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God, Why Me?

God, Why Me?

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | February 5, 1995

Selected highlights from this sermon

Why? In all of life, there isn’t a question we more often ask of God than “Why?”

In this first message on a series about the life of Job, Pastor Lutzer shows us the roles of God, Satan and Job in this story. We may be shocked at the power Satan was given. We may even be more shocked to find out who was ultimately behind the pain and suffering Job found himself in.

But at the end of the day, we’ll learn many important truths about God and to what extent He’ll go to get our hearts. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Many years ago I heard a story of a young man who dedicated his life to Jesus Christ to foreign missionary service. We can imagine that it was with mixed feelings when the day finally came when he said goodbye to his parents and friends to go to the mission field to which God had called him. But as he was traveling enroute the plane landed at an airport. He decided to write a note home but because he didn’t have any writing paper with him he simply tore a piece from the newspaper, scribbled a note into the margin, put it into an envelope and sent it home, and then got on the plane to resume his journey. But unfortunately the plane never did reach its destination. It crashed and he was killed along with all of the others on board.

His parents, of course, heard of the tragic news and a few days later they received the note that he had written at the airport, and what turned out to be an irony is that after reading the note on one side they turned it around on the other side, and it had been torn in such a way that there printed in thick dark letters was the short three-letter word, Why.

And I suppose that there is no question in all of life that we so often ask God, sometimes almost as a dagger in his heart, as that age-old question of why. Why is it that those who are young sometimes die? And those who are old who would like to die go on living? Why is it necessary for some people to experience an economic collapse, the death of a loved one, or for that matter, the death of a marriage, or the unkindly death of a person who is serving Jesus Christ just like that missionary?

Well, God willing, during the next weeks we are going to be studying the book of Job. I hope to do a series of eight messages on the book of Job and I invite you to take your Bibles today and to turn to chapter 1 of the book of Job. Job is almost in the middle of your Bibles. Job, Psalms, Proverbs is the way it goes in the Old Testament, and today we’re going to look at that first chapter, and I encourage you to be reading the book of Job because what we will discover is that God is going to change Job’s understanding of who God is, and what a transformation that is going to bring about.

Job begins the book thinking he understands God but as the book begins to unravel, God is more mysterious than ever, and you have to wait until the end to see how it all comes together and what the bottom line is.

What we do know about Job is that the book itself is very old. Scholars tell us that even the Hebrew that is used is very old Hebrew. There is no reference to the Aaronic priesthood though many people think that the book of Job may be as old as the patriarchs, perhaps one of the oldest books in the Bible. What we know about Job himself are a number of things. First of all in verse one we are told that he was an upright man, blameless, fearing God and turning away from evil. We know that he had a wonderful family. Verse 2 says seven sons and three daughters were born to him. And if you look at verse 3 you know that he was very wealthy, particularly as a man in his culture and a man in the east. “He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.” But this man who was so great and so righteous would turn out to be one who went through such an incredibly severe trial.

And what I’d like to do as we try to handle the first chapter of Job is to invite you to participate with me in looking at this chapter from the standpoint of the three personalities that are involved in Job’s struggle, and we’ll see the roles that each of them plays.

First of all I want you to notice what God’s role is. God’s role is delineated in verses 7 to 12, and if you are taking notes, the word to put next to them is the word control. Everything is in God’s hands and I might say that God shows his control by first of all confronting Satan and actually being the one to bring up the question of Job and his righteousness. Verse 8 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God (that is a reference to angels) came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. (He just shows up.) The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it (and just patrolling, and I’ve got the night shift, and so here I am I’m showing up.}’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

What is God’s role? God’s role is, first of all, confrontation. He’s the one who brings up the issue of Job’s righteousness, and it almost seems as if he is taunting Satan and so he brings up that issue of Job’s righteousness and what Satan is going to do or not do about it as the case may be. And then God’s role is one of permission. We read it there in verse 12. “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” God says, “I’m going to prescribe the limit. I’m going to allow you to take him through this difficult trial but I am going to keep my hand on the thermostat while Job is in the furnace, and I will let you do so much and no more. You have to stay within the boundaries that I prescribe.” That’s God’s role. God’s role is one of control.

Let’s look at Satan’s role. What does he do? His role is one of acting. His role is one of implementing. He is what God uses to do, or to bring upon Job, I should say, this horrendous trial. And I don’t know if you are like I am, but I am sure that when you stop to think of it, all of us would agree that we are shocked at the strength that Satan is given in this account.

Notice first of all his power over people. You remember for Job this is a day. It really was. It says in verse 13, “Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, ‘The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them, and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’” That was terrible news but “While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’” How do you like that for a double whammy? Verse 17 says, “While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’”

Oh, by now Job cannot believe what he was hearing. Verse 18 says, “While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.’”

Look at the power of the devil first of all over people. You’ll notice in verse 15 the Sabeans came. In verse 17 the Chaldeans came. Are you telling me that the armies of these wicked people are so surely in Satan’s back pocket that he can actually stir them up and control them to the point where they do such deeds against Job? I guess the obvious answer is yes.

Now they had made a series of choices to become a part of Satan’s territory. That’s right, but it does show you the awesome ability of Satan to be involved in the affairs of men. It’s breathtaking. And then notice nature. It says lightening came. That’s in verse 16. The fire of God is an expression for lightening, and then in verse 18 it says a great wind came. What an interesting story! What power! And actually it’s done by the devil but back behind the devil, giving him permission to do it, is God.

I read this passage and I am reminded of a story of a little town here in the land of the United States and there was to be a bar that was to be built in this little town. And the people didn’t want the bar. That is, most of the people didn’t want the bar, so people from the church went over to the bartender and they said, “You know, we are going to pray that lightening is going to strike your bar and it is going to burn to the ground.” Well, the bartender was unconvinced but the people went home and had a prayer meeting and prayed that that would happen, and a day later a terrible storm came. Lightening came and struck the bar and the thing burned to the ground. And the bartender took the Christians to court and said that it was their responsibility because they had prayed that it would happen. And the Christians hired an attorney to say, “No, it wasn’t our fault.” And the judge said that the only thing that he could conclude was that the bartender believed in prayer but the Christians didn’t. (laughter)

Now I want us to look at this text of Scripture and to analyze it theologically. Let’s figure out what’s going on here in the text. Who is really back behind Job’s trial? Who is what philosophers would call the ultimate cause? The ultimate cause is God, not that he does it, but that he permits it and he could choose to not permit it if he so desired. So back behind it is the ultimate cause, which is God. The immediate cause is Satan, but Satan operates only in accordance with the limits of the parameters that God sets. As Luther said, “Even the devil is God’s devil.”

Now, you know there are some seminaries where they teach young men for the ministry, and then they have pastoral classes where they are taught to marry, and bury and all those other things that we as pastors have to do. And there are schools where they will teach you this. They will say, “If a child should die of cancer, don’t ever tell the parents that God took their child because they will be angry at God. What you do is you blame it all on the cancer and you say, “Cancer took the child.” Now I understand the sentiment of what is going on with that kind of reasoning but if you are a committed Christian and you believe your Bible, you know better than that. Certainly cancer may be the immediate cause but back behind the permission that this should happen is the will and the purpose and the plan and the providential government of God in the affairs of men. At least I hope that you believe that. Paul believed it. Jesus believed it. Job believed it. Sixty-six books of the Bible teach it. And so I hope that you are on board on that issue.

Now, the thing that we see here is a very interesting picture of how even a believer (Can you imagine me saying this in this day and age?) is actually harassed by Satan within the parameters of God’s will and purpose. Remember in the book of Revelation it says to one of the churches that Satan shall cast some of you into the fire and into prison. I don’t believe that we ever need to be controlled by Satan to do evil but there may be times that harassment that comes to us from the enemy is to purify us, that is to change us, that is to transform us. At least that’s certainly what happened in the book of Job.

Now there’s a third personality involved and he’s the one that we are worried about, and that is Job. We’ve talked about God. His role is one of control. Satan’s role is one of acting or implementing the suffering, and now what happens to Job?

You’ll notice in verse 20 that Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. This is an awesome passage of Scripture. You’ll notice that Job did not curse. Now later on you are going to see that Job is going to sink into deep, deep depression. We’re going to see that in future messages, but for now he passes the initial stage in this trial with flying colors. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” Notice he doesn’t blame it on the devil. He says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away blessed be the name of the Lord.” And though Job knew God did get, the text says he did not blame God.

He was not like that man that a friend of mine told about whose house burned down to the ground, and when he came home and saw that his house had burned, he was on the lawn pounding his fists into the sod and cursing the fire department, and cursing God and just cursing and cursing. Job did not do that. Job worshiped and said, “The Lord gave me the children. The Lord took them away. Blessed be his most holy name.” Initial trial

What I’d like to do now is to give you four lessons that I want you to write down anywhere that you can write it down. We don’t normally do this but use one of those offering envelopes {You should have used 20 minutes ago for something else.} if necessary. I taught this first chapter to a Sunday school class not too long ago and I told them that I wanted them to remember these four lessons as long as they live. You might not need the lessons today but if you live long enough in this world eventually you will need them. I wlll need them. We will all need them.

Number one, and this is shocking. When God wants to try somebody (I mean really try them and get at their heart) nothing is untouchable. Frankly, folks, I read this passage of Scripture and the wind seems to be taken right out of my lungs. Here God wants to try Job. He and Satan have this little discussion in heaven, and as a result of what happens, his children die (verse 19). Ten children dead! And I look at the text and I say, “Well, didn’t their lives mean anything? Do you mean to say ten young people with a wonderful future ahead of them, with all kinds of possibilities, and God just comes along and he allows through the windstorm for them to die just because God and the devil have made a deal that they wanted to try Job?” And I say to myself, “This is almost unbelievable ”

It almost looks as if the children were expendable. God says, “I want to get at Job’s heart and if it means that I have to take his children to do it I will do it because we’re going to determine what it is that Job is really made of.” And I say, “Wow!” And I’ve known people, and you have known people too, where God has zeroed in and taken from them that which was most precious.

I think of a missionary with a sick baby. Every day the missionaries would pray and ask God to send rain so that the river might be able to flow and that they could get help, because that was the only means of transportation. And there was no rain, and the baby died, and they walked out of the house and torrents of rain came out of the sky. If only that day had come a day earlier or two days earlier. They could have gotten help when it wasn’t that difficult a medical problem. It’s almost as if God was saying, “I want you to trust me and I want to prove to you that I can take from you that which is most precious because when I want to try somebody nothing is untouchable. Nothing!”

When God said to Abraham, “Abraham, I want you to offer your son as a sacrifice,” Abraham said, “Okay, let’s go with Ishmael.” God says, “I’m sorry, but because I really want to try you, Abraham, it’s going to be Isaac. It’s going to be the son whom you love the most.”

There’s a second lesson that we need to learn and that is in every trial, including those that we bring upon ourselves, and as I was looking at this I was reminded of the fact that many people are going to say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, this doesn’t apply to me because Job had wind and hail and the Chaldeans and the Sabeans came, whereas my problem is self-made.” Well, you have made for yourself a nice big problem, haven’t you? I want you to know today that God stands as ready to help you and to comfort you in the problem that you have made as he is to help people in the problems that other people and circumstances have made for them.

Number two, that stake in any trial is always the worth of God The fundamental question always is how much is God worth to you? You say, “Well, where is that in the text?” Look at this. I read it quickly deliberately so that you wouldn’t think about it too much so that we could think about it more carefully together now. Do you remember when Satan and God are having this dialog and the Lord says, “You know, Satan, you have to realize that Job is a great man. He is blameless and upright and he fears God and he turns away from evil.” Do you know that what Satan says in effect is, “Well who wouldn’t?” Look at what he says. “Haven’t you made a hedge around him on every side of his house? You’ve given him a wonderful family. You have blessed the work of his hands. His possessions have increased in the land. You know you’ve been buying him off. You’ve been bribing him. You’ve been giving him so many blessings, and the more blessings you feed him, the more he worships you, and that only makes sense, but God, if you were to take from him those blessings that you have showered upon this man with all of his money, and all of his servants, and his fine family that everybody in town is admiring if you were to take all of that from him then you would see that he would curse you to your face. Don’t you understand that Job is in this because it is profitable to worship God? Let it become unprofitable and he will curse you.”

That’s your temptation and that is mine. Oh how easy it is, how really easy it is to worship God when everything is going well. When you are healthy and well, and when the family is fine, and when circumstances are good, worship comes easily, but when God does things you think that a good God should not do, and when the difficulties of life begin to break in upon your soul, and when you begin to see the pain in your life or in the lives of other people, and the things that you seemingly worked all your life for are all taken away, then the question is, “Is God still of value to you or not?” His worth is always at stake in our trials.

Number three, events on earth must always be interpreted in light of events in heaven. Events on earth always have to be interpreted in light of events in heaven. We need to try to see beyond the physical to the spiritual world. You know we’re going to be going through the book of Job and we’re going to be seeing some very interesting things as to what his friends are saying, and the whole bit. But you know it would have been so much easier for Job if he had only known the first chapter of his book. If he had only known that God and the devil had had this little dialog, he’d have said to himself, “You know I’m going to remain true to God no matter what. If I am important enough for the devil and God to talk about me, I’m going to hang in,” but he didn’t know that. The tragedy came out of the blue, without explanation, without context, and without interpretation. It just simply happened - period. But you know, if we could remember that in the spirit world there is discussion about us, some of you, bless you, who are going through excruciating trials, if you could just remember that maybe God and the devil are talking about you and saying, “You know, have you considered my servant, Mary, or my servant, Ruth, or my servant, John or Peter or Paul, or whatever your name might be?” and there’s a discussion going on as to whether or not you are going to go on believing God even when it seems as if he is no longer loving you and no longer blessing you, how much easier it would be if you only knew it was happening.

I’m here to say to you today that maybe it is. Dr. Lewis Ferry Chaper used to say that a secret sin on earth is an open scandal in heaven. We commit a sin and it is secret and nobody knows it. And in heaven it is big news because the devil is there saying, “See! You redeemed him, God, but look at that. Look at how he is disobeying you,” and Jesus Christ is standing there and saying, “My precious blood was shed that this sinner be accepted and redeemed and that my righteousness be credited to his account despite his disobedience.” And so you see there are things that are going on in the spirit world which if we were privy to, would really impact the way we live here, because the way we live here is really, really, really important. But we don’t see that so we think to ourselves, “No big deal! All that happens is out of the blue. Life falls in without explanation, without comment, without interpretation. It just happens, and from our standpoint senselessly.”

When I was a student at a Christian high school in Canada there was a young man there who trained to be a missionary pilot. Flying in India, on his first flight, into a storm the plane crashed into a mountain. His young wife was left with three children and I have to tell you in all honesty it makes absolutely no sense to me

Isn’t God interested in helping the missionaries fly in India so that they can get around more easily? Why all this training to be a pilot? Who creates the storm? You say, “Well, you know, the storm was from the devil.” Yeah, of course! Yeah, let’s give the devil credit for the storm, but who says to Satan, “Here’s something you can do. Here’s a storm you can create because it is all in my power” but God? And that’s why that young widow could leave that funeral and say, “It is God who took my husband.”

Events on earth have to be interpreted in light of events in heaven, and finally it is possible to worship God without any explanation. I admire Job here. He tears his robe and he shaves his head. That’s an Old Testament way of indicating you are mourning and you are grieved, and he falls to the ground and he worships and there is no interpretation of this trial given to him. There is no sense of it that he is able to discern but without explanation he falls before God and he worships and he says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb. If I was born healthy it was because of God’s grace, and now if my health should be taken from me, is it not of God? Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. It is the Lord who gave. It is the Lord who took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

My wife and I know some folks who experienced suicide within their family, circumstances that have never been resolved. All these issues are kind of out there, and you’d like explanations and you can’t seem to get a handle off those explanations because you’re not privy to the knowledge and the interpretation and the understanding. And you have your own doubts as to what really happened, and you know that in this life no explanations will be given. You have to wait until you get to glory until you really find out all the answers as to what really happened. What do you do in the meantime? You fall on the ground and you worship and you say, “Let God be God,” because it is possible to worship him even without the kinds of explanations that you and I as humans so desperately seek.

I walked a mile with pleasure.
She chattered all the way.
But left me none the wiser,
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she.
Oh the things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

A footnote! When I speak about worshipping God I need to remind you that in the New Testament that worship must always take place in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, because that is our entrance into the throne room of the heavenly father. And if you do not know Christ as Savior, your worship will always be aborted because it is through the Savior who died for us that we can worship even when we don’t understand.

Would you join me now in prayer?

Our Father, we stand amazed at the passage we have just opened and read. We stand amazed because of the breathtaking purposes that you have, and the lengths to which you sometimes go to prove a point. And we pray today that you might comfort all of us by knowing that behind the perplexities of life there is a God who holds us, a God who limits, a God who loves, who keeps loving, a God who tries, and a God who disciplines, and a God who purifies. Help us to be comfortable with that, God, because it is you, oh Father. It is you! And bring us to a point of submission and yieldedness with the questions filling our minds so that we say in great humility before you, “Blessed be the name of the Lord, for he doeth all things well.”

Father, do your work in our hearts, we pray, and make us as responsive as Job through your probing. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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