Today we are concluding our preaching series entitled, Heroes of the Faith where each week we focused on one significant person from our faith history and explored not only why they are now considered a hero of our faith, but what we can learn from them. The first week we looked at Noah and his incredible, and thought of at the time, outlandish faith in God and how his actions can be a model for us today. Next up was Abraham and how he navigated several crossroads in his life and did not let fear or uncertainty deter him. Following Abraham was Joseph and we focused on how our timing is not necessarily God's timing and the solace we can have in that fact. Last week we looked at one of our most famous heroes, Moses, and saw how God used and transformed an ordinary person for extraordinary tasks and how with faith God will do the same with us. Today we are looking at one of our most misunderstood heroes, Job. And we are going to focus on how no matter how bleak things look, and they looked bleak for Job, we can count on God's sufficiency.
The Agony of the Cup
One morning a little girl sat at a kitchen table to eat breakfast with her mother and father. As she listened to the prayer her father prayed before the meal, she was especially intrigued that he thanked God for God's presence everywhere.
After the father finished his prayer the little girl asked him, "Father, is it really true that God is everywhere?" "Yes," said her father. "Is God in this house?" she asked. "Yes," her father said. "Is God in this kitchen?" "Yes," her father said. "Is God on this table?" she asked. "Yes," her father said. The little girl hesitated and then asked, "Is God in this cup?" Her father said, "Yes." Upon hearing this the little girl quickly covered the cup with her hand and exclaimed, "I've got Him!"
We all know that God cannot be confined to a cup. But how often do we try to confine God by our own intellect, our own understanding, our own limitations? Our hero for today went that route. Job tried to make sense of his life and of God's role in it, by his own limitations than by God's greatness. A mistake that he eventually learned from and corrected.
Talk About Misfortune!
Job was a wealthy landowner that lived in Uz. Scripture records for us the large family he had, the thousands of animals he possessed, and even goes as far as to say he was the greatest man in all the East. But this prosperity would not last. As it is recorded Satan and God have a conversation and God begins to brag on Job. God says “there is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Satan replies that anyone could fit that role while under God's protection, but take that protection away and the loyalty goes away as well. God counters by turning everything Job has over to Satan, but tells Satan he cannot harm Job's person. Satan, without hesitation, immediately conspires to have all of Job's animals and servants stolen or killed, and then goes as far as to kill Job's children. But Job did not blame God.
Satan returns to God and God begins to brag about Job again, saying everything he did before but adding that even with all the terrible things you did to him, he maintained his integrity. Satan says well sure, but strike Job himself and that integrity will disappear. God, confident in Job, says fine, do as you will to Job, but you cannot kill him. So Satan afflicts Job with painful sores from his head to his feet. In fact, he is in such a bad state that his wife takes pity upon him and tells him to curse God so he can die and be put out of this misery. But Job did not blame God.
Following this is 28 chapters of “counseling” from three of Job's friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These three men, in trying to comfort Job, fall woefully short. They try to convince Job that all of this misfortune is because Job has sinned and is being punished. They all tell him in different ways, that he needs to repent and humble himself before God to make up for his enormous sins. I feel for Job right here. First, Job has to endure incredible loss and personal suffering, and now he has to endure terrible theology. What Job is being forced to endure is obscene because the kicker is, none of this is his fault. He is completely innocent. He knows in his heart what is being done to him is unjust. And this causes many feelings within Job. As one scholar puts it, “Job has second thoughts; he wrestles with God, challenges God, and sinks into depths of despair, with moments of trust and confidence, only to fall again into despair.” But in all of this, he never fulfills Satan premise, he never curses God to God's face.
Now, Job does get a bit self-righteous in chapters 29-31, but he also has bouts of blaming the Lord for tormenting him, at other times he wants God to leave him alone, and yet at other times he wants God to talk to him. Job is searching...Job is confused. All he truly wants is to understand what is going on. He truly wants an audience with God to plead his case. Job is certain of his own vindication, if God will only hear him.
Well God does hear him and God answers him out of a storm. And what an answer it is. God begins by telling him , “brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (38:3). God begins to describe all of the wonders that God created and each time asks Job what his role was in that creation. God describes the creation of the Earth's foundation, the unleashing of the sea, the orders given to the morning, the location of the light and the dark, and list goes on and on. All things that Job has no answer for and had no role in. And when God finally pauses, it is only to ask if Job sees anywhere that God needs to be corrected. Job apologizes and says he is unworthy and will put his hand over his mouth. But that is not the end. God again says, “brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me” (40:7). God this time talks about moral order, wickedness, the behemoth, and the leviathan and God's rule over all of them. Job, poor, sore, confused, and embarrassed begins to humble himself.
He apologizes and this is how The Message version records it, “Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?' I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.' I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all first hand — from my own eyes and ears!
I'm sorry — forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor" (42:1-6).
God becomes moved by Job's apology and so angry with those 'counselors' that God acts. First to those counselors God tells them to sacrifice burnt offerings and have Job pray for them because they need forgiveness and that is the only they are going to get it. And for Job, God not only restores Job, but does it two fold.
Worthy of Heroic Status?
So with that in mind, does Job display heroic faith? Remember that the beginning of Hebrews chapter 11 speaks a great deal about what constitutes heroic faith. It tells us that faith, heroic faith, has three main components: First you have to be FOCUSED, grounded in God alone. Next you have to be CONFIDENT, certain of what we do not see. Finally, you have to be OBEDIENT, as demonstrated in our actions. But before we get to that I want to mention that each of the previous weeks we have been discussing heroes that were specifically mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. But Job is not, and I thought it important to use this litmus test on Job and see what happens.
So with all that Job went through, can we consider him focused, confident, and obedient?
Focused. This whole book shows Job constantly looking for God, yearning for God, speaking about God, even wresting with God and challenging God. But never turning away from God. Job has every reason in the world to abandon God. Job is described as upright and blameless. He is also a pretty nice guy to boot. He says in one of his speeches that no one has ever left his house hungry and no one has ever had to spend the night outside because his door was always open. Job looked out for the less fortunate and shared his great wealth will everyone. And despite all this, everything is taken from him. But he never loses focus on God or curses him. To me that is a model of what it means to be focused on God.
Confident. Is Job confident in that which he cannot see? Job is enduring horrific events in his life but he never loses his faith. He never loses his belief that God is there. In fact he is constantly searching for God to vindicate him and ease his suffering. And I think that is because Job understood the sufficiency of God's grace. We need to understand that everything we go through can be used for God's glory if we let it. Everything. The lessons we can learn through our trials, the tools we can gain from our failures, all of it can be of benefit for the Kingdom. Job taught us that everyone will suffer, but it is how we endure it and look to God that is important. Job could not see God, and up till the very end, did not talk to God, but his confidence was shown not only in God's presence but also God's grace.
Obedient. Was Job obedient? Satan makes two hypotheses in 1:11 and 2:5, that if you take protection and health away from someone, even someone as blameless as Job, they will curse God. God gives permission for Satan to test these theories of his. And on Job they backfire. Even though Job wrestles and challenges God, he never curses God and to me that shows obedience, especially considering all that Job had to face.
Don't Limit God
We crave understanding. We want answers. Questions drive us nuts. Especially when it comes to the aspect of our suffering. There are things that we are going to face in this life that are unjust, that make no sense, and that we do not deserve. Things that we find it impossible to wrap our minds around. Things that we desperately want answers to.
My challenge for all of us this week is to work on living in God's grace rather than our own understandings. We serve a God that created all things, understands all things, and knows all things. And the great thing about that, is God loves you! We have as our guide and our shepherd, the only person that knows it all. Let God work with you and place your trust in his provisions. He will not steer you wrong.