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The Book of Job: A Sermon (Part Two)


 

Sermon Notes Below


Each week we begin Lighthouse service with the following words.


Life is full of many different storms, and as I look at you , and you look at me, we know what these storms are. Real storms, hurting real people. Storms of Addiction, storms of homelessness and storms of bereavement. It’s like its pitch black and your out at sea , the waves are high and the wind is against you. In that place your scared, scared your going to get dashed against the rocks, scared your going go under.


But its not just at Lighthouse that people are battered and bruised but he storms of life, but rather that life for all of us is at times incredibly painful.


And sometimes in that pain it seems that God is not good, that God is asleep during the storm and that he is not listening to our cries.


The disciples at the time of Jesus felt this. In Mark 4 we read that a a furious storm had broken out. And Jesus is asleep. I think the first readers of Marks gospel would have been reminded of Psalm 44.

23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?

Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!

24 Why do you hide your face?

Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?…

26 Rise up; come to our help!


Back to the disciples in the boat. The disciples seek to wake Jesus by shaking him and saying ‘Do you not care that we are perisihing?’.


In the storm of suffering sometimes God seems distant, God seems absent. It seems that God does not care. It seems that the one person we can rely on is no-where to be found.


[SLIDE CHANGE}Last week we began a mini-series on the book of Job. In the opening chapters of this ancient epic poem we saw that Job through no fault of his own was in deep pain and distress.


He had lost his livelihood, his physical health, his family and was in a place of acute spiritual distress.

He conceived of God as a ferocious lion who was tearing him apart,

Job’s picture of God was a puppet master who had brought this suffering on him, (he was unaware that that behind the scenes, in the heavenly realms that it was actually Satan who had brought the storms, brought the suffering and the acute pain).


And in this place of pain, with a distorted picture of who God is, Job is in a place of disorientation.

His friends are unable to help him, for they too have an incorrect picture of God as God who is pushing Job for his sins.

Job wants to call God to account. In Job 23.3 he says ‘Oh that I might find him’

and in Job 31:35 ‘Oh that there is one who might hear me’


Job wants to put God in the dock and wants answers from the Almighty


[SLIDE CHANGE} JOB 31.35

35(“Oh, that I had someone to hear me!

I sign now my court documents—let the Almighty answer me;




Job laments and waits. In Chapter 31, after an intense build up of spiritual angst and frustration we read ‘The words of Job are ended’. Heaven it seems is silent.


And yet the book of Job does not end here.


For we see shall see as chapters 38-42 unfold that something happens which means that Job is able to move from darkness, despair and disorientation, to a place of hope, restoration and reorientation.



READING (MUSIC AND VIDEO)


Heaven breaks its seeming silence, and YHWH (the covenant God of the whole Earth) meets Job face to face and speaks to him.


This does not go down quite as Job expected it for he does not get to question or hold YHWH to account. Rather, over two rounds, within this ‘brilliant poem of majestic power’, God asks Job over 80 rhetorical questions


and after each round we get a response from Job.



[SLIDE CHANGE} ROUND ONE: God, offers a whistle stop tour of the cosmos through a number of questions.

The questions are of three types:

(1) “Who?” questions, which point back to God’s power (e.g., “Who shut up the sea behind doors …?”; 38:8);

(2) “What?” questions, which emphasize the breadth of God’s power (e.g., “What is the way to the abode of light?”; 38:19); and

(3) “Have you ever?” or “Can you?” questions, which reinforce the limits of human power and knowledge (e.g., “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow …?”; 38:22).


Job’s Response: Job does not have the answers to God’s questions and he seems stunned into silence. No longer is is raising his fist at heaven but rather putting his hand over his mouth and refusing to speak.


[SLIDE CHANGE} ROUND TWO: feature questions about Behemoth and Leviathan, two ferocious creatures who inhabit the earth , At times through christian history people have identified these creatures as being dinosaurs, or crocodiles and hippopotamus they are in fact ancient near eastern mythological creatures who can be identified with forces of chaos. God describes Behemoth and Leviathan as being violent, sinister and strong. They cannot be tamed by humans but YHWH is the one who has the power to subdue due them and keep them in their place.



Job’s Response: Repentance. Job’s response, recognising that he had a portrait of God which is inaccurate, repents. With the reality of God before him, he turns away from the incorrect portrait of God he held in his heart and verbalised in his anguish.


Recognising that Job wasn’t written to us. It’s a Ancient Near Eastern Epic Poem which addresses a culture very different from our own, let see if we can draw out some points which may be helpful for us who like Job have may have begun to question the goodness of God when we are battered and bruised by the storms and pain of life..


{SLIDE CHANGE) (1) God is a Friend:


The very act of God’s communication to Job reveals that their relationship is intact. Despite appearances, based on incorrect portraits of God, God is not puppet master or absent landlord. Rather God is a relational being who can interacts with his subjects in space and time. This isn’t a God who is an unmoved-mover who stands outside of time, but rather a God who in time interacts with humans, who is our friend.


Abraham was described as a man who was a friend with God and In John’s gospels Jesus says to is disciples ‘I have called you friends’, and this is still true today. Though we may be suffering, though we may feel alone we have a friend and his name is Jesus.


We shouldn’t view this series of questions as a barrage intended to cower, humiliate, or condemn Job. Instead, Yahweh addresses Job as a father pointing out to his son the wonders of the world as it has been created. Our actors did a great job of showing that within this poem their are hints of irony and humor, Yahweh invites Job to a time of wonder that is intended to educate him rather than punish him.


The Old Testament Scholar Francis Anderson puts it like this ,

“There is a kindly playfulness in the Lord’s speeches which is quite relaxing. Their aim is not to crush Job with an awareness of his minuteness contrasted with the limitless power of God, nor to mock him when he puts his tiny mind beside God’s vast intellect. On the contrary, the mere fact that God converses with him gives him a dignity above all the birds and beasts, assuring that it is a splendid thing to be a man. ‘



When we suffer , we should hold fast to the view that God is our friend. Yes he is God, but he is not against us.

Although we may face dehumanising illness or life circumstances challenge our humanity know that we have an inherit dignity with a relational God.



(SLIDE CHANGE) (2) Creation is Complex and God is full of Wisdom


These questions offer us a grand tour of creation and in them YHWH demonstrates the complexity of creation. This world isn’t simply a pre-ordained series of events whereby God steps to the side and just lets everything happen.


No this world ,

of stars, and butterflies,

and tectonic plates,

of lions, lizards and gravitational pull,

of dolphins, vegetation and the changing of the seasons

is incredibly complex. And God rules it with his wisdom.


It is true that modern science can answer some of the questions which left Job in silence, but modern science has also further pointed us further into the complexity of the world.


The world isn’t, much to the surprise of Modern Day Narcicists ‘all about me’ but rather is a complex intricate interconnected web of creatures, inanimate objects , forces . Within this world their are both fixed laws , but also creatures like me and you are granted freedom to make decisions and express ourselves in a myriad of ways.


And within this intricate complexity, and profound mystery God displays immense power and wisdom not only in forming the world but also in overseeing its unfolding.


God’s power doesn’t mean absolute meticulous control, Rather God’s power works alongside his wisdom so that he responds,r esponds, oversees and interacts with creation.


When we are in acute pain it often has a tunnelling effect so that all we can see is the suffering. We become the centre of the world.


Job’s humility before God is part found in his recognition that this world is complex and that he doesn’t know what is going on.


Perhaps Job’s reorientation to God allows him to say something like this ‘What I now know is that I do not know, but that the Lord has wisdom, and that is sufficient for me. ‘


And perhaps we, speaking after after the advent of Jesus can say something same ‘ I do not know why I am suffering, I do not believe that God is a puppet master. But I trust in the love and wisdom of God, And I trust that God is as good as that which is revealed to us in Jesus’.


(SLIDE CHANGE) (3) Evil Exists and Will One Day be Defeated


As we have already mentioned God speaks to Job in poetry, myth and metaphor of the reality of evil in the world. He does this by referring to Behemoth and Leviathan. This is the ancient way of talking about principalities and powers, the forces present in creation that are hell bent on destruction. In other words they are mythical personifications of chaotic forces which seek to kill, steal and destroy.


IN Job 41:26-27 we see that Humans can’t control or defeat these powerful beasts, human weapons are useless against it. Indeed, this monster could eat iron like straw and crush bronze as if it were decayed timber (Job 41:26–27).


Why Does God speak about such things?

Within the developing story of Job is seems that YHWH speaks of Behemoth and Leviathan to show JOB that there is a supernatural evil at work in the world.


Job is not suffering because he has sinned, nor is all suffering attributed to human wrong doing (as Job’s friends thought). Job has his eyes opened to the cosmic conflict which brought such suffering into his life. As readers we knew from Chapter One that Satan brought the suffering, and it is here that Job sees that God is not responsible for his suffering but the forces of evil engaged in the world are.


However the author of JOB and other biblical writings are confident that Leviathan (the cosmic beasts)is no match for Yahweh. At the time of creation as well as in subsequent battles against Israel’s enemies, Yahweh as Psalm 74 says “crushed the heads of the dragons in the waters [and] crushed the heads of Leviathan”


In looking forward to God’s ultimate victory that will free creation from evil, Isaiah writes:


“On that day the LORD with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea” (Isa. 27:1).


For Jesus, the apostles and the early church undeserved suffering, acute pain, dehumanising illness are inflicted on us by by God, but rather the Satan and his demonic hosts who have thrown spanners into God’s good creation.


This isn’t to say that all those suffering with illnesses have demons. But it is a way fo saying that acute physical pain and dehumanising illnesses are not the way God intended it to be. This world isn’t the outworking of a blueprint from a puppet master God, no it is a battlefield in which Evil is a t work and in which humans are often the pain filled casualties in a cosmic conflict.


When we look across the the New Testament, written by those who knew first hand pain, suffering and persecution we see that Jn 12:21 Jesus came into this world to “drive out the ruler of this world” and in 1 Jn 3:8 to “destroy the works of the devil” . Likewise in Hebrews we read he to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14-15) . Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to disarm “the powers and principalities ”.


The death blow to evil has been struck.

Leviathan and Behomoths days are numbered.


Yes we may get caught in the cross fire of this cosmic conflict,

but be assured brothers and sisters of the Christian hope which has been signed, sealed and delivered in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.


Leviathans, Behemoths,

Satan and the Demonic

cannot separate us from the love of God revealed in Christ Jesus and one day this dragon of old and his reign of pain, suffering and chaos will come to an end.


The risen Lord Jesus will say to the raging storms of Chaos ‘Peace, be Still’, and we with resurrection bodies will dwell with Christ in his glorious New Creation.



(SLIDE CHANGE) And so as we land this sermon let us be reminded when we suffer that God is our friend , that in a complex world God is loving and wise, and that evil exists but will one day be defeated.


Let us like Job have within us a disposition of humility, let us like Job turn away from images of God as puppet master or cosmic tyrant.


In the light of Jesus, in this Advent Season, let us be those who long and yearn for that day the world will be set to rights.


Lord, Let Your Kingdom Come, and Your will be Done.



In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Amen.



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