Gird up thy loins

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Job 38:1-41

“Brace yourself.”

“Get ready to take it like a man.”

“Roll up your sleeves, there’s work to be done.”

These are all rough modern equivalents to “gird up thy loins.”  Essentially it’s a command to gather up your loose hanging robes (etc!), in a belt because action is called for.

But perhaps we’re surprised at its use in the book of Job.

In chapters 1 and 2, the reader gets a glimpse into heaven.  From the outset we see what lies behind the sufferings of Job.  But from chapter 3 onwards the camera pans down to earth.  And for the next 35 chapters, all we hear are earthly opinions about the workings of heaven.  Job and his miserable comforters debate the whys and wherefores of suffering.  But suddenly in Job 38:1 “the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind.”

“Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding”.  (Job 38:3-4)

This line of questioning continues for four chapters.  It is intense, unanswerable and relentless.

Is this what we expect after all the sufferings of Job?

If we were writing the story, surely we’d conclude things with Job and the LORD having a lovely cup of tea while angels give the poor man a back-rub.

But instead, Job gets an earth-shattering experience of the LORD Almighty.  His eyes are dramatically lifted from himself and his situation and  fixed instead on this Warrior, Creatorand Commander who speaks from the midst of a tornado.  Job experiences the LORD’s incomparable wisdom in surround sound. After a heck of a lot of speeches in the book, the LORD has the last word and Job is rendered speechless.

You might call this, putting Job in his place.  And actually it is absolutely for Job’s good.  The whole point of the LORD’s rhetorical questions — Did you make this world?  Do you know how it works? — is to lift the burdens of deity from his shoulders.

You see, whenever we try to balance the scales of sufferings and blessings, we put ourselves in the place of God.  If we imagine that we can justify X amount of suffering because of Y amount of sin or  its beneficial outcome, Z, we are overstepping our limitations as creatures.  We must trust to the Lord the redemption of all evil.  And we can trust to the Lord the redemption of all evil.  That’s because at Easter, He has suffered the ultimate evil and turned it into the ultimate good.

We cannot make sense of suffering by doing some kind of double-entry accounting.  If we do that we play God and we’d better gird up our loins for His response!

No, we leave the redemption of evil in the hands of our Redeemer.  It’s not our job to rationalize good and evil – in fact doing so sounds very much like our original sin.  But the tree on which good and evil is really known is the cross.  There Christ doesn’t just “make sense” of evil, He makes good.

In the course of the book, Job asks God “why” he’s suffering 20 times.  He never gets an answer.  But he does get an experience of the LORD Almighty.  And that’s better.  In our suffering, do we want the reasons or do we want the Redeemer?  The reasons aren’t promised.  The Redeemer is.

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