Today we are continuing the year long series 2016 • 366. This is a great year to read the Bible. It’s a leap year, you get a whole extra day this year! But beyond that it is a great time to read the bible because it provides insight, context, accountability and a communal process. And like we said last week, not if, but when you miss it, it’s simple, just start again. We will say this again and again throught the year, no matter if you have missed it, no matter if you never started, no matter if you have read it all before, no matter if you have never read it. Give it a shot this week.
Last week we started off at the beginning with Genesis 1–11. We talked about creation and the fall. We saw a clear repetition of a spiral away from God’s perfection. A spiral of failure and a repitition of renewal. Taking God’s perfection and breaking, manipulating, messing up by not trusting God.
And unlike me becuase I am good at giving up on resolutions once I mess up, God shows His character and does not give up on humanity in spite of our continual failure. God is into restoration. I love that. I need that. I hold close to that. Holding on to that character of God is kind of warm, cozy, comforting, easy and even straighforward.
Then we turn the page to Job. I kind of hate Job sometimes. This week’s reading has been Job 1–28. Things are about to get a little complex. But in the complexity the message has an overtone that is the same. Trust God. Return back to the garden. Return back to relationship with God. Trust God. Think about the complexities of the world. So many moving pieces. In Job 38–39 there is a Lieutenant Dan Moment. A God showed up moment.
Job is not trusting God. Job is questioning God. Then He shows up. God asks:
8 “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,
12 “Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,
9 “Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
19 “Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
26 Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south?
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”
God is exclaiming, “do you know and see the big picture? I do! Trusting me is not about understanding it all, it is about trusting me.”
I hate this… Think about not knowing the big picture. Think about not understanding it all. Let me set you up for a dialogue question. A child is playing with a ball in the front yard. Throwing it. Hitting it. Tossing it. As the cars go by. A parent is there playing along. All of the sudden the ball goes awkwardly off the side of the child’s foot and the ball flies off into the busy street. Maybe this is a little extreme, but you see the picture. As the ball flies out into the street the child needs to be physically restrained from chasing it. NO!!!!!!!! MY BALL!!!!! The child is thinking, I want my ball, I need to go and get it, I don’t want to lose it, oh no, I don’t want my ball to get hit by a car, I need to save it! Obviously the parent sees that the life of the ball is nothing compared to the life of the child. While the child is missing that perspective.
How does a parent explain to a child that being safe is more important than saving a ball?
Job… It’s been a hard week of dealing with JOB. These is a mass of things to grasp in this story. You’ve got to read this stuff. For me it has taken several readings of this stuff.
The focused application today is this
- We need to trust God even though we don’t get it
- We need to trust God even though things don’t make sense
- We need to be intentional in the process of trusting God
Job is a strange story:
- Set in Uz, far away from Israel
- All characters are non-Israelites
- There is no clear historical setting
These things being intentional so we are not distracted by the historical, but focus on the relational, God’s relationship with Job. Again, similar to the stories in Genesis we talked about there are a lot of conversations and debates that may not be helpful to the purpose of the story.
- Is Job pure poetry?
- Did it actually happen?
What is most important as we look at this story is to discover what God is revealing about His character and how humanity is supposed to be in relationship with him.
The book of Job starts by asserting Job’s blamelessness. He was more than a good person, he lived righteously, he was a good man on all accounts. Job was even proactive for his family.
4 His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 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.
He was a better person than me.
Then the story dives into this weird and even uncomfortable conversation between God and Satan.
6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “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.”
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
- Jobs oxen, donkeys and camels were stolen
- A fire burned all of his sheep and his servants
- His house collapsed killing his family — except for his lovely bride
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“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.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Poor Job… I want you to think of a unique grouping of emotions. Emotions that surround abandonment. The anger, fear, shame, questioning, blaming, self blaming, sadness, etc…
How do people feel when they are abandoned? When have you felt abandoned? How does abandonment feel?
Job’s wife bursts onto the scene and gives these words of encouragement:
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job’s friends come first to comfort him and show empathy for what he has gone through, but that quickly turns to blame and questioning. Job’s friends accuse him of wrongdoing. Initially their accusations are very general — 4:12–21. Eventually, however, they begin to make specific accusations against Job — 22:5–11.
They would argue that God is just, so if your circumstances are bad then you must have sinned or done something wrong to piss God off. Their goal is not just to make Job admit his sin, but for him to repent and thus regain God’s blessing. The dialogue if framed in Job’s response — A friend’s response — Job’s response — A friend’s response… Three cycles of responses between Job and his three friends.
These conversations working through these questions:
- Is God just?
- Does God run the universe on the strict principle of justice?
- Then if 1 & 2 are true how is Job’s suffering to be explained?
In these conversations we see that Job and his friends are working from the strict principle that the wold is ruled by justice. A linear justice. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. Job claims his innocence. Job says, “my judgment is not from God.” Which leads to a realization that says, “God eith must not run the world according to justice or God is not just.”
This banter back and forth with his friends leave him battered to the ground. Physically, emotionally, spiritually improvished. But yet still Job does not turn away from God. But he questioned God.
“As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter, 3 as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, 4 my lips will not say anything wicked, and my tongue will not utter lies. 5 I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. 6 I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.
Job was questioning God while still trying to put his hope in God. Job is a mess.
18 “Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me.
Job stands up before God one more time and declares his innocenxe before God, and demands that God show up and explain Himself. And guess what, He does. God takes Job on this whirlwind tour of the universe and shows Job how little he really knows (38–39). Shows him that He (God) has it all under control. God has to consider it all. It’s not a simple job. Like the child wanting to chase his ball. Job just can’t comprehend it all. Job thinks of justice as simply linear. It isn’t and it can’t be. It’s bigger than simple karma.
The Lord said to Job: 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” 3 Then Job answered the Lord: 4 “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.”
God leaves this point with Job that the world is not simple. It is not evil, but it is not safe or simple. It is very complex. Often I just want to know why is their suffering. We are part of a world that is not designed to prevent suffering. It is more complex than “do good, get good” or “do bad, get bad.” God is asking Job to trust Him, to trust in God’s understanding of the big picture.
Job internalizes this with this response:
1 Then Job replied to the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
With the picture of the child wanting to chase the ball into the street and with the words of Job in your head.
If God is just, then why/how is injustice so prevalent in our world?
13 “Keep silent and let me speak;
then let come to me what may.
14 Why do I put myself in jeopardy
and take my life in my hands?
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face.
16 Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance,
for no godless person would dare come before him!
17 Listen carefully to what I say;
let my words ring in your ears.
18 Now that I have prepared my case,
I know I will be vindicated.
19 Can anyone bring charges against me?
If so, I will be silent and die.
Do you trust God in spite of your circumstance? Is your faithfulness contingent on your perceived faithfulness of God? How can you build a trust in God that supersedes your circumstances and understanding?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- What is a global, local or personal injustice that causes you to feel deep emotion? Why? What do you think God thinks of that injustice?
- What is justice? What is injustice?
- How do you deal with suffering? How does God deal with suffering?
- Is God to blame for injustice in the world? Why or why not?
- Why do good people suffer?
- What does Job’s story say about the character of God?
- Why is it easy to allow your circumstances define your faith?