The Book of Job - Part 11
Series: My Preaching Bucket List
November 26, 2017
The Book of Job is definitely a theological work, taking us into the deep waters of God’s sovereignty and how that plays into our suffering and pain. We’ve already covered that as we’ve wrestled in the first few chapters with why Satan still has access to God and his Divine Council, and why God would wager with him in a way that brought such horrible tragedy in Job’s life.
And even last week we picked apart the the theology of Job’s friends who believed only the wicked suffer and only the righteous are blessed. Their theology was way off. God allows the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God in his sovereignty allows suffering to afflict the righteous as well as the unrighteous, and blessing to come to the wicked as well as the good. Period. He will not be packed into any formula of our making.
And when we come to chapter 38, we’ll dive into even deeper theological waters as God himself shows up and answers Job cries for a chance to plead his case.
But as much as the Book of Job is theological it also practical. I’ve touched on this already quite a bit, but, before we move on, I want to emphasize two very useful real-life things it teaches us about suffering, things we must not miss because all of us will experience suffering at one time or another, in one way or another.
Look with me at Chapter 16, well into the middle of the back and forth between Job and his friends…
Job 16:1–17 (ESV) — 1 Then Job answered and said: 2 “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all. 3 Shall windy words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer? 4 I also could speak as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you and shake my head at you. 5 I could strengthen you with my mouth, and the solace of my lips would assuage your pain.
Job had had enough of his friends unfounded accusations and weak theology. The NLT helps us get this a little better…
Job 16:1–5 (NLT) — 1 Then Job spoke again: 2 “I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! 3 Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking? 4 I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you. 5 But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.
Talk about an oxymoron: miserable comforters are you all! Instead of making things better, they made them worse. Instead of easing his pain, they added to his misery by making long, empty speeches. This is why he said in..
Job 13:4 (ESV) — 4 As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all.
Why did they make such a mess of helping Job in his darkest hour? Surely part of it was their warped view of God and His ways. But more so I think it was their scandalous lack of empathy.
Look back a verse 4…
4 I could say the same things if you were in my place.
Most everyone exhibits sympathy for others in their pain (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar showed that) but note I said they lacked empathy. What’s the difference?
Sympathy is feeling pity or compassion towards someone suffering; empathy is actually putting yourself in their place, trying to understand what they are going through.
C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Problem of Pain. It was a masterful work on pain and suffering from a theological and philosophical perspective. It was somewhat distant, looking at pain from the outside in. In it he wrote…
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
That is surely insightful and true. But many years later, he lost his wife to cancer, watching her slowly waste away after thinking she’d been cured. It wrecked his faith for a time. He worked through his pain by keeping a journal. That journal eventually became the book, A Grief Observed (originally printed under a pen name). Now that book looked at pain from the inside out. In it he wrote…
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
So, one very practical thing Job teaches us about helping those suffering is the need for giving comfort by showing empathy, realizing looking at their pain from the outside in is very different than the inside out.
But let’s search for the second thing we learn in the following verses, where Job complains bitterly about his situation…
6 “If I speak, my pain is not assuaged, and if I forbear, how much of it leaves me? 7 Surely now God has worn me out; he has made desolate all my company. 8 And he has shriveled me up, which is a witness against me, and my leanness has risen up against me; it testifies to my face. 9 He has torn me in his wrath and hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me; my adversary sharpens his eyes against me. 10 Men have gaped at me with their mouth; they have struck me insolently on the cheek; they mass themselves together against me. 11 God gives me up to the ungodly and casts me into the hands of the wicked. 12 I was at ease, and he broke me apart; he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces; he set me up as his target; 13 his archers surround me. He slashes open my kidneys and does not spare; he pours out my gall on the ground. 14 He breaks me with breach upon breach; he runs upon me like a warrior. 15 I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin and have laid my strength in the dust. 16 My face is red with weeping, and on my eyelids is deep darkness, 17 although there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure.
It’s helpful to read this from another translation as well…
Job 16:6–17 (NLT) — 6 Instead, I suffer if I defend myself, and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak. 7 “O God, you have ground me down and devastated my family. 8 As if to prove I have sinned, you’ve reduced me to skin and bones. My gaunt flesh testifies against me. 9 God hates me and angrily tears me apart. He snaps his teeth at me and pierces me with his eyes. 10 People jeer and laugh at me. They slap my cheek in contempt. A mob gathers against me. 11 God has handed me over to sinners. He has tossed me into the hands of the wicked. 12 “I was living quietly until he shattered me. He took me by the neck and broke me in pieces. Then he set me up as his target, 13 and now his archers surround me. His arrows pierce me without mercy. The ground is wet with my blood. 14 Again and again he smashes against me, charging at me like a warrior. 15 I wear burlap to show my grief. My pride lies in the dust. 16 My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes. 17 Yet I have done no wrong, and my prayer is pure.
We, the readers of Job’s story, know Job’s feelings about God aren't accurate because we know what he doesn’t. It was his blamelessness that led to his suffering. God wasn’t against him, he was for him, using him to prove Satan wrong.
Regardless, Job’s words here are pretty brutal. And we might be tempted to think he sinned in the way he expressed his thoughts about God. But don’t forget…
Job 2:10 (ESV) — 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Job 42:7 (ESV) — 7 After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
What are we to make of that? Why does God let Job get away withthat? Here’s our second very practical truth concerning suffering: God wants those who suffer to show honesty. He wants them to express their feelings towards him regardless, not cover them up and pretend (which is what we tend to think God wants us to do).
The Book of Psalms is the hymnbook of Israel, the covenant people of God, and most were written by David, one of the godliest men ever to walk the earth, so you’d think they wouldn’t contain much complaining. And yet, we see in…
Psalm 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 88:3–7 (ESV) — 3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
Psalm 69:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. 4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? 5 O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
That’s just a few, folks. One writer writes…
… this implies … that God expects us to frequently experience pain and therefore frequently express our pain to him. God wants us to pour out our complaints to him and tell him our troubles … He wants us to tell him exactly what it feels like (“no one cares for my soul,” Psalm 142:4).
Suffering people go through a range of emotions and thoughts. Job shows us, the Bible shows us, very practically that it’s not just acceptable to be honest with God about those emotions and thoughts, it’s encouraged.
C.S Lewis, in A Grief Observed, complained early on in his pain…
“…where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be—or so it feels—welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”
Are you suffering? Don’t hold it in. Let it out. Yet, if we go back to Job’s lament in chapter 16 we see something unique about his complaints…
Job 16:18–22 (NLT) — 18 “O earth, do not conceal my blood. Let it cry out on my behalf. 19 Even now my witness is in heaven. My advocate is there on high. 20 My friends scorn me, but I pour out my tears to God. 21 I need someone to mediate between God and me, as a person mediates between friends. 22 For soon I must go down that road from which I will never return.
He was honest in expressing what he felt, but his complaints contained hope in the God he complained to. It is the same in the Psalms…
Psalm 13:1–6 (ESV) — 1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Conclusion: Job is theological (just wait) yet it is also practical when it comes to suffering.
It teaches those trying to comfort the suffering the need for empathy.
And it teaches the suffering who need comfort the importance of honesty, an honesty working towards hope.
Lewis later came to see that God was for him, not against him writing towards the end of A Grief Observed…
I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear…
God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.
Lewis let it all out, and eventually took back in the truth. We have to get all that out so the truth can get in. And the truth is, whether our suffering is our fault our not, God is with us and he will ultimately deliver us. However long it takes us to understand that.
Job hoped for an advocate in heaven. Little did he knew that thousands of year later that advocate would come…
1 John 2:1–2 (ESV) — 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
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