The Book of Job - Introduction
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
August 20, 2017
As you know, I’m in a series of messages called my preaching bucket list. I’m sharing messages I want to deliver before I die. Some are messages I’ve always wanted to preach but never got around to it. Others are messages I was reluctant to (we haven’t gotten to them yet). And others are messages I never thought about preaching until life happened.
Today in the bucket list series I begin preaching the OT book of Job. In all my years as a pastor I never preached a single sermon from it, probably because I couldn’t identify with it, and maybe because I was a little afraid of it.
It would be safe to say that Job is not the most popular book in the Bible. It’s certainly not at the top of most peoples’ list of favorites. Hardly anyone preaches on it. And there are few Bible studies on it compared to other books of the Bible.
But for the most part, those who do end up studying it and those who do end up preaching from it and those who do end up creating Bible studies on it have one thing in common: they all experienced intense suffering. Job is who you go to for that.
He’s kind of like that iconic, wise old sage who lives in a cave on the top of a mountain that people seek out for answers to life’s big questions. Chances are, if you live long enough you’ll end up seeking out Job as well, trying to find out why God allows good people to suffer.
That’s the theme of Job, and it’s timeless… just as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago when the book was written. And it will be relevant thousands of years from today if our Lord tarries.
One commentator sums up the big picture of Job well…
"Job faces us with big questions: both personal and pastoral. The fact of suffering in the world touches us at many different levels. It may press on us most powerfully in the physical or emotional pain which we may have to endure. It may be our contact with others who are suffering, and the sense of helplessness we sometimes feel in the face of their distress. We may be more troubled at the intellectual level: why suffering? Can there be any point, any meaning in so much undeserved pain? Or it may touch us at the level of our relationship with God: where is God after the holocaust? What does my faith in God amount to in the light of my young next-door neighbour’s inoperable cancer? Can we continue to speak of the love, care and compassion of God at times when all the evidence around us might suggest that he has let us down?
"The book of Job is about all such questions. We meet a man who suffers physically and emotionally. We meet friends who do their best, but make things worse. We are brought face to face with the intellectual puzzles. And above and indeed because of all this, we find Job struggling with his faith in God.
"In the end, we hear a word of divine grace. The justice, power and wisdom of God are proclaimed and vindicated. Job’s pilgrimage ends in blessing. But there is a personal journey through many troubling chapters until we get there.
"The book of Job has a power to reach into our human situation, and engage with our own needs. It tells it how it is. It is not comfortable reading. But because of its realism and its refusal to pretend that everything is all right when it feels all wrong, the book of Job does offer the strong sort of comfort which comes from our knowing that someone else has been there too."
He’s right. Job is not comfortable reading. It’s actually troubling. Job teaches us about suffering, but more importantly he teaches us about the God who allows suffering. He helps us understand the big question, “Why, God?”
Another commentator writes…
"[The book of Job] is about all of us, and ultimately about God. Our questions about suffering inevitably lead to God, for when we go through difficult times in life, there is no one else to question—he is the one whose ways we seek to understand. When we ask “Why me?” we are in effect asking “How does God work?” We may start out asking why we deserved this, but ultimately the question we arrived at is, “What kind of God are you?” In all our difficult experiences, eventually we arrive at the place where it is no longer us, but God who is on trial."
Even if you can’t identify with Job, you can identify with those who do. What I mean by that is, even if you manage to live without ever experiencing intense, prolonged pain or suffering, chances are someone close to you will. Job shows us how to enter into their pain and bring comfort. Spoiler alert: most of us do it all wrong.
Before we take this journey, it might be helpful to note a few things about the book of Job.
- It’s the oldest book in the Bible. The events of Job take place around the time of Abraham or before.
- That being the case, Job is not an Israelite. He’s a God-follower living some time after the fall and before Israel becomes a nation.
- We don’t know who wrote Job, but from the earliest times it was considered God-inspired.
- It is written in a form of ancient poetry similar to other works of the day that addressed suffering. Some consider it the most beautifully written of all time.
Conclusion: Remember how I said some of the messages on my bucket list are there because life happened? That’s why the book of Job is on it.
I went through a Job experience of my own, so I sought him out for answers.
Let me conclude the introduction to this series on Job with the beginning of the book…
Job 1:1–5 (ESV) — 1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
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