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(Job 38:39–41) To the Zoo and Back

(Job 38:39–41) To the Zoo and Back

Series: Sermons in Job
Ref: Job 38:39–41; 39; 40:1–5

If Job ever questioned whether God truly cared for him, his questions are about to be answered in remarkable fashion. God will take him on a tour of the zoo and allow him to peer through the glass to witness how each animal is cared for. Job will learn afresh that if God cares so much for animals, He surely must care for His own children.


When God Speaks Comfort

Part 4

“To The Zoo and Back”

Job 39:1 – 40:5

It has been fascinating to watch our female beagle, Patches, care for her puppy.  She had one puppy 8 weeks ago – only one.  She wasn’t supposed to have any.  She didn’t ask for permission or anything.  It had been nearly 5 years since her last litter – she’s actually 56 years old in human years.  We thought we were out of the woods, so to speak.

We also didn’t have many neighbors around as we were among the first to build in what used to be the country. 

But neighbors moved into our cul-de-sac with a grey male Snauzer . . . obviously unconverted . . . definitely not sanctified.   What we were afraid of happened.  And Patches delivered one puppy my daughter named Pixie – a hyperactive ball of grey and brown fur.  My daughter has already convinced me to keep her after she is no longer cute.  Not my daughter, the puppy.

It has been amazing to watch.  The puppy was born with the instinct to nurse and even though it was born with its eyes shut, she could smell her way to dinner.  But wouldn’t you know it – because we have so much time on our hands at the Davey household, the mother dog who is too old to have puppies – but I didn’t spend the money to get her spayed because there was no reason to because there were no dogs around – had a puppy.  And, because she is older, there were problems. 

In these last weeks, three times a day, my wife would have a bottle and a big plastic syringe to try and get as much milk into that puppy as she could, while Patches recovered from an infection that resulted in not having enough milk.  Sometimes my daughter helped out . . . sometimes I even volunteered – my shirt and sleeve would be wet from the milk as the puppy who never caught on to the bottle and just wanted to chew on the syringe, got as much milk on the outside of her as the inside.

And we had to go see the Veterinarian because of Patches condition and then later the puppy’s foot swelled up and needed antibiotics.  We spent 2 visits and a couple hundred dollars at the Pet Smart Hospital. 

You know, that place has a Dog hotel inside where dogs can be kept in private rooms and watch Lassie reruns.  The lobby looks better than hotels I’ve stayed in. 

They’ve been able to re-decorated that hotel with my money.  I bought three of those TV’s.

You know, I’ve scoffed at people spending any money on their dogs beyond a rabies shot . . . but now it’s different.  My wife and daughter are saying to me, “Honey, there’s something wrong with Patches and Pixie.”  My answer was, “They’ll work it out.” 

But they were right.  And now we’ve got medical payments and computer files at Pet Smart – the last time I was there I could see on the computer screen Pixie Davey. 

She’s not a Davey.

It has been amazing though to observe the instinctive abilities of our female dog and even the puppy somehow knows how to act like a dog . . . sniffing, smelling . . . scratching . . . the other day the puppy went to the bathroom in the neighbor’s yard – training is paying off – and she pushed dirt behind her with her back paws as she ran off . . . what defined instinct of her kind.

Just so you know, everyone’s okay now.  Pixie is growing like a weed – eating regular dog food.  In fact, I just moved the dogs to the back yard where they’re going to live happily ever after.


Everything about those dogs, their amazing instincts; their behavioral patterns are the result of DNA, designed for their kind and implanted by Creator God.

One of the most devastating discoveries to the theory of evolution was this code of information called DNA.  We now know that the DNA code contains the information that enables the organism to reproduce, preserve, and repair itself.

One author wrote, The genetic structure of every living organism limits that organism to what it is – no more, and no less. He went on to write, “Charles Darwin accepted the middle 1800’s theory that variations caused by the environment could be passed on and inherited by the young.  Darwin used this theory to further postulate that one creature could change into the species of another over time.  He even explained the origin of the giraffe’s long neck in part, and I quote, “through the inherited effects of the increased use of parts.”  In other words, in seasons of limited food supply, Darwin reasoned, giraffes would stretch their necks for the high leaves, supposedly resulting in longer necks being passed on to their offspring. 

John MacArthur, The Battle for the Beginning (W Publishing, 2001), p. 134

This is the theory you hear over and over again on the Animal Planet and the Disney channel.  Animals do what they do because they’ve inherited over millions of years their inherited abilities to survive.  They’re so much smarter now because they’ve inherited millions of years of knowledge and behavior.

This author goes on to write, “Modern genetics has utterly disproved this hypothesis; the length of a giraffe’s neck is determined by its genetic code . . . the genetic structure of every living organism limits that organism to what it  is – not more and no less.”   All of which causes the believer to marvel at the creative ingenuity and variety of Creator God.”

Ibid, p. 134

Who, we believe according to Genesis chapter 1, on days five and six of creation, spoke and the earth and seas and skies were immediately teeming with fish and birds and creatures large and small.  All of them functioning according to the design God had for each of their kind.

God has already taken Job on a tour of the heavens – the constellations, planet, earth, water and sky.

Now God shifts and effectively takes Job to the Zoo and back.

He rehearses to this suffering man, His care over creation – from the small to the great.  And the implicit message is that if He will take care of mortal creatures, how much more will He care for immortal mankind.

Job . . . you’re wondering if I care about you!  If I have plans for whatever happens in your life?  If I have taken note of your suffering.

Let me answer that by taking you to the zoo and back – let me show you one animal after another – some amazing – some ordinary – and let you will marvel over my creative design and come to understand afresh my care and providence over you.

So, what God will do at the end of Job chapter 38 is re-introduce Job to some animals.  Some of them some pounce, some soar in the sky, some live in the mountains, some in the deserts; some run at high speeds and others fly to mountain hideaways.

First, God brings to mind a strong animal.

Job 38:39, “Job, can you hunt the prey for the lion. Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions.”

The truth is, you don’t want anything to do with lions, right?!

Frankly, you don’t care if they never eat again. 

But I do.  And I’ve designed in them the ability – notice verse 40 ‘”to crouch in their dens and lie in wait in their lair.”

Pull out your encyclopedia some time and look up lions.  The average lion weighs up to 600 pounds, stands 4 feet high. I’ve been within a few feet of lions, while I was safely tucked inside a jeep on an African reserve a few years ago.  These lions were massive . . . as they walked by the jeep the top of their backs reached the bottom of my window ledge.  Even though the windows were rolled up you could hear them purring . . .  they sounded like some idling engine.

Job had no ability or desire to care for these frightening predators.  But God was and is the lion tamer.

God moves from the strong to the skittish in verse 41.  Job, who prepares for the raven its nourishment when its young cry to God and wander about without food?

Of all the birds God would bring to Job’s attention, the first one we would have chosen would not have been the raven.  This large black bird with its unpleasant Caw doesn’t seem to benefit mankind on any level.  They eat anything, including decomposing flesh and have been known to hunt with wolves and eat what’s left over.

No doubt Job had seen Ravens eating the remains of dead animals.

It’s as if God wanted Job to know that he cared for even the Ravens and their young.  He hears when they cry out, God says, as if they are crying out to God.

Even the undesirable, unpleasant, unattractive birds are known and cared for by God’s providence.  How much more, Job, will I care for you.

By the way, this was the message of Jesus Christ who said, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Not one of them is forgotten before God.”  In other words, not even the small sacrificial sparrow is outside the providence of God.  Then Christ concluded by saying to his audience, “You are more valuable than many sparrows.”  (Luke 12:6-7)

That’s a message lost in our culture; which is to be expected.  As the Creator is denied, animals and created beings are elevated and given equal status with human beings.  In our own generation we are watching the giving of human rights and equal status with mankind.  Confusion is incredible.  One of the fastest growing branches of law in America is animal or pet law.

The animal kingdom which the resurrected Christ will tell Peter to kill and eat and enjoy (Acts 10:13) is now considered more valuable than mankind and should not be properly used to enhance and sustain human life. 

Today you cannot crush the egg of an eagle without severe penalty but you can crush the embryo of a human being, kill it and according to most politicians you should be able to use its stem cells for experimentation.  I call that a tragic reversal of human rights.

Listen to what would be a radical message today, coming from the lips of Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (In other words, He cares about them).  But then Christ goes on to say, “Are you not worth much more than they?” 

Christ would not be invited to Oprah.  His message is way too radically right.

His point was that the care and arrangement by the Father for the animal kingdom is intended as an encouraging illustration of the amazing care and arrangement of the Father for His highest creation – mankind.

God moves with Job’s memory from the strong to the skittish . . .

And now on to the shy.

Notice verse 1 of chapter 39. DO you know the time the mountain goats give birth?  Do you observe the calving of the deer?  Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth?

The obvious answer is no – to all the above.

These animals stay hidden during the day . . . they come out at night along Yates Mill Pond Road.

As I pull down the driveway through a cluster of trees where my mother in law lives, it is not unusual to see 3 or 4 deer racing for the woods.  

Job, I see them – at all times; their ways are not hidden from me.

God moves on from the shy to the stubborn.

Verse 5, Who sent out the wild donkey free?  And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6.  to whom I gave the wilderness for a home and the salt land for his dwelling place?  7. He scorns the tumult of the city, the shoutings of the driver he does not hear.  8. He explores the mountains for his pasture and searches after every green thing.

Job, has the donkey ever asked you for permission to roam?  Have you told it where to live? 

Adapted from: John C.L. Gibson, Daily Study Bible: Job (Westminster Press, 1985), p. 233

No, the truth is, you can hardly tell it anything, right?  The shoutings of the driver he does not hear.

But I, the Creator, have determined its habitat.  I have told it where to live.  What a lesson for Job . . . that God not assigned the habitat for the wild donkey, he assigns the habitat for His sons and daughters. 

Adapted from Steven Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary: Job (Holman, 2004), p. 340

Imagine, God not only created you for a place in life, but He created a place in life for you.

If God has something to say about the place where an ordinary donkey will live, I have something to say about the place where you now live.

Listen, God is implying to Job – I have determined your habitat, right now, and it has only come about by my permission and providence.

God moves from the strong and the skittish and the shy and the stubborn:

To the Sturdy – the wild ox.  Notice verse 9.  Will the wild ox consent to serve you, or will he spend the night at your manger – or in your barn?  Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes, or will he harrow the valleys after you?  Will you trust him because his strength is great and leave your labor to him?  Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain and gather it from your threshing floor?

This animal is not the oxen you might imagine in front of some plow.

It’s translated unicorn in the Authorized Version but even that animal isn’t a pretty horse with a pointed horn.

Most Old Testament scholars believe this animal is now extinct, but was the animal known as an auroch which inhabited the Middle East for centuries. 

The bull auroch was more than 6 feet wide at the shoulders with long horns pointing forward.  Imagine a Texas steer the size of a rhinoceros and you’ll have a good mental image of the auroch. 

In Psalm 22:11, David asks to be delivered from the horns of this animal. 

Extinct since 1627, this enormous animal was considered to be the most powerful of all hoofed beasts – hunted in the past by the Assyrians.

Roy Zuck, Job (Moody Press, 1978), p. 171

I found it interesting that the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III who reigned 1500 years before the birth of Christ, once boasted of killing seventy-five aurochs in a single hunt.

Derek Thomas, The Storm Breaks: Job Simply Explained (Evangelical Press, 1995), p. 293

Sounds like an animal out of a Tolkien novel doesn’t it; well, it actually is in his novels . . . a fascinating, powerful creature.

These were not domesticated oxen that Job would have used in his fields.  This was a wild animal that could kill a man a dozen different ways.

God asks that question – “Job, do you think you can tame an auroch?  Can you hitch him up to your plow?”

The answer is an obvious “No.”

God is implying to Job, “If I can direct the wild donkey and tame the auroch and any other wild animal in my creation, then I just might be able to control the wild chaos that has come into your life. 

To those who don’t believe God was answering Job – oh He was – in the rich analogies of His created world.

God now moves from the sturdy to the strange.

God stops asking questions for a moment in this trip to the zoo and simply makes statements.  He speaks in verse 13.  The ostriches’ wings flap joyously with the pinion and plumage of love.  14.  For she abandons her eggs to the earth and warms them in the dust, 15. And she forgets that a foot may crush them, or that a wild beast may trample them.  16.  She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers; though her labor be in vain, she is unconcerned; 17. Because God has made her forget wisdom, and has not given her a share of understanding (In other words, God made her less than the brightest animal on the planet!)

What an odd bird.  In fact, it’s the largest living bird, weighing up to 300 pounds and reaching a height of 8 feet.  It’s the only bird with eyelashes.  She has wings but she can’t fly.  Instead, she builds her nest in the sand. 

The comment in verse 16 that she treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers is a reference to the fact that before she buries her eggs in a shallow hole in the sand, usually dug by the male, she keeps some of the eggs out of the next which will be used as food for the chicks that hatch.

Her basic ignorance and lack of qualities were legendary among the Middle eastern world.

In fact, Pliny, the first century Roman naturalist and author, was among the first to write of the ostrich hiding their heads and necks in a bush, thinking they were safe because they could see nothing. 

This led to the cartoon of an ostrich we often see where the ostrich has buried its head in the sand, thinking that it was now safe from predators.

But notice – for all her ignorance, she is exhilarating to watch run.

Verse 18 records, “When she lifts herself on high, or to run, she laughs at the horse and his rider.”

In other words, one thing the ostrich can do better than most animals is run.  Only a handful of animals on the planet can run faster than an ostrich who clocks in around 40 miles per hour.

Lifting her head, extending her small wings for balance, she takes off running and reaches a maximum speeds of 40 miles per hour – listen, taking giant strides of up to 15 feet while running.

Here she comes.  As she races by, you realize one foot was planted in the brass section, the next planted here by the pulpit and the next planted there by the tympani; 3 steps and she’s spanned the length of this stage.      

Comments on the ostrich adapted from Zuck, p. 172

I think it’s fascinating that God took Job to see the ostrich.  Because the ostrich is one of God’s ways of saying, “I create stuff you’d never even conceive of creating . . . stuff that doesn’t make any sense!”

You go to the zoo and you look at an ostrich and you’re left with a chuckle and smile and you’re saying to yourself because you’d never say it out loud, “What in the world was God thinking when He created that?”

And there are times in your life when you are left wondering the same thing about your own life – and you fear to utter the words out loud, but you are confused and wonder secretly in your heart, “Lord what were You thinking.  What sense can I make of what You’ve created in my life?!”  It doesn’t add up!

There are creations that go under the categorical heading of “strange” . . . and you agree with the Lord, “Oh, my ways are obviously not Your ways and my thoughts are obviously not Your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8)

God moves from the strangeness of the ostrich to now describe the stateliness of the horse.

The Stately

Verse 19, Do you give the horse his might?  Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  10. Do you make him leap like the locust?  His majestic snorting is terrible.  21. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  22. He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; and he does not turn back from the sword.  23. The quiver rattles against him, the flashing spear and javelin.  24. With shaking and rage he races over the ground, and he does not stand still at the voice of the trumpet.  25. As often as the trumpet sounds he says, ‘Aha!’ and he scents the battle from afar, and the thunder of the captains and war cry.

Job, you might be able to train a battle horse, but who gave him his eagerness to fight.  Who made him race into enemy forces; who allowed him to smell war and swallow up the ground in a race to get their first?

“The horse’s majesty, energy, strength, impatience for the battle, and spirit are proofs of the greatness of Him who had made him.”

Albert Barnes, Notes on the Book of Job, quoted in Zuck, p. 174

Perhaps there is the subtle hint to Job not to run from the battle.  To face the war he’s in and stand firm.

Just as the horse is courageous in the face of conflict, the implication, one author wrote, was that God could also make Job confident as he faced his devastating trials.

“I have mantled and bred and infused the horse for everything it needs to face the battle.  If I can do that to a horse, Job, I can strengthen you to stand the tests and battles of life.”

We have been told the same – with clear revelation. 

  • We have been thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17); 
  • We have been given the full armor of God, so that we will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13);
  • We have been given by God’s divine power everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)

We are empowered, equipped and outfitted for life.

If God would bother equip a regal horse for battle, how much more will He equip you who are the sons and daughters of the King?

This trip to the zoo and back is just about over.  God has one more stop along the way.

God has reviewed the strong, the skittish, the shy, the stubborn, the sturdy, the strange, the stately and now:

God describes the stunning.

One more look at some amazing birds – the hawk with it’s built in migratory system, and the eagle with it’s soaring heights and amazing sight.  Let’s look for a moment at the eagle; notice verse 27.  Is it at your command Job that the eagle mounts up and makes this nest on high?  28. On the cliff he dwells and lodges, upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.  29. From here he spies out food, His eyes see it from afar.

I have read that an eagle’s eye has eight times as many visual cells per cubic centimeter than a human eye.  I don’t have any idea what that means, but it sounds like a lot.

What I do understand is that an eagle, flying at 600 feet elevation can watch a spider crawl across your driveway.  An eagle can see fish the size of your hand jumping in a lake 5 miles away.

I can’t see my computer screen 5 feet away.

Fish jumping 5 miles away.  Evolutionists would say the eagle developed that eyesight because it made it’s nests so high up.  God gave the eagle that eyesight because it would make its nests so high up.

God created the ostrich to put its eggs in the sand.  God created the eagle to put its eggs on the side of a mountain side and fly high.

The diversity of creation shows the diversity of God’s creative ability. 

But it’s more than that.  God’s creative ability indicates the accountability of mankind.  Even  here in this text, God ends this part of the fieldtrip to the zoo with accountability.

Notice chapter 40:1. Then the Lord said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  Let him who reproves God answer it.”

Several times in the earlier chapters Job wanted an audience with God.  He wanted to make his case.  He wanted to contend with His adversary in a court of law.

Alright Job . . . this is your day in court!

What do you have to say now?

 Verse 3.  Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?  I lay my hand on my mouth (an expression of reverence) 

I have nothing to say. I thought I had found a legal angle to argue with You. 

I came across this interesting account of a lawyer who thought he’d found a clever way to get a leg up in court.  In fact, this true story won the Criminal Lawyers Award Contest a few years ago.  Charles Swindoll recorded this account in his commentary on Job at that point where Job responds to God. 

The article reads, A Charlotte, North Carolina, lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against fire, among other things.   Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of 24 cigars, the lawyer filed claim against the insurance company.  In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost “in a series of small fires.” 

The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason: that the man had consumed the cigars himself – an insurance claim against fire damage can’t mean the same thing as the fire whereby he himself had consumed the cigars.  The court sided with the lawyer and he actually won. 

In delivering the ruling the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous.  The judge stated, nevertheless, the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire, and thus obligated to pay the claim.

(To the surprise of everyone), the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss of the 24 cigars lost in the “fires”.  The lawyer, was rather proud of himself in his clever deed.

And now for the best part; after the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson. 

With his own testimony used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally setting fire to insured property 24 different times and was sentenced to 2 years in jail and a $24,000 fine.

Charles Swindoll, Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance (W Publishing, 2004), p. 281

Caught by his own words.

Job is caught by his own testimony . . . he had rather proudly demanded an audience with God.  He said in chapter 31, “Let the Almighty answer me!  I’m waiting . . . let Him respond to His indictment against me.” 

Brash words – “Let God give me an explanation.”

And God showed up.  And Job soon realizes he has boxed himself in.  And he says in chapter 40 and verse 5.  Once I have spoken, and I will not answer; even twice, and I will add nothing more.

In other words, I’ve already said enough.  I have nothing further to say or suggest to You.

Maybe the best time to put our hand over our mouth and stop talking is right now.  No more arguments with God.  No more claims of cleverness.   

Just silence . . . and surrender . . . and submission.

Let me close by making two observations from this chapter; this trip to the zoo and back.

  • First; for the most part, the animal kingdom is beyond our comprehension – not God’s.

From the strong to the stately, God comprehends it all.  From the skittish to the strange, God has designed every strand of DNA for His purposes and His glory.

  • Secondly; for the most part, the animal kingdom is not only beyond our comprehension, it is beyond our control – not God’s.

Beloved, just as the animal kingdom is not beyond God’s comprehension and not out of God’s control, neither are we. 

He hasn’t lost track of you . . . you haven’t gone around a bend and He’s lost sight of you.  He sees you up on the craggy mountain cleft; He sees you with your head stuck in the sand.

Nothing has come into your habitat that wasn’t planned; and even though you might not feel prepared for it, He prepared it for you.

This trip to the zoo and back should leave us like Job – with our hands over our mouths . . . silenced and submissive to His ways.

He who spoke the worlds into existence . . . He who gave the first word, should have the last word in your life and mine, even now.

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