4 ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
I have always loved this passage from the book of Job. The entire narrative of the book of Job is a story which explores the “why” of human suffering, especially the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. In the end, the answer is that it is, in effect, part of the mystery of life. Job is quite clear – despite all the words of his so-called comforters – that God is not responsible for his terrible misfortunes. And he is proved right at the end, when God himself shows up in the story.
Job is the archetype of the one who suffers for no reason other than that’s how life happened for him. He lost everything just ‘because’ – though the writers used the idea that the Devil was tormenting him. And in the end, God restored everything and more to him. It is very clear that God does not cause the evil to happen, though equally he does not prevent it. But what he does do, is to bring blessing and good out of those evil circumstances.
The reason why I love these verses so much is because it expresses just how mysterious and beautiful and wonderful this world is. Science is discovering amazing things. In part, we do now know that the foundations of the earth are tectonic plates, and we know how they move. We do know just how big the earth is, and how far away the stars are.
But those measurements, whether in billions of miles or in billionths of a millimetre, do not truly show us the heart of the mystery – they only show just how incredible the whole mystery is. We have knowledge. But to have understanding, sometimes it feels that we must look at things with wonder and simply appreciate their beauty.
The image of the morning stars singing together at the wonder of creation is, for me, so special. It is as if the created world sings for joy at its own beauty and ‘amazingness’.
Some of you will recall the film, Shakespeare in Love. The hapless owner of the Rose Theatre, Philip Henslowe, is always in some kind of trouble. But he knows that there is always a solution, some way out. When asked by the moneylender precisely what his solution to the theatre’s debt is, Henslowe replies, “I don’t know! It’s a mystery!”
He repeats this through the film at crisis moments, and somehow his childlike faith that somehow something will turn up and that a door will open has always stuck with me.
I am not a scientist, but for me the knowledge that science has brought to us regarding the world simply deepens its beauty and mystery. I cannot hope to understand it, in the sense of being able to see its heart and soul simply by picking apart and numbering its constituent parts. I don’t think any human can, no matter how brilliant. In the end it is, and will remain, a mystery understood only by God who created it all and set the whole incredible universe in motion.
Peace and blessings,