Fringes of Creation

Scripture Focus: Job 26:14
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
     how faint the whisper we hear of him!
     Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Reflection: Fringes of Creation
By Erin Newton

In a recent lecture, I heard Diane Langberg speak about the mental and emotional weight of constantly counseling those in grief. When asked how she handles the psychological toll of such heaviness, she said one thing she does is reconnect with nature by getting out into the garden and planting flowers.

What hope is gained by looking out the window at birds near a feeder or gazing up to name the constellations in the starry night? How is it that creation can feed the soul and bring a downcast spirit a momentary reprieve? The words of Job hint at this phenomenon. He calls us to consider creation as we try to understand the mysteries of our suffering. 

Looking across the stormy ocean, there is a certain hue of blue-green that is only shown in the tossing of waves. “He wraps up the waters in his clouds.” The skies that settle into a dark gray as the air begins to mist and you can smell rain is on the way—this is done through the hands of God.

Even in the calm mornings near the lake, where the fog clings to the silent motionless waters. There is a calm serenity that creation exemplifies for us each day. “He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters.” It is within reach but often outside our present focus.

The binding of the waters, the limitations of the darkness, the stillness of the sea—all of these speak of the power of God. For Job, it is just the fringe of God’s work.

The mythic dragon that lives in the primordial sea—Rahab, the gliding serpent—has been silenced by the hand of God. The spirit which hovered over the waters is the spirit that split the Red Sea. “By his breath the skies became fair.”

God’s power calmed chaos and brought order. God’s power provided a way through the waters and into deliverance. This is the fringe of God’s works that Job and his friends long to understand.

But just as innocent suffering seems to reside outside our ability to understand, so does the magnitude of God’s power. Reaching down into the dirt, looking out across the valleys, exploring the depths of caves, and climbing above the tree line onto snowcapped mountains—this momentary pause to look at the fringes of his works is one place we find respite in our suffering.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 25-26 (Listen 1:52)
Psalm 5-6 (Listen 2:45)

Read more about Tense Conversations
“Tension” is a good word for the dialogues between Job and his friends. The greatest tension is the conflict between how each person views the world.

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The Whispers of God

Scripture Focus: Job 26.5-14
5 “The dead are in deep anguish, 
those beneath the waters and all that live in them. 
6 The realm of the dead is naked before God; 
Destruction lies uncovered.
7 He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; 
he suspends the earth over nothing. 
8 He wraps up the waters in his clouds, 
yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. 
9 He covers the face of the full moon, 
spreading his clouds over it. 
10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters 
for a boundary between light and darkness. 
11 The pillars of the heavens quake, 
aghast at his rebuke. 
12 By his power he churned up the sea; 
by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces. 
13 By his breath the skies became fair; 
his hand pierced the gliding serpent. 
14 And these are but the outer fringe of his works; 
how faint the whisper we hear of him! 
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” 

Reflection: The Whispers of God
By John Tillman

Ancient cosmology is well worth investigating for Christians. (Further Study from The Bible Project.) It tells us about the presuppositions of biblical writers and early readers.

We take for granted gravity, physics, thermodynamics, complex orbits of planets and other objects, and the vast void of space. The best minds of our time and observations of our universe tell us these are true. We unthinkingly apply our presuppositions to scripture. We read, “the earth was formless and empty…” (Gen 1.2) and think about pre-Big-Bang nothingness. 

The early readers of Genesis wouldn’t have been thinking of that at all. Ancient people, like Job, believed the best minds of their time and observations of their universe. They took for granted the earth was flat, supported above the nothingness of the chaos waters below. They weren’t fact-denying flat-earthers. They simply didn’t have the evidence we do today.

Job describes the wonders of God in a passage focusing on cosmology and the created world. He describes everything from the deep chaos waters (and monsters) and the realm of the dead to the skies and the sun, moon, and stars above them. Job would be unfamiliar with our understanding of gravity, or the water cycle, but that didn’t stop him from being amazed at how clouds, heavy with water, can float in the sky and how the earth can be suspended over waters when stones and dirt sink in a stream.

The hubris of knowledge can make us callous. Are these things any less wondrous to us simply because of greater scientific knowledge? 

Job calls the wonders of creation “whispers” of God—the faint fringes of his power and glory. (Job 26.14; Romans 1:20) God’s whispers of wonder still come from creation today. Science is not the enemy of God but his microphone, microscope, and telescope.

The James Webb Space Telescope will soon show us more of the universe than ever before—distant realms Job never imagined. God’s whisper still reaches us from there. The deeper we look into space (or any science) the deeper God’s wonders whisper to us. 

The universe that Job believed in didn’t exist as he thought it did. Some of our current conclusions may be proved wrong in time. That makes God no less real and no less powerful. Is God smaller because the universe is bigger than Job thought? Or than we think? No. God is greater still. And we will yet hear the thunder of his power. (Exodus 20.18-19; John 12.28-29; Revelation 10.4-7)

Image Note: Today’s image contains an artist’s rendering of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. — Psalm 118.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 25-26 (Listen – 1:52)
Psalm 35 (Listen – 3:21)

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Whatever scientific instruments we use…we find the fingerprints of God.