Monday, May 27, 2013

Leviathan & Behemoth

In your Bible, Genesis is the first of 66 books.  However, if the books were placed in chronological order, Job would be first; it is the oldest written record of the Word of God.  In Job we find the most fertile references to Leviathan and Behemoth…the dinosaurs.
We are, perhaps, all familiar with the story of Job; at least the part that is proverbial, the patience, or troubles, of Job.  Job was a good guy, genuinely righteous before God.  He was a husband, father of a number of grown children, and a rich landowner.  As a respected member of his community Job sat in on the governing council of the city. 
Now, Satan, the opposer and accuser, caused the worst kinds of trials in Job’s life as a temptation to Job’s faith in God.  In the space of an afternoon’s time Job lost everything but his life.  All his children were killed, his riches stolen, and even the respect of his wife and friends vanished.  Hero to zero in nothing flat!
Well, that entire calamity happened in chapter one.  In the aftermath, for the next 36 chapters, Job is sitting on the ash heap of his life looking for answers.  (You would be too!)  Job’s three friends come to surround him with comfort in his misery.  But in short order the discussion turns ugly; there’s more confrontation than comforting.  Job’s friends keep asking the kind of question that probes what kind of sin Job must have committed to bring such awful punishment from God.  Job loudly defends his innocence for those 36 chapters, crying out for God to speak up and give him some answers.
To those of us who have suffered some life-changing tragedy, or just felt the advance of old age and decline, Job’s hollering in the darkness – OK, so tell me, GOD, what did I do wrong?” – is no strange thing.

What does this have to do with dinosaurs?                                Stay tuned!

Our text this morning is God’s answer to Job.  In that answer are also many answers to life’s most taunting and mysterious questions.  There is an answer to why the righteous suffer; there is an answer to where we come from and how our universe works.  And there is even an answer to the questions about dinosaurs (although the primary reason God gives it isn’t to satisfy our idle curiosity).
Hear God’s response to chapter one of Job’s tragedy, followed by 36 chapters of Job’s whining; hear the Word of the Lord:
Job 38:1 - 4 (TLB)
1Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: 2“Why are you using your ignorance to deny my providence?  3Now get ready to fight, for I am going to demand some answers from you, and you must reply. 4“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.   
Job 40:6 - 9 (TLB) 
6Then the Lord spoke to Job again from the whirlwind: 7“Stand up like a man and brace yourself for battle. Let me ask you a question, and give me the answer.  8Are you going to discredit my justice and condemn me so that you can say you are right?  9Are you as strong as God, and can you shout as loudly as he?                      
Job 40:15 - 24 (TLB)
15“Take a look at the Behemoth[1]!  I made him, too, just as I made you!  He eats grass like an ox.  16See his powerful loins and the muscles of his belly.  17His tail is as straight as a cedar. The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit together.  18His vertebrae lie straight as a tube of brass. His ribs are like iron bars.  19How ferocious he is among all of God’s creation, so let whoever hopes to master him bring a sharp sword!  20The mountains offer their best food to him—the other wild animals on which he preys.  21He lies down under the lotus plants, hidden by the reeds, 22covered by their shade among the willows there beside the stream.  23He is not disturbed by raging rivers, not even when the swelling Jordan rushes down upon him.  24No one can catch him off guard or put a ring in his nose and lead him away.      
Job 41:1 - 34 (TLB)
1“Can you catch Leviathan with a hook and line? Or put a noose around his tongue?  2Can you tie him with a rope through the nose, or pierce his jaw with a spike?  3Will he beg you to desist or try to flatter you from your intentions?  4Will he agree to let you make him your slave for life?  5Can you make a pet of him like a bird, or give him to your little girls to play with?  6Do fishing partners sell him to the fishmongers?  7Will his hide be hurt by darts, or his head with a harpoon? 8“If you lay your hands upon him, you will long remember the battle that ensues and you will never try it again!  9No, it’s useless to try to capture him. It is frightening even to think about it!  10No one dares to stir him up, let alone try to conquer him. And if no one can stand before him, who can stand before me?  11I owe no one anything. Everything under the heaven is mine. 12“I should mention, too, the tremendous strength in his limbs and throughout his enormous frame.  13Who can penetrate his hide, or who dares come within reach of his jaws?  14For his teeth are terrible.  15-17His overlapping scales are his pride, making a tight seal so no air can get between them, and nothing can penetrate. 18“When he sneezes, the sunlight sparkles like lightning across the vapor droplets. His eyes glow like sparks.  19Fire leaps from his mouth.  20Smoke flows from his nostrils, like steam from a boiling pot that is fired by dry rushes.  21Yes, his breath would kindle coals—flames leap from his mouth. 22“The tremendous strength in his neck strikes terror wherever he goes.  23His flesh is hard and firm, not soft and fat.  24His heart is hard as rock, just like a millstone.  25When he stands up, the strongest are afraid. Terror grips them.  26No sword can stop him, nor spear nor dart nor pointed shaft.  27-28Iron is nothing but straw to him, and brass is rotten wood. Arrows cannot make him flee. Sling stones are as ineffective as straw.  27-28Iron is nothing but straw to him, and brass is rotten wood. Arrows cannot make him flee. Sling stones are as ineffective as straw.  29Clubs do no good, and he laughs at the javelins hurled at him.  30His belly is covered with scales as sharp as shards; they tear up the ground as he drags through the mud. 31-32“He makes the water boil with his commotion. He churns the depths. He leaves a shining wake of froth behind him. One would think the sea was made of frost!  31-32“He makes the water boil with his commotion. He churns the depths. He leaves a shining wake of froth behind him. One would think the sea was made of frost!  33There is nothing else so fearless anywhere on earth.  34Of all the beasts, he is the proudest—monarch of all that he sees.”      

one quick disclaimer

Although the Bible contains history and scientific information, the purpose of God’s Word is not textbook or reference volume.  The Bible is Theo-logical, revealing of God to humankind and helping us understand our Creator.  The Bible’s purpose is not to satisfy our curiosity, it is given to help us know and have relationship with the One who loves us, and is Sovereign of the universe.
The Simple answer
From whence cometh the dinosaurs?  God made them.  Just like he made us, God created Behemoth, the land monster, and Leviathan, creature of the seas.  That he made them a long, long time ago is hardly debatable, or even necessarily debatable.  We have the fossil records that show they existed, validating what Job indicated, they were huge, ferocious, hideous and ruthless monster-like creatures, which no longer exist (unless you count the IRS).
Perhaps a greater question associated with the dinosaurs than “where” is “why”.  Why, indeed, would a loving God create such mean critters to roam around devouring other beings?  One key verse in understanding God’s “why” is Job 41:10.  In pointing to the dreaded Leviathan God says:
No one dares to stir him up, let alone try to conquer him.                                         And if no one can stand before him, who can stand before me? 
God helps us understand his sovereignty over everything by pointing to a mere created being – fierce as it is – too much for a mortal to handle.  He says…Look at that beast; you wouldn’t pick a fight with him for all the wealth of Solomon’s kingdom.  I created that beast without breaking a sweat, and yet you think you might have the stuff to take me on?
The dinosaurs, including the biggest and meanest of them, Behemoth and Leviathan, serve as a metaphor for everything that’s wrong in this fallen world.  Satan, himself is personified in Leviathan[2] as being the chief engineer of evil and sin.
Isaiah 27:1 (TLB)
In that day the Lord will take his terrible, swift sword and punish leviathan, the swiftly moving serpent, the coiling, writhing serpent, the dragon of the sea.
In Biblical thought every sort of woe and evil that has come upon humankind traces to the tempter – Satan.  But, in God’s kindness, we also see the demise of Leviathan. 
Just like the ferocity and terror of Behemoth and Leviathan mirror the effects of sin – such as terrorism, war and injustice at every level – so the extinction of the dinosaurs give us a tight glimpse of what is going to be the fate of Satan and his trade.  Revelation 19 teaches us that Behemoth and Leviathan that old dragon are cast into the lake of fire for eternity.  Sin and death shall be no more!
The dinosaurs controlled planet earth for a season, just like Satan is the prince of darkness here and now.  But his rule is limited, because God’s design included his eventual defeat and destruction.  We humans could not do this for ourselves; hence the cross:
Hebrews 2:14 - 15 (TLB)
 Since we, God’s children, are human beings—made of flesh and blood—he became flesh and blood too by being born in human form; for only as a human being could he die and in dying break the power of the devil who had the power of death.  15Only in that way could he deliver those who through fear of death have been living all their lives as slaves to constant dread.
what do we do with that?
God had a purpose for creating Behemoth and Leviathan – to show us how far out of reach our eternity is without him.  But his far greater purpose is to show us how close his hand is extending towards us to offer that eternity by the cross of Christ.
What we do with that knowledge is to respond to Christ’s offer by accepting Him as Savior, making Him Lord over our lives, and trusting our future to His loving care and kindness.
Romans 15:4 (TLB)
 4These things that were written in the Scriptures so long ago are to teach us patience and to encourage us so that we will look forward expectantly to the time when God will conquer sin and death.
John 20:31 (TLB)
31but these are recorded so that you will believe that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing in him you will have life.
The demise of sin, sickness, sadness and death is on its way as certainly as the extinction of Behemoth and Leviathan.  It’s like we say in the graveyard at every funeral when we quote Paul:
…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye….
And we quote John Donne…
…death be not proud….death, thou shalt die!

[1] References to “hippopotamus” and “crocodile” have been changed to “Behemoth” and “Leviathan”.
[2] Isaiah 27:1

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