>The following was preached at Veedersburg and Hillsboro UMC on Sunday, October 25, 2009. The text for this week’s message is Job 42:1-6.

This morning, we are wrapping up our series on the book of Job, and it has been one wild ride to this point. It has certainly been an emotional journey. There are so many points in the book of Job that speak to each of us in very real, and sometimes difficult, ways. I know that this series has probably been as difficult to hear as it has been to work through. It’s very personal. We all have gone through rough patches in our lives. And I don’t say that to trivialize the difficult times, but to point out that while our zip codes may differ, we all live in the same area code when it comes to dealing with suffering in our lives. So, one last time, let’s review where we have been in the last three weeks.
Job is said to be the greatest man in the east. He is certainly a wealthy man with lots of livestock and several children. He is a righteous man. So much so that, while conversing with Satan, God lifts him up as an example of a man who is blameless and upright. Satan makes two assumptions that all of us have made from time to time in our lives.
First, he says that Job is blameless and upright because he has never had to worry about anything. God has always provided for him, which is why Job has been so righteous. Job ends up losing everything in one day, but remains a righteous man. Satan makes his second assumption in saying that Job only remains righteous because nothing has happened to him personally. He assumes that one’s righteousness is based on personal circumstances. We know that both of these assumptions are false. Our righteousness is not dependent on our circumstances, but on our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Next, we saw that Job was starting to wear down from the conversations that he has been having with his friends. Job starts to focus more and more on the fact that he wants to talk with God face to face and plead his case. Perhaps, just perhaps, there was some kind of communication failure, and Job was being punished for something that he did not do. You see, Job had the same assumption that his unfortunate circumstances had to do with punishment for sin; a sin he didn’t commit. In the midst of all this, Job was also failing to see God at work, although he acknowledged that God was indeed working all around him.
And in Job 38, God finally responds. As the reader, we expect to hear the answer to the reasons why bad things happen to good people. We are primed and ready to be amazed by God’s response to the problem of evil and unnecessary suffering in the world. But if that was what we were wanting, we are disappointed. There is no such answer, and that is a harsh reality to face. Instead of proving that God has punished him by mistake, Job ends up getting an earful from God. He is faced with tough questions that make him realize that he is in no position to explain God’s reasons for the things that have happened. He cannot know the mind of God, and it is wrong to think otherwise. Job is given a new perspective.
Job has believed that God’s reasons can be simply understood; that God has just made a mistake in this punishment. Scattered throughout the earlier parts of the book, Job has said that he wanted to present his case before God. Surely, if God would just listen to him, He would see that there has been some kind of mistake. But this isn’t the case when God responds. And, instead of “here is why these things have happened,” Job is told to buckle up and answer these questions: who do you think you are; where were you when the earth was made; can you provide for the animals of the earth? Of course, Job can’t do any of those things. Job was nowhere around when the earth was created. Job cannot provide for the animals of the earth. But God can. Job begins to realize that maybe God isn’t so simple afterall.
These questions serve the purpose of showing Job that he is not in a position to question God. If God had answered Job in the way that Job wanted, and really, the way we want Him to, essentially it would have put Job in a position to question God, and, quite frankly, nobody is in such a position. God does not answer to any one of us. We start to see that the book of Job isn’t about the problem of evil, but it is about correcting a false understanding of who God is.
To sum up a quote that was used last week, we get a picture in our heads of what an ideal world would look like; we imagine what the God of this world would do; and we worship this projection. There’s a term for that in the Old Testament. It’s called idolatry. God is who God is; that’s why at the burning bush, when Moses asks God what he should say when the people ask who sent him, he is to say, “Yahweh,” or “I am who I am.” Another rendering of the Hebrew could be, “I will be who I will be.” God is who God is, not who we imagine Him to be.
So, now what? We have gone on a long journey with Job. We have felt his heartache, and have asked some of the very same questions. We almost feel as though we are standing beside Job while God is asking him these questions in chapter 38. So, where does that leave us? How do we respond when it comes time for God to question us? Because if Scripture is right, and I believe that it is, there will come a day when we will stand before God and we will be asked, maybe not these same questions, but some similar ones. Who do we think we are? In Job 42, the focus is on Job’s response to God. And he essentially says three things.
First, in verse 2, he says, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” In our Bible study this past Tuesday, we talked a little bit about the sovereignty of God. We looked at the prayer that is offered by the disciples in Acts 4 after Peter and John are released from prison. And their prayer is different from most of the ones that we pray. It’s very different, because it begins by resting in the sovereignty of God. Because God can do all things.
After worship last week, Katie and I were talking about God’s speech in Job 38. And she suggested reading through it again, and instead of reading through it as rhetorical questions that God is asking Job, read it as though these are statements that God is making about Himself. Instead of “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth,” we would read it, as God saying, “I was the one who laid the foundations of the earth.” Instead of “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,” we would read it, “I hunt the prey for the lion.” Reading it that way makes explicit what the text is saying. We weren’t there, we can’t do these things, but God can. And when we get into the issue of God’s sovereignty, we have to realize something very important. God can do what we can’t. God can do the things that we cannot do. Because God is God and we are not.
The first thing that Job does is recognize the sovereignty of God. God’s plans cannot be thwarted. That doesn’t mean we just sit back and let life happen. It means that we are invited to take part on what God is accomplishing all around us. Look around you. Where is God working in your life, in this church, and in the community around us? We should be excited to be a part of what God is doing.
What we do here, in this church, as a congregation, shouldn’t be something that we just do and forget about, but it should be something that excites us, because it is something that God is doing. Do we recognize the sovereignty of God in our life, in our church and in our community? Doesn’t that get your adrenaline going? If you aren’t excited about what God is doing, the first thing you need to do is check your pulse. Second, you need to step back and re-evaluate where you are in your walk with God.
The second key thing that Job says is, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” Job recognizes that he spoke presumptuously before. He assumed he knew how God operated, but in truth, he did not, and now he recognizes that fact. This is so crucial for each one of us. We can’t assume to know God’s purposes. We can’t assume that we speak on God’s behalf. We can see what God is doing, if we are paying attention, but that’s not the same as presuming to know God’s larger purposes.
By paying attention to what God is doing all around us, we can take part in God’s larger purposes. It may be a very small role, but we can still be a part of what God is doing. But, if we assume that we know what God’s larger purposes are in the first place, we begin to miss what it is that we are supposed to be doing. Have you ever had a conversation with somebody, and you assumed you knew what he/she was talking about, and took it in a totally different direction? Sure you have. We’ve all done it from time to time, and you’ve probably had it done to you. And what happens as a result? We have wasted some of our time chasing down something that is totally irrelevant. Do you see the connection here?
When we start chasing things that are not related to what God is trying to do, we waste precious time. And when we assume that we know what God is doing, the likelihood that this is going to happen skyrockets. We have to remember that we are following God, not showing Him what needs to be done.
The final key thing that Job says is, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Hearing about God and seeing God at work in one’s life are two totally different things. There may be people here this morning that come regularly, but have never really stopped to see what God is doing in their lives. Time for some difficult questions, and these are rhetorical questions, so you don’t have to raise your hand or worry that I’m going to sit down one-on-one to ask you these questions. But you should think about them. You should think seriously about these questions this week.
Do you see church as something that takes up a handful of hours each week, or is it something that shapes who you are? Are you listening to what God is trying to tell you through worship and throughout the week, or do you rarely notice that God is even around? Do you just hear about God, or do you experience God in your life? Do you make time to listen for God? Do you look around and try to see what God is doing all around you? These are questions that we seriously have to consider. And maybe, just maybe, if you are feeling a little uncomfortable about these questions, you need to take some time this week and pray through them.
It’s when we stop hearing about God and start looking for God that things happen. Is the church a social meeting, or is it a gathering of people seeking after God? It is amazing what can happen when a group of believers join together in prayer and begin to focus on God. When we gather together and have a common vision for what God can do in the lives of those around us and in our community, we can be unstoppable. And it’s not because of any special talent or skill that we have, but it is because we are finally seeing who God is and striving after Him.
Job thought he knew who God was. Job thought he understood God. The truth is, he didn’t, and it took him being jolted out of his comfort zone in a major way for him to see this. When we come to the end of the book of Job, we don’t have any resolution as to why bad things happen to good people. We don’t have any great answers when it comes to the problem of evil. But what we do have is incredible. We have a proper perspective of who we are, and who God is. Job’s fortunes are restored, but it wasn’t because of anything that he did. It was because of what God was doing.
When you think about this church, do you dwell on the “good ol’ days” – whatever that means to you? Or, are you looking forward to what God is going to do? It’s difficult to walk forward if we are constantly looking behind us. An occasional glance doesn’t hurt anything, but have you ever tried to go for a walk and look behind you the whole time? You will trip and fall in no time. If you look to the side the entire time, you will get off course. So, let’s focus on what is ahead. We don’t have a better understanding of God than Job did, but recognizing where we fall short helps to propel us forward. Are you ready to participate in what God has in store for us?