The book of Job has fascinated me every since I heard my father preach from it more than forty years ago. And last night, it filled me with joy as I read some verses about the ostrich.
Spending a few weeks with Job has opened several gifts for me. I began the sermon series seeking wisdom from this wisdom book, and I think God has answered my prayer in that regard. Job has also given me a greater sense of reverence, a deeper appreciation for faith, and, I hope, some humility as well. And now, I found myself rejoicing in the memory of an ostrich.
When our children were young, we took them to a petting zoo in British Columbia. To my surprise, amid the warm and fuzzy lambs and kids towered a comically majestic ostrich. I found her comic because her long neck and tiny head seemed incongruous to me. I found her majestic because when I looked into her eyes, I felt an eerie terror. I felt as if I had been translated into the presence of a velociraptor. When the ostrich deigned to glance at me, she seemed to know that she could tear me in half with one talon. And then she looked away because she found me not worth noticing. That’s how I interpreted the encounter, at least. I’m not sure what Mrs. Ostrich thought about it, but the book of Job says “she scorns the horse and his rider.” (39:18)
The ostrich verses in Job 39:13-18 do not offer an exhaustive biology of flightless birds. They do offer a means to revere the Creator, who combines wisdom and power beyond measure. If seeing a caged ostrich can fill us with awe, imagine encountering a behemoth or leviathan, whatever they are (Job 40-41). As the Lord humbles Job by describing these fierce creatures, the Lord also observes that when we witness the strength of leviathan “sorrow is turned to joy before him” (Job 41:22)
That’s the Authorized or King James translation, anyway. My RSV says “terror dances before” leviathan. The brilliant translator Robert Alter renders it, “before him power dances.” So, what would I do if I saw a combination crocodile-dragon-whale, which seems to describe a leviathan, at least in part? I have no idea. But when I read God’s creational speeches in Job 38-41, I feel an awe that makes me want to dance with joy. I invite you to read the chapters aloud today. They testify that “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)