Job 1:1-22, Job 2:1-10
The story of Job takes place during the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
It is the story of just man who suffers unjustly without knowing why.
We read the introduction and a conversation between God and Satan that gets the story going
The only place Job is mentioned in the New Testament is James 5:11, where he is an example of patient endurance.
Sermon: Risking it all on Job and Us
In the movie “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, comedian Steve Martin plays a businessman who attempts to get home for American Thanksgiving. The movie begins with Martin trying to catch a flight home, but he misses his flight.
Then he attempts to rent a car, but this too is complicated by a number of freak incidents that turn this into a major crisis.
Every time Steve Martin attempts to move forward, he is frustrated by events beyond his control that turn a simple trip home into a literally a traveling nightmare.
And to make matters worse, Steve Martin is hooks up with a not so helpful traveling companion played by John Candy, who adds more frustration to Steve Martin’s travels. Everything that can possibly go wrong for Steve Martin, does go wrong and in a big way.
In this movie, there seems to be some cosmic force, which is working against him and preventing him from getting home.
This all adds up to a very funny movie. But it also makes for an extremely painful movie, especially if you have had terrible traveling experiences.
Steve Martin is both an honorable hero as well as a tragic victim in this movie. His character is one whom we can easily identify with. For in many ways, he represents all of the thousands of people who encounters difficulty while traveling every year.
This movie in many ways echoes the story of Job. Like Steve Martin in the movie “Plane, Trains and Automobiles,” Job experiences great personal tragedy, he has friends who attempt to help him, and there are cosmic forces working against him of which he has no understanding.
Like Steve Martin, Job is also a representative, but in this case of anyone who has ever suffered great loss in this life. Job represents anyone who has wrestles with WHY there is great suffering and tragedy in our world. He represents everyone who has ever tried to be faithful in circumstances beyond their control.
Job is also representative of the person of faith who has dared to honestly question God, doubt God, or complain to God about their tragic circumstances. If you are such a person, or if you are a person who wants to help others in their suffering, then you will find in Job an insightful friend and a helpful traveling companion on life’s mysterious highway.
Over the next several weeks, I want to explore with you this most challenging books of the Old Testament. The book of Job, like the movie just mentioned is both comical and tragic at the same time.
Job is both comforting and unsettling; appealing, and offensive; thought provoking and mind numbing all at the same time. My prayer for us is that we will gain some wisdom in living faithfully for God in times that seem beyond our control.
First of all, the book of Job explores the great themes of human suffering, the flaws of conventional human wisdom in trying to make sense of suffering and God’s mysterious will. It explores not why there is human suffering, but how to be faithful in the midst of it. All of these themes are complicated issues, which defy any sort of simple human logic and understanding.
And this is why I must tell you right up front, that you are not going receive pat answers to these great questions of the human condition. But rather we will wrestle with issues of being faithful as the book of Job prompts us to do.
With that said, let us look at the first two chapters of Job and explore begin our journey together.
The issues just mentioned are explored through the life of an individual named Job. He is a model of the successful and faithful person of his day. He has family, he has riches, he has great faith and integrity. In our day, he would have easily made the cover the Time Magazine’s Man of the Year.
The Conventional or generally accepted wisdom of Job’s day was that wealth was God’s reward to those who are faithful to him. If you were poor, then God was punishing you for not obeying him. Good faithful, hard working people just did not suffer. Suffering was only for losers and sinners. Job, as we discover in the first chapter with his enormous wealth and unquestionable character, would have been considered a very spiritual and godly man.
Then the story of Job shifts from the earthly realm to the heavenly realm where God has an interesting conversation with Satan.
In Job, Satan is not the devil as we have come to think of Satan him. The Satan of Job is not the mythological figure that has been portrayed in literature and in the media of our time. Rather in Job, Satan is more like a prosecuting attorney who charges people with wrongdoing. The name Satan literally means “the accuser” a heavenly prosecuting attorney if you will.
God asks Satan one day where he has been and Satan tells God he has been traveling the world looking for people who have been unfaithful to God. Then God asks Satan a very important question…
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” (v. 8)
Satan plays out his role as accuser or doubter of human behaviour and tells God that Job is only faithful to him because God has richly blessed him. Satan makes a bet or wager with God that if God were to remove all the blessings of money, family, and reputation, Job will cease to be faithful and will curse Him.
Satan, who is a keen observer of human behaviour, makes his bet with God based on the selfish behaviour he observed from other humans. Satan in essence, calls into question God’s ability to create humans who will love him and serve him without regards to what can be gained from him.
And surprisingly enough God takes on Satan’s assumptions and takes the bet.
This is not all what we normally expect from God. But God shows how much trust He has in Job and believes that when push comes to shove, Job will worship God regardless of the circumstances and will not curse him.
God risks or places his own good reputation on the line by betting that Job’s motivations for worshipping him go way beyond the material benefits that God has given him.
God is also betting on his ability to influence not only people’s actions, but also their very motivation in following him.
God believes that he has the ability to change and influence people’s hearts for the good. And so God gambles his reputation on Job.
Does the idea of God risking his reputation on Human faithfulness offend you, surprise you, or is this part of how you perceive God to be?
The idea of God risking his good reputation with respect to the creation should not surprise us. Think about the huge risk God takes in creating creatures with Free Will.
It would have been easier for God to create people who act more like robots with an automatic response or internal programming to love and serve God without question, than people with the ability to freely choose him among a host of other options. But, God chooses to create people with the ability to wisely choose his ways over and above their own selfish desires and wants.
God also risks his reputation in sending his beloved Son to earth to teach our world about his love. God risks his reputation by allowing his Son to suffer and die in order to redeem and lost and foolish humanity. God surely must have known that some would respond to his gift of salvation in Christ, while others would blatantly reject it and scorn Him.
And then, if that wasn’t enough, God risks his reputation by calling into being his church, his tool for proclaiming his good news and winning people over to his side. Surely God knew the risks in depending upon his people to be his agents of hope and salvation in the world.
It is like the old story of Jesus being asked by an angel before he returns to heaven after earthly work is done, what his plan was for redeeming a lost humanity.
Jesus replies, “I have a bunch of fishermen who have lived with me for three years and who I have taught how to reach people and they will go into the world to share the good news of my life, death and resurrection.”
The Angel responded, “What if they don’t follow your plan and fail to do as you have commanded to do. What other plans do you have in bringing people to faith?” To this Jesus replied, “I have no other plan.”
The Biblical story of creation, the work of Christ, and the history of the church is in part the story of how God has taken huge risks with his beloved creation in order to have a people who will respond to his love because it the only way to truly live and not simply for the rewards to be gained from Him.
God is willing to risk his reputation on creatures he has made because God has confidence in those whom he has created, redeemed and sustains with his power, love and presence.
The Book of Job demonstrates how God was willing to take a huge risk with Job, but did so knowing that Job was up for the task. When God creates the church, God placed his confidence in men and women, who would grow in their faith, become a loving missional community, and would reach and draw people to God.
This begs the question, are we Christians because we believe God owes us something for our obedience and faith?
Would we be a Christian if God didn’t offer us any eternal benefits at all or even any earthly benefits?
Or are we Christians because we love and value what God has done for us in Jesus Christ above anything else in this life?
It is an important question to ask ourselves today. It is not an easy question to answer honestly and truthfully, but one that needs to be answered.
Job represents for us a model believer
* who walks by faith and conviction,
* who values his relationship with God more than anything else.
God allows Job’s faith to be severely tested and tried in the crucible of his afflictions. It is with Job that God chooses to risk his reputation to demonstrate to the Satan, that his love is able to transform human hearts.
God will do so again more powerfully by allowing his own Son to suffer for the sins of the world to demonstrate that God’s love can transform human hearts. Christ’s humble endurance and suffering showed the purpose of God’s compassion and mercy.
And so for us, we may not know exactly what God is doing in our lives, or in our life as a church, but we are assured that God will continue to do His transforming work through those who value their relationship above all else. God’s mercy and compassion do not end when we suffer, but deepen and help us to rely more heavily on the mercy and compassion of God.
Through our suffering and through our compassionate response to those who suffering, God points us out to our world and asks them to consider our reasons for following Him. God has the same confidence in us as He had with Job, to live faithfully in any and all circumstances because we love who first loved us.
To the Father, Son and Spirit,
be all glory, honor and praise. AMEN.