa’s men’s basketball team. Last year, Jason Warren went ahead and got two season tickets for the regular season, and he shared some of the games with me. We convinced ourselves that the drive isn’t that bad, and this year I took the step of getting two tickets of my own. On Wednesday we made the trip in the afternoon and got back a little after midnight. The only negative was that the team lost.

Altogether, it’s a six-hour round trip in the car to watch a two hour basketball game. So on Wednesday, I had quite a bit of windshield time to think about why I am doing this. Setting aside the fact that I’m probably a little bit crazy and care about sports way too much; and accepting the truth that while I would like to believe that my presence there helps the team play better, they are going to play the same whether I am there or not; this is what I came up with:

It’s the difference between a box score and being there. It’s the difference between reading about the game, and experiencing it.

You see, I could just wait until the morning after the game and then find the box score on the internet or in the paper. The box score gives you all the pertinent information about the game. It tells you who won and who lost, how many points each player scored, how many shots they made and missed, how many minutes they played and how many rebounds they had. It’ll even tell you how many people were in the stands. You can get all the facts about the game from the box score.

But the box score doesn’t really allow you to experience the game. It doesn’t help you get a feel for the atmosphere in the arena, or see the hustle of a player diving on the floor. The box score doesn’t help you see the coaching decision to call a time out at a critical juncture, or make a defensive change to slow down an opposing player.

A box score gives you all the facts, but being at a game helps you experience it. And if you enjoy basketball, like I do, that makes a huge difference.

That’s the analogy I thought of when I was thinking about our passage for today. Today, we are going to look at Job 38 and 39, which is all about God’s role as Creator.
Usually, when we think about Bible passages that talk about God as Creator, we think of Genesis 1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1 gives us the pertinent information. “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” It is a summary of the facts. It is the box score.

Job 38 and 39 covers some of the same things as Genesis 1, but it is about as different as being at a game is from reading a box score. Using poetic language, and a series of rhetorical questions, Job 38 and 39 is about as close to being present for God’s creation as the Bible can get us.

More than simply saying: “God is the Creator;” my goal today is to help you experience what that means.

The Plot of Job
Before we get into the text, though, I need to say a little bit about the book of Job. Most of you know the story of Job. Horrible things happen to him. He loses his wealth, his children, his health. Job suffers a great deal. And most of the book is an extended conversation between Job and his friends who attempt to explain why he is suffering. They suggest some very reasonable views of God, but in every case Job shoots their arguments down.

Job is a very hard book to preach from, because there are many chapters where it seems that some very wise descriptions of God are being given, only to find at the end that they are mistaken. Even some of Job’s speeches, which sound so good, turn out to be subpar in their understanding of God.
The whole book comes to a crashing conclusion when God speaks. He never does give an explanation for Job’s suffering, but He does challenge Job’s right to question Him. Here’s how Job 38 begins:

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

Then God gives a rousing description of Himself. His message essentially boils down to this: “Until you know a little more about running the physical universe, Job, don’t tell me how to run the moral universe.” (Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read, p. 61)

In the end, Job ends up vindicated. Because, even though he never finds out why he suffered, and even though some of his questions of God bordered on blasphemy, he never gave up on God—just as God predicted in the opening chapters. The lesson of Job seems to be that we can endure suffering so long as we know that God is in control and continue to trust in Him. As one commentator says: “It gradually dawned on Job that without knowing why he was suffering, he could face it, so long as he was assured that God was his friend.” (Elmer B. Smick, Job, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p.1029)

That’s the context for the passage we will look at today. Exodus 38 and 39 are a part of God’s speech to Job. It’s His poem about Creation. The point is: The Lord of Nature wants us to experience the wonder of His Creation. Not like reading a box score, God wants us to feel like we are there.

From the Foundations of the World
We have a lot of ground to cover, I want to get through two whole chapters. I’ll divide it into three parts. First, God wants us to know that He is the Lord of the World Below. Job 38:4-7:

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

This whole passage is a series of rhetorical questions. Job and his friends have presumed to question God, so now God is going to question them. And the obvious implication is that there is a lot about creation that we do not know.

God starts by picturing Himself like a contractor. Like Brian Mueggenburg or Craig Kunzman or Dustin Reynolds, picture God digging out a basement and pouring concrete and setting cinder block in place for the foundation of a new house. But instead of a house, God is laying the foundation for the earth. And you should picture these contractors working with a heavenly choir—morning stars and angels alike—singing for joy as the house is built. Verses 8 through 11:

8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

Now God talks about the oceans. And He pictures Himself swinging shut a door, putting bars in place, and saying to the water: “This far you may come, and no farther.”

This summer when we were at Glacier National Park, each day when we left the park for our condo we drove by some signs for the Hungry Horse Reservoir. I had never heard of it, but the signs were brown, which meant it was some sort of point of interest. So one day, when we left the park a little too early for supper, I decided we would take a little scenic drive and see what it was about. We drove into the forest and followed the river up the mountain for a few miles when suddenly we rounded a corner and this is what we saw:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungry_Horse_Dam#/media/File:Hngryh2.jpg

It looks a lot like the Hoover Dam, only it’s not as high but is nearly twice as wide. It contains 3.1 million cubic yards of concrete. It was built over a period of 5 years in the 1950s. That’s what humans did to hold back one river.

And God says He built dams like this around all the oceans of the world. Verses 12-15:

12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.

Here God says that He orders the morning around like a drill sergeant. He pictures the dawn being summoned to roll call, shaking out the night’s blanket to clear out all the wicked who prefer to operate under the cover of dark. The point is: God summons the daylight. Who else can say that? Verses 16-18:

16 “Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

What about the deepest parts of the ocean? Who has seen it? We have in fact invented a bathyscaphe, or deep sea submersible, that has made it to the deepest part of the Marianas trench. It’s a little two-man sphere with 5 inch thick walls and a single, cone shaped block of plexiglass serving as window. It can go nearly 7 miles down under water, allowing the two passengers to squint out into the murky darkness being lit by a shaky light bulb. And God pictures Himself walking around down there like you and I would walk through our backyard.

The point, again, is that God knows everything there is to know about the construction of this planet. He set the continents on their foundation, told the oceans where to go, and is intimate with the deepest shadows and farthest reaches of the earth.

Storehouses
But there is more. Not only is He Lord of the World Below, He is also the Lord of the World Above. Verses 19-21:

19 “What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

God pictures the light living in a house, while darkness takes over. I picture the sun and moon dressed like 1950s businessmen, living out in the same suburb. And everyday, at shift change, they pass each other on the street, tipping their hats to each other. The Sun takes the day shift, the Moon works the night shift. And God knows where they live. Do you?

Verses 22-30:

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?

What about the weather? God says He has storehouses of snow. An armory filled with hail. This maybe isn’t the greatest image as winter approaches, and we face the possibility of a storm next week, but God has an inventory of precipitation up there. He’s like the foreman at a big snow warehouse, the Amazon.com of weather, and he has a very precise order fulfillment system that puts snow exactly where He wants it when He wants.

Last week I attempted to give a very simplified scientific explanation for how lightning is formed. It was a very imprecise, dumbed down explanation. But everything I looked at last week to get that explanation said that, for the most part, scientists are just guessing. That is to say, they understand the basic mechanics, but thunderstorms operate on such a grand scale, with so many factors, that there is simply no way to fully understand how all the different parts factor in. But God understands it. He is the Father of the rain.

Or cast your eyes even higher. Verses 31-33:

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

Ever since I was a kid and studied the constellations, there have been two that I can reliably find: the three stars that make up Orion’s belt, and the Little Dipper that is Ursa Minor—or the little bear. The rest are just dots in the sky to me. But God knows all the star maps, not just for our galaxy, but for the at least 100 billion galaxies believed to be in the observable universe.

Let me repeat that and let it blow your mind a little bit: scientists believe there are at least 100. Billion. Galaxies. In our universe. And God knows the placement of each and every star in every last one of them.

If that’s not enough, come back down and we’ll just talk about the rain again. Verses 34-38:

34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?

God whistles, and the lightning springs into action like a pack of well trained hunting dogs. God counts the clouds, like you might count the shirts in your closet. God tips over His drinking glass, and it rains hard enough on earth to end a drought.

John Piper writes:

So whether we focus on the earth or the sea or the dawn or the snow or hail or constellations or rain, the upshot is that Job is ignorant and impotent. He doesn't know where they came from. He doesn't know how to make them work. He is utterly surrounded, above and below, by mysteries. And so are we, because the scientific advancements of the last two hundred years are like sand-pails of saltwater hauled from the ocean of God's wisdom and dumped in a hole on the beach while the tide is rising. God is not impressed. And we should be overwhelmed with our ignorance, not impressed with science. (http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/job-the-revelation-of-god-in-suffering)

Creature Powers
And if that isn’t enough for you to feel the immensity by God’s sovereignty over creation, let’s take a walk through the animal kingdom. Because God is also the Lord of the World of Animals. Verses 39-41:

39 “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?

The lioness prowls the savannah, looking for prey for her pride. Baby ravens huddle in their nests and cry out for food. And where does it come from? Ultimately, it comes from God. He feeds the sparrow and the sloth, the needlefish and the narwhal. The entire food chain has been designed and linked together by Him. Chapter 39:1-4:

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
3 They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return.

He attends the labor of mountain goats and deer. He’s there when the Emperor penguin gives birth and then marches across the glacier to find food. He’s there when the tiny poison arrow frog carries each of her tadpoles from the rain forest floor to tree tops 100 feet off the ground. He knows their months. He cares for their young. Verses 5-8:

5 “Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied its ropes?
6 I gave it the wasteland as its home,
the salt flats as its habitat.
7 It laughs at the commotion in the town;
it does not hear a driver’s shout.
8 It ranges the hills for its pasture
and searches for any green thing.

There are wild animals out there. Animals that will never be domesticated, impossible to train. But God understands them. He set them free. He gives them the wilderness for running and the hills for pasture.

Job didn’t do that. We humans have nothing to do with it. But there they are. Verses 9-12:

9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
and bring it to your threshing floor?

There’s this show on PBS that Ellie likes to watch after school. It’s called Wild Kratts, and it is a combination live action and animation series about these two brothers—Martin and Chris Kratt—who just love animals. And every show, they get super-geeked out about some animal and its unusual behaviors and special adaptations. They call them “creature powers,” and they teach kids about the amazing diversity in the animal world.

And here God comes and says He knows all about all those creature powers. He designed them all. He sees them all. There is no animal characteristic that is a surprise to Him. Verses 13-18:

13 “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
though they cannot compare
with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.

Even strange animal behavior. Even the incongruity of a bird that cannot fly and is too stupid to care for its young. Even the bizarre spectacle of an ostrich running faster than a horse. Even animal behavior to bizarre for us to understand, it’s still by design. Even the foolish things: Minnesota mosquitoes and Iowa house flies and Rocky Mountain wood ticks are governed by divine design. Verses 19-25:

19 “Do you give the horse its strength
or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
It catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

Not all animals are foolish and useless. Where does the war horse get its strength? Who gives it the speed and the excitement to run into battle instead of away? You know it is God. Verses 26-30:

26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there it is.”

Whether we consider the prey of lions, the birth of mountain goats, the freedom of the wild donkey, the strength of the wild ox, the stupidity of the ostrich, the might of the war horse, or the flight of the hawk and the eagle: the upshot is the same: we are ignorant and impotent. We did not make them. We do not know how to control them. We cannot see what they are doing. And yet it is all a part of God’s grand design for stitching our world together.

Are you getting the picture? Are you being overwhelmed by the depth and variety and scope and distance and complexity of God’s creation? Are you experiencing the wonder of what it means to say that the Lord created the heavens and the earth? This is more than dry theology. This is more than a box score. This is just a brief moment inside the arena of nature that is far more amazing and incredible than we can even begin to fathom.

Through Him
OK. That’s Job 38 and 39. But now, the question: What does this have to do with Christmas? Why a sermon on creation in the second week of advent? We didn’t touch on shepherds or wise men or stables or anything…so how does it fit?

Well, I’ll tell you. Our theme verse for Advent this year is Colossians 2:9 which says:

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

Basically, that says that everything that God is, Jesus is. Everything that the Bible says is true of God is found in that baby born in Bethlehem. Every characteristic and attribute that is uniquely God, every superlative that sets Him apart, every rhetorical question that can only be applied to Him, it all describes Jesus. The fullness of Deity lives in Him.

And that means that Mary’s Son is the Lord of Nature. That means the baby laid in the feeding trough of a cow is the very one who designed that cow.

And that’s not just something I am saying. That’s what the Bible says. John 1:1-3, the prologue of John’s biography of Jesus:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

The Word is Jesus. And John wants us to know that He was there at the beginning. He was with God and He was God and was with God in the beginning. And that means He was there for creation. And, in fact, all things were made through Him. And without Him, nothing that was made could have been made. He is the agent of creation.
And just in case we don’t get it, skip down a few verses to John 1:14:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

That’s Christmas. The very Word who was there for creation--the one who oversaw the foundation of the earth and the damming up of the oceans and who inventories the heavenly warehouses of snow and whistles for lighting and watches over the labor of mountain goats and runs after ostriches and flies with eagles—this Word became flesh and came to dwell among us.
You can draw a line directly from Job 38 and 39 to John 1. From Genesis 1 to Luke 2. Jesus is the Lord of Creation. He holds it all in His hands.

There’s no application this week. No steps for you to take or questions for you to answer.

I just want you to be overwhelmed by this amazing truth.

I just want you to experience a little bit of what it means to say that Jesus is God.

That the Word became flesh.

That the Creator came to His Creation