Apr 8 2018 Finding Grace in the Story of Job
8th April 2018
Lord, thank You for placing this into Your Bible – every human suffers loss and grief – and we need to learn to receive comfort from You. As we look back on this series, may that comfort come to us – how deeply You love us in every circumstance and situation.
In Your Name we pray.
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 declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." 4 'Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.' 5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; 6 Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."
As we conclude here – what we see – there are a number of things that Job learned. First – Job, in the end, declares that God is all-wise, all-powerful and good. It is huge step for Job that He says that. When we are going through difficult times, we tend to just look for control – something to latch onto to gain control – even if it is just a tiny bit of control and that is what Job does throughout the story. He has thoughts about God that are not good – and in the end, he has thoughts that are good. When we think about God, we should only have good thoughts about Him.
Vs. 3"Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."
In humility, Job acknowledges his lack of wisdom before God. There are too things he realizes – first, he does not know more than God – and he does not know better than God. We think – if we ruled the universe, it would be better (at least the universe around me!). We must all come to this conclusion. We don’t know more than God and we don’t know better than God.
Third – through his suffering, Job gains an experiential knowledge of God. I have heard of you with my ear (I kinda knew stuff about You), but now I see You – He transitions from a head knowledge to that which is personal and relational and experiential. We all have to go through it. There is a book called Stages of Faith.
There is the infant stage of faith – and we move through the various phases. Faith is not just something that has been told by those before him – it becomes his own. Like what we want with our children – they begin with our faith and they believe it because it is what they grew up in – But at some point, each must make it his own faith. And even then, it grows until it is personal and relational and experiential. God wants us to experience Him. The Christian life should be a walk where we engage with God throughout the day. It takes us to making a difference. But this happens through suffering. Our faith will not grow without trial.
We don’t want trial – I don’t want trial – but it is only through trial that faith grows – and in suffering, Job grew in his understanding of God.
When we go through difficult times, we look back – and say – Wow – God’s love and compassion were really there in my life during those times - look what happened then – look at what I learned when I was going through that. We are usually not there (we don’t see it) when we are in the middle of it – but when we look back, we see how much we grew in our relationship with God. I think it is one of the ways God keeps us humble.
Fourth – Job never discovered the specific reason for his suffering. The reason for his suffering was hidden in heaven. That is important for us – we will never know the reason for our suffering – and that should give us encouragement – that the reason for our suffering is hidden in heaven. The good thing – they are hidden in heaven. What we have suffered in living for Christ - I believe we will see it someday. God uses our suffering in His heavenly kingdom to bless myriads of people – and all of us who suffer for following Christ – someday God will speak to us of that. He will show us what He accomplished through our difficulties. It is better that the specific reasons are hidden in heaven than revealed to us here.
As a result of this – Job became okay with that – with not knowing why – the reason. And he learned to live with the uncertainty of the ambiguity. We struggle with that. All the information is there, but why did I go through that will never come up in a Google search.
Even though we won’t know the specifics, we can gain all kinds of insight through our suffering.
God, through suffering, teaches us much.
We all know – the most difficult things we go through, we learn the most about God and this world.
If I read through this last chapter, there are a number of big questions that come up in my mind about this book – some are kind of concerning – how this concludes –
6 Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes."
What did Job repent of? It is really important to get this one right! His friends – for so many chapters – have been telling him – Job, you need to repent of your sins and God will restore you. Did Job finally listen to his friends – so he would be restored? NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! Job never repented of his sins so that God would restore him. You know why – because if he did – the Satan won the contest! God made it clear – Job was blameless – not suffering for any sin he had committed. There was nothing he did that caused his suffering – it was not because of sins he committed – what Job repented of – his wrong attitudes about God in, or during, his suffering. During the suffering – he starts getting a wrong attitude toward God. Then when God comes in and says – Who are you to say these things? Who is it that darkens My counsel? Who speaks empty words without knowledge? – that is what Job is repenting of. His thoughts were not good.
The second question:
7 After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has." 9 So Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job's prayer.
Second question that comes up – why is God angry with Job’s friends? When you read the story – it seems like they are saying some really good stuff – but God is saying – no, you did not speak correctly about Me. They have a simplistic black and white opinion about how God is ruling the world and it is WRONG. They would say that God always gives earthly tangible rewards for the righteous, and that God always gives earthly tangible punishment to the wicked – they are saying that the Retribution Principle is always true. And God is saying – I don’t run it the way you think! – I do things that make no sense at all, because I want to! Like the ostrich and the Leviathan – and yet it all works.
The third question – “as my servant Job has said” - was everything Job said about God good? No! This is debated – three possibilities. What is going on here? What is He saying here? There are differnet thoughts: First – Job was correct in not giving in to his friends about how God rules the universe and repenting SO THAT he could be rewarded. Second – what He is saying – is about what Job said earlier – recognizing that God is all-wise, all-powerful and good. We just read that.
Thirdly – I think here the rubber meets the road – I think God was saying Job was correct in the way he responded to suffering – the way He grieved his loss in suffering. Throughout his suffering – Job always moved toward God. He never stops moving toward God. It may have been ugly – at first there was anger. There was foul and raw language – where did it go? To God. There were accusations – but where did it go? It was always directed toward God. When we are grieving – it is appropriate – and it is spiritual to complain and lament to God. That is the spiritual way of lament. Now, it is inappropriate to complain ABOUT God. God wants us to bring our complaints – the rawness of what is going on in our souls – to Him. Husbands and wives can complain to one another, but not about one another – it will destroy a relationship.
Even in the worst of time
Job never understands the reason he suffered, and the book does not show us why we suffer – what it teaches us – how to suffer wisely.
Job 13:15 Even if he slays me, I will hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face! (Job 13:15)
When we go through something – if we were to say – God, you hate me! But I will still move in your direction. Sometimes we feel like God hates us! If you’ve never felt that, you will.
Job 23:10 But he knows the pathway that I take; if he tested me, I would come forth like gold. 11 My feet have followed his steps closely; I have kept to his way and have not turned aside. 12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion. (Job 23:10)
In context, this came right after Job denied God’s justice. Everything he held dear about his relationship with God has fallen apart – and he still follows and moves in the direction of God. There will be times in our Christian walk where everything we thought was right might not necessarily be right. I think it is in that that God is saying Job spoke rightly.
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the former part.
Verse 10 tells us that Job’s restoration came after he prayed for his friends. His restoration did not come after he repented! This is so important – because if Job was restored after he repented, then again, Satan wins the contest. What it teaches us – God’s blessing of Job is a gift, the reward is not something that comes from repenting – it comes from God’s goodness and love and compassion – God loved Job and wanted to bless Job. It was all grace – not earned in any way, shape, or form. Job’s friends don’t deserve it – but they are restored as well – and just as Job shows grace to his friends – so God shows Job grace.
It is in understanding God’s love that we are able to show the love to others. If we think we earn our grace – then we will never be able to love and engage with people – unless we get that we are awful sinners who deserve nothing but punishment – and God lavishes His love
He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.
Here is the end – the very end – and for some people, this conclusion to Job is troubling and disappointing. For others, it is the perfect Happily Ever After – a Disney movie. I think it is based on your personality – what is going on in your own mind. Stay with me to the end - Here is the problem – Do the blessings Job receives make up for the losses at the beginning? Just ask yourself this question – if you had 10 children or 2 or 1 – and you lose any – you never get over it. Sure, you move on – but it is always there. Even bigger than that – many people in the real world we live in – never get everything restored. Very few people get a little restored. Some get none. And that is the end. Plenty just suffer, lose everything – and then die – and it seems fake.
Don’t leave yet, or you will be very depressed.
We read Job in two ways. First – we read it in its context, we read through the whole book, understanding the literary quality of the book, how it is written – it is about a hero – remember the beginning – like Star Wars – long ago, far away, in a distant land – and it has a conclusion. He is an epic hero with an epic loss – and so what does he need? An epic ending.
The second way – we must read Job through Jesus Christ.
The first time you read a book – look at it in its original context.
THEN – go back and read it – in the context of Jesus Christ.
Like the murder mystery – you’re in a mansion, or a train, and there are 6 or seven people there and the lights always go out and someone is dead. They get you to try to believe one thing – then another – then another – and the detective, wearing a raincoat, comes in and puts it all together.
Like ‘The Sixth Sense’ OH! That is what this is all about! Then when you watch it again, you see it. We need to read Job knowing that Good Friday and Easter has happened. And here is what we learn:
Jesus is the ULTIMATE innocent sufferer. It is about Jesus. It is about the GOSPEL. When we think of the suffering of the innocent – there we have it – on Good Friday – no one more innocent suffered more. The most innocent suffered the most.
For us, our ultimate restoration is an eternal one. Like Job, we will have all things restored – but it will be in eternity. It will be fully, completely restored – In a bigger way, in a better place.
And finally, we learn – the answer to why there is suffering in the world? There is only one answer – it is the CROSS. God does not tell us why He allowed it – but He shows us – because of suffering, Jesus gives His life that we might be forgiven and suffer never again.
One practical thing in conclusion.
Job learned – and it doesn’t exactly say this – but it does – Job finally lived a grace life. What we see with Job – He is living a life that tends to be – we tend to still believe we can earn God’s blessing and favor by trying hard – and we live our lives that way – if only I had more quiet times! If only – all those things we think we need to do to earn God’s favor. Thinking we need to do these things to be good – and the Satan wins.
Think Christmas time – we watch out – we don’t cry, we don’t pout, because Santa is coming to town and we want presents. And that is how we live our Christian lives. That is the faith of Job’s friends. God wants us to live a life that recognizes: Really, I don’t deserve anything from God – but God loves to give to me. God loves loving us.
There was a song – Boundless love – unending joy – this is my life, it’s what I know – I can’t believe He accepted me – Jesus, my Lord, it’s You I owe.
You sing this – you think of this – boundless joy – all is well and sunny – I just got a raise – but that song came around at a very difficult time in my life – and our lives, at the most difficult point are filled with boundless love.
Job lost everything – and before He got it all back – he realized his life was under the boundless love of God.
Let’s pray: Lord, thank You, that no matter our circumstances - our experience of You can be one of boundless love – unending Joy. Help us to take this story of the life of Job – to understand Your grace in Jesus Christ toward us. Ultimately, when we stand before You and You have the nail holes in Your hands, we will understand.
James 5:11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.