God, the All-terrible

We are studying the book of Job in church on Sundays.  This morning as our pastor was pointing something out, my attention was drawn to a short passage with a big message.  This is the rendering of Job 25 from The Message:

Bildad the Shuhite again attacked Job:  “God is sovereign, God is fearsome– everything in the cosmos fits and works in his plan. Can anyone count his angel armies? Is there any place where his light doesn’t shine? How can a mere mortal presume to stand up to God? How can an ordinary person pretend to be guiltless? Why, even the moon has its flaws, even the stars aren’t perfect in God’s eyes, So how much less, plain men and women– slugs and maggots by comparison!”

You probably remember the context.  Job’s buddies were offering their advice on Job’s suffering.  In the process, they weren’t very compassionate.  However, their doctrine of God wasn’t completely askew.  They clearly understood that God is BIG.  Bildad’s words above prove that to be the case.

When I was reading this morning in Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s memoirs, I came across the following passage:

“The Commander of the Division presiding, – the senior chaplain called beside him. The boom of the great-minute guns beats against our hearts, the deep tones echoing their story of the years.  Catching the last note of the cannon-boom, strikes in the soulful German ballad, with that wondrous ‘Russian Hymn’ whose music we knew so well:

‘God, the All-terrible, Thou who ordainest
Thunder Thy clarion, and lightning Thy sword’

that overmastering flood of whelming cords, with the breath-stilling chromatic cadences, as if to prepare us for whatever life or death could bring” (“Bayonet! Forward”, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Stan Clark Military Books, 1994, p.259).

Chamberlain’s overly-descriptive language isn’t what drew my attention, of course.  It was the appositive employed to describe God.

“The All-terrible.”

Without a doubt, the meaning is not a negative one.  Rather, the hymn writers were teaching that God is great; that He is exceedingly BIG.  He is, quoting Bildad (and Eugene Peterson), “sovereign” and “fearsome.”

Not a bad thing to be reminded of on the Lord’s Day.

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