The Book of Job - Part 16

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

February 25, 2018
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Ever heard the old saying “Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it”?

Eminem, the rapper and theologian, has. In his song “Careful What You Wish For” he says…

“So be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it…

And if you get it, then you just might not know what to do with it…

'Cause it might just come back on you ten-fold

I said be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it…

And if you get it, then you just might not know what to do with it…

'Cause it might just come back on you ten-fold”

Getting what you ask can be dangerous. Just ask Rob White. He writes…

Back in 1991, I was sitting with my wife, Kat, on the porch of our cliff-side house, watching the local bi-planes do their unofficial air show that consisted of loops, flips, and other daredevilish maneuvers over the Pacific Ocean. One beautiful red plane caught my eye as it floated across the sky, lazily dipping its wings as if were piloted by an invisible puppeteer. The plane did a few stunts, then did a swirling plunge toward the water, followed by a last-second climb to safety. It fired up my adrenaline, this death-defying act of courage.

"I want to do that," I said to Kat. She cocked her head and smiled, knowing that there were three problems with my declaration. First, I didn't have a pilot's license. Second, I didn't have the patience to get one -- I wanted to experience the maneuvers right then. Third, I wasn't comfortable in airplanes at all.

"Really, flyboy?" she asked, "Why don't you start with a passenger ride in one of those things. I'll buy you one for your birthday."

I was ecstatic. What could be a better present?

The next morning, we hopped in the car and drove to a small airport a few miles from our home. 

[Now hen he arrived, the shiny, fancy planes he’d watched from the safety of his porch looked as if they were held together with duct tape and wire! So he got a little worried. He goes on…]

The pilot explained that he'd been doing this for 40 years. "Never had a single accident," he said, handing me a helmet, goggles, and a leather jacket. He then strapped me into the seat directly behind his.

We took off far more abruptly than I'd expected. The roar of the engine was deafening and the wind felt like a brick wall. But my stomach settled down after a few minutes, and I began to enjoy the incredible panoramic view. There was my house! And there was Kat, who'd driven home to watch the show from the cliff.

Upon seeing her, my cockiness crept back in. We weren't doing anything really scary or death-defying, I thought, just a little wing tipping. So I tapped the pilot on the shoulder and yelled as loud as I could, "Hey, do some of those backward flips, you know, those twirly things!”

"Are you sure?" he yelled back.

"Oh, for God's sake, what do you think, you're going to scare me?" I hollered.

With that, he let the nose drop, and we started spinning around toward the ocean like we were going to crash. Immediately, I screamed into the wind, "Are you nuts? Forty years without an accident? You're due for one. I'm suing you! I'll have your license revoked!"

The engine noise swallowed my howling, and we continued our plunge into the drink. Just when I was certain we were about to become shark bait, he swooped up and leveled off. We floated along, smooth as could be, as if nothing had happened. And me? I was too busy swearing a blue streak to notice that we were still alive.

We landed five minutes later and taxied to the space by the parking lot. The pilot hopped out with a big grin on his face. "Great ride!" he enthused, reaching over to unbuckle my harness. "Did you have fun?”

Apparently, he didn't notice the front of my pee-stained pants and my knocking knees. I was about to give him a piece of my mind when I realized that he gave me exactly what I asked for. He wasn't at fault. My wife was.

The second I got into the car I bellowed, "What's wrong with you!? Why would you set me up for something like this!”

"Set you up?" she responded calmly. "You asked for it, Rob.”

[I can almost hear Eminem rapping in the backround]

Job is another fellow who learned the hard way to be careful what he asked for…

Job 23:3 (ESV) — 3 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat!

Job 23:8–9 (ESV) — 8 “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; 9 on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.

Job 31:35–37 (ESV) — 35 Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary! 36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me as a crown; 37 I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him.

Job asked for an audience with God to plead his case. He asked God to show up and God did just that, not on cue, mind you, but in his timing and in his way.

Job 38:1 (ESV) — 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

Thirty-seven chapters of back and forth about who God is and how he works. The suspense of wondering if God will answer. The interlude of little Elihu that seems out of place, yet causes the suspense to build. And then, boom. “The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind.” You asked for it, Job.

He asked for and received what theologians call a theophany. Theophany is just a fancy way of saying a manifestation of God that can be perceived by the human senses, or, for us Cheatham county folks, a theophany is God showing up in person.

The OT is filled with theophanies, or God showing up in person. God showing up in person is a good thing, right? That’d be just like grandaddy coming to visit, right?

Let’s ask Moses… 

Exodus 33:18–23 (ESV) — 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God answered Moses’ request to show him his glory, but he did it in a way that kept Moses from disintegrating.  Being in God’s actual presence is like standing in front of a death ray. So God showing up is still a good thing, right? Like grandaddy coming over for a visit?

Let’s ask the prophet Isaiah…

Isaiah 6:1–5 (ESV) — 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

God showed up for Isaiah and the old prophet was so overcome with his sinfulness in the shadow of God’s holiness, he thought he was going to die. So God showing up is a good thing, right? Like granddaddy coming over for a visit?

John Calvin writes of theophanies in the OT…

Holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure quaking with fear that the fear of death takes hold of them, they are in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated.—The inference to be drawn is this: that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.—Frequent examples of this consternation occur both in the Book of Judges and the Prophetical Writings so much so that it was a common expression of the people of God, “we shall die, for we have seen the Lord.” 

…. for we see Abraham ready to acknowledge himself but dust and ashes the nearer he approaches the glory of the Lord; and Elijah unable to wait with unveiled face for his approach so dreadful is the sight. And what can man do—man who is but rottenness and a worm,  when even the [angels] must veil their faces in very terror. To this undoubtedly the Prophet Isaiah refers when he says the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed when the Lord of Hosts shall reign. When he shall exhibit his [glory] and give a nearer view of it, the brightest objects will in comparison be covered with darkness.

God showing up is both a good and bad thing because the God of the universe is both terrifying and fascinating at the same time. When he arrives in all his glory and holiness, nobody claps and shouts. Nobody does high fives. Everybody trembles in fear.

Back in the early 1900s, a book was published in Germany by a man named Rudolf Otto. It was titled “The Holy.” In it he wrote of his studies into the phenomenon of humans’ reaction to encountering, to experiencing the holy, the otherworldliness of divine encounters.

In his study of the concept of holiness (holy, holy, holy), Otto discovered that, “though the moral quality of goodness is present in the term, it cannot be exhausted by it or equated with it. Though holiness contains the notion of absolute goodness, there remains a certain ‘extra,’ an ‘overplus.’ ” So God showing up is a good thing, but it is not like grandaddy coming over for a visit.

This brings me back to something I’ve probably shared with you multiple times, something one pastor said other pastors should stop using, but I just can’t help it.

CS Lewis captured this idea perfectly in his children’s books, The Chronicles of Narnia. The Pevensy children had not long stumbled into the magical land of Narnia when they met Mr. and Mrs. Beaver who tried to describe the lion, Aslan, to them, a Christ-like figure.

Lucy, afraid of meeting a lion, asked if Aslan were safe. To which Mr. Beaver replied…

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Almost always, somebody gets hung up on that (elderly couple at Winterboro). And I totally understand why. But here’s my question: if Moses had to be hidden in the cleft of a rock when God showed up, and if Isaiah, as well as a host of others, crumpled in terror when God showed up, why do we think we’d react any differently?

Otto called man’s experience with the holy mysterium tremendum, it means overwhelming mystery.

The terrifying awesomeness of God in his holiness is lost on us modern-day Westerners. But it wasn’t on the ancient Jews. If anything, they feared God. That’s great, but they were so hung up on God’s holiness when Jesus came along and wanted them to know God as Father, they balked.

We Christians today do the opposite. We are 100% in on the whole Father/child thing, but we struggle with the wholly otherness, the mysterium tremendum of God.

It’s not one or the other, folks. It’s both. And, in a way, this is what the book of Job is all about: the mysterium tremendum of God.

If we don’t get this, we won’t get Job. We’ll hide from it. Or overlook it. Or even deny it. And we’ll miss the whole point of the book.

Conclusion: This all ties in with what we looked at last week. If the book of Job teaches us anything about God, it reveals…

God’s ways don’t always line up with how we think.

They didn’t line up with how Job thought. They didn’t line up with how his three friends thought. They didn’t line up with how Elihu thought. And they certainly don’t line up with the way we think.

We would never think God would allow suffering into the life of a righteous person. We would never think he’d allow into the world at all. But he did. He does. Which is why…

Nothing leads to disillusionment with God more than suffering. 

The answer to why Job suffered, why there is suffering, isn’t the answer we want. In fact, it’s not an answer at all. It’s the mysterium tremendum, the overwhelming mystery of who God is. It is not a cop out. It is a reality.

Job 38:1 (ESV) — 1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

What God says to him will not make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. There are no apologies. No explanations. You’ll even wonder if God is being fair to Job.

The only way to handle this, is to come to terms with the mysterium tremendum as much as we are able, or get disillusioned in what follows.

Once again, we know we are talking about the God of the universe because things are deep, are difficult, are frightening. But there’s always another side to that. No, God is not safe, but he’s good…

John 1:18 (CSB) — 18 No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.

We get what we didn’t ask for!

Why would God do such a thing? Mysterium tremendum. 

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