A Lesson in Man’s Littleness
A SPEECH from the Almighty deserves our attention—especially so in this day and age when people speak of the dignity of man or the greatness of some men. Man’s littleness contrasted with God’s greatness is the subject of a speech given by Almighty God to his faithful servant Job. Using language of incomparable grandeur, the Most High God describes his works of creation, which give humans a view of the true size of themselves.
As you read portions of the Almighty’s speech, which has been described as “a series of questions following each other like claps of thunder,” put yourself in Job’s place. Imagine how Job felt when he heard these words from his Creator:
“Where did you happen to be when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you do know understanding. Who set its measurements, in case you know, or who stretched out upon it the measuring line? Into what have its socket pedestals been sunk down, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars joyfully cried out together, and all the sons of God began shouting in applause?”—Job 38:4-7.
God asked Job where man was when He created the earth. Was man perhaps engaged in earth’s founding or was he the architect who assisted in forming the model and then drew the dimensions by rule according to it? How far man was from having any hand in earth’s founding! Man was not even on the scene at the time of its founding. No man stretched out upon the earth any measuring line. Though hung upon nothing, the earth is established so that it cannot be moved. But who can tell upon what the foundations of it are fastened, that it may not sink with its own weight? Comparing the earth to a stupendous building, God asks Job, “Who laid its cornerstone?” Yes, who laid the cornerstone of this immense edifice, our earth, which itself bears all human edifices? Not man, for we are reminded that only angels jubilated in innumerable array, shouting in applause at God’s creating of the earth.
SEA AND WAVES
In lofty language the Creator asks more questions: “And who barricaded the sea with doors, which began to go forth as when it burst out from the womb; when I put the cloud as its garment and thick gloom as its swaddling band, and I proceeded to break up my regulation upon it and to set a bar and doors, and I went on to say, ‘This far you may come, and no farther; and here your proud waves are limited’?”—Job 38:8-11.
Why, the mighty sea is but an infant in the hands of God! “I do not believe that this object,” writes Herder in Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, “was ever presented under a bolder figure than that by which it is expressed, of an infant which the Creator of the world swathes and clothes with its appropriate garments. It bursts forth from the clefts of the earth, as from the womb of its mother; the Ruler and Director of all things addresses it as a living being, as a young giant exulting in his subduing power, and with a word the sea is hushed, and obeys him forever.”
God has caused the mighty ocean to be confined as if by doors, bolts and bars. Tides are marvelously limited and regulated by lunar and solar attractions, as well as by the amount of time that is required to remove any part of earth’s surface from under the immediate attractive influence of the moon and sun. When the tide appears as if to engulf the earth, it rolls back; but has any man a hand in contriving or effecting this?
Waves are a marvel in themselves, sometimes traveling at great speeds and reaching remarkable heights. Says the volume The World of Water:
“The sea is never still. Even on the calmest summer day ripples will pattern its surface and a rhythmic swell will roll its stately procession of undulations from the horizon to the shore. These ripples and waves so characteristic of the sea are caused by disturbances on the surface or in the depths below. The wind is the source of most of them. A gentle breeze that merely touches the surface will raise a rash of ripples as it flits across the sea; a lusty gale blowing at 100 miles an hour or more can whip the surface into a storm that raises waves higher than a house. . . . Unlike sound and radio waves, sea-waves travel at all sorts of speeds depending on their wave-length—the distance from one crest to the next. As the wind continues to scourge them they grow higher and higher and move even faster until they break on some far-distant shore. As the waves are carried along under the influence of the wind their speed across the surface is increased until they are travelling almost as fast as the wind itself. Under these conditions the ponderous swell is given preference by the wind; energy is poured into the waves, enabling them to travel perhaps from one end of the ocean to the other. . . . The larger waves, rolling away on a journey of hundreds or even thousands of miles, may gather speed until they are travelling faster than the wind that created them. In the major oceans of the world the wind can pursue the waves it has raised for immense distances, until they are 30 feet or more in height.”
How fitting the term “proud waves”! Some of them are mammoth, yet the Creator says: “This far you may come, and no farther; and here your proud waves are limited.”
Still more questions from the Almighty overwhelm Job: “Was it from your days onward that you commanded the morning? Did you cause the dawn to know its place, to take hold on the extremities of the earth, that the wicked ones might be shaken out from it? It transforms itself like clay under a seal, and things take their station as in clothing. And from the wicked ones their light is held back, and the high arm itself gets broken. Have you come to the sources of the sea, or in search of the watery deep have you walked about? Have the gates of death been uncovered to you, or the gates of deep shadow can you see? Have you intelligently considered the broad spaces of the earth? Tell, if you have come to know it all.”—Job 38:12-18.
Those words should cause us to reflect: Was it any man who gave orders for the succession of night and day? The morning light is represented as laying hold of the ends of the earth and shaking the wicked out of it, as dust from a cloth. Dawn disperses evildoers; they scurry like beasts to their several dens and hiding places. “As for the eye of the adulterer, it has watched for evening darkness, saying, ‘No eye will behold me!’ And over his face he puts a covering. In the darkness he has dug into houses; by day they must keep themselves locked in.” (Job 24:15, 16) Did any man cause the dawn “to take hold on the extremities of the earth, that the wicked ones might be shaken out from it”?
Morning light—the seal the Almighty holds in his hand—causes the earth, like crude unformed clay, to receive a beautiful impression from it, so that it suddenly assumes distinct form. Sunlight brings to view many colors with which the earth is tinged, and the earth appears in fresh beauty, as arrayed in splendid garments. But did Job or any man command all these beneficial and welcome changes? Does it depend on man’s care and management? Could any man supply the want of light if the sun’s beams should be withheld? Further, the vast ocean covers immense treasures and wonderful works of the Creator. Had Job walked about in the watery deep and taken inventory of its contents?
SNOW AND HAIL
Jehovah propounds more questions: “Where, now, is the way to where light resides? As for darkness, where, now, is its place, that you should take it to its boundary and that you should understand the roadways to its house? Have you come to know because at that time you were being born, and because in number your days are many? Have you entered into the storehouses of the snow, or do you see even the storehouses of the hail, which I have kept back for the time of distress, for the day of fight and war?”—Job 38:19-23.
Has any man ever escorted either light or darkness back to its home or entered into the storehouses of snow and hail that God has kept back for “the time of distress”? Snow itself is a marvel—crystals in an endless variety of beautiful forms! With snow and hail God can fight as effectually, if he pleases, as with lightning or with the sword of an angel. Snow and hail will evidently be used against God’s enemies on “the day of fight and war,” the time of Armageddon. What man can escape hail from heaven if God directs it? “Hailstones” are mentioned at Ezekiel 38:22 in reference to the means God will use to destroy the wicked hordes of humans under satanic leadership. At the battle of Gibeon in ancient times Jehovah used hailstones against his enemies: “There were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword.” (Josh. 10:11) A description of a hailstorm gives us an idea of what God can do on “the day of fight and war.” In his Autobiography (Book II, 50) the Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini related this experience:
“We were one day distant from Lyons . . . when the heavens began to thunder with sharp rattling claps. . . . After the thunder the heavens made a noise so great and horrible that I thought the last day had come; so I reined in for a moment, while a shower of hail began to fall without a drop of water. At first the hail was somewhat larger than pellets from a popgun, and when these struck me, they hurt considerably. Little by little it increased in size, until the stones might be compared to balls from a crossbow. My horse became restive with fright; so I wheeled round, and returned at a gallop to where I found my comrades taking refuge in a fir-wood. The hail now grew to the size of big lemons. . . . There fell a stone so huge that it smashed the thick branches of the pine under which I had retired for safety. Another of the hailstones hit my horse upon the head, and almost stunned him; one struck me also, but not directly, else it would have killed me. . . .
“The storm raged for some while, but at last it stopped; and we, who were pounded black and blue, scrambled as well as we could upon our horses. Pursuing the way to our lodging for the night, we showed our scratches and bruises to each other; but about a mile farther on we came upon a scene of devastation which surpassed what we had suffered, and defies description. All the trees were stripped of their leaves and shattered; the beasts in the field lay dead; many of the herdsmen had also been killed; we observed large quantities of hailstones which could not have been grasped with two hands.”—Harvard Classics, Vol. 31, pp. 352, 353.
When God opens up his storehouses of snow and hail at Armageddon, his enemies will be in for a terrifying time, and there will be no way of escape. Who can fight against snow or hail?
RAIN, DEW, FROST AND ICE
More questions from the Almighty: “Where, now, is the way by which the light distributes itself, and the east wind scatters about upon the earth? Who has divided a channel for the flood and a way for the thunderous storm cloud, to make it rain upon the land where there is no man, upon the wilderness in which there is no earthling man, to satisfy storm-stricken and desolate places and to cause the growth of grass to sprout? Does there exist a father for the rain, or who gave birth to the dewdrops? Out of whose belly does the ice actually come forth, and as for the hoarfrost of heaven, who indeed brings it to birth? The very waters keep themselves hidden as by stone, and the surface of the watery deep makes itself compact.”—Job 38:24-30.
Can any man take credit for the wonderful diffusion of light over the whole earth? Can he provide a channel for the “thunderous storm cloud”? The great Rainmaker is Jehovah, and even “the wilderness in which there is no earthling man” enjoys his blessing.
Have rain, ice and frost a human originator or father? Ice and frost are very common things so that this may tend to lessen the marvel of them. Yet consider for a moment the marvel of ice:
“During winter the water of lakes and seas becomes heavier as it cools. As its density increases the water sinks and displaces the lighter, warmer water, which rises to the surface. This cooling and mixing continues until the temperature reaches 4°C. Then, as the water cools still further the density change is reversed. The water becomes lighter as it cools towards freezing point. Instead of sinking, it lies in a layer on top of the warmer water beneath. Finally, as the water turns to ice, it becomes still lighter, and the ice floats on the surface like a protecting lid.
“If the density of cooling water did not change in this unusual way surface water would continue to sink until freezing point was reached. Ice would form at the bottom of lakes and seas and would accumulate from season to season until the waters were entirely solid. In summer only the surface layers would melt and there would be no massive movements of ocean currents to modify the world’s weather. The tropics would become unbearably hot and the ‘temperate’ regions would freeze throughout the year.”—The World of Water, pp. 148, 149.
Yes, Jehovah makes ice so that “the very waters keep themselves hidden as by stone” and yet the large bodies of water do not freeze solid with adverse effects for the earth. Ice, frost, rain and dew are the Creator’s handiwork. Rain and dew invigorate and give life to the whole vegetable world. Frost, by expanding the water contained in the earth, pulverizes and renders the soil fertile.
Just a few of the many questions put to Job in Jehovah’s sublime speech have been considered. And yet what a lesson we have in man’s littleness contrasted with God’s greatness! Jehovah’s speech shows up man’s true size, just as a molehill finds its true dimensions beneath the shadow of a mountain. “Behold! God is more exalted than we can know.”—Job 36:26.