Your Dark Night
Published October 28, 2018 at 10:30 AM
Audio from the sermon preached on October 28, 2018. at Cable Community Church, Sherrard, IL
Content Copyright Belongs to Cable Community Church
Your Dark Night
Job 23: 1-17
In Max Lucado’s book, The Eye of the Storm, he tells the story of Chippie the parakeet. "Chippie never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage, singing a song into the air; the next second he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
"His problem began when his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum. She stuck the nozzle in to suck up the seeds and feathers at the bottom of the cage when the nearby telephone rang. Instinctively she turned to pick it up. She had barely said hello when--ssswwwwwpppppp! Chippie got sucked in. She gasped, let the phone drop, and switched off the vacuum. With her heart in her mouth, she unzipped the bag.
"There was Chippie!! Alive but stunned!! Covered with heavy gray dust. She grabbed him and rushed to the bathtub, turned on the faucet full blast, and held Chippie under a torrent of ice-cold water, power washing him clean. Then it dawned on her that Chippie was soaking wet and shivering. So she did what any compassionate pet owner would do: she snatched up the hair dryer and blasted him with hot air.
"Did Chippie survive? Yes, but he doesn't sing much anymore. He just sits and stares a lot. It's not hard to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over! It's enough to steal the song from any stout heart." Life is like that sometimes. You never see it coming, but life just sucks you in, washes you up, and blows you over.
Sometimes we like Chippie are sucked into the vacuum of vicious vicissitudes of circumstances, washed over by worries and weariness, and blown over by the winds of burdens and buffets. That is exactly what happened to Job. He did not see it coming; he certainly had no reason to anticipate what was coming. There was even no way he could prepare for what came. In 1988 there was a story that introduced the Winter Games that was fascinating. It was the story of how blind skiers were taught to ski. They took them on the flats and paired them with skiers who could see. The blind skiers followed the directions of the skiers who could see. They shouted commands, left, right, slow. Then they took them on the slopes and came down right beside them. The blind skiers crossed the finishing line without an incident. A reporter interviewed a couple of them and asked them, how could they manage to do that without knowing what was ahead of them. He asked, were you not afraid? The blind skiers said, no not really. We learned to trust the eyes of those who could see, and follow their commands.
That seems to be the sentiments of Job, he was blind to where life was leading, he was without sight or sense of what life was doing. Have you been there? Job’s experience and those skiers experience are actually our own. Perhaps even now, some feel like Chippie, life is sucking you in a vacuum, washing you over with cold and callous circumstances, blowing you with the heat of horrendous heartache. Welcome to the club of reality living. Welcome to the journey of faith and trust.
Our text today brings us to one who is, perhaps, the foremost expert on this journey. As we look into the story of Job at chapter 23, remember that Job has already had nearly everything stripped away from him: possessions, family, even his health were all taken with the permission, if not approval, of God in heaven. As Job is sitting in ashes scraping the sores of his flesh with broken pottery, he is comforted by three friends. Their comfort consists mainly of pointing Job toward repentance for whatever sins have brought this terrible misfortune upon him. Again and again Job pleads his innocence, until in our text for today, Job cries out with...
What Job Wanted for Himself
What Job Wanted from God and
What Job Was Feeling
READ Job 23: 1-17
- What Job Wanted for Himself
- to find (v. 3)
- 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find Him,
- That I might come to His seat!
- 4 I would present my case before Him,
- And fill my mouth with arguments.
- Job is speaking like a man who hasn't gotten a fair hearing before God, Almighty.
- He desires first to find Him
- to come before His seat (of judgment)
- and to present his case -- argue the unfairness of his affliction
- Who hasn't thought similarly?
- this is unfair
- this isn't right
- I don't deserve this
- Where is God when I really need Him?
- to know (v. 5a)
- I would know the words which He would answer me,
- Job wants to know the truth of his situation
- What would God say to him?
- How would God respond to his complaints?
- to understand (v. 5b)
- And understand what He would say to me.
- More than simply hearing God's Words, Job desires to understand.
- He wants everything to make sense.
- He needs for Someone to speak some clarity into his situation.
- Can you identify with Job? Have you ever had similar desires? To understand, to make sense of it all, to have some clarity in what’s going on?
- What Job desired from God
- He Would Take Note (v. 6)
- Would He contend with me in His great power?
- No! But He would take note of me.
- When you think you've been abandoned or forgotten, the one thing you earnestly hope for is to be noticed.
- Job doesn't ask for a contest with God. He knows better than that.
- He simply wants to be noticed.
- He Would Answer (v. 5a)
- ... He would answer me
- Job requests dialogue
- He doesn't want to rant
- He doesn't expect a lecture
- He want to enter into a conversation where God hears and responds
- He Would Deliver (v. 7)
- There the upright could reason with Him,
- And I would be delivered forever from my Judge.
- Having been notice and reasoned with God, Job fully expects to be delivered.
- He's sure that his case is righteous.
- He knows that his suffering is undeserved.
- He would plead to God for deliverance.
- What about you? What would you ask of God? To be noticed? To be heard? To be delivered? Ask Him? Why not?
- What Job Was Feeling
- Confused (vv. 8-9)
- Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
- And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
- When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
- When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
- Job is feeling exactly the opposite of the Psalmist who penned Ps. 139
- Where can I go from Your Spirit?
- Or where can I flee from Your presence?
- If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
- If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
- If I take the wings of the morning,
- And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
- Even there Your hand shall lead me,
- And Your right hand shall hold me.
- If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
- Even the night shall be light about me;
- Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
- But the night shines as the day;
- The darkness and the light are both alike to You. (vv. 7-12)
- Job cannot find God: forward, backward, left or right
- God is hidden from him
- Job is confused
- Confident (vv. 10-12)
- But He knows the way that I take;
- When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
- My foot has held fast to His steps;
- I have kept His way and not turned aside.
- I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
- I have treasured the words of His mouth
- More than my necessary food.
- Job is certain that he will pass this test, one way or another
- He knows that he has been faithful
- Afraid (vv. 13-17)
- But He is unique, and who can make Him change?
- And whatever His soul desires, that He does.
- For He performs what is appointed for me,
- And many such things are with Him.
- Therefore I am terrified at His presence;
- When I consider this, I am afraid of Him.
- For God made my heart weak,
- And the Almighty terrifies me;
- Because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness,
- And He did not hide deep darkness from my face.
- Here Job paints a portrait of a God who frightens him, perhaps rightly so. You see, Job has a mental image of God.
- Let's carefully examine the attributes described here, because many today have the same image of God, and that understanding, if not exaggerated, is at least incomplete.
- Job claims God is
- unchanging and
- does whatever He wants
- Job is terrified, afraid and weak in heart because
- Job thought God would cover his face from the darkness
- instead, God allowed the darkness to become a covering for Job.
- Have you ever - like Job - gone through unexplained periods of darkness?
- I believe we are all familiar with Mother Teresa; known the world over for her work with the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying in the slums of Calcutta, India.
- By all measures, she was and is an exemplar of the Christian faith. But as we began learning after her death in 1997, Mother Teresa’s faith was not as rock-solid as outward appearances would indicate. Like so many who seek after God, Mother Teresa struggled in the midst of great doubt, wondering about the presence of God. In 1979, three weeks after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for her work, Mother Teresa wrote in a letter to a spiritual confidant, “Jesus has a very special love for you. [But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see,--Listen and do not hear – the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak…I want you to pray for me – that I let Him have [a] free hand.” In personal letters and writings, Mother Teresa spoke of “dryness” and “darkness.” In a lament to Jesus, Mother Teresa wrote, “When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven – there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. – I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” At times, she was even driven to a doubt about the existence of God. This spiritual pain seemed to persist through much of Mother Teresa’s life and ministry.
- The truth is we all have periods of “darkness” in our lives. We all face the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one. Or we agonize in watching a loved one suffer. Some struggle themselves in the face of overwhelming illness or disease. Parents worry about their children; sons and daughters worry about their parents. Families break and marriages dissolve, leaving nothing but stress and depression in their wake. Presently, we are facing the darkness of a financial recession; once soon-to-be retirees have lost a lifetime of savings. Jobs are disappearing left and right. Such darkness in our lives is compounded when we cry out to God for help and for comfort and find no response, no reprieve, no respite from the agony. How can there be hope in the face of such hardships?
- All is not lost. There is always hope. But hope is nothing without faith.
- I said before that Job's image of God was lacking and incomplete. Here is the explanation. Up to this point in the narrative, Job and his three friends do not have a complete understanding of the nature of God. They have an image of God based on truth, but their image is more of a caricature, an exaggerated distortion of certain characteristics. What they THINK that they know about God isn’t enough to carry them through a “dark night.”
- Charles Wilkerson writes about his experience of a dark night.
- It was a state campground near Old Walker Mine in late September. My father and I pulled in about 11:30 at night and setting up camp what I remember most was the night sky. It was black, not dark but black. The stars were clearer, huge, close and more brilliant than I’d ever seen them or could have imagined them. Now I had seen stars before but somehow something was different about this night.
- In the midst of everything, Job never stops talking to God, and neither can we.
- Job may not understand how God hears him, but it is a statement of faith that Job is able to voice even his pain and confusion to God. We are better off to rail against God as Job does, or cry out to God in pain as Mother Teresa does, than to turn away from God in our time of darkness. God has willingly entered into an hour of darkness on our behalf. God in Jesus Christ came to this earth and subjected himself to hatred, brutality, and even death, so that we might have hope. Will we shun that great act? We know God more fully because God incarnate walked on this earth. We know God’s love and grace more fully because Jesus not only taught us about God’s love and grace, he demonstrated it as well. Might we know God more fully even when God seems absent? In some way, we often come to know the meaning of a thing through its absence rather than its presence.
- Think of it this way. A carpenter goes into his well-furnished workshop, complete with stacks of wood, containers of nails, and racks and racks of tools. As the carpenter focuses on the work of his project, he thinks very little of the individual items. The wood, the nails, the hammer are simply taken for granted as part of the carpenter’s activity. But then, in the midst of his diligent work, the hammer breaks as the shaft snaps off at the head. Suddenly, the carpenter is acutely aware of the hammer. Once simply taken for granted, the image of the hammer, what it does, how essential it is to his work, are all vividly present to the carpenter precisely because of its absence. So it was for Job, who felt not the justice of God, and so longed for it even more. So it was for Mother Teresa, whose soul was empty, and so she prayed God’s hand at work in her life all the more. And so it shall be for us, if we hold fast to the faith as Job did and as Mother Teresa did. God’s love and passion are no less real to those who hold fast the faith than the hammer is to the carpenter.
- We’ll find out next week if God answers Job’s questions. And, if so, how. But today, answer for yourself. Where do you go when your faith wavers? When you are going through your own dark night? When, like Chippie, the parakeet, you’ve been sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
- When you can’t make sense of what’s going on, whom do you ask? To whom do you turn?
- What do you do with your mixed up feelings and confusion?
- When you’re afraid and God allows the darkness to cover you? Where do you go? What happens to your faith?