i.e., the crocodile

We professing Christians trust “science” more than we trust the Word of our Creator.

Even though “science” changes its opinion all the time, with the generational fashions.

Even though the Word of the Lord stands forever.

Even though those who are ashamed of the Lord, He will be ashamed of them on the Day of Judgment.

We’re sheep needing a shepherd, ain’t we?

I’m not dissing the study of God’s creation that true science is. But there is a quite different thing from this that in our day is also called “science”, that takes things God says are so and scoffs, “It’s not so.”

Where do we place our trust?

The Lord questions Job

The Lord has acted unjustly toward Job, Job thinks. Job has spent many words saying how he would make God answer for this if he could only get a hearing. After much discourse back and forth between Job and his friends, in the end (Job 38-41) God speaks out of a great storm. It is quickly apparent that God is not the one who must answer — Job is.

Throughout God’s speech, He reminds Job that He is God and Job is not. He does this with a series of questions, starting with:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
– Job 38:4-7 NASB

In chapters 38 and 39, God proceeds to ask Job who set the boundaries of the sea and commanded the morning. He asks him if he has seen the gates of death or been to the storehouses of the snow or hail. He asks who has charge of the flood, thunderbolt, rain, dew, ice, and frost. He asks about the arrangement and placement of the constellations. He asks him if he feeds the lions, ravens, and mountain goats. He asks who set the wild donkey free, describes the strenght of the wild ox, shows that it is He who keeps the ostrich from ways of wisdom. He asks if Job is the one who gave the horse his might, or the eagle and the hawk their soaring.

In chapter 40, Job’s hand is already over his mouth (v.4), but God isn’t done yet, and He spends the second half of chapter 40 showcasing Behemoth.

It isn’t until chapter 41, though, that we reach the climax of God’s questioning. Here God questions Job about the most fearsome, the most magnificent of His creation: Leviathan.

Leviathan

Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?
Or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
Or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many supplications to you,
Or will he speak to you soft words?
Will he make a covenant with you?
Will you take him for a servant forever?
Will you play with him as with a bird,
Or will you bind him for your maidens?
Will the traders bargain over him?
Will they divide him among the merchants?
Can you fill his skin with harpoons,
Or his head with fishing spears?
Lay your hand on him;
Remember the battle; you will not do it again!
Behold, your expectation is false;
Will you be laid low even at the sight of him?
No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him;
Who then is he that can stand before Me?
Who has given to Me that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.
I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
Or his mighty strength, or his orderly frame.
Who can strip off his outer armor?
Who can come within his double mail?
Who can open the doors of his face?
Around his teeth there is terror.
His strong scales are his pride,
Shut up as with a tight seal.
One is so near to another
That no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another;
They clasp each other and cannot be separated.
His sneezes flash forth light,
And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
Out of his mouth go burning torches;
Sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth
As from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals,
And a flame goes forth from his mouth.
In his neck lodges strength,
And dismay leaps before him.
The folds of his flesh are joined together,
Firm on him and immovable.
His heart is as hard as a stone,
Even as hard as a lower millstone.
When he raises himself up, the mighty fear;
Because of the crashing they are bewildered.
The sword that reaches him cannot avail,
Nor the spear, the dart or the javelin.
He regards iron as straw,
Bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee;
Slingstones are turned into stubble for him.
Clubs are regarded as stubble;
He laughs at the rattling of the javelin.
His underparts are like sharp potsherds;
He spreads out like a threshing sledge on the mire.
He makes the depths boil like a pot;
He makes the sea like a jar of ointment.
Behind him he makes a wake to shine;
One would think the deep to be gray-haired.
Nothing on earth is like him,
One made without fear.
He looks on everything that is high;
He is king over all the sons of pride.
– Job 41:1-34

Possibly the crocodile

So tell me. What is Leviathan?

The NIV text note says “possibly the crocodile”. The NASB text note says the same thing.

Let’s take God’s words and apply them to the crocodile.

Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook?
Or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
Or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many supplications to you,
Or will he speak to you soft words?
Will he make a covenant with you?
Will you take him for a servant forever?
Will you play with him as with a bird,
Or will you bind him for your maidens?
– Job 41:1-5

Well, no, I guess we couldn’t do any of these things to a crocodile. Ok, so far this could be a crocodile.

Will the traders bargain over him?
Will they divide him among the merchants?
Can you fill his skin with harpoons,
Or his head with fishing spears?
– Job 41:6-7

Here we already see some divergence from the crocodile idea. God boasts, “You can’t bargain over him, can you? There’s no way you’re going to kill him with harpoons and spears, is there?” and we say (thinking of the crocodile), “Well sure, we can do those things to him.” Do we see the disconnect?

Lay your hand on him;
Remember the battle; you will not do it again!
Behold, your expectation is false;
Will you be laid low even at the sight of him?
No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him;
Who then is he that can stand before Me?
Who has given to Me that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.
– Job 41:8-11

In verses 8-11, God’s argument is that if no man dares arouse Leviathan — God’s creation — how much less can man dare to stand before God Himself.

But if we’re talking about crocodiles — there actually are not a few men who do dare to handle crocodiles. If we’re talking about crocodiles, God’s argument is reduced from “no man can stand before Me” reinforced with a proof, to “only the man who is bold enough to wrestle a crocodile might try to stand up to Me”. If God’s logic here can be overcome and we can stand before Him, why couldn’t someone also be able to overcome God’s logic in the next verse when He asks, “Who has given to Me that I should repay him?” saying, “I have!”

Raving like a fool

God continues:

I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
Or his mighty strength, or his orderly frame.
Who can strip off his outer armor?
Who can come within his double mail?
Who can open the doors of his face?
Around his teeth there is terror.
His strong scales are his pride,
Shut up as with a tight seal.
One is so near to another
That no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another;
They clasp each other and cannot be separated.
– Job 41:12-17

If we’re talking about the crocodile, here in verses 12-17 (can we admit this?) we roll our eyes at God: “Yeah, crocodiles are strong, yeah, the tight scales, whatever.” We can’t understand why God is raving like a fool about a silly crocodile.

I could continue like this through the whole chapter, but I hope it is not necessary.

Brothers and sisters, God is not boasting about a crocodile in Job 41.

Fire, fire, fire, fire, fire, fire

What is He talking about?

His sneezes flash forth light,
And his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
Out of his mouth go burning torches;
Sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth
As from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals,
And a flame goes forth from his mouth…
– Job 41:18-21

His sneezes flash forth light.

Out of his mouth go burning torches.

Sparks of fire leap forth.

Out of his nostrils smoke goes forth.

His breath kindles coals.

A flame goes forth from his mouth.

Six times God says it: Fire and smoke from the creature’s mouth.

In his neck lodges strength,
And dismay leaps before him.
The folds of his flesh are joined together,
Firm on him and immovable.
His heart is as hard as a stone,
Even as hard as a lower millstone.
When he raises himself up, the mighty fear;
Because of the crashing they are bewildered.
The sword that reaches him cannot avail,
Nor the spear, the dart or the javelin.
– Job 41:22-26

When he raises himself up?

Because of the crashing they are bewildered?

The sword that “reaches him” cannot avail?

What kind of crocodile is this?

Nothing on earth is like him,
One made without fear.
He looks on everything that is high;
He is king over all the sons of pride.
– Job 41:33-34

This is no crocodile

Brothers and sisters, this is no crocodile.

This is no whale.

This is a fire-breathing dragon.

How can we but conclude that God made the dragon — and that He’s proud of His creation? What else would rightly form the climax of God’s withering blow against Job’s pride? Surely not a crocodile. But a fire-breathing dragon? Yes. That would stop all mouths. It stopped Job’s.

O LORD, how many are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all;
The earth is full of Your possessions.
There is the sea, great and broad,
In which are swarms without number,
Animals both small and great.
There the ships move along,
And Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.
They all wait for You
To give them their food in due season.
– Psalm 104:24-27

Where is the dragon these days? I don’t know. Maybe the Lord mercifully took them away at the time of the Flood. It is one of the deeds of deliverance the psalmist praises the Lord for here:

Yet God is my king from of old,
Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
You broke open springs and torrents;
You dried up ever-flowing streams.
Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;
You have prepared the light and the sun.
You have established all the boundaries of the earth;
You have made summer and winter.
– Psalm 74:12-17

There is also this:

In that day the LORD will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.
– Isaiah 27:1

Though I think in this latter passage God is talking about the final judgment on the devil.

Merely a metaphor?

But how can we be sure in Job God is really talking about a real dragon? Isn’t it possible that this is merely a metaphor? For instance, Calvin took the Psalm 74 reference as the Lord speaking metaphorically of smiting Pharaoh and his army at the time of the Exodus (see his commentary on Psalm 74:13-14).

But what would it mean for the crown of God’s boasting to be in a creature that doesn’t really exist, or something as small as a crocodile? It would be the boasting of a madman, the nakedness of a lunatic. Something to be covered over for charity’s sake — something not to be spoken of.

“Um, God… um, what in the world are you talking about?”

What dishonor we heap on God when we show such contempt for His words.

What it’s about

Brothers and sisters, this is not ultimately about dragons or crocodiles or whales. This is about believing God or being ashamed of His words.

Let us not fear the mockers and the scoffers when we read the Scriptures.
Let us not try to protect God from an unfashionable statement of dragons’ existence.
Let us rather trust in God’s good wisdom as a child trusting his father.
Let our hearts swell at the greatness of the God who formed us and who has ransomed us.
Let us be comforted that He who “crushed the heads of Leviathan” and “gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness” will take care of us, and no one shall ever pluck us out of His hand.
And let us stand in awe, humble ourselves, and worship our King!

And don’t get me started on Behemoth as “Possibly the hippopotamus or the elephant”.

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3 Responses to i.e., the crocodile

  1. Pingback: Beware the leaven of the Pharisees | Today, or That Day

  2. Scott Mckee says:

    Hi Dan!

    I used to think that after men investigated creation, what resulted was “science” which was only the opinion of narrowly focused specialists and subject to arbitrary change in the future. In contrast to this, the facts of Scripture were obvious and constant. They were simply arranged and easy to understand by any person of good will if he would just read them. My thinking on all this has changed. “Science” is not a body of knowledge or even a worldview, but rather a process of truth extraction which can inform a worldview. This process is fallible (because men are involved) but over time should yield a closer picture of reality in the same way that the process of sanctification yields a better Christian over time. Therefore the results of science change (subject to more accurate measurements, clearer observations and better men) but the process that produces the results changes little. Obviously, the results are also subject to the whims of sinful men and the fads of the day, but these are incidental exceptions in the whole process.

    Looking at Christianity in all its forms around the world and across time, it’s also obvious that our ideas about Scripture are subject to change. There is even disagreement about what the Word of God actually is! Yet, almost no one of good faith denies there is a Word of God, a final truth to which we are all subject. It is becoming more clear to me that the way we derive truth from scripture is basically the same process that scientists use to derive truth from creation. You read the Bible, you form an idea about what you read and you subject this idea to modification from your peers, your life experiences and further reading. In this view, all the creeds of the church are “theories” about the truth and because they are not the truth itself they remain subject to modification in the future, even modification by theories describing general revelation. This is at least a description of what has actually happened in history if not a general rule for further action. The final truth about any idea (say, creation) can never been known by men completely and certainly. Fortunately, we can apply science to both Special and General Revelation to arrive at a closer approximation of God’s ultimate truth and with his help we shall.

    Scott Mckee

  3. danielmeyer says:

    Dear Scott,
    Thanks for writing!

    It is true that “all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all.” But to say that “The final truth about any idea…can never been known by men completely and certainly” is not only false, but it conveniently relieves us of the duty to stand firm as men of God even when our testimony leads to us suffering.

    The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul commands pastors:

    Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. – 2 Timothy 1:14

    and

    These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. – Titus 2:15

    But we say, well, we can’t really know for sure what it is that’s been entrusted to us. And we really can’t speak and exhort and reprove with all authority, because who knows if we have the right interpretation?

    We say that all our ideas about Scripture are theories that are subject to change; but the Psalmist says no such thing — he teaches us God’s Word is something sure, something that we subject ourselves to:

    How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By keeping it according to Your word.
    With all my heart I have sought You;
    Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
    Your word I have treasured in my heart,
    That I may not sin against You.
    Blessed are You, O LORD;
    Teach me Your statutes.
    With my lips I have told of
    All the ordinances of Your mouth.
    I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
    As much as in all riches.
    I will meditate on Your precepts
    And regard Your ways.
    I shall delight in Your statutes;
    I shall not forget Your word. – Psalm 119:9-16

    Here’s the church’s prayer after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin. Look at their confidence in the Word of God:

    When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, ‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 4:23-30

    If we look at the behavior of the apostles, the prophets, Jesus, and godly men down through history, their operating philosophy was nowhere close to “The final truth about any idea can never been known by men completely and certainly”.

    Rather, their actions demonstrated that they believed the truth of these statements:

    But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. – 2 Peter 1:20-21

    and

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    As long as we can convince ourselves that what the Bible says or means is foggy, we can convince ourselves that we have no duty to obey, to teach, to stand, to testify, or to suffer. But the truth is that God has spoken clearly in His Word and we will give an accounting to Him, not only for our personal obedience to His commands, but also for how we teach and lead those He places under our authority–our wives and children–and for how we influence our brothers in the Lord.

    Either we place ourselves under the Word of God by faith, or we set ourselves up as judges over the Word of God. From your comment, Scott, it sounds like you are doing the latter. Please consider your soul and the souls of those God has placed under you, and humble yourself under the Word of God.

    You have not yet begun to fight, brother. But I hope to see you as a fellow soldier soon. Today is the day of repentance. Don’t wait!

    Love,
    Daniel

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