The Book of Job - Part 17

Series: My Preaching Bucket List

March 18, 2018
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Job sat in the ash heap on the outskirts of a town he used to sit in the gates of (signifying his former position of influence and honor). He was covered in sores and his flesh was black from disease. But that wasn’t the worst of it. He had lost seven sons and three beautiful daughters to a great a storm whose winds collapsed the house where they were celebrating of all things. And added to that, his friends had hurt him all the more by accusing him of sin instead of actually consoling him.

Job, desperate for his pain to end, swore an oath to God, asking to be cursed if he was guilty or released from suffering if he wasn’t. Job’s friends held their breath, wondering what God would do.

In the distance was a heard a rumbling. Over the mountains ominous, dark clouds rolled and churned. A mighty storm was coming in.

As the stormy winds made their way towards Job it must have brought pain (his children) and maybe hope for relief (perhaps it would blow him away and end his suffering). His three friends and Elihu probably ran for cover, thinking judgment had arrived.

The storm was so great it spawned a whirlwind in lightning and thunder, a whirlwind unlike any Job had ever heard of or seen…

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

That’s not coincidental. As we saw last time, theophanies, or God showing up in person, often involved thunder, lightning, and wind.

The prophet Nahum fittingly reminds us…

Nahum 1:3 (ESV) — 3 The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

(sitting on my front porch in Rockford)

Storms are frightening and terrible. They can bring destruction and even death. But they are also comforting and bring the rain necessary for life. Storms scare us but they also sustain us.

Nahum nailed it. God is not safe (when you get a glimpse of how big and powerful he is) or understandable. He’s like the storm.

God is neither safe or understandable, but he is good. Slow to anger and great in power, yet he is also a God of justice who won’t clear the guilty (that’s where Jesus comes in… next week). God is scary (again, if we truly grasp how big he is) yet he is also the one whom by his will holds the universe together, the one who provides for us in ways we cannot imagine.

After everything, God shows up to answer Job very appropriately in the whirlwind and he does not address him the way we might expect…

Job 38:2–3 (ESV) — 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

Job 38:2–3 (CSB) — 2 Who is this who obscures my counsel with ignorant words? 3 Get ready to answer me like a man; when I question you, you will inform me.

Job 38:2–3 (The Message) — 2 “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? 3 Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers.

We expect God to say he’s sorry. To explain himself after all he’s put Job through. And we certainly don’t expect him to approach Job in what appears to be a harsh manner. For some, when they hear this, they have heard enough. They want nothing to do with a God like that. It’s completely understandable.

Just the other day I talked with a young lady about this very thing. The story of Job made her angry and unwilling to accept a God who would (1) allow Job to endure such suffering on a wager and (2) respond to him from the whirlwind in such a way. What she didn’t realize was, she really wanted a God who acted according to what she thought was right. A God who was safe and understandable. A God made after her own image.

A god made after our own image, a god made in our likeness cannot save us. That kind of god is impotent.

The other morning I heard my wife holler in the bathroom. I ran in there not knowing what to expect. She had brushed her teeth with anti-itch cream. We laugh, but haven’t we all done dumb things. Do any of us really want a god after our own image?

JD Greear writes…

[…it doesn’t matter how we “like to see God.” God is who he is. When God appeared to Moses and Moses asked him his name, God didn’t say, “Moses, I am whoever you need me to be.” He said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14 ESV).

In Exodus 20:4-5, God equates reshaping him into a new image with hating him, because you are saying, “God, I don’t like the real you. I need you to be this for me to love you.”

Imagine if a woman’s husband found out that she routinely told her friends, “I like to see my husband as a 6’4” ‘Jack’ from ‘This Is Us,’ who lifts weights and whose perfect idea of date night is perusing the aisles at Target.” If she kept saying that, her real husband, 5’6” Terry who works in IT, wears penny loafers, and likes fantasy football might get upset. He has a right to ask her why she has to re-imagine him in order to love him.

In the same way, it’s an insult to God when we have to reshape him into something else in order for us to love him.

It doesn’t matter how we “like to see God.” God is who he is.

I have a litmus test to help you determine whether or not you are doing this: How often does God contradict you, confuse you, or make you mad? Because if he’s not doing any of those things, chances are you are not really letting God be God—you are only re-imagining him as you want him to be…

Real people in real relationships do things that surprise and contradict us. If that’s how it is with another human, then how much more so with God?

God is not just a slightly bigger reflection of ourselves. As Karl Barth said, “If our God never contradicts us or makes us mad, then we are likely not worshipping him, but a reflection of ourselves.”]

How many golfers do we have out there? Bless your hearts. I agree with Mark Twain. Golf is just a long walk spoiled. Imagine this. You’re a golfer and you get a chance to be trained by the absolute greatest golf master the world has ever known (Tiger Woods?). Would you expect in your training for him to only say to you, “Good job. You are doing that exactly right, exactly the same way I would” or would you expect him to challenge you, to make you change something? And why would he challenge you? TO MAKE YOU BETTER.

By the way, this works the other way too. When we make God a god of justice and wrath only, we are also fashioning him after our own image. Legalists are just as bad as the libertines!

A God who spoke all things into being out of nothing, a God who holds things together by his will, a God whose way is so mysterious it can be scarcely be compared to the way of the storm and the whirlwind…  that God is bigger than anything our little minds can grasp. So it stands to reason he is going to act in ways we don’t understand, in ways we may even find harsh at times.

Even so, it was CS Lewis said…

The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation. — CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Verses 2 & 3 are hard, but what God says afterwards might be harder.

Job 38:4–7 (ESV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

God asks Job stabbing questions like where were you, do you know, have you considered, all in regards to his wisdom and glory displayed in creation.

In chapter 40, God allows Job to give the first of two responses…

Job 40:1–6 (ESV) — 1 And the Lord said to Job: 2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” 3 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” 6 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

God continues with the same thrust but hones in on his power over Leviathan and Behemoth, something that would have made Job shudder.

Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, Job.” Instead of explaining why Job had suffered so. God simply points him to his wisdom and glory displayed in creation. In a way you could sum up  what God says with this: “I don’t owe you an explanation.”  That is hard to swallow. 

But think about it. Does the God whose way is in the storm and whirlwind, the God whose mighty power and wisdom are evident from the stars in the sky all the way down to the way of the deer and ostrich owe man anything?

If God owed us anything in all our fallenness, all our failures, all our inconsistencies, he would not be God, he would be a god of our own making. And that god cannot help us.

So, after all this, how does Job respond? Is he offended? Is he satisfied? Look at his second and final response…

Job 42:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Tim Keller says, [No explanation, no comfort, and yet the most flabbergasting thing of all is Job is utterly changed by it. Do you see? What does Job say? Job says, “You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

That turbulence inside Job is put to rest. That anger goes away. That pride is humbled. He is changed, and he is satisfied. … it seemed like God came and did all the wrong things to Job, and it helped him immeasurably.]

The key to this is what Job says in 42:5…

Job 42:5 (ESV) — 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;

Think about it. In chapter 1 we learned Job was the example of a godly servant, one who feared God and ran away from evil. He honored the Lord in all he did. That’s what made him a target!

Yet, after going through all this horrific suffering, after not receiving an explanation or an apology but a schooling on God’s wisdom and glory he says, “Before I had heard of you now, I see you.” 

In other words, I knew you before and loved you, but now I know you in a way that’s even deeper and wider and more meaningful than anything I ever imagined. Forget everything I said. You are enough God.”

That kind of understanding of who God is only comes through suffering. 

What kind of God can bring such a gracious gift through suffering? The God who laid the foundations of the earth! The one who hung the stars and the moon. The one whose glory is displayed in all creation. The one whose way is found in the storm and whirlwind.

Conclusion: At the lowest point of his suffering, Job’s greatest fear was that God had abandoned him. But in truth God had been with him all the time, working, planning, preparing him for what was to come.

If you are suffering or if you have, God has not abandoned you. It may feel like it. But he hasn’t. I cannot give you an explanation as to why you’re suffering so, and God isn’t obligated to offer you one. That is so hard, I know.

But let me end with the words of one author…

[…there is … [a] crucial reason for God to not give Job any explanation for his suffering. Satan had charged that Job was a phony, that he lived morally and obeyed God only for the personal benefits. Satan wanted to not only bring pain on Job but to discredit him, to expose him as a fraud. But God allows Satan only enough space to accomplish the very opposite of what Satan had wanted. Modern readers may be upset when they see God giving Satan permission to attack Job, but we should keep in mind that Satan’s attack in the end gave Job a name that will live forever, made him one of the most famous men in history. If you knew that 3,000 years later, millions of people would be reading about and discussing your words and deeds, you could consider yourself successful. And in afflicting Job with suffering, God only created one of the great resources in the history of the world, which has inspired countless sufferers to face their adversity with endurance and patience.

God allows evil just enough space so it will defeat itself. The story of Job is a smaller version of what God is doing in your life and in the history of the world. God has now mapped out a plan for history that includes evil as part of it. This confuses and angers us, but then a book like Job pulls back the veil for just an instant and shows us that God will allow evil only to the degree that it brings about the very opposite of what it intends.]

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