This week’s meditation is brought to you by Carolyn Rahaman. Carolyn is an author obsessed with modern iterations of mythological monsters. (You can find many of her short stories on her podcast, Twenty Percent True.) She is just as busy at Augustana as she is at home, working as a Sunday School teacher, church treasurer (a thankless job), and the technical wizard behind each of our virtual services (an even more thankless job!) Today she unites her love of monsters, her love of God, and her devotion to thankless jobs the book of Job.
There are few things I enjoy more than vivid and dramatic descriptions of monsters. So, of course, this passage draws my attention. But aside from this initial wonder, what stays with me from this passage is how you can hear God’s pride and enjoyment in his work. “It sneezes forth a flash of dawn.” “It counts iron as straw and bronze as rotten wood.” I love hearing His enthusiasm. Behold! The Leviathan!
His description of the leviathan–and even His creation of the leviathan–is not perfunctory. It’s not that He had to make a sea monster to make other parts of His creation work. He wasn’t ticking off a box, giving only half His attention to his work. He joyously created the leviathan, and now He brags about it, because He loves it.
There’s a culture at the moment of not showing how much you care about the things you enjoy. Even the work you’ve created with time and sweat and tears needs to be presented with humility that undersells the effort that went into it. The amount that you talk about your family’s achievements needs to be closely monitored lest you cross the line from affectionate pride into gloating and self-aggrandizing. There’s a belief that you should keep your delight, your passion to yourself, or those around you will cringe and feel embarrassed for you. And if you’re well aware that any enthusiasm on your part will result in judgement, then you’ll hold your interests close to your chest and protect them from ridicule.
But here, God talks for a full verse about a sea monster He made and how great it is. In the ten lines right before this, He tells of the majesty of the behemoth, which is generally understood today to be a hippopotamus. If God can unironically expound upon how great hippos are, maybe it’s okay for me to admit that I like things.
But there’s more to it than taking God as an example of how to unabashedly display interest. God loves his creation, of which we are a part. That’s an important point when taken in context with the rest of Job, a story about how God allows bad things to happen to good people. That’s a tension at the heart of faith: how can He love something and let it suffer? Here at the climax of Job, He addresses that tension by telling Job to fear His might. He made a sea monster. Job has never made a sea monster. Job is too small to understand God’s will.
God is making a point about how powerful He is, but he does it in such an exuberant way as to show His love. What I keep coming back to in this passage, what I find comforting, is that if God is this pleased with the leviathan and the hippopotamus, what would he say about oak trees? What would he say about mountains or clouds?
What would he say about me?