Selected highlights from this sermon.
Job has nothing. His children, his wealth and now his health have all been taken from him. His wife tells him to curse God and die.
Job moves from faith to despair, and from understanding to perplexity. And then he goes into a period of deep depression and grief.
But he didn’t curse God. He spilled out his pain, his grief, and his agony to God.
So what lessons can we learn from this? Pastor Lutzer will give us three that we need to remember for the rest of our lives.
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Although life is frequently filled with haphazard unexplainable events, the book of Job shows us that at the end of the day, God is indeed able. We look at the accidents that take place today. My own nephew was killed so many years ago, hitting a stretch of ice on pavement, a big truck coming and killing him, and a young woman and a new mother. And you look at it and you say to yourself, “Well, obviously if only the driver had begun five minutes later or five minutes sooner, or if the drive in the truck would have begun later or sooner or traveled at a different speed, the accident would not have happened.” Where does God fit into accidents?
We see it in illness, sometimes inexplicable illnesses that really have no known sense or purpose. Acts of crime! Even those become evident in the book of Job because remember it was the Chaldeans and the Sabeans, as we learned the last time, that caused some problems for Job and ended up actually with his children dead. Where does God fit into all of this?
Well take your Bible as we turn again to Job, and this is the second in a series of messages on the book of Job, the second of what we hope to be a series of eight messages on the book. And I hope that you are taking time to read it, to digest it, and to think about it because there is no book in the Bible that will probably so change your conception of God as the book of Job. It will expand your knowledge of God and make you a better worshipper.
What we’d like to do today is to take our video cameras and our recording equipment and interview Job. There are three different scenes in which we can interview him to glean what we can from the experience through which he is passing.
Scene Number One: Job has everything. We noticed last time in chapter 1, verse 3, his possessions were also 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and many servants. He was a great man. Even better than that it says in verse 2 that seven sons and three daughters were born unto him, and he was an upright man, and he was the kind of person who would be a role model for young people who want to do well in life.
So we interview Job and we ask him, “Job, what’s going on in your life?” and he says, “I am a righteous man. I fear God. I turn away from evil, and look at the way in which God has blessed me because of it.” In fact he might tell us, “I’ve just written a new book on how to love God and prosper.” And we say, “Job, in light of that, we are going to set you up for a whole series of interviews throughout the country because you are the very kind of person that we as Americans are looking for, somebody who worships God, who believes that God’s children should never be poor. After all, if you are a child of the King it only stands to reason that you should live like a king’s kid. And why shouldn’t you be the one who has the wealth and who drives the latest cars? And why shouldn’t you be the person who has the best charts in terms of your business expertise and your business expansion? And so Job is interviewed and you are told all the wonderful blessings that there are in serving God, and if you really live for him, as you walk down the path of light you will discover that your paths are bordered with beautiful little flowers, and everything is tranquil, and the sun is shining and you feel great as a child of the most high. Well that’s the first scene and that’s our first interview. Job has everything.
Well, there’s a second interview coming up, and that is Job has nothing, or at least in an introductory way “Job, how is it going?” and he makes a profiled speech in Job 1:20. He arises and tears his robes and shaves his head, and he falls on the ground and worships and says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away blessed be the name of the Lord.” And we say, “Job, you have done very, very well.” But the interviewing process is not over yet because you still have your health, Job, and you still have the support of your wife at this point, and so, Job, even though all of the circumstances of life have gone badly for you, after all you are able to stand up, and maybe you have the strength to begin again.
And so Job is now experiencing the second chapter. God and the devil have a little talk again and it is almost the same verbatim as we noticed last week. The Lord brings up the subject of Job. It is God who wants to show his servant off to angels, to demons, and even to Satan, and God says, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth?” and notice what the text says. Job 3:2 says, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil, and he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” I have that phrase underlined in my Bible. I wonder if it is underlined in yours. Imagine that.
Yes, God does love to show us off. In fact the Bible says that throughout all of eternity the redeemed are going to be a witness to angels, to demons and to men of the wonder and the greatness of God’s matchless, unfathomable grace. God loves to show us off, but notice what he says to Satan. “You have incited me to ruin him without a cause, without a discernable purpose at this point.” All of these tragedies come straight out of the blue. There is no way that Job could have been prepared for them. They happen without any preceding hint that this is going to take place. They happen in a single day, and Job is beginning to probe the wonder of God’s purposes, and he’s coming up with no discernable answers, without a cause. And oftentimes there are people who have those kinds of experiences where you cannot find the purposes that we would like to seek.
Somebody said to Leighton Ford when his son, Sandy, died, “Well, Leighton, just think of the number of people who heard about Christ at the funeral.” Leighton’s response was, “Yes, but Sandy was going to become a pastor. Think of all the people who could have received Christ as Savior through his ministry if he had lived.”
We cannot probe those purposes. We usually cannot get the answers that we desire because sometimes in the lives of some believers tragedy comes without a cause that is discernible. What sense does it make to have a young 15-year old boy die in a car accident, who was in the back of the car, memorizing verses of Scripture because he was on his way to a Bible quiz, which is true of my nephew who was killed? Why was such a good boy, who loved God, who had a life to live and to serve God snuffed out at the age of 15? Why?
And so Satan again says the same line. “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, only spare his life.” What a statement, and Job suddenly is smitten with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, and he takes (in verse 8) a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.”
And now suddenly his health is gone, and that is very debilitating. That is discouraging. I’ve been in the hospital at most a week at a time, but that week seemed to be an eternity. I can’t even relate to those people who are in the hospital for one week, two weeks, or months. And then from a hospital they go perhaps to a convalescent home or someplace where they need physical therapy still for months and weeks. And look at what happens here in the text of Scripture. Job suddenly finds himself in the ash heap. And Mrs. Job, seeing the distress of her husband, loving him undoubtedly, and perhaps out of a sense of love, wanting him to escape misery says, “Curse God and die.” And he says to her in verse 10, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.” He does not call her wicked. He does call her foolish and says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
Job’s wife evidently thought that if her husband could just die he’d escape all the misery, and throughout time there have been those who have thought that if they could just commit suicide it would end it all. There have been people who have phoned me insisting on an answer to the question, “If I commit suicide as a Christian will I still go to heaven because I want to commit suicide so badly, but I still want to be in heaven too.” I want you to know that suicide is never the answer. Don’t jump off the boat until it makes it to the other side of the shore. A suicide is not the answer. God’s grace is going to be sufficient. His ability to keep you and to lead you until it is his time to die is what we believe to be Scripturally and solidly based. In fact, if Job had died here he would have missed what happens in chapters 41 and 42 of his book, and he would have the bountiful blessing of God, and the insights into God’s character which would have been totally missed if he had simply said, “Where’s the escape hatch? I am going to die.”
Well, we have our tape recorder with us and Job’s friends, by the way, come (verse 11) and we won’t say much about them except to say that they come from three different countries. Job is a very famous man, and the friends hear about his distress and they come and they do something very wise. It says in verse 13, “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” And may I say that that’s the thing that they did that was absolutely right. If they had just kept sitting there we wouldn’t have had so many chapters of speeches for one thing, and for another we would have discovered that at the end that God would not have been so angry with what they said, but we’re ahead of the story.
Job has everything. Oh, how wonderful it is to serve God. Job now has nothing and he begins to moan. At first he accepted his adversity with a great deal of tranquility and worship but it begins to get to him and with his health now gone he begins to moan and to go through a period of deep depression. That’s chapter 3. We can’t read the entire chapter, though you should do that on your own, and you will find this to be one of the most moving soliloquies that has ever been written.
Job says in verse 3, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it. Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds dwell upon it, let the blackness of the day terrify it.” You’ll notice that he begins to move from faith to despair, and when we pick it up in verse 11, he now goes from understanding to perplexity and he is very perplexed and he begins to ask the question “Why?” Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? He goes on to say in verse 13, “For then I would have lain down and been quiet I would have slept then I would have been at rest, with kings and counselors of the earth, who rebuilt ruins for themselves.”
What an interesting insight. The kings and the counselors thought that they were building huge castles and monuments, and what are they now? They are ruins. He says, “I would have been able then to be with those who built ruins for themselves.” Well, with the princes who had grief, he says in verse 20, “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul?” If God knows that Job is going to go through this grief, if God knows that he is going to feel so desperate that he would like to die, why then live at all? What is the purpose of it?
What about those who long for death? They seek for it like hidden treasures. Verse 22 says, “Who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave.” They want to die and they delight when it comes. Verse 23 says, “Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes instead of my bread (I’ve lost my appetite I can’t even eat.) for my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet I have no rest, but trouble comes.” God, why?
Suddenly Job is up against a God he doesn’t know, and the Job that we would have interviewed at the beginning ’s a different story. [Oh, yes, you just serve God and he will bless you. Why he is so loving that he multiplies his blessings upon those who fear him. And just look at my lovely family, and see my crops and my herds and my ten children who are the envy of everybody in town, and it’s because I serve God.] The kids are dead. He’s lost everything that he owns. His own health is gone. He is in pain and grief, and his wife has not been the support that she should be. And now he begins to curse his day.
Could I say, by the way, that Job is in the same position as some people in retirement homes today? They say to themselves, “I can’t serve anymore.” Well, Job couldn’t serve anymore. There was nothing that he could give to God. Now he didn’t even have any wealth to give to God. In fact, there are people today who can no longer serve but they in turn must be served, and there they are day after day wondering why it is that they do not have death come to them when perhaps just across the street there is a child who dies at the age of two or three, or an infant. And we look at it, and we ask with Job, “Why is life given to him who suffers, and to the bitter of soul? What’s the purpose in it all?”
Now I want you to know something. Job did something very wise here in this chapter. He spilled his grief verbally to God and to his friends. I don’t believe that Job here was sinning at all because he spoke his feelings, and he spoke what was known, and God knew how he was feeling.
Why not tell God how you are feeling? The Psalmist did. That’s why we like the Psalms when we are going through times of grief. It’s because the Psalmist comes before the Lord and he simply says, “God, this is the way which I feel,” and he allows all of the hurt and the bitterness and the disappointment to spill out and why not, because God is the beautiful, wonderful counselor? And do you know something? God already knows that it is in the heart, and he can take it. Tell him!
Last week I heard of a woman who was praying and she was living with a man who was an alcoholic, and she was praying out loud, and he was close by. And she said, “Oh God, you know that my husband is a drunk,” and the man rebuked her and said, “No, don’t say that. Just tell him I’m sick.” Well, when you are talking to God you can tell him what the truth is because he knows it anyway.
Last time I gave you four lessons that I said I wanted you to remember for the rest of your life. I hope that you remember them for at least the last seven days. What I’d like to do now is to give you three more to add to that four and to give you a total of seven lessons. And these three can be added to the last four, which you wrote down so judiciously last week.
Lessons: Number one, notice that godly people are sometimes the most sorely tested. What does the Bible say about Job? He was an upright man, blameless, and he served God and he turned away from evil, and what does he do in verse 5 of chapter 1 but offer a sacrifice on behalf of himself and his children. It almost seems as if at the very time when Job was reaffirming his commitment to God, it is then that tragedy broke loose.
I hope that you have lived long enough to realize that you cannot tell a person’s spirituality by evaluating how many trials come into their lives. There are people in this congregation this morning whom I know, and many of you have shared with me and with other members of the pastoral staff the incredible turmoil and anguish that you are going through, and all of us know that even though you don’t know it, when we look into your faces we see Christ. And it’s not because you are not following God. It is not because God is trying to even some kind of score. It is sometimes true that those who are righteous suffer the most.
One day Jesus was walking in Israel and they said to him regarding a man who was born blind, “Who did sin? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus said, “Neither, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.” There is a work of God that is taking place in the lives of those of you who are suffering disproportionately. I say that because many of us have not suffered nearly as much as you are suffering. Our day may be coming.
Suffering, when you look at it, is haphazard. You can’t make sense out of the pattern. Godly people sometimes are the most sorely tested. Job was suffering not because he was unrighteous, as a matter of fact, but because he was righteous, and that’s why he attracted the attention of God and the devil in the dialogs that we are now privy to. So first of all, godly people often are most sorely tested.
Secondly, I want you to notice that good and adversity come from the same hand. In chapter 2 and verse 10, Job says to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Why is it that we would only accept one and not the other and recognize that both come from God?
One day when we came home from vacation I was speaking to my family and I said, “You know, God was so good to us. We drove so many thousands of miles. We had no flat tires, no car trouble, no accidents,” and just as the words came out of my mouth it dawned on me that suppose we had had an accident or a flat tire, or some tragedy, would that now have meant that God wasn’t good? If you have that theory that God has to always be giving you “good” things, and I put good here in quotes, in order for him to be good, then the time will come when you will believe that God is evil.
Job said, “We accept good from his hand. We must also recognize that there is adversity that comes from his hand and both of them come from a good God. They come from a hand with nail prints. And as Christians we do not superficially evaluate what is good or evil because we know that God has a plan that is much bigger than we are able to see, and sometimes that which is adversity becomes a blessing.
Some of you have heard me tell this story before of that Chinese man, but I have to tell it here because I think he had a point. Do you remember the Chinese man who had only a son and a horse and one day they left the barn door open and the horse ran away? It was gone, and because he was their livelihood some of the man’s friends gathered together and they said, “We want to comfort you regarding the adversity that has come to you.” And the man said, “Well, how do you know that this is adversity?”
A day later that horse returned and brought eleven stray horses with him. And so all of his friends gathered together and they said, “We want to rejoice with you regarding the good that has come to you.” And he said, “How do you know that this is good?” The next day his boy was trying to break one of these new horses and was thrown off and broke his leg and everybody gathered together and they said, “We want to comfort you regarding the adversity that has come to you.” And he said, “Well, how do you know that this is adversity?” And it so happened that the next day soldiers were coming through the land and they were looking for young men to go to battle, and his son was exempt because he had a broken leg. Everybody gathered together and they said, “We want to rejoice with you regarding the good that has come to you.” He said, “How do you know that that is good?”
Listen to me very, very carefully. Christians do not judge goodness and adversity with a shallow understanding of God’s intentions. If you were to judge it that way you’d look at Jesus Christ who died on the cross and you’d see all of the evil that was unleashed against him, and you’d see the hatred and the animosity, and you’d see his death and you and I would call it adversity. In fact, the Bible says that evil men crucified him. That is adversity, and yet, what is it that you and I sing? “In the cross of Christ I glory.” God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world. Why? It’s because that which was so filled with evil became a stream of blessing to bless the world and to redeem us.
And that’s why we can say today that we can accept goodness from the hand of God, and we can also accept adversity without implicating God and saying that on one day he is good and on the other day he is evil.
There’s a beautiful story in the Old Testament of how Joseph, when he was revealing himself to his brothers, just prior to that the brothers came, and he did not want them to know, if you recall the story, that he was their brother. The Bible says that Joseph handled them roughly, and they were fearful, but because they were his brothers they had no idea what was going on inside of Joseph, and the Bible says that eventually Joseph closed the door and went into a room by himself and wept, and then went back and treated them roughly again.
Some of you today feel as if you are being roughly treated by God. He did not prevent you from making choices that have led to a great deal of grief, and to a great deal of hurt and pain. If only you could see the other side of that loving hand. If only you could see him who is touched by the feeling of our infirmities, who was in all points tempted as we are. If only we could see the tender hand of the Savior who bleeds for us, how different it would be. As believers we accept adversity from the hand of God and we also accept good and believe that God has the right to give us both.
Finally, when we struggle we can either bless God, or we can curse him. We can either bless or curse.
Now I want you to know that I deliberately, in reading the first part of chapter three, skipped over a verse and some of you may have seen that and thought that the pastor doesn’t want to deal with that part of the text. No, that was deliberate.
You’ll notice it says, “Afterward, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” Do you think here that Satan was right? Do you think that Job fell into the devil’s trap and he cursed God just like Satan said Job would do once his health and children were taken from him? No, I do not believe that. You’ll notice that Job did not curse God. He did not curse God. He did curse the day of his birth. He did go through all of that depression and all of that questioning. That is true, but I want you to know that I read nothing in chapter three that would make me believe that Job was angry and cursing God. Questioning yes! Have we not all done it? Is there a person here who has not asked the question “Why?” Most assuredly there probably is not because all of us have tried to pry into God’s private diary and to say, “Tell me what’s going on and make some sense out of this,” but Job does not curse God. At this point he retains his integrity and still is a worshipper even though he is now a confused, depressed worshipper. We can either bless or we can curse.
Some of you perhaps have cursed. I want you to know that even if that is true God can handle it, but don’t do that. Don’t curse God. Tell him what’s on your mind. Share all of the concerns of your heart, but do not curse him because he is worthy of respect, even while you share your depression with him.
A few years ago I told you a story that I’d like to tell again of a woman who was interviewed on a television program, who told this story. She said, “I grew up an atheist. I never was in church. I never believed in God.” In fact she said, “I was angry. If there was a God I was angry with him.” And then she said, “My daughter was in a car accident that was so serious it appeared as if she might be in a coma for months, if not years.” And she said, “In order to handle it I went to the bar and I got a few drinks, and I began to drive the car and it was raining outside.” And she said, “I pulled off to the side of the road and there in the car I cursed God for a half an hour.” She said, “I was really able to curse in those days,” and after cursing him she said she was silent and she said it was as if she heard a voice that said, “This is the first time you’ve talked to me, and I do love you,” and as a result of that she began to investigate the New Testament and came to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Some of you may be bitter at God. If you are, I understand that. God understands it, but I want you to know that rather than being bitter and cursing, God wants us to be worshipping and blessing. The Lord gave. The Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
God is going to be with Job as he walks through this trial. God is with us as we walk through out trials, and at the end of the day we’re going to begin to see the hint of God’s purposes, but for now the sky is dark. The purposes of God are mysterious, and all that Job can do is wonder what possible sense he can make out of so much pain and heartache.
Before I close I want to remind you of something. Those of you who haven’t talked to God for a while because you are angry, talk to him. Talk to him because he does love you. And let us pray.
Father, we want to thank you today for this marvelous book. We thank you for Job’s honesty. We thank you that in his deep grief you meet him. And yet we pray today for those who find no sense of their intense suffering. May they receive hope that like you were with Job, you will be with them. And we pray for those who are far from you whose hearts are closed today because they are angry, Father, and you know why they are angry. Oh Lord, with tender love open their hearts to you today and to the blessed Savior whom you sent to us. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
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