When God Makes You Feel Small (Job 40:1-5)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Job 40:1–5
I. A Good or Bad Thing?
A song lyric came to mind when I was preparing this message. It's from a song written by Justin Beiber and Ed Sheeran. Here are those lines...
For all the times that you made me feel small
I fell in love, now I feel nothin' at all
I never felt so low and I was vulnerable
Was I a fool to let you break down my walls?
Whether it was a romantic relationship or not, has anyone ever made you “feel small”? It's not a good feeling, is it? What are the songwriters talking about? They're talking about someone feeling insignificant in a relationship. Someone being devalued, then maybe condemned or ignored. Being made to feel like you just don't matter.
But this morning, I believe God wants to redeem this idea, at least the language used. This morning, in light of Job 40:1-5, I'd like to persuade you that being made to feel small is one of the best things that can ever happen to you. But this only works when God is the one who makes you feel that way. Let's unpack this idea by look together at Job 40.
II. The Passage: “I am of Small Account” (40:1-5)
As you may remember from your reading, or from the previous message, Job is a book about suffering; specifically about the suffering of a righteous man; a man who served God faithfully. Why was this man Job suffering? Well, most of the book contains a conversation between Job and three of his friends, a conversation in which these friends are trying to convince Job that his unthinkably immense and painful suffering must be the result of divine judgment against his unconfessed sin and stubborn heart. Despite Job's repeated affirmations that he has a clear conscience before God, these men want their friend to 'get right' with God.
Finally, after about 35 chapters of this, God shows up. After two chapters of questioning Job, this is what we read in chapter 40, verses 1-5...
And the LORD said to Job:  “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it [i.e., the question].”  Then Job answered the LORD and said:  “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”
Notice how Job replies in verse 4: “I am of... small account”. Let's make sense of this conclusion by breaking down this short passage. First, think with me about what this passage and its place in the context here tell us about...
1. Job's Fault (v. 1)
Do you remember how God described Job in the opening chapter of this book? Job 1:8...
And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
But notice what happens here in 40:1. God labels Job as a “faultfinder contend[ing] with the Almighty”. As someone “who argues with God”. When God first appears on the scene in chapter 38, he uses this language to described Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (38:2). God will continue in 40:8, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?” What exactly is going on here?
In the conversation that dominates most of the book, the careful reader discovers that even though Job did nothing wrong to bring about or deserve his suffering, while the book unfolds, he does sink into a wrong attitude as he processes his sufferings. Or to put it another way, Job didn't suffer as a result of his wrongs. But he was in the wrong as a result of his sufferings. Here are some examples of that attitude. Job 10:2–3...
I will say to God, Do not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me.  Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?
[13:3] But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.
[23:3-4] Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.
Job 30:21... You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me.
Job 31:35... Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
You see, somehow (in trying to make sense of what happened to him), Job has come to believe that God... got it wrong, and thus, He now owes Job an explanation; or at the very least, a hearing where Job can argue his case. But God doesn't get it wrong, does he? So in our main text, we read how, by God's grace, Job's fault leads to...
2. Job's Humbling (vs. 3-4a)
As I emphasized earlier, when God checks Job, or calls Job out about his attitude, Job is clearly humbled. We see that in verses 3-4... “Then Job answered the LORD and said:  “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” How do we explain this turn around with Job? Well, notice how God identifies himself here: “Will you 'contend with the Almighty?'... with El Shaddai? (a Hebrew title for God used almost fifty times in the Old Testament)”
But it's not simply how God has identified himself here. 38:1 revealed that “Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind”. That by itself had to be humbling. But there's more than that. Throughout the previous two chapters, as many of you read last week, God turns the tables on questioning Job and says in 38:3, “I will question you, and you make it known to me.”
What exactly is God asking Job in chapters 38 and 39? He's rhetorically asking him if knows, if he is familiar with, if he has experienced, if he can do, what only God can do. 38:4... “Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?” 38:12... “Have you commanded the morning...?” 38:18... “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?” 38:31... “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?” 38:35, “Can you send forth lightnings...?” 39:1... “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?” (high up and deep in the inaccessible mountains of very extreme places) 39:19... “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?” 39:26–27...“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars... Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up...?”
And God will go on in the remainder of chapter 40, and in chapter 41, to direct Job again to the lessons of creation. He will remind Job that there are large, intimidating, sometimes deadly animals in this world that most sane people would never imagine they could engage with or contend with in the same way Job has been contending with the very God who made those creatures. So the powerful presence of God, the overwhelming reality of who God is, has wonderfully made Job feel very, very small.
Think about this. In the same spirit in which God confronted the ancient reader, think about this: the earth is the fifth largest planet in our solar system. It's circumference is almost 25,000 miles. But if we measured that in light-years we'd discover that light can travel around the earth seven and half times in one second. Compare that with the 1.3 seconds it takes for light to travel from the Earth to the moon (a distance of 239,000 miles). But when the Earth is compared to our solar system, we learn that it takes light about 8 minutes to travel from the Sun to Earth (so if the sun vanished right now, you wouldn’t know it for another 8 minutes!). But if we took that measurement out to Pluto, which is 3.7 billion miles from the Sun, it take 5.5 hours for it's light to travel out to that planetoid. Now if we bump the scale up to our entire Milky Way galaxy, for light to travel across its width would take (not hours, but) 100,000 years (that's 588 quadrillion miles, or 588 followed by fifteen zeros). But remember, our galaxy is just one of many. How many? Recent estimates put the number at hundreds of billions of galaxies... in the observable universe. Thus if the light that takes 100,000 years to travel across our galaxy were making its trip across the whole observable universe, it would take over 13 billion years.
Brothers and sisters, friends, that should make us feel very, very small. But a physical/material humbling is not what we need. So here's the bigger point: every square inch of our unfathomably massive universe rests securely in the all-powerful hand of Job's God. Our God. As I said earlier, “being made to feel small is one of the best things that can ever happen to you. But this only works when God does it.” Why is that the case? Because the bigness of God 1) puts us in our proper place before God, and 2) gives us the right perspective on reality. Isn't that what happened to Job? Speaking of Job, think with me about what this passage tells us about...
3. Job's Response
When little Job is put in his proper place before this big, big God, and he comes back to a right perspective on reality, what are we told about his response? Look again at the end of verse 4. Job declares... “What shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. (v. 5) I have spoke once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” Isn't that wonderful? Little Job's response to this big, big God is... silence. His heart is teaching his tongue humility, right? For this humility is showing him the proper boundaries between the creature and his Creator. And even though suffering can distort our vision, Job teaches us it is crucial that we, by God's grace, hold fast to our proper place and a right perspective on reality.
In Job's final words in chapter 42, we learn more about his newly humbled heart. Job declares...
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted... Therefore I have uttered [spoken] what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Remember how Job went astray: in trying to make sense of what happened to him, Job came to believe that somehow God got it wrong, and thus, God now owed Job an explanation; or at the very least, a hearing where Job could argue his case. But as we see in chapters 40 and 42, Job now recognizes the utter foolishness of his thinking and behavior. You see, being made to feel small was exactly what Job needed as he struggled with thinking too highly of himself.
III. Big, Big Love
Whether it's suffering or success that distorts our vision, brothers and sisters, we need to cling to our smallness. But we can only do this when we practice the presence of a big, big God. Of course, from one perspective (and for many people) a big God is a distant and disinterested God; a God before whom we are insignificant. But please remember how Job ends. Not only does God come to confront Job, but he also comes to restore Job. He confronts and comforts his “servant Job” (1:8; 42:7). While God does double Job's material blessings, clearly, Job is a spiritually changed man after the adversity he endured. Job, a “blameless and upright man”, a man “who fear[ed] God and turn[ed] away from evil”, now knows God in a way he hadn't before.
Did Job suffer because of certain sins? No. Did Job suffer because he was a sinner. Yes. Here's how: God knew the ugliness this adversity brought out of Job, was not only in Job, but needed to be confronted. Through Job's suffering God was refining a sinner whom he loved. Could Job fully understand this? No. Can we fully understand how God works in this way in our own lives? No. But we can trust that God is a big, big God, and that his love is equally immense.
The gospel shouts this truth louder than anything else in Scripture! Remember who we are: as those opening song lyrics remind us, we are the kind of people who often make others feel small in order to feel 'big' ourselves. Worse than that, we are the kind of people who end up making God 'small' in order to feel 'big' ourselves. But the Good News about Jesus is that this big, big God of Job became small for us in Jesus... without... losing any of his bigness. The hands that fashioned and always uphold our 94-billion-light-year-wide universe are the same hands that once touched blind eyes, that blessed precious children, that healed the leper, that broke bread in the upper room, and... that took the nails at Golgotha.... for us; for you. The big love of a big God showed up in a big way in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Do you believe that?
When are you tempted to question God? To believe he's getting it wrong, even if you (unlike Job) don't say so out loud? In what ways do you attempt to make yourself 'bigger' than you actually are? And who suffers when you do? Brothers and sisters, friends, will you allow God to make you feel small this morning? Of course, this isn't ultimately about our feelings. We are small before a big God, whether we recognize that or not. But remember, in God's eyes, small is not insignificant. Let the word of God reveal this big God to you, and his big love through Jesus Christ. And as it does, let that revelation humble and refine you. Let's pray in this spirit: “Almighty God, like Job, confront us in our delusions of 'bigness' with the reality of your bigness. Make us feel small, that we, through Christ, might know your comfort as well; the comfort of creatures depending on and receiving our Creator's grace.” Again, let's pray in that spirit.
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023)
September 24, 2023Speak the Word with Boldness (Acts 4:23-31)
August 27, 2023Praying for God's People (Daniel 9:17-19)
August 20, 2023Daniel's 'Not of This World' Example (Daniel 1:8-17)