photo credit: “Job And His Friends” by Ilya Repin, 1869
This morning I read from the book of Job in the Bible. Job was a guy who lived roughly 1,500 years before Jesus was born, a man who was greatly respected. There is a 42-chapter book devoted to Job in the Bible, and the account of his life is also written in the Quran.
Job was a man who had everything going for him. Some of his assets were: two thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred pairs of oxen, and five hundred donkeys. A huge staff of servants was needed to take care of all of them. He and his wife had many sons and daughters. The family was well-respected, and life was extremely good for them.
But then everything started unraveling. Foreign raiders swooped in and kidnapped part of his household. A firestorm came and burned many of his animals. Another raiding party stole his camels. Many of his servants were killed. Then a violent wind struck the house where his kids were having a party, and all of them died when it collapsed. Then Job broke out in some sort of boils or skin disease that left him itchy and miserable. His friends came over and initially seemed sympathetic, but then asked Job what he did wrong to bring these disasters upon himself.
Human life is complicated. Sometimes life is great, and sometimes it’s not. You can be doing everything right, and still have your life destroyed, like Job. A single act of nature, like a flood or wildfire, can wipe out your home. The act of another human can be just as damaging. The number of things that can go wrong is endless.
But in all of that, we still have the gift of free will – the ability to think for ourselves and make individual decisions. This, to me, is one of the main proofs that God really exists. How could random chance make billions of human beings unique, yet able to form communities and societies?
Then consider animals. They obviously have been created and programmed to act in a certain way. Each species has to behave in a certain way, and they cannot stray far from their built-in instructions. They exist side-by-side with humans and often form bonds with people, but still don’t have what we would call “free will” to do whatever they want.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.”
(Job chapter 12, verses 7-9)
I love knowing that I can look around at nature and animal life, and think the same things that Job thought thousands of years ago. Yes, there is a Creator! He gave us life and beauty and hope and the ability to make choices. What the new year will bring is a mystery, but one thing is certain in my mind: there is a God, and He cares about all of his creation.