Monday, July 20, 2009

Sermon on Job

So I've been posting on Job for weeks now, and yesterday I gave a sermon on Job 38 at our church. Here is a link if you'd like to hear it:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

God Speaks

I'm going to skip a few chapters. 1) I have grown tired of analyzing every single argument from Job's friends and his replies and 2) I'm preaching on Sunday, and my text is Job 39:1-18, so I've dwelt enough on chapters 1-37.

God apparently tires of all the words as well, because after Job's friends take three rounds of speeches, and even a fourth character has a word, God shows up in a whirlwind. Here's how the King James says it: "1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. 4Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. "

That sounds so "angry" and harsh; but I don't think so. I'm thinking of Jacob wrestling with the angel, or Moses and Abraham bargaining with God and bringing him to change his mind. Apparently, girding one's loins involves tucking in the loin cloth and preparing for some hard work.

So, I really enjoy wrestling with my son. The two year old is no problem, he runs up to me and I just tussle him around a bit and then he's on his back. The nine year old has become more of a problem. He's a little tougher, and I give it to him a little tougher too. He knows all my tricks, and doesn't just run straight into trouble now. And I can't just engage him in combat without preparing: no wallet, cellphone, or keys in the pocket, sometimes I need to take off a nice shirt and put on a t-shirt. It's not the simple matter it used to be. Wrestling with my 100 lb. nine year old can hurt, and he often walks away limping-- and we LOVE IT!

I wonder if God is inviting Job into a divine match of wrestling. He's warning Job that he'd better not engage if he isn't ready because there will be pain. And for the next two chapters, God manhandles Job (metaphorically of course). How will they come out on the other side?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Satan's Argument

Chapter 22 verse 21; Eliphaz speaks again: "Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you."

This sounds just like what Satan said to God. Of course this Job loves you, look at what you've given him. I wonder how many Christians fall simply because they expect prosperity in exchange for a little devotion. Is God only worth what I can get out of Him?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Job 20 and 21

I've lost count of what round we're on. Zophar is going to offer another speech to Job in chapter 20 and Job will refute him in chapter 21. Each gives witness to the facts of life that supports their argument. Zophar continues to argue the fact of retribution for evil, but Job counters that if we open our eyes we see that the evil do indeed prosper, that the wages for evil ways are not always found.

I think of the issue of cheating in school. It is not enough to stake its morality in the consequences of the behavior. Many students make it through high school and college (and many adults later in life) through cheating and never see the consequences. It is a case where wrongdoing does not necessarily reap its reward. Individuals have gone to their death bed reaping the benefits of a life earned through cheating. You could argue that a guilty conscience is their punishment, or the loss of esteem through achievement. But the reality is that there is no good reason to avoid cheating other than the higher morality of right and wrong. Job seems to be approaching the understanding of a higher morality, a higher dedication to God that the rewards and punishments of human behavior.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Judge Not

Bildad replies to Job in chapter 18. More of the same. Job offers another reply in chapter 19. Job seems to lament his loss of connection. He believes that he has been deserted by his acquantances, his family, his friends, and even his God. This is what Satan tried to get at in his argument to God. Remove all of man's protection and we'll see how mindful he becomes of You!

Job is clear by now that he has nothing left but the "skin of his teeth" (v.20) and this is worthless. His life is worthless, there is no value in his even existing except... except this: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." (v. 26) There is nothing in me of value apart from God. Be I rich or poor, successful or a failure, healthy or ill, there is nothing worthy in me but God in me. Job still refuses to deny God despite his earthly condition.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hope Indeed

Chapter 15 of Job gives us a second round of words from Eliphaz. More of the same. Suffering is a consequence of evil. Job is suffering, therefore, he is reaping his just rewards. Perhaps Eliphaz is not too far off, but in his persecution of Job, he allows himself a free pass. In this theology, one's righteousness may be judged by one's condition of life. Is this true? If so, then wealth and health and prosperity would be the sign of goodness. Lot begins to reply in chapter 16. He indicates that he could also make these arguments if he sat in the place of Eliphaz, but he does not, so what is he to do.

What does Job mean in verses 19-21 in chapter 16: "Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend." There is hope. There is a redeemer. In this world we will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome this world! (John 16:33)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Is There Hope?

In chapter 14 Job seems to bookend hope with despair. He starts in the first six verses wondering aloud whether or not God could just let humans be. Their lives are miserable and short, why can't we at least be allowed to enjoy the time we're given without suffering. An understanding of the finite nature of life can lead to two outcomes. 1) Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, or 2) Do something to make your mark because in the end when you're gone, well, you're gone. Either way, their is little redeeming in this life.

But Job seems to take a little lesson from nature in verses 7-12. At least there is hope for a tree, even though it may be cut down, it can sprout again. Could it be true for man? He seems to pray for this in verses 13-17. He waits for his renewal, when God will call him from the grave, is there hope for humanity after all.

But he closes his response in verses 18-22 with little sense of hope. The suffering of this world leaves man concerned only for his own lot in life, leaving little room for hope of the eternal. I'm sure that Job's friends will have more words for this.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Defending God

Job continues to respond to his friends in chapter 13. Job's friends have reacted with empty words and common idioms to define Job's situation. We accumulate much pithy wisdom over the years; and we are free to dispense of this wisdom to maintain our own comfort and to defend the ideal of God that we wish to hold. Job accuses his friends of "defending" God, as if he needs the words of men for his defense. If Job is correct, the world view of his friends cannot be. Job's experience leads him to a new understanding, but his friends continue to hold fast to "tried and true" idioms that make life more comfortable and understandable if nothing else. In turn, they end up mocking a great and mysterious God in the name of defense.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Silent Wisdom

Job continues his response in chapter 13. The first five verses offer us all a lesson in comforting those in grief. Here are Job's words:
1"My eyes have seen all this, my ears have heard and understood it.
2 What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you.
3 But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.
4 You, however, smear me with lies;you are worthless physicians, all of you!
5 If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.
His friends are speaking to him as if they have some special insight on the life of Job because they are on the outside looking in. Too often we take the right to judge because of a supposed objectivity. We look at other people's situation and think that somehow because we're not so directly affected that we have the "true" perspective. But Job says no! He will not give up his right to assess his situation just because he is in it.

We look to those who grieve or mourn, those who are down and out or depressed, and convince ourselves that we have the right reason and logic, that if only they could step outside and look at the situation from another perspective they'd see the reality of their situation. There is some truth in this, but sometimes we are better "comforters" when we allow those who mourn to mourn with all their soul to God. When we allow them to be as sorrowful and sick as they want while we simply stand by their side in silence; because sometimes there is more wisdom in our silence than in our words.