Sunday November 14th
God at work – Job
Some of you have probably heard this philosophical thing known as the Eternal Question:
If a man says something in the woods and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?
This morning we are going to sum up the eternal question of Job this way:
“Is it worth it to serve God?”
Most of us have probably asked ourselves that question at some point in our lives. It doesn’t seem quite right when we are doing our absolute best to live a godly life and then out of nowhere some unforeseen tragedy strikes.
To make matters worse, you look around and you see people who are clearly NOT following God, and their lives seem to be BLESSED! What’s up with that? It just doesn’t seem right. It’s not fair! Maybe following God just isn’t worth it after all!
King David admitted this in Psalm 73:3 “I saw that wicked people were successful, and I became jealous.”
So, let’s get started on this study of the eternal question of Job, starting with chapter 1 verse 1:
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
Everything about Job’s character can be summed up with two words. The first word is blameless. In Latin it is the word integer. We get the word integrity from that. The second word is upright, which means to be straight up, not deviating to the left or right.
Job was blameless and upright. He was a man who had absolute integrity.
In Ezekiel 14:14 God even lists Job as one of the three most righteous men of all time, along with Noah and Daniel.
Job’s focus wasn’t on himself either - it was on his family as we see in verse 5:
5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
Job was concerned about the spiritual well-being of his children. After each time of celebration, he would offer sacrifices to God, not for specific things that he had seen his children do wrong, but “JUST IN CASE” they had sinned!
That’s the key challenge that Job will now have to face. He is worried that his children might “perhaps” curse God if things didn’t go their way, and Satan says, “Job, I think YOU would curse God if things stopped going your way.”
That’s possibly the number one element of Job’s story that we can try to incorporate into our own spiritual lives.
Can I come through my challenges, my Job-times, with my integrity intact? Or will I take Satan’s bait and curse the God who has blessed me so much, with life and with salvation, at the cost of His own Son?
As we continue in verse 6 we will see Satan trying to cause Job to curse God by destroying Job’s life.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”
Satan admits to God that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” He’s just waiting to point out humanity’s flaws, because Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of our brethren… he who accuses them before our God day and night.
But before Satan can start accusing anyone of being unrighteous, God beats him to the punch by bringing up Job as an example of someone who HASN’T given in to Satan’s temptations:
8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”
Satan is apparently upset with Job’s faithfulness, but he tries to excuse it away by arguing that it’s been EASY for Job to walk in righteousness because everything has gone his way:
9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.”
12 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.
We see the earthly results of this heavenly conversation in verses 13-19. Four messengers, one after the other came with devastating news:
• Some of your animals were stolen
• The rest of your animals were destroyed by a freak firestorm falling from the sky
• All of your workers were either kidnapped or killed
• All ten of your children are dead.
But even without knowing why all of this had happened, Job kept his faith and his integrity:
20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 He said,
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
22 Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
Tearing your clothes and shaving your head were traditional ways to express grief and sorrow. People sometimes did those things at funerals. Job now had 10 funerals to face all at once! But even in his deepest grief he didn’t blame God, he WORSHIPPED GOD!
Job said, “I had nothing when I came into this world and I will take nothing with me when I die. Whatever I had was given to me by God. And if God chooses to take away some of what He gave me, that is His right! Blessed be the name of God, whether He is giving or whether He is taking away!”
We are all going to experience various trials throughout our lives; hopefully not to the same degree that Job did. But no matter what we are facing the questions will always be the same:
How do I respond? How do I view God in the midst of my adversity? Will I continue to worship Him when I don’t understand Him?
In Chapter two things go from bad to worse (starting with verse 3):
3 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”
So, starting in verse 4, Satan lays out his next line of attack: Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” 6 So the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”
Rather than acknowledging Job’s faithfulness, Satan simply shrugs it off and says, “That’s because you didn’t let me hit him directly.” But now he will.
Satan isn’t allowed to kill Job, so he attacks him with the worst possible affliction he can think of BOILS, from the bottoms of Job’s feet to the top of his head!
Poor Job is already sitting on a pile of ashes, mourning the deaths of his children. Now he picks up a piece of broken pottery and starts to scrape his skin with it, to let the boils drain out.
But EVEN with his body covered in boils from head to toe, Job isn’t looking for the easy way out, AND he isn’t blaming God for his misfortune. JOB at this point has no idea that everything is going to turn out okay and he has no idea WHY all of this is happening to him, but he still doesn’t sin against God with his words or in his heart. Job isn’t sure WHAT is causing his problems, so he just sits and scrapes his boils; until his three friends arrive:
11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. 13 Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.
In Chapter 3, Job finally lets out a sorrowful lament about the tragedies that he is facing. But, now that Job has started speaking, his three friends feel free to offer THEIR views on why Job is experiencing this suffering.
The first friend is Eliphaz. He tells Job that God only chastises the wicked, not the righteous, and tells Job to just submit to the chastisement of God. He insinuates that Job must have sinned for these things to have happened.
Then Bildad speaks. He basically makes the same argument, saying if Job was really upright God would have protected him, because God won’t allow judgment to fall upon the righteous. The third friend will be Zophar. He actually tells Job that he deserves to suffer even more.
He claims that if Job would simply turn from his supposed sin the suffering would cease immediately. He says things like – “Do genuinely upright people ever lose out in the end? It’s my observation that those who sow evil reap evil.”
Each of Job’s three friends originally came to bring him comfort, but none of them does a very good job. We’ve all probably heard the phrase, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”
This whirlwind conversation/argument between Job and his 3 not-so-great friends finally comes to an end 18 chapters later. Then Chapter 32 starts with these words:
“Job’s three friends now fell silent because Job wouldn’t admit to an ounce of guilt.”
We know that Job was a righteous man, but his attitude in these arguments with his old friends actually starts to drift towards self-righteousness. And this doesn’t sit well at all with a young man named Elihu who had been standing by watching the whole thing unfold. Here’s what we find out as Chapter 32 continues in verses 2 and 3:
“Then Elihu lost his temper. He blazed out in anger against Job for pitting his righteousness against God’s. He was also angry with Job’s three friends because they had not proved Job wrong.”
Elihu let’s Job have it for the next six chapters.
And then, starting in chapter 38, God finally speaks. God must be pretty fed up with all of the pompous rhetoric that Job and these other four know-it-alls have been throwing around, because He asks questions like “Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!” (38:4)
In the midst of God’s barrage of unanswerable questions, Job is smart enough to make this simple statement:
“I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen.” (40:4-5)
God continues His questions for Job, noting along the way that:
“I’ll gladly step aside and hand things over to you—you can surely save yourself with no help from me!” (40:14)
Ultimately, Job wraps up his response to God in chapter 42 by saying: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, ‘who is this person ignorantly second-guessing my purposes?’ I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me. I made small talk about wonders way over my head. I admit I once lived by rumors of you; but now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
Job admits that the eternal questions of life, death, and suffering are “far beyond me”.
Maybe that’s another key truth that we all can learn from Job this morning – some things are simply more than we can handle on our own; more than we can possibly comprehend.
That’s what God is telling us in Isaiah 55:8-9
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
So, what’s the answer for why people, even good people, sometimes go through suffering?
Or, to go back to the eternal question that we started out with this morning:
“Is it worth it to serve God?”
Ultimately, Job seemed to think so. In the midst of the catastrophic agony that had befallen him he utters these incredible words: (Job 13:15)
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.
I think the point of the book of Job might just be that we don’t always know why difficult things are happening in our lives – but God knows. And sometimes we just have to trust Him.
Nobody wants to be like Job as far as what he went through, but maybe we can all learn from his steadfast hope and trust.