The Grand Perhaps
A daily devotion for December 16th
1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied:
2 "Dominion and awe belong to God;
he establishes order in the heights of heaven.
3 Can his forces be numbered?
Upon whom does his light not rise?
4 How then can a man be righteous before God?
How can one born of woman be pure?
5 If even the moon is not bright
and the stars are not pure in his eyes,
6 how much less man, who is but a maggot—
a son of man, who is only a worm!"
1 Then Job replied:
2 "How you have helped the powerless!
How you have saved the arm that is feeble!
3 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
And what great insight you have displayed!
4 Who has helped you utter these words?
And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?
5 "The dead are in deep anguish,
those beneath the waters and all that live in them.
6 Death 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?"
How you have helped the powerless! How you have saved the arm that is feeble! What advice you have offered to one without wisdom! And what great insight you have displayed! Who has helped you utter these words? And whose spirit spoke from your mouth? (Job 26:2-4)
In chapter 26 Job hangs up the phone, in a sense. He says there is no use talking to his friends anymore. His answer to Bildad is one of rather deep and rich irony in which he suggests that his friends have been of no help at all to him. I think, however, that Job needs to learn something from this, and we will see in the next chapters that he does. Oswald Chambers reminds us that God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers that he uses to crush us with; or if we do, it will be at great pain to ourselves. Job does not see here that God also is using these friends in his life. Satan has sent them; God is using them; and we will soon see the result in Job's life.
Once again he goes on to state the majesty of God in a brilliant and moving passage, and he closes with this word in verse 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? What he says is simply that there is a mystery in God that no human can plumb. Even when we have understood something of the greatness of His wisdom and majesty in nature—when we have learned of His omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience, and we know that as part of our theology—it still does not explain all of His ways.
I am reminded of a verse from Robert Browning's poem "Bishop Blougram's Apology," where the poet describes an arrogant young man who has worked out all his theology so that God is carefully boxed in. He believes he knows the answers to all the theological riddles of life; there is no place for God in it. He can handle it all himself. He comes to an old bishop and tells him he does not need God any longer; he is committed to his unbelief. The old bishop warns him:
"Just when we are safest, there's a sunset-touch,
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death,
A chorus-ending from Euripides,—
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears...
The Grand Perhaps."
What he means is that just when you think you have God all worked out, something happens that you can't handle—it doesn't fit your box. You see a sunset that is so moving that it awakens depths in you that you can't explain. Someone dies, and you don't know how to handle it. You see a flower, and you are touched by it. You listen to a chorus-ending from Euripides, and it moves you in such a strange way, it doesn't fit the facts. And in all these ways God is breaking through into our lives—the grand perhaps, and that's enough for fifty hopes and fears—the great mystery of God.
Father, thank You for the encouragement I receive from this book to know that other men and women in the past have faced the same difficult questions that I have faced, and they have not been knocked off their feet and driven to curse you. Help me to take heart in what trials I may be going through and know that You will bring me through.
Life Application: God's people have a rich heritage of heroes of the faith. Have we caught their vision of the majesty and goodness of our God, and set our hearts on faith-full discipleship?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.