God’s creatures serve many purposes. Throughout history they have provided practical assistance in everyday life: food for eating, fuel for heat, material for clothing, labor for bearing burdens and transportation, and blood for sacrifices. But God has created them and set them forth as examples for us as well. None is too useless, ignoble, or small to provide a lesson for us. Take the worm, for example. The Old Testament utilizes three Hebrew words that are translated as worm. Only one Hebrew word is used in the examples here, which may be defined as something we would recognize as a maggot or a grub. Even though we understand the value of their work, characteristically, we find worms to be somewhat repugnant, particularly those of the maggot variety that consume the rotting flesh of carcasses. But unlike the ant, worms are not presented in the Bible for their positive contributions to consuming putrefaction or nourishing the soil, but for their weakness and repulsiveness.
Job. When Job misapprehended God’s seeming indifference to wrongs and injustices in the world, Bildad responded to Job’s misconceptions of God by declaring that “Dominion and awe belong to Him who establishes peace in His heights.” He asks a rhetorical question: “How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman? If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, that maggot, and the son of man, that worm!” (25:2, 4-6). Man is so corrupt, so weak, so inconsequential in his own person that Bildad can think of no better way to describe him than as a maggot or worm. Sin has rendered him so weak and helpless that he is revolting in his own eyes; how, then, can he be viewed in any better light with God? What hope has he of being clean in God’s sight or just before Him? He is nothing more than a worm.
Jacob. You probably have never been called a worm by anyone, but if you had been, you probably would not have heard it as a compliment. In fact, it would be hard to imagine the epithet as anything other than an insult. What quality does a worm possess that we should aspire to emulate? Probably none. And yet, the Lord Himself, addressed Jacob (His people, Israel) with that appellation: “’Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel’” (Isa. 41:14). The Lord did not use the term in a contemptuous or derisive way. Rather, He described their abject helplessness and, in a sense, their utter worthlessness apart from Him and His help. God could crush His useless people more easily than we might squash a worm under our feet. Just as a worm has no defense against the bootheel of a man, so is man before the power of God. But God assured His people that, rather than crushing them as they deserved or viewing them with disgust as they merited, He would help them against their enemies and finally redeem them from their sins.
Jesus. But what brings this figure of weakness and repugnance into stark focus is the fact that it is used to describe our Lord Jesus Christ. Offering a foreshadowing of Christ’s suffering on the cross, David wrote: “But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people” (Ps. 22:6). Such was the contempt of His own people for their Messiah, that He could describe Himself as only a disgusting worm to be crushed under their feet. Similarly, Isaiah wrote of Christ in His suffering that “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isa. 53:2b, 3).
And so we come full circle and receive the answer to Job’s question through Bildad. How can a sinful, contemptible, helpless, wormlike creature become just before a holy God? By that God taking upon Himself the nature of man, volunteering to become contemptible, helpless, and wormlike Himself in order that He might suffer and die to pay our debt of sin. And so that through faith, we might hear these words: “Do not fear, you worm [insert name]; I will help you; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” How can it be that God would become a worm that I might become a son of God?
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