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The Book of Job: Sermon (Part One)


 

Sermon Notes- Below

[PLAY LOUIS ARMSTRONG VIDEO: Wonderful World: SOUND ON]


This world is at times beautiful and wonderful, a ‘theatre of Gods glory’, with moments, friendships and experiences that literally leave us full of awe and breathless in wonder


Life is in many ways wonderful,

it is a gift to be savoured,

celebrated and enjoyed.


And yet there is more to be said.

Yes, the world is beautiful and full of joy but it is also broken and full of pain.


As the German Philosopher Frederich Neitzche said ‘to live is to suffer’ and this suffering comes to the human race,

to both communities and individuals irrespective of christianity commitment or geographical location.


At times the pain is excruciating .

One thinks of Natural Disasters (Earth Quakes, Wild Fires and Tsunamis)

War, Accidents,

Disease, Sickness,

Relationship Breakdowns,

Death and Bereavement

At times it comes through violence,

hate and terror which individuals and groups may inflict on others.


Furthermore, this pain and suffering isn’t just to be found in some far off place but inhabits and stalks our city, our streets, our friends and our own lives.


With the reality of suffering and the lived experience of pain we may begin to ask questions such as


“Why the hell do the bad things happen?


Why if God is Good and in control is the human experience so painful for so many?


If God is a good good father why does he let his children experience abuse, trauma, violence, excruciating physical and mental pain


Can we go through pain and still profess and celebrate the goodness of God?


Theologians,

philosophers and sufferers


have throughout history tried to answer these questions. And often we approach these questions with a particular view of who God is.


Let me mention for a moment two views of God which have at times dominated the discussion.


{SLIDE CHANGE: WHO IS GOD}


Firstly, what we may call the Puppet Master or Blueprint view of God. This is the view that God is in meticulous control of all that is and that pain, trauma and suffering are part of his deliberate will and plan.


Everything happens for a reason and this reason is found in the will and desire of God.


This has been a popular view especially since Augustine in the 4th/5th Century AD.



A second view is what I call the ‘Whack-a-Mole’ view of God, or the God of Divine Retribution.


In this view “The righteous will prosper and the wicked will suffer’…


If someone is living rightly before God they will be blessed materially and physically and unbearable pain and trauma will not happen. However, if someone suffers they are wicked and they deserve it.


The divine retribution view of God was common in the ancient world and still lingers today in many of our conceptions of God.



For the next few weeks we are going to be taking up some of these questions by spending some time studying together the book of Job. One of the central points of this profound book is to expose the shallowness of the puppet master, blueprint and retribution theologies.


Rather than this merely being a academic philosophical enterprise I want our engagement with this ancient text to sink deep within us so that when we acutely suffer (and if we haven’t we will) our vision of God is not less than that which is revealed to us in the person of the Lord Jesus.



SLIDE CHANGE: GENRE AND STRUCTURE


Before we get going let me say a few things about Job in terms of genre and structure.


The book of Job is an Ancient Epic Dramatic Poem over 42 Chapters.

It may have even been a play which could have been performed by several actors.


Given the style of language and the dramatic build up of the story we shouldn’t necessarily think hat this is a historical description of what happened to Job but rather it is a story which has been created and shaped to address the issue of God and Suffering.


It begins and ends with prose, with the bulk of the content beings a series of dialogues between Job and his friends. This week we will focus on the opening scenes, comment briefly on the response of his friends and then look at how Job deals with his suffering theologically. Let me briefly summarise the content of the book.


In Prologue Chapters 1 and 2 which we shall look at in a moment we find that Job who is described as a righteous faithful man experiences the pain and trauma of losing his family, livelihood and his physical health. Job moves from a place or ‘orientation’ to a place of ‘disoreintation’ where his world falls apart. In the central part of the book Job enters into dialogue with three friends who seek to talk to him about the role of suffering in the world. Each of them holds a whack-a-mole view of God. A God of retribution.

But Job wants answers from God as to why he is suffering, he wants to call God to account.



And then at the end of the book God appears and speaks to Job (second dialogue section) about the complexity of the world. This leaves Job in a place of humility and Job moves from this place of suffering, of disorientation to a place of orientation. In the closing scenes (Prologue) Job is given a new family, new possessions and his health is restored.


So lets spend some moments together listening afresh to the opening chapters of Job.


(7:41)



Reading: [New SLIDE}: Music ON (Spotify)


JOB’s PAIN {Slide CHANGE}


In a short period of time Job has moved from a place of orientation where all is well with the world into a place a disorientation. The wonderful world (of good health, good family, good livelihood) has been upturned and he now finds himself ina living Nightmare through six hammer blows which have pummelled his physical, mental, emotional, social, economic and spiritual health.


BLOW #1: Terrorist attacks from Sabeans see his servants killed

BLOW #2: Lightening Falls, killing all his sheep and damaging his economic security.

BLOW #3: Violent Chaldeans steal his camels and kill his servant

BLOW #4 and likely the most painful for Job. A storm causes a building to collapse and all his children die

BLOW #5: Job moved from physical health to a daily existence of excruciating pain

BLOW #6: His wife offers no support or hope and simply says ‘Curse God and Die’


Job is a righteous and faithful man, Pain, Suffering and Trauma can happen to individuals through no fault of their own. The bible, here, and other places, is clear that bad things at times happen to good people.


If you were to ask Job why this has happened he would respond perhaps with something like this.


‘The Wind, the Lightening, the attacks from marauding terrorists have caused this nightmare. Yet it has all come from the hand of God. He gives, he takes away. Blessed be his name’.


You see Job believes that all events are orchestrated by God, he is the puppet master. He is the God who brings disaster, choreographs accidents, brings death and physical pain.


But as readers (listeners of scriptures) we are aware of that there is more going on that what Job sees. We know that Jobs suffering is related to what happened in the heavenly realm. We have insider information of which Job, his wife and his friends are unaware of.


They are unaware that in the heavenly realm Satan has accused YHWH of being a control freak who engineers events on the ground so that Job fears him. As the late Eugene Peterson put in his Message Paraphrase when he describes Satans challenge to God


Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose!

11 “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”



Basically Satan is saying, look your a puppet master. You get his love and respect because you are rewarding him materially. Your just choreographing the whole thing to get exactly what you want. Your a God who is controlling all things so that you can feed your ego.


It is because of this accusation and slur on the character of God that God allows Satan to get involved.


Job and his friends are unaware that Satan is the one who attacks.


The impression one gets is that the Lords’ protective hand has been on Job, but this hand, this hedge of protection, is lifted and then Satan comes in for the attack by sending storms, disease and men of violence to inflict suffering.


We see here that there are more forces at work in he world than God’s sovereign will,

the world is full of agents (both spiritual and human)

who bring chaos, suffering and disorder.

God’s will is not always being accomplished, he is not a puppet master.


This is why we pray ‘Let your kingdom come, let your will be done’ because God’s will is not being done.


When we suffer, we should not necessarily trace it back directly to God but perhaps recognise that we are caught up in the crossfire of a comic conflict and that human and divine beings attack us. If life deals us terrible cards we shouldn’t assume that God is the one dealing them.


Throughout the whole drama Job is unaware of the activity of the Satan, the accuser.

We know as readers that the pain is caused by Satan, human action and forces of nature. And that this happens in the literary world of Job to show that God is not some control freak is engineering all events so that he gets praise.


For the remainder of this sermon let me look at the role of Job’s friends and then lets track Job’s developing emotional and spiritual trauma through the main part of the Joban narrative.


(6 Mins )


Jobs Friends Get Something Right {SLIDE CHANGE}


  1. Job’s Friends initially get something right.


They do not deny the trauma and pain, or avoid it. As soon as they hear they travel from a great distance, meet together and find Job in his distress to initially offer comfort, sympathy, time, silence and tears. They mourn with him. In the the Book of Romans Paul tells us to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.’ Jobs friends initially model this approach and it costs them in terms of time, resources and emotional energy.


To those suffering, I would say don’t suffer alone. Find an appropriate place and friends to whom you can share your pain, your story.

To those who have friends who are suffering. Don’t deny the pain, or avoid the pain but seek to stand alongside the sufferer, to be physically present and emotionally available. Small groups should be a safe place for these kind of conversations.


However as the narrative continues in the major section fo the book of Job we see that Jobs friends have some very unhelpful things to say to Job due to their conception of God. They hold to a whack-a-mole /retribution view of God. There view of God is that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. They see that Job’s suffering is deserved due to some wrongdoing on his part

. If Job merely repents and gets close to YHWH then he can know

physical and material blessing, j

joy and delight.


For instance they say,

Job 22:5 (ESV)

5 Is not your evil abundant? There is no end to your iniquities.

Elsewhere they say to Job,


21 “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. 22 Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. 23 If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents,



And the end of the book of Job God speaks to these friends and says


Job 42:7–8 (ESV)

7 “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right,”


God is not pleased with how they portray him. God does not want to be known as a God Whack-A-Mole God for it does not portray his true character.


When we sit with our friends who are suffering we need to be careful that like Job’s friends we don’t always respond with trite answers. however biblical they may sound, if the image of God presented is less than that we find revealed in Jesus.

We need to be careful that we don’t say things like ‘God has his reasons’……’God has done this to teach you some important lessons’….. ‘One day you will look back and see this was all part of God’s perfect plan’….. Also and we need to steer clear of making a direct casual link in most circumstances between someones suffering and the punishment of God.

(5 Mins)

(2) Job’s Struggle {SLIDE CHANGE}


In the prologue we have seen that Job makes the following statements.



The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;

may the name of the Lord be praised.”


Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”



Job doesn’t know what has happened in the heavenly realm. He thinks God is the one brings about calamity and distress.

God gives and God takes away!

God is the one who brings trouble.


Throughout the book of Job we see that Job moves from his steadfast trust in YHWH to accusations that he is a a cruel tyrant who controls everything in an arbitrary fashion. Job pain alongside his view of God as meticulously in control , blurs his view of the character of God. Jobs physical and emotional pain gives way to spiritual and theological distress.


Perhaps when we suffer we can identify with Job’s theological anguish.


In 9.17 Job says that God ‘crushes him with a tempest and multiplies his wounds without cause’ …and in Job 9:22-24 that God is indifferent to suffering and laughs at the calamity of the innocent. In chapter 10 he asks God ‘


Does it seem good to you to oppress, to despise the work of your hands and favor the designs of the wicked?


And in Job 10:20 he even asks that God would leave him alone.


Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone, that I may find a little cheer


Job does not conceive of God as love and kindness but rather like a hate filled lion who goes around the world savaging people.


Job 16:9


He has torn me in his wrath and hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me; my adversary sharpens his eyes against me.


A smiler thing os said in Job 30:31 where Job says of God ‘You have turned cruel to me’


It is not surprising that this theological conception of God, as a moral monster, effects his prayer life


Job 21:15


What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’


When we suffer we need to be careful what picture we have of God.

If we conceive as God as a puppet master,

or God as a whack-a-mole God,

or God as the absent Father,

we increase our suffering and may find that we are not only in physical and emotional distress, but in spiritual and theological distress.


Next week as we continue our mini-series on Job we shall see God appears and speaks to Job, and that Job realises that he failed to understand who God really is. Pain and incorrect theology had

blurred his conception of God.


Job’s friends conceived of God as a Whack-A-Mole God

Job conceived of God as a puppet master tyrant hammering out pain and suffering around the world.


We too in our place of pain may see God as an absent landlord, an absent father, who is indifferent to our distress and is no where to be found.


However, as I land this talk , I want to step out of the book of Job and remind us of Jesus.


Jesus is the full-revelation of God, As the book of Hebrews says Jesus is ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature’. A former Bishop of Canterbury once spoke this truth ‘God is Christlike and in him there is no Christlikeness at all’.


Our portraits of God need to be corrected by what we see in Jesus,


It may be that, like Job, we hold a portrait of God which is less beautiful and loving than that revealed in Jesus. As we come to prayer ministry/the table let us look to the healing presence of Jesus to remove from us any inaccurate and hurtful portraits of God which we may have come to believe


You see in Jesus we do not see a Puppet Master God, a Cruel Tyrant or a Whack a A Mole God,


In Jesus we see a God who weeps

and is moved with compassion at suffering,


In Jesus we see a God who moves towards those who are victims of circumstances and victims of a cosmic conflict,


You see in Jesus we do not see a God who is indifferent to suffering,


But rather in Jesus we see a God full of self sacrificial love

who takes up the human cause

and enters into our suffering by taking the way of the Cross


In Jesus and his kingdom we realise that there are many things that happen in this world which are not the way it was meant to be,

and we are commissioned to comfort the broken,

stand with those in pain

and work against injustice and oppression.


In Jesus’ death we see that the eternal son of God

takes on the powers of Satan and Death,

drags them into the grave and in his resurrection he shows us that one day the brokenness and pain of this world will be stripped away and he will wipe all tears from our eyes. (11 Mins)


RESPONSE Maranatha: Come Lord Jesus




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