During the sermon this past Sunday I referenced a section of Job (38-42:6). The point I was attempting to make was that often we will come to a point of mystery in our efforts to understand God’s revelation of Himself (theology). Some people use that as an excuse for not putting forth the mental effort of understanding all that the Lord has revealed about Himself. To do so, however, is the wrong response. We should seek to understand what has been revealed. The Lord has revealed it for a reason. On the other hand, there are those who seem to have a hard time resting in God’s goodness and sovereignty resulting in worship when they reach the limits of their mental finitude. J.I. Packer’s definition of mystery is helpful at this point; mystery is “a reality which we acknowledge as actual without knowing how it is possible, and which we therefore describe as incomprehensible.”
The mystery that Job acknowledges is related to suffering and God’s goodness and sovereignty. However, the principle truths gained from Job’s experience carry over to other areas of truth. There comes a time when we need to be put in our place “so to speak”. We only begin to truly understand reality when we see God rightly for who he is and ourselves in light of Him. The following are some comments from various authors on the Job section that I have come across over the years. I hope they are edifying.
R.C. Sproul wrote:
(Job) cried out for answers, and God said that He would answer Job’s questions. But the answers never came forth. To be sure, there was a condition attached to the promise of answers: Job was required to answer first. But Job flunked his exam. God then gave no answers.
Yet Job was satisfied. Even though God gave no answers, Job’s questions were put to rest. He received a higher answer than any direct reply could have provided. God answered Job’s questions not with words but with Himself. As soon as Job saw who God is, Job was satisfied. Seeing the manifestation of God was all that he needed. He was able to leave the details in God’s hands. Once God Himself was no longer shrouded in mystery, Job was able to live comfortably with a few unanswered questions. When God appeared, Job was so busy repenting that he did not have time for further challenges. (pg. 143)
D.A. Carson reflects:
Job teaches us that, at least in this world, there will always remain some mysteries to suffering. He also teaches us to exercise faith—not blind, thoughtless submission to an impersonal status quo, but faith in the God who has graciously revealed himself to us. (pg. 153)
David VanDrunen wrote:
God never gives Job an alternative explanation for why a given person suffers in the way that he does, but instead he reminds Job how great he himself is and how small Job is (Job 38-41). In other words, he showcases the limits of human understanding before the immense wisdom and power of God…Just because we do not know the answers to everything does not mean that God does not know them. (pg. 64)
I recently came across a quote from John Calvin in which he eloquently recorded the outcome of his wrestling with theological mystery. He is actually remarking on the Lord’s Supper. Yet it still displays a beautiful response to theological mystery in general. Calvin penned:
For, whenever this matter is discussed, when I have tried to say all, I feel that I have as yet said little in proportion to its worth. And although my mind can think beyond what my tongue can utter, yet even my mind is conquered and overwhelmed by the greatness of the thing. Therefore, nothing remains but to break forth in wonder at this mystery, which plainly neither the mind is able to conceive nor the tongue to express. (quoted in, One With Christ, pg. 239)