One of the most profoundly beautiful voices ever, in my not-so-humble and not-particularly-qualified opinion, is that of miss Aretha Franklin. Let’s face it, the beginning refrain to “Respect” is all too familiar, and unmatched only when you hear the “Queen of Soul” belt out, “What you want … baby, I got … what you need … do you know I got it …” Oh yeah … so good! So good in fact that anytime I hear the word “respect” I have to admit that that voice and those lyrics flow through my head almost without fail. I guess that’s the sign of both a great voice, and a great set of lyrics. Well, a memorable set of lyrics at least.
But to that point, those lyrics, or more to point the notion of respect, struck me during my reading this week. That reading took me through Job 21-42 and “respect” was an especially cogent word to me. As Aretha sings it, the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” that she is due comes as a consequence of the love, care, hard work, and devotion she is providing the object of the tune. It’s the “TCB” (the “taking care of business”) that should naturally result in respectful love and recognition.
It goes without saying that I’m not trying to elevate miss Aretha to a level of prominence or even prophet-ence because of a song she sang (and which, by the way was not even written by miss Aretha – it was written and originally performed by Otis Redding of “(Sitting on) The Dock of the Bay” fame … you’re welcome haha). But while I read the end of the book of Job, a familiar passage struck me in a familiar way, but I was moved to elevate it to admonition status for me and us. The reason … well I’ll get to that in a moment.
The passage in particular is Job 38:4-15 (though the entirety of chapters 38-41 are pretty powerful and consistent with the point I’m making) …
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? “Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’ “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness? As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors. The light disturbs the wicked and stops the arm that is raised in violence.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “respect” as a “feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem,” and “due regard for something considered important or authoritative.” Considered in the prism of the book of Job, and especially in the context of God’s somewhat rhetorical question, “respect” is an apt topic for our consideration.
For those of you who haven’t read Job (you should), it’s a story of God’s allowance of Job’s human and material loss for the purpose of both demonstrating Job’s character (which God identified with great admiration to none other than Satan) and God’s providence and dominion. Within the first two chapters of Job’s story, he loses everything. The remainder of the account reveals Job’s reaction to his plight and his friends’ “help,” which often felt to Job like anything but. In both Job’s and his friends’ exposition, they question the source of Job’s situation, Job likening it to God’s hatred and punitive anger, and Job’s friends to God’s carrying out vengeance for some unidentified sin they suppose Job committed. In either account, they failed to account the proper “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” to the Lord, and He finishes Job’s account by setting the record straight.
Inherent in the definition of “respect” is the rightfulness of the feeling of appreciation, deference, and esteem. In other words, respect is generally garnered upon someone because they’re deserving of it. They are “considered important or authoritative.” In view of Job’s and his friends’ discourse throughout the book, God allows them to have a significant back and forth for about 36 chapters. I find it interesting that he didn’t cut Job or his friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) off from the get-go, but sometimes the timing of the message is more important than the message itself. Either way, God finally has to call the question. That’s where you and I should camp out a little.
These days, whether in or outside the church, I’d posit that we deprive God of the “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” He’s rightly due. Sure, it’s not that different than in Job’s day … perhaps that’s what is most dismaying. But let’s understand clearly that while God spent the equivalent of three chapters clarifying why He’s due our respect, He has conclusively divulged through His creation for all eternity the just cause for it (Psalms 19:1). Our snippet from Job 38 will still prove helpful … He “laid the foundations of the earth,” “supports [the earth’s] foundations,” keeps “the sea inside its boundaries,” commands “the morning to appear and causes the dawn to arise,” and “made daylight spread to the ends of the earth.” These are just a few aspects of God’s power, His control over all creation, His provision of the very necessities of the existence of the earth, the universe, and everything in it. The stars are in the sky because He placed them there, and He didn’t have to do anything other than speak to make it happen.
When we deprive God of this “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” we fail to adequately and accurately acknowledge who He is. This is not, “the big man in the sky,” or the “big fella” … this is ALMIGHTY GOD, the creator of everything that exists. The air we breathe, He made it, made us to need it, and provides every bit of it to us so we can live. If He decided to cease to provide it, He could, and because He decided it alone, we would no longer live. Period. He put the sun in its place, sent it in its rotation, put the earth 92.9 million miles away, spun the earth on its tilted axis and rotated it around the sun, and the moon around the earth. If He decides to in our next instant, He could cause it all to stop … and us along with it. Atoms? He could explode them all if He wanted. We exist because He allows it. It’s that simple, and I could go on and on and on.
This reality demands respect for our Father, Creator, Sustainer. In terms of Job, God reminded Him (and us) that He is not beholden to us and not required to act or behave in a way to our expectation or our liking. It doesn’t mean He is frivolous in His conduct, for the Bible is clear that God loves us and is the very definition and embodiment of love. But it does mean that we must afford Him the proper respect. This very same God who spoke all that exists into being also sacrificed His very Son so that He would not just save us, but create a means to have an unscathed relationship with Him. He, who holds all life together by His will alone, also says, “I want to have a personal, meaningful, eternal relationship with you.” So my question for myself … and for you … is are we giving Him “R-E-S-P-E-C-T?” Are we flippant in the manner we refer to Him, interact with Him, defer to Him, worship Him, praise Him, or even acknowledge Him? Maybe it’s time we spiritually “TCB.”
Soli Deo gloria!