1 “Surely there is a mine for silver,
and a place for gold that they refine.
2 Iron is taken out of the earth,
and copper is smelted from the ore.
3 Man puts an end to darkness
and searches out to the farthest limit
the ore in gloom and deep darkness.
4 He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives;
they are forgotten by travelers;
they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro.
5 As for the earth, out of it comes bread,
but underneath it is turned up as by fire.
6 Its stones are the place of sapphires,
and it has dust of gold.
7 “That path no bird of prey knows,
and the falcon’s eye has not seen it.
8 The proud beasts have not trodden it;
the lion has not passed over it.
9 “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock
and overturns mountains by the roots.
10 He cuts out channels in the rocks,
and his eye sees every precious thing.
11 He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle,
and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light.
12 “But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
13 Man does not know its worth,
and it is not found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’
and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15 It cannot be bought for gold,
and silver cannot be weighed as its price.
16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
in precious onyx or sapphire.
17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,
nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;
the price of wisdom is above pearls.
19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20 “From where, then, does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living
and concealed from the birds of the air.
22 Abaddon and Death say,
‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’
23 “God understands the way to it,
and he knows its place.
24 For he looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he gave to the wind its weight
and apportioned the waters by measure,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a way for the lightning of the thunder,
27 then he saw it and declared it;
he established it, and searched it out.
28 And he said to man,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”
Job has suffered great tragedy in losing most of his family, all his possessions, and been struck with ‘loathsome sores’ from head to toe. Initially he is very angry, and some of his friends try to tell him that if he was more godly, he would be content with his lot and feel blessed by God. In short, ‘you brought it upon yourself Job’.
Thankfully, his friends are proved wrong. God does indeed challenge Job about whether his anger is indeed justified, but He does this in the context that God has the world in His hands,
and we can trust our lives to Him even when we can’t understand.
Which is where the chapter we heard this evening has a part to play. Job asks ‘where does wisdom come from, and where is the place of understanding‘? It is hidden from mortals, and belongs to God. He quotes words we find in Deuteronomy in saying ‘the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom’.
ny wisdom we gather through life comes from God and understanding his ways. But we are limited as humans, so cannot expect to ever fully understand why bad things happen to good people.
Why is it that good people fall ill, yet people we might consider to be ‘bad’ in our own judgment seem to get away scot free form sickness and bask in wealth. It may be that our judgement at such times may be as misled as that of Job’s friends.
Job is clear that all the wealth in the world is not worth anything compared to God’s wisdom. And its only as we gradually begin to see life in the light of God’s perspective that we can even begin to comprehend anything about why some people may suffer and others not.
But at the end of the day, we all have questions, many of us may feel anger, just like Job, and we may struggle even when we start to let go of our human expectations.
We will not have all the answers while we are on this earth. We can open our minds and hearts to learn from God’s wisdom, and this may bring us some peace.
And we can seek to accept our human condition of not fully knowing , but alongside this we can share God’s love with others who are struggling as we are with not knowing the answers, and through that sharing of love and prayer, we can strengthen each other through the trials and tribulations of this earthly life until we come to a full understanding and as Paul writes to the Corinthians, ‘now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face‘.