The Struggle against Chaos

Scripture Focus: Job 41.1, 33
1 Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
    or tie down its tongue with a rope? …

33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
    a creature without fear.

From John: Erin typically has been covering Wednesday but her specialty in her Master’s study included ancient near eastern mythology including chaos monsters such as mentioned in this chapter, so we switched it up. I’ve learned a lot from her. She’ll be presenting part of her research at the Southwest regional meeting for the Society of Biblical Literature on March 5, 2022, in Dallas. If you are in the area and of a scholarly persuasion, find more information at this link or register to attend here.

Reflection: The Struggle against Chaos
By Erin Newton

Chaos seems to be everywhere. Mobs overpowering a building. Countries poised for invasion. Cancer cells riddling a body. Christians tearing down the dignity of another. One of the thoughts we struggle with is the idea that all the events of life are haphazardly occurring, without meaning, spinning out of control.

Job’s life has been a tumultuous journey. His plea that God would hear him has been answered in a whirlwind. A steady inquisition about the creation has rained down. Where were you when…? Do you know how…? Who can do this…? Each question implies that God alone is able and Job is merely mortal. Then two mysterious creatures enter the scene. The land beast, Behemoth, and the sea-loving Leviathan become the conclusion of God’s response.

Leviathan has a coat of armor, a mouth ringed with teeth, snorting and breathing fire, incredibly powerful, and without equal. God warns that if you lay a hand on it, you will remember the struggle and never do it again! Some view this creature as a crocodile. Others prefer to look at the dragon-like features and recognize its mythic characteristics.

This dragon, or sea-serpent, is known as a chaos monster. The use of this imagery is a common ancient feature embodying a world lost in confusion and disarray. It is that which strikes fear in the hearts of people. It is that which threatens the peace, joy, and safety of men and women. For the ancient world around Israel, chaos monsters were those that could kill their deity and send unending famine to the world.

How can God comfort Job by talking about such a beast? How can Leviathan be the answer God gives to someone who suffers?

The rhetorical questions show the superiority and authority of God. The dragon is under the control of God, caught by a hook begging for mercy. It is both created and doomed for destruction (Psalm 104, Isaiah 27). The beast of chaos cannot stir the world into disorder because he is held on a leash by God.

We still feel the effects of chaos in the world. Disorder lurks beneath the surface of our daily lives. But there is hope: “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4.8-9). No purpose of God’s can be thwarted.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea-monsters and all deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous wind, doing his will;
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars;
Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged birds;
Kings of the earth an all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world;
Young men and maidens, old and young together.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord, for his name only is exalted, his splendor is over earth and heaven.
He has raised up strength for his people and praise for all his loyal servants, the children of Israel, a people who are near him. Hallelujah! — Psalm 148.6-14

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

Today’s Readings
Job 41 (Listen – 3:03)
Psalm 55 (Listen – 2:43)

Read more about an Unobligated God
God does not owe us salvation and forgiveness. But thank God that he pays debts that he does not owe.

Read more about Anxious Nights Between Destruction and Chaos
From the chaos of the sea and the wilderness wind, God brings order and a highway to salvation.

Unobligated God

Scripture Focus: Job 41.11
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
    Everything under heaven belongs to me.

Job 42.10-11
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

Reflection: Unobligated God
By John Tillman

“Who can stand against me?” God says to Job. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay?”

In the beginning of the book of Job, the adversary, Satan questions God’s justice. He says, in effect, “You are just bribing Job, God. He doesn’t really love you.”

Through many of their arguments, Job and his friends question God’s justice. They suppose that Job must be sinning in some way, otherwise, God is unjust.

We often question God’s justice today, asking many of Job’s same questions. Why do the wicked thrive? How is it that the innocent suffer? Why is the world not just, if God is just?

When we question whether God is just, we question the author of justice.
We think God owes us something because we live in an unjust world.
But it is us who have made this world unjust, wrestling it from God’s will along the way.

We have sinned against God. Not the other way around. God is not a debtor. We are. Our sinful condition means that we are not the victims but the perpetrators. Sin makes us into God’s enemies.

God does not owe us salvation and forgiveness. 

But thank God that he pays debts that he does not owe. He is a God who gives when he has no obligation. He is a God who comes to us, as we suffer in the highways and the byways, and compels us to come into his lavish banquet.

In the last chapter of Job (tomorrow’s reading) we see that God restored Job’s fortunes. I suppose we picture God handing Job a reimbursement check. 

But there is an important detail that we should not skip over. Job’s fortunes were restored by God, yes. But God used the means of Job’s friends to carry it out. Scripture says everyone Job had ever known came to give him a financial gift. 

Part of God’s restoration of Job was carried out in the community and by the community. When God sets out to redeem someone and rebuild their lives, he typically uses people to do it. 

May we cry to God for his justice, his righteousness, to be done on earth among us.
May we be a part of communities that line up to help the suffering as people helped Job.
May our actions be empowered by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s justice in the world.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
My lips will sing with joy when I play to you, and so will my soul, which you have redeemed. — Psalm 71.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 41 (Listen -3:03),
2 Corinthians 11 (Listen -4:46)

Read more about God is Faithful, not Indebted
Job and his friends believed in an indebted God who owed good to the righteous, owed suffering to the wicked, and never made late payments.

Read more about God of the Weak and Doubtful
Thank God, that he is the God of the weak and the doubtful.
In doubt hold out your hands.
In weakness cling to him.