Sunday Sermon 17th October - Dealing with God
The chosen hymns for this week, Who put the colours in the rainbow , Have you heard the raindrops , From all who dwell below the skies and Judge eternal can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Job: Dealing with God
Order of Service
What do we do when our problems are so big and we are so small? Let us
reflect on what our true hope is when life is unsure.
Reading Job 38: 1-18 Gil
Today’s Bible readings are from the Old Testament, the book of Job, chapter 38, and
verses 1 to 18 and 26 to 34,
Most of us know something about the story of Job, but it is worth remembering, that
at the time when this book was written, it was generally believed that those who kept
God’s laws prospered, and that the wicked were punished. Any type of affliction or
illness was seen as a punishment from God.
In this story, Job was a good man, and yet he suffered terribly. His friends were
certain that he was being punished for some wickedness, but Job maintained that he
was blameless, and he questioned why God was punishing him, but at the same
time allowing wicked people to do well.
So, let us read from Job, Chapter 38 and from verse 1.
1 Then out of the storm the Lord spoke to Job.
2 Who are you to question my wisdom with your ignorant, empty words?
3 Now stand up straight and answer the questions I ask you.
4 Were you there when I made the world? If you know so much, tell me about it.
5 Who decided how large it would be? Who stretched the measuring line over it? Do
you know all the answers?
6 What holds up the pillars that support the earth? Who laid the cornerstone of the
7 In the dawn of that day the stars sang together, and the heavenly beings shouted
8 Who closed the gates to hold back the sea when it burst from the womb of the
9 It was I who covered the sea with clouds and wrapped it in darkness.
10 I marked a boundary for the sea and kept it behind bolted gates.
11 I told it, "So far and no farther! Here your powerful waves must stop."
12 Job, have you ever in all your life commanded a day to dawn?
13 Have you ordered the dawn to seize the earth and shake the wicked from their
14 Daylight makes the hills and valleys stand out like the folds of a garment, clear as
the imprint of a seal on clay.
15 The light of day is too bright for the wicked and restrains them from doing
16 Have you been to the springs in the depths of the sea? Have you walked on the
floor of the ocean?
17 Has anyone ever shown you the gates that guard the dark world of the dead?
18 Have you any idea how big the world is? Answer me if you know.
Perhaps you are at home, but it doesn’t matter where you are, and it doesn’t matter
when you have found the time to watch this, or to listen to it. You are invited to join
with us, and come before God in prayer. So let us all pray.
Lord our God, we praise you because we know that you are the one true living God.
You are far beyond anything that we can imagine, and no matter how hard we try,
our human minds can never grasp the extent of your power and wisdom. We know
that everything that we have has come from what you have provided. You have
given us life itself; and you have given us the desire to explore, and to learn about
our world. As we learn more and more about our surroundings, we see that your
creation is indeed wonderful.
We thank you for giving us this amazing planet, and for all the things that you have
done for us. We admit that we do not always make proper use of the gifts that you
have given us. We waste the valuable resources that you have provided, and we
cause many types of pollution. Sometimes our misuse of your gifts is caused by our
lack of understanding of the consequences of our actions, but often the cause is
greed, self-interest, laziness, or lack of thought. We look after ourselves, but we
ignore the impact of our actions on other people, and on the planet. Merciful God,
forgive us for our laziness and our selfish behaviour. Help us to be more careful in
our use of the earth’s resources, and may we be willing to share them with others.
We thank you for all the people you have put into our lives; for all who help and
support us; our families, friends, and neighbours. These are people who are known
to us, but there are many others, most of whom we will never meet, whose work
impacts on our lives, and we thank you for them. We think particularly of the
members of the emergency services, those in the caring professions, and all who
keep the utilities and other services operating.
We confess that we don’t always treat other people in the way that Jesus taught us,
and it is not only with strangers, but also with our friends and family, that we can be
impatient, and resentful of the time and effort that we should put into our
relationships. When we do something hurtful, or say the wrong thing, we find it hard
to admit that we are in the wrong, and it is difficult to say, “sorry”.
Lord, forgive us for all our failings, and let us have a fresh start so that we can do our
best to follow in your ways. Help us to take the first steps to bring an end to our
disputes and quarrels. You know that we find this difficult; and we ask for your
strength to overcome our fear and embarrassment. May your Spirit help us to follow
Jesus more closely, so that we can do our part to further your kingdom on earth.
We thank you Lord that you are always present with us, and that you do not treat us
in the way that we deserve. We find it amazing that, in spite of all our weaknesses
and continued failings, you still love and care for us, and that you have promised that
your Spirit will always be with us, to bring comfort to those in need. Today, for many
different reasons, there are many people who are finding life difficult. Some are
grieving, some are lonely, and there are many who have worries about illness, injury,
employment, housing, finance, or lack of food.
Compassionate God, you know all these people, and we ask that your Spirit will
comfort all who are in difficulty. May we be prompted to do what we can to make life
better for others.
We offer our prayer in the name of Jesus, and we further pray in the words which he
taught his followers:
Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation.
But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever.
Reading Job 38: 26-34
26 Who makes rain fall where no one lives?
27 Who waters the dry and thirsty land, so that grass springs up?
28 Does either the rain or the dew have a father?
29 Who is the mother of the ice and the frost,
30 which turn the waters to stone and freeze the face of the sea?
31 Can you tie the Pleiades together or loosen the bonds that hold Orion?
32 Can you guide the stars season by season and direct the Big and the Little
33 Do you know the laws that govern the skies, and can you make them apply to the
34 Can you shout orders to the clouds and make them drench you with rain?
Amen, and may God bless these readings, and may He guide us all to a better
understanding of His Word.
Hymn 264: Judge eternal
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 17 th of October.
We continue our series on Job which reflects on suffering.
So far we have had the disaster that has happened to Job.
Job’s wife suggested that he be angry about what happened to him,
his friends, believing that his suffering is as a result of punishment for undisclosed sins,
have suggested that he confess his wrongs and seek forgiveness.
Throughout Job has demanded that he talk to God to plead his case that he doesn’t
deserve this suffering.
And today God comes to him, though by the end of the readings he probably wished
God had stayed away.
Let me remind you of the setting.
There are these young students going on about how the world is very balanced.
You do good things, God blesses you; you do bad things, God punishes you.
An older wiser rabbi gives them a theological ‘what if’.
What if there was a man who had done no wrong. We will call him Job. And everything
goes wrong. We know that he is a good man because God has blessed him. He has
many children, he has more goods than anyone else, he is rich beyond compare. His
life is good.
And then he looses everything; his children are killed, all his flocks are stolen, he even
becomes very ill.
What is the reason for this suffering?
Jokingly the rabbi suggests that it is a because of a bet between God and Satan.
Because sometimes that is how it feels to us when disaster hits, it feels like the gods
are having a laugh at our expense.
The young students, armed with scripture, represented by the friends of Job, go through
a theological tirade about how it must be Job’s fault. He has done something to deserve
This isn’t a naive theology we are talking about here.
Listen to the start of one of Isaiah’s prophecies (from Isaiah 59: 1)
‘Why, the Lord’s hand is not too short to rescue, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your
crimes have parted you from your God, and your offences have hidden his face from
you, so that he does not hear.’
The background to that reading is that the nation of Israel had been decimated, their
temple destroyed, and their leaders put into exile in Babylon. How could they ever
recover from that? Was God too weak to help them?
And out of it came this theology.
Let me represent it like this.
Gil is Israel and I am God.
When Gil faces me and reaches out his hand for help then I, as God, can reach out and
But if Gil has turned away from God, and reaches out, then he can’t see God, even
though I am just as close.
The reason that Israel had fallen was not because of God, but because of themselves.
They had turned away from God, but if they turned back, then they would find God there
to help them again.
The basis of this theology is the same basis of the theology of repentance that is so
important to Christians. Repentance literally means, ‘Turning around.’
So these young students are saying to Job, God is able to help. If God isn’t helping then
it is because you have turned away from God, you need to admit what you have done
wrong and turn back.
Maybe Job has done an unintentional wrong. The scripture can’t be wrong. God blesses
the innocent and punishes the evil doers. He is always able to help.
Now let’s be honest, so many in our churches still kind of hope that it is true.
Because it would be nice if it was true.
All our goodness and Christianity would be protecting us from the evils of the world.
If we keep our noses clean and don’t do wrong then God will reward us, or at the very
least he won’t let bad things happen to us.
Look I wish that was the truth of it.
But the writer of Job then tells gives us that ‘what if...’
What if someone we love gets cancer, or motor neuron disease, or has a fatal heart
attack and the theory doesn’t make sense.
How can we have cancer when that neighbour, who only thinks of themselves and
smokes like a chimney, has perfect health?
How can we be childless when we are living perfectly moral lives and that hussy next
door is breeding like a bunny rabbit and doesn’t care two hoots about any of her
Like Job we get so angry.
Like Job we demand that God justify himself. Or even question if there is a God.
So the wise old rabbi who is telling this story introduces God to Job and his friends.
And basically God says, ‘Who do you think you are? You think you can understand the
way the world works? You think you can understand how I interact with the world? ’
I love this passage.
I love it because there are two fundamental truths that the rabbi is pointing out to his
Both are critical to our spiritual wellbeing, and both we forget at our peril.
The first is our relationship with scripture, or theology.
When I was very young my gran would talk about people who were so heavenly minded
that they were no earthly good.
Couldn’t really understand it when I was young.
I thought the more religious you were the better person you were.
When you are tiny that that’s the way you think.
But gran was old enough and wise enough to see that religiousness wasn’t necessarily
Sometimes these people were so pure and good that they didn’t want to be tainted by
the evil of others. So they would cluster themselves off from those who were struggling,
scared that the struggles of others would contaminate their holiness.
And what the rabbi is trying to tell his students is not to let the scripture that they rely on,
become like that. That we venerate it so much that it is no good to us.
The students were quoting scripture left right and centre to justify their stance. They
were quoting really good theology, hard fought for theology.
They couldn’t let Job be innocent because if Job was innocent then maybe their
scripture was wrong, or inadequate, or incomplete.
Just because we read something in scripture, doesn’t make it right, our reading of it
could be completely wrong, or that scripture might not be the one that relates to what
we are facing.
Let me be really, really blunt here.
The scripture was written to help us, but somewhere along the line we have given it a
reverence that it can’t be questioned or challenged so instead of the scripture being
there to help us, it has become the complete reverse, and somehow we think we are
there to defend scripture.
Our faith is not dependant on scripture; we don’t need to defend it.
We have let cynics attack us by attacking scripture.
How can you justify the world being made in seven days when geology states different?
The accusation is that if the world wasn’t made in seven days then the whole Bible is a
fairy story and our faith isn’t worth anything.
But our faith isn’t based on scripture.
Let me give you another brutal example.
Joshua and the battle of Jericho; in this battle Joshua claimed back that part of Israel for
the people by marching round Jericho for seven times, the walls collapsed and they
killed everyone inside Jericho.
Imagine I said we were going to claim back Glasgow for Jesus.
So we were going to go to the Glasgow Mosque and march round it seven times and on
the seven day then the walls of the mosque would collapse killing everyone in it and
claiming back Glasgow for Christianity.
Would anyone here have a problem with that?
How could you?
It is a God given way of dealing with those who do not believe in what we believe in,
and it is in the Bible.
Feeling uncomfortable yet?
Many people do.
Many very decent people struggle with that part of the Old Testament because it looks
like genocide, and it looks like God is justifying genocide.
But like the young students, we feel we need to defend it because it is in the Bible.
And we find ourselves on the same side of the young students; instead of confronting
Job’s suffering and supporting and helping him, they find themselves defending
scripture instead and attacking Job.
And this wonderful passage basically says, ‘God doesn’t need defending.’
We are so far away from understanding God, yet we still try to pigeonholing God, try to
put God in our theological boxes so that we can bring him out to justify what we believe.
We were never put on this earth to justify and defend the Bible; the Bible was put on this
earth to support and help and encourage us.
So maybe Jericho was given as an example so that we could see that there must be a
better way to deal with our enemies.
And just as pop songs can give meanings of love that a science report on the
psychology of brain activity never could,
so the poetry of Genesis 1 could explain the wonder and majesty of creation better than
a scientific treaty on geophysics.
So the first lesson is clear.
Don’t be like the friends of Job and find ourselves defending theology rather than using
theology to help those in need.
Our theology should challenge and encourage us and support us always to do good and
grow in faith, if we are using it to justify harm or believing that we know it all and
stagnating then we are using it wrong.
The second message is even more important and built on that first message.
Our faith is not based on scripture; our faith is based on relationship.
That is what is important.
What will finally help Job through his suffering will be the relationship he has with God,
the relationship he has with others. It is that relationship that will give his life, his pain,
meaning and purpose and maybe even value.
We know that.
The disciples had all the scripture of the Old Testament. Their faith wasn’t based on
scripture, it was based on a relationship with Christ.
Paul knew scripture backwards, his faith was not based on scripture, in fact scripture
got in the way of his faith and he attacked Christians. His faith, when it came, was
based on his relationship with Christ.
The early church didn’t base their faith on scripture; because New Testament scripture
didn’t exist, their faith was dependant on a relationship with Christ.
We forget that for hundreds of years there was no Bible as we know it.
382AD was the first Council of Trent where they were still arguing over what books
should and should not be in a Bible, that’s nearly 400 years after the death of Christ.
1546 at another council of Trent they finally ratified the list. That’s less than 500 years
That is the true genius of this rabbi.
He sees the truth.
Our faith is not about defending ourselves against others.
About trying to prove that we are right and they are wrong.
Our faith about a relationship with God.
And if we work on that relationship, if we trust in that relationship...
then we may get to the stage when we realise that we may never understand suffering,
but we can live with it, heal from it, grow beyond it, because of the strength and help
that our relationship with God, and with others, gives us.
That’s why Job survives, that’s why his friends are wrong.
His friends believe that the way to recover from suffering is to understand it, find who is
But our suffering may be beyond our understanding, our scripture,.
In the end recovery is not about understanding, it is about those around us;
who we love, who we let love us.
Let me finish by repeating this...
We may never understand suffering, but we can live with it, heal from it, grow beyond it,
because of the strength and help our relationship with God, and with others, gives us.
So what is really important to us?
How much we understand things, or how much love we create?
Let us pray
We think if we understand the origins of suffering then it will make sense.
But would that bring healing?
Do we really think that if we can understand who is to blame for our suffering that it will
A child dies because they step on a landmine left over from a war long finished. If we
found the soldier who planted that mine would that bring the child back, would it bring
closure, would it bring healing?
Help us Lord to see that there are some things that will never make sense, and even if
we could make sense to them then it would do us no good.
Help us instead to rely on those relationships that bring us support and wholeness, to
rely on the touch of a friend,
Help us to believe in the journeys of faith that others took, those examples that are
revealed in scripture, and see how they discovered that You were with them,
how you journeyed with them through their successes and their many mistakes, and
how you helped them, and through that how you help us.
This we ask in Jesus name.