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Do you know where God keeps the hail

In today's class of the Story of our Beliefs, we took a break. Not a complete break from our study mind you, just a different direction for a day to prepare ourselves for the upcoming discussions on the more controversial issues with which the Church has wrestled over the centuries.

Instead of following our normal procedure of going back into history and reviewing past debates on a particular subject, We spent this week looking at a very practical passage of the Bible, sort of as a way of cleansing the palate. We studied the book of Job.

(See the Class presentation)

Job has long been one of the most important books for me. Why look at Job in a class related to theology and church history? I'm glad you asked. The answer is found in Romans 9, which is one of those passages that comes closest to being a real "theological discussion." I would still say, however, Paul's purpose in the chapter is more practical than a theology outline on the subject of election. But Paul does talk about God's choosing some (Jacob) while not choosing others (Esau). In verse 19 Paul poses a rhetorical question for the reader, implying that for some, the idea of sovereign election appears inherently unfair. Paul's response? In verse 20, Paul makes a reference to God's speech to Job in the chapters 38-40 of that book, saying basically, "who are you to talk that way to God."

At first blush it is not a very satisfactory answer. God basically tells Job, "Hey there, I'm smarter than you and I know what I'm doing." That's what Paul is getting at in Romans 9 as well.

When we spend some time thinking about the answer,* we see how ultimately it is the only answer God can give. It is a very satisfying answer, once we put ourselves in our place and God in His place. We do not know the end from the beginning. We weren't there when He created the world. We don't even know where he keeps the hailstones. We might think we do (and I'm not talking about cold fronts, warm moist air masses, and strong updrafts creating a thunderhead), but ultimately we are finite creatures and only God is infinite. He can't explain everything to us. We just can't handle the truth. We only think we can because since the Renaissance and particularly since the enlightenment, the modernist world view tells us we can. But that's a lie.

So in regards to election, if you find God's sovereign choice troubling, then remember our responsibility. If you only see our free choice, don't forget God is sovereign. If you can't figure out how both are true, that's okay, you can't even catch a Leviathan either. 

[*Note: In class we did spend quite a bit of time analyzing Job's character as expressed in 1:1, 1:8, and 2:3. Then we compared the narrative repetition of the scene in heaven in 1:6-8 and 2:1-3, with particular attention to the repetition of the phrase "for no reason" in 1:9 and 2:3. God says he ruined Job for no reason. We also discussed how Job's lament in chapter 3 is a poetic expression of his desire to reverse creation and remove forever the day of his birth, so he would never have been born. God's response in chapters 38-40 were really a direct response to Job's chapter 3 lament. God says, "I'm the creator, and you aren't." Finally, we also discussed Job's three friends, who like theologians with too much self confidence in their own wisdom, thought they had it all figured out, when really they were way off base. In the end, they were condemned and Job was blessed.]