The First Gospel
It is refreshing to see Job turn the discussion away from the claustrophobic arguments between him and his friends. “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7-9)
Job points to the animals, the birds, the fish, and the very earth itself as conspicuous and trustworthy beacons of wisdom. When God finally speaks at the end of the story, even He doesn’t bring any abstract arguments. Instead, the Lord’s entire appeal is to the wonders of nature. The result seems to move the whole-convoluted debate between Job and his friends into the fresh air of the real world.
Job’s primary argument to support his theology looks to the real world. Job’s faith grabs hold of all the strangeness and wildness of reality itself, while the faith of his friends does not. If you want to know the ways of the Lord, just look around you. If your theories and your theologizing do not mesh with the “real” world, then what good are they? Even a dog has more knowledge of God than you do!
The Apostle Paul writes, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Nature, Paul implies, was God’s original word to man, His original revelation. It was only when people rejected this perfectly obvious and adequate display of His glory that the Lord was obliged to change tactics. He then began to deal with sin through the special revelations of Scripture, and ultimately through the message of the cross. Nevertheless, nature still stands as His first and sufficient revelation, His first gospel. Mother nature is theology’s subconscious. She is our Father’s mother tongue.
This can be a difficult concept for Christians. We tend to undervalue the role of creation as a revelation of God’s love and care, as a revelation of God’s glory. However, while it is important that the Christian faith be book-centered, it is just as important that it not be bookish. What Job does in this passage is to urge his friends to get their noses out of their books, out of their scholarly religious treatises, and to take a good look around them at the real world. As David wrote in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
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