Reading that message from me, Bob from our church emailed me and told me that he was reading about the weather in the book of Job. He wondered that since we are not meeting today as a church, if I could put out a devotional about some of this.
“Interesting,” I thought to myself—reading about the weather in the book of Job. Bob’s comment intrigued me enough to write a devotional, which actually turned into something a little lengthy. Here it is below:
What Are the Wisest Words Ever Spoken by Man?
The big news story of 2020 of course was the covid-19 virus. When it first became a news item in our country, in the spring, it kept our church from meeting at all for a few weeks (was it in March?). Even now it still has an effect on how we meet. We wear masks and try to be careful on how we interact.
But covid-19 is not the reason that our church service is canceled today. It is the weather. Vivian said our thermometer said 27 below this morning. This is actually the first extreme weather that we have experienced in our area this winter, but other parts of the country have had their own events.
Last year, 2020, the year of covid, was also a year of extreme weather. I just looked this up, and according to NOAA, in the year 2020 there were 22 weather and climate disasters across the United States that each cost one billion-dollars or more in damages. Altogether, these 22 disasters cost the US $95 billion.
This is many more than any other previous year. The old record for the number of these billion-dollar-plus events was 16, which occurred both in 2017 and in 2011.
In the year 2020, the US had a record 7 disasters linked to tropical cyclones that inflicted damages of a billion or more, 13 severe storms, one disaster linked to drought, and also one to wildfires.
So you can see, were it not for a microscopic virus, great weather events would have dominated our evening news last year.
The weather that we are subjected to should be a reminder to all of us that we are not masters of our world. There is nothing that we can consciously do to alter weather patterns. Many people these days say we are changing the climate by our polluting of the environment—something with which I will neither agree or disagree here (I just don’t want to open that box of spiders right now).
However, even assuming this might be the case, it is not the same as saying that we can control the weather by our actions.
When a storm is coming, our meteorologists can predict it, but they can do nothing about it. They can predict the path that the storm is likely to take, and if we are in the path, we can prepare for it, but we cannot change it. It’s coming, and we are powerless against it.
Weather is unique in this way. Even as disastrous as the covid situation has become, we feel we are not powerless against the virus. Our country initiated “Operation Warp Speed” to quickly develop a vaccine.
Every night on the news, there is someone who is saying that we must “fight” the virus so that we can “beat it.”
No one says that about the weather. There is no fighting a hurricane. We might board up our windows, but after that there is only getting out of its path.
There is no beating a tornado, there is only cleaning up the after effects.
And in our case in our church today, there is no way in which we can make the temperature go up 20 or 30 degrees or make the wind die down, there is only being careful so we don’t become stranded on a desolate stretch of highway or slip in the ditch.
And now to Bob’s weather verses in the book of Job.
When Job was suffering severe physical and mental anguish after all the disasters that had come upon him, a total of four men came to speak with him and try to counsel him. Elihu was the name of the last of these men. Some of what Elihu said was perhaps not so helpful to Job, but this man did have the wisdom to learn some lessons from the weather about the sovereignty of God.
Below is some of what he said to Job. Notice how many references he makes to the weather, and how it should teach us about the power of God. The language is somewhat poetic, but the lessons are absolute.
I have quoted some longer portions, but it is all so good I did not know what to edit out. Like most poetry, it is better if you read it out loud. Go ahead and do it. Who is going to hear you?—everyone is locked up in their own homes.
"Indeed, God is great—beyond our knowledge; the number of His years is unsearchable.
For He draws up drops of water which distill the rain from the mist,
Which the clouds pour out and shower abundantly on mankind.
Furthermore, who can understand how the clouds spread out,
How the thunder roars from His pavilion?
"See how He scatters His lightning around Him and covers the depths of the sea.
For by these He judges the nations and provides food in abundance.
He fills His hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.
The thunder declares His presence; even the cattle regard the rising storm.
At this my heart also pounds and leaps from its place.
"Listen closely to the thunder of His voice and the rumbling that comes from His mouth.
He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole sky and sends it to the ends of the earth.
Then there comes a roaring sound; He thunders with His majestic voice.
He does not restrain the lightning when His voice resounds.
God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things we cannot comprehend.
For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the gentle rain, ‘Pour out a mighty downpour.’
"He seals up the hand of every man, so that all men may know His work.
The wild animals enter their lairs; they settle down in their dens.
The tempest comes from its chamber, and the cold from the driving north winds.
By the breath of God the ice is formed and the watery expanses are frozen.
"He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them.
They swirl about, whirling at His direction,
Accomplishing all that He commands over the face of all the earth.
Whether for punishment or for His land, He accomplishes this in His loving devotion.
"Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wonders of God.
Do you know how God dispatches the clouds or makes the lightning flash?
Do you understand how the clouds float,
Those wonders of Him who is perfect in knowledge?
"You whose clothes get hot when the land lies hushed under the south wind,
Can you, like Him, spread out the skies to reflect the heat like a mirror of bronze?
Teach us what we should say to Him;
We cannot draw up our case when our faces are in darkness.
"Should He be told that I want to speak?
Would a man ask to be swallowed up?
Now no one can gaze at the sun when it is bright in the skies
After the wind has swept them clean.
Out of the north He comes in golden splendor; awesome majesty surrounds Him.
The Almighty is beyond our reach; He is exalted in power! (Job 36:26-33; 37:1-23)
Now it is God’s turn to speak. He comes to Job with a great display of power—“Out of a whirlwind.”
“Now brace yourself like a man,” God says to Job. “I will question you, and then you teach Me!” Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.”
God then puts to Job a series of questions about the created universe, every one beyond our understanding. Some of the subjects that God speaks of are so inscrutable that we have to admit we do not even understand the question.
“Where is the way to the home of light? Do you know where darkness resides, so you can lead it back to its border? Do you know the paths to its home?”
Poetic language aside, what do these questions even mean?
But in keeping with the subject of the day, here are the questions that God asks about the weather:
"Have you entered the storehouses of snow or observed the storehouses of hail,
Which I hold in reserve for times of trouble, for the day of war and battle?
In which direction is the lightning dispersed, or the east wind scattered over the earth?
"Who cuts a channel for the flood or clears a path for the thunderbolt,
To bring rain on a barren land, on a desert where no man lives,
To satisfy the parched wasteland and make it sprout with tender grass?
"Does the rain have a father?
Who has begotten the drops of dew?
From whose womb does the ice emerge?
Who gives birth to the frost from heaven,
When the waters become hard as stone and the surface of the deep is frozen?
"Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set their dominion over the earth?
Can you command the clouds so that a flood of water covers you?
Can you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
"Who has put wisdom in the heart or given understanding to the mind?
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Or who can tilt the water jars of the heavens? (Job 38:22-37)
There are more questions—questions about the natural world and questions about the universe. Each question is without answer, and each is intended to teach Job that despite all the wisdom that he may have thought he possessed, he actually has no idea about how God has created and how He sustains the world and the universe.
“Behold, I am insignificant,” Job replies to God’s questioning.
But then Job realizes that even the thought saying anything at all in an attempt to answer the questions is beyond him. “How can I reply to You? I place my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, but I have no answer—twice, but I have nothing to add.” (Job 40:4-5)
We have become very proud in our society, thinking that with our advanced sciences and technology, we have the ability to overcome any problem. But it is our complete powerlessness before extreme weather that belies our pride.
Job’s final reply to God is what I consider some of the wisest and most important words ever written or spoken by man. They are especially important in these days, when science is quickly becoming the new god that we worship.
Job replies,“I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this who conceals My counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.
You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak. I will question you, and you shall inform Me.’ My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You.
Therefore I retract my words, and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)
I put an emphasis on those final words, because it is what I believe is most needed in today’s society. We today have become very proud. We have even come to the point where we assume to know more than God. This is not wisdom as we think it is. It is foolishness at its deepest level.
And our inability to control weather events is only one of the things that should teach us that we live merely at the pleasure of God and under His sovereignty.
It is time for us to repent. It is time for us to turn to God.