Talk 4 – God’s Reply. Job 38:1-18

Given by Revd Adrian Morton, 4th Nov 2012 at St. Mary’s, Wollaston

This is the final talk in the series on the book of Job.
As a brief re-cap…
Weʼve looked at how this blameless, God fearing man Job, sufferedgreatly.
He lost his livelihood, his family and his health.
And God allowed it to happen.
God allowed Satan to inflict this great suffering on him.
And it was a reminder that we live in a world whereby the good andinnocent do suffer.
We then heard how Jobʼs 3 friends came to sympathize with Joband offer him comfort.
And these 3 friends essentially had a worldview which simply stated that the good would be blessed whereas the bad would suffer.
So they were hoping Job would repent from some sin he obviouslymust have committed, in order to relieve his suffering.
Job though protested his innocence throughout the almost 30 chapters of dialogue between him and his friends.
His friends got angry with Job and Job got angry with his friends.
And it was a reminder that suffering is a lonely isolating experience.
And maybe our first call to those who are in that place of suffering is to weep with those who weep.
Throughout this book Iʼve encouraged us to have four markers, or
stakes in the ground that we have to hold on to.
That Job was blameless.
That Satan has real influence in this world.
That God is absolutely in control.
Yet God does seem to give terrible or difficult to understand permissions.
And the fact that Satan has influence in this world wasnʼt part of the 3 friends worldview.
Which was one of their issues.
Peter, last week looked at Job response to God in his suffering.
How Job, despite his suffering, despite his claim that God isnʼt being fair, was still drawn to God.
He clung on to his God.
There is something about suffering that reveals the true worshippers of God.
In that place where we donʼt understand what God is doing, its the cry that says,
“Yet I know it is God I have to deal with, because he is God.”
<M Elliot – Her brother died in 1962, then in 1965 her daughter was diagnosed with bone cancer and died at 13yrs old. Her son was then diagnosed with a rare kidney disease and died in 1971 aged 21. The in 1985 her husband died of a stroke… she still clung on to
her faith.
Suffering and loss reveal the true worshippers.
Now this week we come to crux, the finale, Godʼs answer to Job.
The start of which is our reading today.
Iʼm going to say right now that I will be ignoring ch 32 – 37 of Job.
Which is several speeches by a new friend, Elihu.
Read Christopher Ashʼs book for more on that.
But the book has built up to this point of Godʼs reply to Job.
Job has made his final appeal to God.
Its like a courtroom drama.
He has harked back to the good old days.
He has protested his innocence again.
Then he says, now God answer me.
Ch 31 v 35: “I sign my defense – let the Almighty answer me.”
What is at stake now is not just the innocent suffering of one man.
The stakes are higher than that.
I said before that the book of Job is about the search of a believing sufferer for Wisdom.
It is a longing to understand why the world is as it is.
For Job, his God has attacked him unfairly.
Though he didnʼt know as we do that is was in fact Satan.
His God has isolated him cruelly.
And he wants to know why.
For Job, if he is not guilty, then God stands guilty of injustice.
And by implication this God is not worthy to reign over this earth.
Or He is not in control over this earth.
This is the issue at stake with the suffering believer.
People who donʼt believe in God often ask why does God allow so much suffering.
It shouldnʼt be much of a problem for them.
If you donʼt believe in God, then why think there should be fairness or justice in the world.
I sometimes want to say, you think its a problem – I believe in a good God, its a huge problem for me!
Job has run out of patience and is demanding God to answer him.
Why is the world the way it is…
And in Ch 38 God replies…
I love the drama of this.
I wish I could do a booming God voice at this point…
Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
I love that!
Job questioned God and now God turns the tables.
And questions Job.
There is someone in the NT that was good at doing that!
Answering questions with a question.
God continues….
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
And God questions Job with about 60 questions.
And it is all big stuff.
About the cosmos, about the world.
Because this is the issue at hand.
Why is the world as it is?
It is like God is saying to Job:
Look around you Job.
Look around at a wonderful world.
Look at the stars, the clouds, the war-horse, the eagle.
Did you make these?
Are you God?
Do you think you could do it better?
A pervading sense through this book is whether or not the cosmos is being run well.
Does God deserve to be in charge.
And God is saying look around you Job.
Do you know how all this works?
<Re. Martin Down … Who are you little man… to question me…>
And of course Job doesnʼt and he gets the message.
He is utterly awe struck.
Ch 42 Job replies to God.
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me.”
In other words, ʻOh yes, Iʼll shut up. In the presence of the creator of the world, Iʼll shut my big mouth.”
For 4 chapters God questions Job.
Does he answer Jobʼs question?
Which is ʻWhy do I, Job, who do not deserve it, suffer as I do?ʼ
Godʼs answer seems to be:
ʻLook around you and you will understand that I the Lord am Creator and sustainer of life.
I am in control of all the world, and therefore you may trust me with your life and your unanswered questions.ʼ
Is this an answer?
Yes and no!
<Talk about the times I have answered the ʻWhy does God allow so much suffering…
Iʼve talked about freewill… if someone decides to cause harm to someone else its hard to stop, e.g. vicar and school teacher murdered.
Sinful action does lead to suffering.
We see that in the lives of others and ourselves.
But as I said in talk 2 we canʼt make an automatic connection between sin and suffering.
Iʼve tried to answer the question by talking about the nature of our world.
Do we really want God to intervene whenever something is about to go wrong?
Do we expect God to intervene whenever a child runs across the road?
Do we expect Him to intervene for example if I was going to have a blazing row with my wife. Not that I have those particularly…
If we do expect God to intervene like this then we are really asking for a different kind of world than the one we currently live in.
Iʼve talked about the fall and how since mankindʼs rebellion, sin and destruction has come into the world and spoilt not only relationships but the created order.
People will also say that God is using suffering to build patient endurance in us etc.
Talk about Lynne Furgerson….
Felt drawn to Isaiah 57:1
The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.
In the end there are many possible answers we can give to that question of why does God allow so much suffering.
Whilst there may be some truth in all of them none though are completely satisfactory.
Because the question goes back to why is the world as it is?
Why does God allow evil to exist for example?
<Like when your children asks you the ʻwhyʼ question.>
And here this is what God is saying to Job and to us.
You will never understand the answer to this question.
And I do wonder whether that is our best response.
I donʼt know, because we donʼt really know.

Now I did say ʻYes and Noʼ to whether God answered Jobʼs question.
Godʼs answer to Job has forced Job to admit that the Lord really is God.
The God who made and who sustains all the world.
Yet the puzzle about evil, about suffering still exists.
We all know that we live in a good world, but it does seem blighted.
It is a world with pain, injustice, perplexity and sorrow.
And I think in Godʼs answer there is a hint to the problem of evil…
In Job 40:15 – 24 we meet a land beast called Behemoth.
And in Job 41 a water beast called Leviathan.
Many commentaries will say that the Behemoth is probably a Hippopotamus.
And that Leviathan a crocodile.
And there is something in the descriptions that may lead us to think that.
But there is something more to it than that.
Particularly the description of Leviathan and how God refers to it.
If the Leviathan is simply a crocodile and the Behemoth a hippopotamus then Godʼs final speech to Job is a bit of an anticlimax.
As George Bernard Shaw put it in one of his plays:
ʻGod really has to do better in explaining the problem of evil than to say, ʻYou canʼt make a hippopotamus, can you?ʼ
In the ancient world, when you wanted to speak about the world you often did in terms of stories and myths.
One of the stories involved some kind of dragon god, or serpent god, or sea monster god who was the arch enemy of the chief god.
And in these stories all sorts of battles were fought.
In Jobʼs first lament in ch3 he asks those who are ready to rouse up Leviathan to curse the day of his birth.
Everybody agrees he is not talking about a crocodile here.
No, to rouse Leviathan is to call upon the arch-enemy of God.
For the prince of darkness to come and undo part of Godʼs creation.
The Leviathan is not just a crocodile in Job 3.
And I think it is more than a crocodile in Job 41.
If you read further in Job 41 the description of Leviathan.
You hear how
His snorting throws out flashes of light; his eyes are like the rays of
dawn. Firebrands stream from his mouth; sparks of fire shoot out.
Smoke pours from his nostrils
This is more than a crocodile!
In Psalm 74, speaking of the God who rescues, the psalmist says,
you, O God, bring salvation upon the earth. It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
Here is Godʼs big enemy described in story language.
In Isaiah 27:1,
In that day, the LORD will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.
Leviathan I believe is in biblical imagery the arch-enemy of God.
The prince of darkness, Satan himself.
And Job is challenged by God,
“Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook”
The point being of course not Job!
This is precisely the monster who has been ravaging Job and making his life such a misery.
And Job cannot take him on.
But also the point is that the Lord essentially says, “But I can!”
This awesome enemy is a created being.
I made him and I can tame him.
And he is on my leash.
Now this may not answer our questions.
It doesn’t give us a nice neat philosophical solution that can explain the problem of suffering and evil.
But it does something deeper I believe.
It opens our eyes to who God is.
He is the only God, without rival.
Even the mystery of evil is His mystery.
What God is doing with Job and to us, is to direct our attention away from our agonized questions towards himself.
He beckons us to bow before the Lord himself, the one who knows the answers but chooses not to tell us.
The seeking God requires of us is not answers but the seeking after God himself.
And that will always be a choice we have in the midst of suffering.
Do we allow our suffering to lure us away to doubt the goodness or sovereignty of God.
Or do we allow it to draw us to himself.
As we suffer, and as we sit with others who suffer, we may with absolute confidence bow down to this sovereign God.
Knowing that the evil that comes may be terrible.
But it cannot go even one tiny fraction beyond the leash on which God has put it.
And it will not go on for ever.
It is not until the NT that we learn what it cost God to win this victory over Leviathan.
With his one and only son Jesus.
That through his death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil. (Heb 2:14)
To finish lets sum up this book of Job…
Christopher Ash in his book says that the book of Job ought to shape our expectation of the normal Christian life.
And it certainly has things to say…
Firstly, we are in a spiritual battle.
Yes the victory has been decisively won by the death of Jesus.
But we are in a mopping up exercise until all things are placed under his feet.
Sometimes the battle is dark and brings suffering.
Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, Simon behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Jesus didnʼt pray that his disciple be spared the sifting.
But that his faith would not fail.
Second, we need to cling to our relationship with God.
God commended Job and said he spoke rightly.
Even though Job had some hard things to say about what God was apparently doing, God still viewed it that Job spoke rightly.
And I think it is because Job continued to pursue his God, he continued to long for, yearn for His God to speak into his situation.
Above all Job must know God and speak to the living God.
For Job nothing else will satisfy.
His friends wanted a neat tidy system for Jobʼs predicament.
Job wanted God to speak into his predicament.
Thirdly, we need to be prepared to be humbled.
At the end when it says Job repents.
He is repenting because he has been presumptuous.
He has spoken of things he does not understand.
In the presence of the living God, it is a good thing to bow down low and to grasp how great he is and how small I am.
It is a mark of Godʼs love for us when he humbles us.
Our pride can so easily lead to self-confidence.
Which can lead to independence from God.
And independence from God leads to hell, not a good place!
Fourthly, it is important to know we are righteous in Godʼs sight.
God vindicates Job, he justifies him.
He makes it clear that he accepts Job.
This right relationship with God was one of the things Job longed to know.
Did this suffering mean he was in some way not right with God.
For everyone who is ʻin Christʼ, they can be assured they are righteous in Godʼs sight.
Those who are ʻin Christʼ, who have faith in hIm, God will vindicate.
At the end, he will look on each of us and say:
ʻThis one is mine, this one belongs to me, an honoured friend.ʼ
And fifthly and finally, we can expect blessing at the end.
The book finishes with the Lord rebuking Jobʼs friends.
Job prays for the and they are forgiven.
The Lord then gives Job greater prosperity.
He gives him celebration.
Joy comes back to his life.
He gives him a bigger family.
He gives him a long life.
Donʼt get distracted by thinking what about his first poor family and servants.
It is hardly a blessing for them!
The point to take is that with God, if we persevere in the battle, if we continue in relationship with him, being humbled by Him, walking in the righteousness we have in Christ, then blessings will come.
We may see blessing in the here and now.
But even if we do they are a tiny foretaste of the blessings to be poured out at the end.
Amen.

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Talk 3 – The faith of Job

Given by Peter Smethurst, 28th Oct 2012 at St. Mary’s, Wollaston

I missed the first 2 weeks of the study on Job because I was on holiday.  I have, however, been able to read the transcript on the Internet, and of course I got to play the part of Job himself in last week’s family service.

In the first 2 weeks of this study Adrian planted 4 posts in the ground.

That Job was blameless.
That Satan has real influence in this world.
That the Lord is absolutely supreme.
And that the Lord gives terrible or difficult to understand permissions.

Like the majority of Christians I find Job a difficult book but when Paul wrote Timothy he said: “All Scripture is given by God. And all Scripture is useful for teaching and for showing people what is wrong in their lives. It is useful for correcting faults and teaching the right way to live.“(2Tim 3:16)  The book of Job is no exception and we need to bear this in mind when we study it.

Job is a good and faithful man who suffers for no apparent fault of his own.  If Job has a fault it is that he is fearful.  We learn at the beginning of the book that it was Job’s regular practice to get up early in the morning and offer burnt offerings for each of his children “for Job said to himself, “perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:6).  Then at the end of chapter 3 when his children have been killed and all the disasters have come upon him he says “What I always feared that happened to me.  What I dreaded has come to be.”  (Job 3:25)

Job is not perfect but despite his fear Job was a good man, loyal to God and had a clear conscience.  Job was not to blame for what happened to him but through his experiences we can see that faith in God is justified, even when our situation looks hopeless.

To be unshakable, faith must be built on the confidence that God’s ultimate purpose will come to pass.  Faith based solely on rewards or prosperity is hollow.

In his book “Out Of the Storm” Christopher Ash says that what happens to Job is like seeing a deeply unimpressive exterior being peeled back to reveal an interior of infinite value.  In Job we see a true worshipper of God.

When Job is all alone sitting on the rubbish dump outside the city gate he has no status, no job, no family and no hope.  Amidst all this horror and degradation is a precious jewel, Christopher Ash compares him to Jesus as he hung on a cross outside a city’s walls.

In all of his laments Job is pathetic, confused and full of doubt BUT he remains right with God.  Job is suffering a pain that only believers can suffer.  Most people have been ill at sometime or in pain.  All kinds of people are touched by war, famine and earthquake.  But Christopher Ash suggests that believers also suffer from the pain of knowing that God is in control of His world and consequently has permitted the suffering.  It isn’t just that Job is suffering abominably it is the conviction that God is inflicting the suffering that piles on the agony.

On a couple of occasions in chapters 6 and 7 he says that God is like an archer firing poisoned arrows at him.  In chapter 19, that we have read today, Job is saying that it is God who is frustrating him, who has stripped him of his honour, wealth and position.  Job believes that God is angry with him and that He considers Job as His enemy.  He pleads with his friends to be gracious to him “because God’s hand has struck me

Christopher Ash says that the first mark of a real believer is to feel keenly the pain of an unfair world.

Even though Job accuses God of being unfair he wants desperately to bring his case before God.  Although he is terrified he wants to speak to God face-to-face.  This seeking is the second mark of the believer.  Even when we cannot understand what God is doing we know that it is God that we have to deal with – because he has God!  This focus on God is what it means to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Even in the depths of his suffering Job cannot give up on God, because he loves Him.  He repeatedly says I want to meet God.  I want to be right with God.  I want to be reconciled to God.  I want to be justified, vindicated and seen to be right with God.”  In chapter 13 Job says “even though He slay me I will hope in Him”.

Believers have to hope in God – there is nowhere else to turn.

The conviction behind this seeking is summed up in the first four words of the Bible “In the beginning God”.  When a Pharisee asked Jesus “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus told him, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and most important commandment.” (Mat 22:36 – 38)

Even when Job is stripped of everything that the world has to offer he still loves God.  Although Job complains about his fate bitterly he still loves God and is drawn to Him.  BUT Job was not consciously aware of God’s presence.  So where was God?

If God is not omnipresent then He is not God!  Consequently God was right there on the rubbish tip with Job.  God is “all in all”.  This must mean He is always with us whether we are aware of it or not.  Most of the time I am not aware of the presence of God, but I am working on it.  The problem is that we are conditioned from birth to only believe what our five senses tell us.  The senses are great and I wouldn’t want to be without any of them but they do not present the whole story.

This church is full of all sorts of things that we cannot see, hear, touch, smell or feel.  One example is radio waves.  Is anyone conscious of them?  If I turn on my radio you will be.  [Radio produced and switched on].  These sound-carrying waves have been here all the time and we were simply not conscious of them?  God is here all the time and mostly we are not conscious of Him.

So if God is always with us is He for us or against us?

Adrian established that Satan, or the accuser, has no power to injure God’s children unless it is given to him by God.  When Pilate said to Jesus: Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”  Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above”. (John 19:10-11)  The inference has to be that God permitted Jesus’ suffering, even though Jesus was always aware of His Father’s presence, right up to His crucifixion.

In Jesus’ case His suffering led to the salvation of the world, BUT to the disciples around the cross who heard him cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It must have seemed like a disaster!  They would have remembered the verses from Deuteronomy: “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” (Deu 21:22-23)  The disciples were not conscious of God’s presence at that time.

One of the things that really fascinated me in my study Job this week stems from the fact that this is one of the oldest books in the Bible, if not the oldest..  One commentary said “this book may be one of the most ancient pieces of finished literature in existence.”  It certainly predates the book of Isaiah by hundreds of years and whilst Isaiah saw the coming of Jesus over 750 years before his birth the passage in Job 19: 25-27 that we read today appears to be the first prophecy of the Messiah.

The easy reading version of the Bible translates this passage from chapter 19 as: I know that there is someone to defend me and that he lives! And in the end, he will stand here on earth and defend me.  After I leave my body and my skin has been destroyed, I know I will still see God. I will see him with my own eyes. I myself, not someone else, will see God. And I cannot tell you how excited that makes me feel!”

Job is looking forward to a Redeemer someone who was alive even as he spoke and who would yet stand on the Earth at the end.  Job is also prophesying the resurrection of the body.  Surely this must have been a God-given revelation!

Remember that Job is sitting in on the rubbish dump outside the city gate covered in sores; he has no status, no job, no hope and his friends are giving him a hard time.  To make a statement of faith like this in those circumstances is the mark of a true worshipper of God.

We too need to seek God out of love for who He is – not just what we can get.  We can train ourselves to be more conscious of God’s presence.  The next few days every time you listen to a radio or watch the TV try tuning into God’s presence at the same time.  He is even more present than the radio and TV signals but we need to be switched on to Him and tuned in.

 

Talk 2 – What not to say to the suffering believer. Job 2:11 – 3:1-6; 20-26

Given by Revd Adrian Morton, 14th Oct 2012 at St. Mary’s, Wollaston

This morning we continue our series working through the book of Job.
As I said last week, whilst the book of Job isnʼt about suffering as such.
The book does speak into the subject of suffering.
And we will hopefully gain insight into such questions as:
Why does a good God allow suffering?
What kind of God allows the suffering we see?
Is He in control of this world or not?

Last week we began with Job ch 1 and 2 and how the Lord had
allowed Satan to inflict terrible suffering on this man Job.
And I left us last week with 4 ʻstakes in the groundʼ or markers that
we need to hold onto whilst we go through this series.
And they were:
That Job was blameless.
That Satan has real influence in this world.
That the Lord is absolutely supreme.
And that the Lord gives terrible or difficult to understand permissions.

So this week we continue through the book.
And we are going to look at particularly Jobʼs 3 friends and their
approach to Jobʼs predicament.
To help us hopefully to understand how we can help or support
those who are suffering.
And Iʼve entitled this talk, ʻWhat not to say to a suffering believerʼ.
Because we can learn much about what not to say from how Job’s 3
friends behaved.

So Job has had his livelihood taken away.
He has had much of his family taken away.
He has had his health taken away.
He has suffered much loss.
And in our reading we hear how three of his friends come to him.
They have heard of his troubles and so come to see him.
And it says, in order to sympathize with him and to comfort him.
And over the next almost 30 chapters we get a dialogue between
Job and his three friends.
The story of Job is a reminder to us that as Christians, as believers
in a good God, it is very possible that we shall sometimes go
through dark times in our life.
Maybe times of real despair and desperation.
<Talk about Dark night of the soul?>
Often as we know though, we will experience times of despair and
desperation due to grief or some other form of loss.
And we need to recognize that.
One of the problems we have with the book of Job is that we know
the end of the story.
In the end Job maintained his trust in God and was blessed by God.
And so when we see deep suffering in others it is tempting to jump
too quickly to a solution similar to:
Well Job suffered and He trusted.
So should we. End of the story – get over it…
But that doesnʼt do justice to either this book of Job.
Or in fact to the reality we see around us.
Whereby true believers, who are walking faithfully with Christ, can
suffer greatly.
And one of our callings I believe as a Christian community is that we
learn to weep with those who weep.
We left last week with Job suffering greatly, sitting alone in the
ashes.
Yes his wife appears, but only to argue with him.
But Job is alone.
One of the marks of those who suffer is a sense of loneliness.
A feeling of isolation.
We get this when we consider how Jesus suffered.
In Gethsemane, he suffered in anticipation the agony of the cross.
He was deeply alone.
Could you not watch one hour? he said to his disciples.
On the cross, yes he suffered physically, but more than that, the true
depth of his suffering was a separation from his father.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was the cry.
So in the midst of suffering we can feel terribly alone.
God himself can seem miles away.
It can feel like, just when you need to sense Him, he seems to
withdraw further from you.
C.S. Lewis, in his book ʻA grief observed, wrote his personal
reflections after his wife died.
Lewis asks the question, ʻWhere is God?ʼ
And he says:
This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy,
so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, … if you
remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you
will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms.
But go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is
vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a
sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.
You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic
the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might
be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once.
This sense of loneliness and isolation is very real for those who
suffer.
A child dies.
Only the father alone knows what it is to be the father of this dead
child.
Only the mother enters the unique depths of loss as the mother of
this child.
Often it is tempting to say something like “I understand what you are
going through.”
Or “I understand how you feel.”
The reality is that we donʼt.
Even if we have experienced something similar, it still wonʼt be the
same.
This sense of loneliness or isolation can get compounded because
people donʼt know what to say.
Or donʼt want to say something stupid.
And so they avoid coming into contact with the person.
But that just adds to the sense of isolation.
<talk about family member doing this…>
<Donʼt condemn yourself if you have said this kind of thing.
I know Iʼve said some stupid things to people.>
We need to weep with those who weep.
Now Jobʼs friends came and initially didnʼt say anything to him.
They just sat with him.
Many people conclude that this is the best thing they did.
And certainly when it comes to ch 4 where they do say something, it
all goes down hill from that point.
Others will say that even their just being with him in silence wasnʼt
really sympathizing with Job.
They hardly recognized Job, such was his suffering.
They wept aloud and tore their robes.
Sprinkled dust on their heads.
This was what you did when you mourned someone who had died.
So maybe their silence wasnʼt a silence of sympathy, but a silence
of bankruptcy.
Maybe they really didnʼt know what to say.
Their friend being as good as dead.
Whatever their motive at this time, it is Job though who breaks the
silence in Ch3.
And he curses the day he was born.
<Read 3:3-4>
And I think this gives us another insight into suffering.
That those who are suffering tend to look back.
They tend to relive the past, wanting to re-write it, change it.
Maybe even to erase it.
Its a cry that says, If only I can change what has happened I can
relieve this suffering.
At the heart of human desperation is actually a denial of hope.
Hope is looking towards the future.
Human despair is fundamentally a turning away from the future and
back to the past.
And that is what Job is doing here.
He starts in ch3 and goes on.
v11 – “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the
womb.”
And Jobʼs pain goes beyond his own suffering.
He starts to question why things are as they are:
v20: “Why is light given to those in misery”
v23: “Why is life given to man who way is hidden, who God has
hedged in?
He seems to start questioning the point of it all.
Its almost, why did God bother to make the world at all?
And this is at the heart of what Job is crying out for.
He wants to understand the wisdom of the world.
Why things are as they are.
His final words before one of his friends speak is:
“I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
You get this real sense of hopelessness.
Deep despair and desperation.
Now as Christian believers we know that there is alway Hope.
There are always better things ahead.
There is always hope because the future is Godʼs future and our
destiny is glory.
We know that.
And for Job actually, even in his darkness he cannot avoid God.
And weʼll come back to that as we draw the series to a close.
All I am saying at this point is that we need to recognize that there
will be times in the life of a believer when that truth about the Hope
we have is not easily received.
When that truth is not recognized.
When the future appears utterly blank.
When all that a believer can do is look back with regret., with the ʻif
onlyʼ question…
When they are left with the ʻWhyʼ question?
Why are things as they are?
You see this is where Job is in Ch3…
And when people are suffering in this place.
We need to weep with those who weep.
<P>
But then what do we say?

Now at the start of ch4 his friends start to speak.
They say nothing for a week.
And there is a time for saying nothing.
But then what do we say?
His friends give us some insight in what not to say…
Jobʼs friends speak 9 chapters in nearly 3 rounds of heated
argument.
By and large they say similar things in similar ways.
Firstly they are not impressed with Job.
so in Ch 8:2, Bildad is clearly riled by Job and says:
“How long will you say such things?
Your words are a blustering wind?”
In other words, ʻwhy donʼt you just shut up, you old windbag?ʼ
Eliphaz says much the same thing in 15:2-3.
Jobʼs appearance has made his friends sad.
But Jobʼs words have made them angry.
Job has insisted that he is not being punished for some particular
sin.
He has nothing on his conscience that can justify this treatment from
God.
So it seems that God is being unfair.
And that makes his friends livid.
So in 11:6 Zophar wishes that God will intervene and speak.
Because that would shut Job up.
And as the exchange continues, Jobʼs friends become thoroughly
fed up with having to listen to him.
So in ch 18:2 Bildad says ʻWhen will you end these speeches.”
So Jobʼs friends are really not impressed with Job.
And Job is really not impressed with his friends.
He had hoped for refreshment and comfort but didnʼt get it.
In ch16:2 he says “miserable comforters are you all!”
So effectively for 24 chapters Job and his friends are have a blazing
row.
We learn towards the end of the book that actually God wasnʼt
impressed with these 3 friends.
In Ch42:7 God says to Eliphaz: “My anger burns against you and
against your 2 friends, for you have not spoken of me what is
right…
Letʼs look a bit more at what they say and where they went wrong.
Not everything they say is rubbish.
Much of what they say looks right.
So where did they go wrong.

Well firstly, their underlying worldview, their belief system, was
wrong.
They believed God is absolutely in control.
Which is right – one of our markers.
They believed God is absolutely fair and just.
Which again is right – He is.
What they didnʼt believe though is that Satan is real and has real
influence in the world.
There was no room for spiritual battle.
There conclusion therefore, is God always punishes wickedness
and blesses righteousness.
And He does this pretty soon and certainly in this life.
For them judgement is now.
The wicked are punished now.
The righteous are blessed now.
It is such a simple neat view.
Put some goodness in and out pops blessing.
Put in some badness out pops poison.
Therefore if I suffer, I must have sinned and am being punished
justly for my sin.
That was kind of their argument throughout.
And so they appeal to Job to repent.
Job stubbornly refuses to repent of sins he hasnʼt committed.
His conscience is clear.
The friends worldview was that if you are being blessed in life it
must mean you have done something good.
The other side of that is that if I am suffering I must have done
something bad.
But that worldview is not right.
Life isnʼt that neat and simple.
<Family in Kettering being told they must have sinned because their
daughter was so ill!!!!>
Now we canʼt dismiss the friends worldview completely because the
first two parts are right.
God is absolutely in control and He is just and fair.
But we then canʼt make an automatic connection between suffering
and sin.
Look there are times where we do suffer as a direct result of our
own sin.
The Psalmist in Ps 32 says that when he kept his sin secret, the
pressure of unresolved guilt was destroying him physically.
If I drink and drive and crash and injure myself or others it is my
fault.
If someone hurts me and I will not forgive them and nurse
resentment and become a hard and bitter person, then the damage
to my character is my fault.
Yes the bible does teach that what you reap is what you sow (Gal
6:7ff)
But not always immediately.
There is also a sense of having to wait.
In Jesusʼ parable of wheat and weeds.
The wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest at the end
times.
Only then will the wicked be punished and the righteous rewarded.
In the end all will be accounted for but it may just be at the end.
We may have to wait.
But we know Job was blameless so he didnʼt need to repent.
His suffering is not a consequence of any sin in his life.
So we cannot make an automatic link between suffering and sin.
And it is not helpful to someone to try and make the link when we
donʼt know.
It just adds another burden to someoneʼs suffering.
I wonder whether their biggest error was that they had no place for
innocent suffering.
Eliphaz asks in ch4:7, “who that was innocent ever perished?”
Now those of us on the other side of the cross know that there is
something profound about an innocent One suffering.
And maybe in some ways Job is a forerunner to the innocent One
who perished in place of the guilty
So that we might not finally perish.
Innocent suffering is at the heart of the Gospel message.
It was the price to unlock grace.
So their worldview was wrong.

Secondly the friends tone wasnʼt right.
They really didnʼt have any sympathy for Job and where he was.
In ch4:2-5 Eliphaz effectively says, “I canʼt quite see why you should
be so miserable Job.”
They donʼt understand his pain.
It does not look like they had much love for Job.
They didnʼt really respond to his cries or engage him as someone in
need.
It seems they simply wanted to give him a solution.
Their solution.
And again trying to offer simple solutions to a personsʼs suffering is
probably not that helpful.
<P>
As those who believe in a good God we do need to be Hope
breakers, dealers in Hope.
A Hope tied up with who God is.
In all this conversation with his 3 friends Job doesnʼt quite give up
on God.
And that is key as weʼll see over the rest of the series.
But maybe before we can dispense Hope.
We need to weep with those who weep
To not think we need to give a simple solution
And certainly to have a worldview whereby the innocent do suffer

Conclusion
Weʼve left Job asking the why question.
Why is the world the way it is?
Its an OK question to ask – why?
As someone has said, it is not suffering that destroys a person, but
suffering without purpose.
Job is searching for wisdom about the world.
Next week, its all-age and we have a baptism so I wonʼt continue
through Job.
Though weʼll probably do something related to Job.
The following week Iʼll ask Peter to explore further how we respond
to God in the depths of our suffering.
In particular at some questions Job asks:
Is God for me or against me?
Why wonʼt he answer my questions?
Then in the final talk of the series on the first week of November
weʼll look at Godʼs reply to Job.
Which is Godʼs answer to the suffering question.
The why question?
But thatʼs for then! Amen.

Download the manuscript (.pdf) here

Talk 1 – What kind of a world do we live in? Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Given by Revd Adrian Morton, 7th Oct 2012 at St. Mary’s, Wollaston

I want to begin this morning a series looking at the Book of Job.
It will takes us probably until the beginning of November.
Iʼm considerably indebted to a book written by Christopher Ash on
the book of Job and our response to it.
Iʼve entitled this first talk, What kind of a world do we live in?
Whilst the book of Job isnʼt about suffering as such.
Its a book about God.
The book does speak into the subject of suffering.
And we know that the issue of suffering – how to make sense of it –
and how belief in God fits into that is a huge issue.

In 2004 a BBC world survey of attitudes towards religion showed
that the statement:
ʻI find it hard to believe in God when there is so much suffering in
the worldʼ commanded the highest agreement rate in the UK, of all the
countries polled.
Yet the statement ʻGod could prevent suffering if he wanted toʼ
commanded the lowest agreement rate in the UK, of all the
countries polled.
So whilst as a society we find it hard to believe in God because of
suffering.
At the same time we feel that God, even if he does exist, probably
could not do much about suffering if he tried.
One conclusion therefore being that if we believe in any kind of God,
he seems not to be a very strong God.
This perhaps explains why 37% of the british survey reckoned that
David Beckham was more influential in the world today than God.
So I think how suffering fits into our world and how we cope with it,
particularly if we have a belief in this amazing loving God of ours.
So along the way, over the next 4 or 5 Sundays we will hopefully
gain insight into questions such as
Why does a good God allow suffering?
What kind of God allows the suffering we see?
Is He in control of this world or not?

The first thing to say about the book of Job is that its long!
It is 42 chapters long.
It starts off at a pace, which we will look at today.
The middle and longest section though is fairly repetitive.
Before we then get to the exciting climax over the last couple of
chapters.
It is tempting to read the beginning, skip over the middle and get to
the conclusion at the end.
And I would encourage us to read this book for ourselves over the
next few weeks. – to spend time with it.
In his wisdom God has given us a long book.
He has probably done so for a good reason.
Maybe its because when it comes to the suffering question.
The ʻwhere is Godʼ question and the ʻwhat kind of Godʼ question.
We donʼt need instant or quick answers.

When we ask ʻ What kind of God allows this kind of world?ʼ
God gives us a 42 chapter book to look at, to meditate on.
When we are not in a place of suffering it is easy to give quick pat
answers.
Nice theological answers maybe.
But when we are experiencing suffering.
We know there is no instant working through grief.
There is no quick fix to the pain.
God has given us a 42 chapter journey with no satisfactory bypass.
It is a story with a slow pace and long delays.

We donʼt know who wrote the book, or when it was written.
Scholars have debated that for years.
Iʼm not particularly interested myself in those things.
About 95% of the book of Job is poetry.
Chapters 1 and 2, the start of ch 32 and part of ch 42 are prose.
Normal spoken or written language.
All the rest is poetry.
That in itself is worth taking note of.
Poetry is not just about communicating information.
Filling our minds with knowledge.
Poetry grapples with our emotions, our will and our sensitivities.
Poetry will often touch, move or unsettle us.
We donʼt just sum up a poem in a bald statement.
We have to let the poem work on us.

So it is with this book of Job.

It is a book to reflect on, to immerse ourselves in.
So whilst weʼll look at it over the coming weeks.
There is no substitute for reading it for ourselves, mulling it over,
and meditating on it.
Trying to feel something of what Job felt.
It is a raw, honest book.
Anyway, lets start to look at it…
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.
If you read on in chapter 1 you will see that he was a blessed man.
In terms of the sons and daughters he had.
In terms of the livestock he had.
He is described as the “greatest man among all the people of the
East.”
He is blamesless.
This does not mean he is perfect.
But rather that he has personal integrity.
What he says with his lips is spoken in a life of worship.
He is upright.
Which means he is loyal to God.
He is straight in his dealings with others.
Towards the end of the book we will hear how his reputation is
legendary in the area as one who is upright and sincere.
He fears God.
Bowing down before him in wonder, love and awe.
He recognizes that God alone is the Creator to whom he and the
world owe their existence.
As a mark of true worship he shunned evil.
His life was marked day by day by repentance and faith.
In verse 5 of chapter 1 it says:
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.
So here we have, right at the beginning of this story, a true believer
par excellence.
He was a degree level mature believer.
A man who walks before God with a clear conscience.
His sins confessed and forgiven.
His life showing all the marks of a worshipper.
As we go through this book, both this week and over the following
weeks, there are a number of ʻstakes in the groundʼ or markers that
I want us to hold onto throughout this series.
The first marker is that Job was blameless.
We need to remember that and hold onto that throughout.
That doesnʼt change.
Right at the beginning and throughout we are told that Job is
blameless.
So Job was ʻhealthy, wealth and wise.ʼ
ʻWiseʼ in the biblical sense meaning to fear and honour the living
God.
And that is what we would expect in a well run world.
The one who is good and wise will as a consequence be healthy
and wealthy.
And any self-respecting god who claims to be both fair and in
control is surely to reward such a person with health and wealth.
To do otherwise would be either unfair or evidence of weakness.
Likewise we may expect to meet others who are ʻsick, poor and
wickedʼ.
Their wickedness leading inevitably to illness and destitution.
That is kind of what we think when we dwell on what a well run
world should be.
Many Christians and those who would not confess to being a Christian
have that kind of assumption about the world we live in.
So here right at the beginning we have the scene set.
A large harmonious family filled with godly celebration, joy and
material wealth.
And then the scene changes dramatically…
We get thrust into what sounds like the heavenly council chamber.
Its like there is a cabinet meeting for the spiritual government of the
world.
Angels are coming and presenting themselves to the Lord.
like the Minister of transport…
the health Minister…
The Lord is in the chair receiving these reports.
Included in this picture is Satan.
Or literally, the Satan, because it is a title rather than a personal
name.
He is the enemy, the adversary, the accuser.
It seems his job is to patrol the earth looking for sin.
The Lord asks Satan where he has come from.
Could be a hostile question or simply a routine enquiry.
ʻNow Mr Satan, time for your reportʼ.
Satan answers like a typical teenager.
Just doing stuff, here and there, the usual…
Maybe he was implying that he hadnʼt found any true worshippers..
But it is the Lord who brings up the subject of Job…
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth
like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and
shuns evil.”
Referring to Job as ʻmy servantʼ gives Job a special honour.
It marked out those who were specially close to God.
Its like God is saying, Here,it seems to me is a true worshipper. Now
what are you going to do about that?
And Satan takes up the challenge.
And he effectively says, well its only because you have put a
protective hedge around Job.
Anyone that blessed would give an outward show of worship.
Take it away and heʼll curse you like all the others..
Heʼs a fair-weather believer if you ask me.
Take away what he has and weʼll see a heart just like the others on
earth.
Now the shocking thing is, that the Lord says Yes.
At this point he says donʼt lay a finger on Job himself, but everything
else is yours to do what you want with.
And as the scene unfolds Jobʼs livelihood is taken away.
His family, his sons and daughters are taken away from him.
They are killed.

So he suffers greatly, he suffers enormous loss.
His response is to mourn and it says, ʻhe fell to the ground in
worshipʼ and said (v20)
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The
LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the
LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with
wrongdoing.
This entire scene should be shocking to us.
The permission God gives for Satan to go and inflict suffering is
shocking.
We have already been told that Job is blameless.
He doesnʼt deserve to suffer as he has.

As a society there is something that gets us about innocent, good
people suffering. I couldnʼt help but reflect on what is happening in
the news at the moment. Over the last few weeks we have had the
two police women shot as they responded to a call to attend a
burglary.
This week we are hearing about the 5 year old girl in Wales being
abducted and now thought to have been murdered. Just terrible,
terrible things…
When bad things happen to bad people, it doesnʼt affect us so
much.
You know, if a drug dealer gets shot we kind of rationalize it a bit.
And say, well, he got what he deserved…
But itʼs when the innocent, or the good and upright suffer, it is that
which strikes to our core.
It is that which causes us to ask, Why? Why God did you let that
happen? What is the sense in all that?

We should be shocked by what is happening here.
It should unsettle us somewhat.
Job didnʼt deserve to suffer.
This suffering is not a punishment for any unforgiven sin in his life.
Thatʼs the first shock.
Further, this permission is given by God who does not have to give
it.
God is sovereign.
Satan is at best a member of Godʼs council.
He is in no way a rival emperor.
Yet this God who is in control says to Satan, off you go and make
Job suffer loss.
We will come back to this over the weeks.
Though there is no easy answer to it.
Why God allows Satan to inflict suffering.

And it doesnʼt stop there…
Now in our reading, the scenario is repeated…
God says to Satan, look Job has maintained his integrity despite his
suffering.
And Satan now says, but take away his health, then he will curse
you.
And the Lord again gives Satan permission.
He is not allowed to kill Job, but is allowed to inflict Job with awful
suffering.
It says… Job was afflicted with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it
as he sat among the ashes.
His suffering is so great, that at one point we later hear that Job
wished he was dead and had never been born.
Yet in all this, it says, Job did not sin in what he said.

I said earlier that there are a number of markers or stakes in the
ground that I want us to hold onto as we go through this series.
There are 4 markers actually.
And if all we get from this morning is to remember these 4 markers,
to be unsettled by them and start to ask questions around them, then Iʼll have done my job.
We will be coming back to them.
The first one is that Job was blameless.
That is made clear to us at the beginning and throughout.
We may get tempted to doubt him and side with his so called
comforters.
But we need to remember that we have been clearly told that Job is
blameless.
The second is that Satan has real influence in this world.
It is naive to have a world view, and of spiritual realities in which
there is simply God and people.
And a view which says all human affairs are directly ordained by
him.
The book of Job tells us that there are other real, unseen, influential
spiritual powers, of which Satan is one.
They may be subsidiary to the lord, but they are not to be ignored.
Thatʼs the second marker.
The third marker is that the Lord is absolutely supreme.
Nothing that happens in this universe happens without his
permission.
In his best selling book, ʻWhen bad things happen to good peopleʼ,
the Auschwitz surviver Harold Kushner tries to solve the problem of
suffering like this.
He essentially says that God is doing his best and it is not his fault if
he does not manage to eliminate suffering.
It is not as if he is all powerful, after all.
And I think that is a common solution, even in Christian circles for
the suffering we see.
It is a belief that God created the world, gave humankind freewill,
and has left us to get on with it.
And simply has to sit back and see his world play out.
The book of Job, and actually the rest of Scripture, wonʼt allow for
that.
Without question God is in control.
Satan has to ask for permission.
What Satan then does cannot go one millimetre beyond the
permission he has been given.
God is in control.
Which leads to the fourth marker.
God gives terrible or difficult to understand permissions.
The over-riding scandal of these first couple of chapters is that the
supreme God does give permission to Satan to cause Godʼs
blameless servants to suffer.
And suffer he does.
We should be shocked by these permissions.
We ought never not be shocked by them.
God allows the suffering we see.
The question these first two chapters leave us with is this.
Will Job prove to be a real believer?

We will carry that question over into the coming weeks.
I realize that there are probably many unanswered questions.
… things unsaid etc…
But as I said, the book of Job is along book.
It is a book to immerse ourselves in, to dwell on, to meditate over.
As we continue to work through it have the four markers always in
view.
That that Job was blameless.
That Satan has real influence in this world.
That the Lord is absolutely supreme.
And that the Lord gives terrible or difficult to understand
permissions.
I said Iʼve entitled this first talk, What kind of a world do we live in?
Well we live in a world whereby the good and innocent do suffer.
A world whereby other spiritual forces have influence.
A world where God is in absolute control, yet a world where he gives
terrible or difficult to understand permissions.
And over the next few weeks weʼll try and make more sense of why
things are as they are.
How we can help others through times of deep suffering.
And of course our right response to our own times of suffering and
loss.
Amen.

Download the .mp3 here (26mins 4s)
(Not currently available – will be on the website soon?)

Download the manuscript (.pdf) here