I got very into Job in high school.
I was a kid who got “very into” things, that included books of the Bible. My first love was Revelation, because of the dragons. I moved to Ecclesiastes, because of the existential dread. And when I was fifteen, I fell in love with the last four chapters of Job. I printed them out and taped them up around my room – I loved the sea monsters and lightning storms and the way that this Scripture felt right out of Lord of the Rings.
He’s not a tame Lion, C.S. Lewis says. The Book of Job concurs.
I Am the God of Dangerous Things.
I know that everyone hops straight to articles and skips reading the Bible passages, but this poem is so absurdly good that I hope you’ll at least skim it.
This is a wild God of wild things.
Job’s God is a God of hailstorms and ocean depths and untamed birds of prey and horses that “laugh at fear” (39:22).
This God picks up the edges of the earth to “shake the wicked out of it” (38:13). This God knows the undiscovered ocean deeps and throws up stars into constellations. Job 38-41 uses the word “wild” 5 times and the word “free” a stunning 13 times. The poet teases about the untamable Leviathan: “Can you make a pet of it, like a bird?” (41:5) Wild donkeys, hawks, ostriches, and mountain goats all make appearances – all of them untamed, and all of them joyful. In Job, the wild animals laugh, the stars sing, God rejoices, and the animals are exhilarated by their own fearlessness.
Your Imagination is God-Starved.
There is a dearth of imagination in the modern Western church. Our imaginations are “God-starved,” as Oswald Chambers says. We are starved for images of a God that can’t be subdued.
This God, who doesn’t speak from a cozy living room but from a whirlwind, wakes up things in me.
I want this God so badly.
I want to see this God pass by, even if all I see is God’s back or a pillar of smoke or a burning bush.
Our world can feel mundane and exhausting. Evil seems larger than life, and goodness is reduced to the dry, the contained, and the small. Yes, God cares so deeply about our daily moments and ordinary life, and God sees and loves the small things. But the world is fighting for our imagination, trying to take it captive with the lie that goodness is only smallness, that a holy life is a tame life, and that badness is free but that goodness is caged.
This poem rejects that furiously.
It rejects the contained theology of Job’s friends, and bursts in with a God who sings dangerous things into being with delight. Job’s God rejoices in everything too deep to be measured, too fierce to be subdued, and too wild to be consumed. Our culture is obsessed with utilization and productivity, driven to measure everything’s worth by what it’s “good for.” (Can I tame this animal? Can I eat these products? Can I use this water? Can we mine this land? Is there oil under this ocean?) But our countercultural, explosive God creates dangerous beauty for its own sake. This is humbling and freeing, world-destroying and imagination-expanding. While we scrabble to consume the world, our radically free God says –“I am delighted by everything that you cannot get and cannot tame.
“I am delighted by My untamed creation.
“I am the God of the wild ones.”
What Kind of an Answer to Suffering is This, Anyway?
Reading Job 38-41 in the context of the whole book, a parable about human goodness and human suffering, is complicated. I’m not sure how it fits – what kind of an answer to suffering is this, anyways? Scholars say that the prose and poetry of Job were written in two different centuries, and that explains the diverse content. Most importantly for me, God’s final answer to suffering is definitively found in Jesus Christ, where God joined the “crucified class” and declared that where the oppressed suffer, God suffers, too.¹
But I also know that there is strange, counterintuitive comfort in the “radical freedom” of Job’s God.¹
There are times when I want God to swope me up in a blanket and give me hot tea and be my gentle Parent. But sometimes the most comforting answer to this wearying world isn’t “comforting” at all. Sometimes there is powerful comfort in a fierce, uncontainable God who sings with the stars at creation, takes joy in untamable creatures, and shakes the edges of the earth until the wicked are unmoored.
As Job’s friends gather round with theologically “tamed” explanations for Job’s suffering, God’s answer is simple: the world is very big, and y’all haven’t been around very long. The world is wild, and its wildness gives Me joy, so take your small logical thesis statements and throw them into the ocean with the untamed Leviathan and see if they sink or swim.
This radically free who God swoops over the deep and laughs in the face of danger is a God that I desperately need: both as an antidote to the theology of Job’s friends who claim that there is an answer to everything if we think hard enough, and as a response to a world that demands that has value unless it can be subdued and quantified.
We’ve tried to conquer the world with machines and conquer God with theology, but our God is wild. Deep calls to deep, loves.
Let your soul sing with an uncaged creation to our uncaged God.
- Kelly Douglas Brown, in her outstanding book Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, discusses both idea of God who is with the “crucified class,” and the idea of the “radically free” God of liberation theology.