Sunday Sermon 24th October - Job Is Humbled and Satisfied
The chosen hymns for this week, Dear Lord and Father of mankind and When we walk with the Lord can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
Reading Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Job Is Humbled and Satisfied
42 Then Job answered the Lord:
2 ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.” 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’
Job’s Fortunes Are Restored Twofold
10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money[a] and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this Job lived for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. 17 And Job died, old and full of days.
That’s all right then – there is a happy ending.
Is that it?
Getting a new family to replace the old one? Really?
Getting back all the wealth and riches, and even more, as a reward for righteous behaviour? I wish!
It’s a surprising and perhaps controversial ending to this book.
Some of you may find it completely unsatisfactory
In the previous four chapters, God has at last revealed himself to Job in a blizzard of questions about creation and he challenges Job to answer him.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” God asks Job (38:4).
Again and again, God’s only response to Job’s complaint about his suffering is to ask things like, “Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?” (38:18);
“Do you give the horse its might?” (39:19); and “Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars?” (39:26).
Of course, as Job realizes, the answer to all of these questions – and many more - is “No.”
That brings us to our lesson for today.
Job realises he cannot answer – he has no answer. He is asking questions about things he does not understand.
He begins his answer acknowledging the thing he did know about God – that he was all-powerful, and that God’s will cannot be thwarted.
This is a careful framing of his response. At the beginning, Job never doubted God’s power but he did question God’s justice.
In effect, Job asked, “Why am I suffering so, when I have always done right?”
And the answer he receives is “You don’t even understand the question. How will you even begin to understand the answer?”
The answer to Job’s question is that there is no answer—at least not one he can comprehend
Then the rest of Job’s statements are framed as responses to God’s questions and demands. He acknowledges that he lacked understanding of things which were too great for him to know.
Here, in contrast to Job’s first words in today’s passage, where he talks about what he does know (that God can do anything), Job emphasizes his lack of both knowledge and understanding.
Finally, he declares that he relied on hearsay – the reports of others rather than personal experience.
It is likely that Job is rejecting or renouncing his previous ideas about God — his entire sense that God simply processes human behaviour, rewarding and punishing accordingly.
He had lived his whole life based on a faith in God that was defined by a simple principle: those who obey God are blessed, and those who disobey God are punished.
Therefore, in the logic of this simple faith, those who are blessed with prosperity and success must enjoy God’s favour, while those who endure hardship and suffering must have somehow offended God.
That seemed to work for Job for a long time: he had amassed a great fortune and had a large family of grown children. Then in one fell swoop he lost everything—everything he owned and everyone he cared for. There could have been no clearer indication of God’s disfavour.
That is precisely what his three “friends” tell him - over and over again. He must have done something to deserve his suffering. Job insists that he has maintained his integrity, despite what had happened to him.
Now, he is repenting – changing his mind and setting out on a different path – of his previous notions of God and God’s justice.
He has been challenged to think differently about everything in his life and see anew what is around him.
His experience has been explosive, transforming all he thought he knew about God.
Many people have had transformative experiences in life which have shattered what you thought you knew, that experience as the author Michael Chabon says
“when something you feared but knew to be impossible turns out to be true; when the world turns out to be far vaster, far more marvellous or malevolent than you ever dreamed; when you get proof that everything is connected to everything else, that everything you know is wrong, that you are both the centre of the universe and a tiny speck sailing off its nethermost edge.”
This transformation brings healing and restoration. Job is again reconciled with God – the God who had seemed silent and provided no response until now.
Job knows God is all-powerful, and that there are things too wonderous for him to fully know.
But he also knows that one thing is true of God.
God is faithful. God never forsakes us, no matter what. And I believe this was true for Job as much as for anyone else.
God never abandoned Job, even in his misfortune, especially in his affliction.
And God never abandons us. It is the lesson of the cross.
God was right there, suffering in the person of Jesus. Part of the reason for the cross is to show us that God is always right there, suffering with anyone who is afflicted in any way or at any time.
God never abandoned Job, and he never abandons us.
The reality of injustice in our world is so troubling that I don’t blame anyone who cannot believe in God because of it.
Many people have experienced injustice.
And no doubt many have been angry and come close to giving up their faith.
But the response to that crisis is found neither in giving up on God nor in the simplistic belief that God won’t let bad things happen to good people.
It is found in continuing to believe in the God who is always there, the God who never abandoned Jesus, the God who never abandoned Job, and the God who will never abandon us, no matter what may come our way.
The answer is found in continuing to believe that God will never abandon you or me or anyone in this world, especially in the midst of suffering.
God’s justice is the justice of compassion, and that means that no matter what we may have to endure in this world, God is always right there with us, suffering right beside us, supporting us, and working in and through our lives to bring light out of the darkness of every injustice.
God’s justice is found in God’s faithful presence—God will never forsake us, no matter what.
Here is our hope – God is there to help us over our troubles, to shine light in the darkness and to help us to find joy and peace.
God is with us – Emmanuel. Amen.
Gracious and all merciful God
we give thanks to you today for your compassion and your love.
We proclaim your goodness and your strength
and we call upon you in praise and thanksgiving.
Bless us and bless your people everywhere this day with your holy presence.
God of restoration,
you open our eyes and lead us to truth;
you still our souls and teach us humility;
you protect us and lead us home;
you offer us grace,
and the hope of life renewed.
And so we praise you and thank you,
with all our hearts.
God of restoration,
in our blindness and ignorance,
you open our eyes and lead us to truth;
In the noise of voices
calling for revenge and restitution,
for judgement and punishment,
we pray for the courage to speak out
When pain, poverty and persecution
leave people blind to grace and compassion,
we pray for the courage to carry the light
of love and forgiveness
Where the quest to even the score
has left our world angry and wounded,
we pray for the courage to release our grievances
and seek wholeness for all.
We pray especially today for the well-being of people in parts of the
world affected by war and violence.
We continue to pray for peace in the Afghanistan and Yemen and Ethiopia...
And those forced to seek refuge in far off lands.
We pray for our families, friends, and neighbours,
and for those who are alone.
We bring before you individuals and families
experiencing personal hardship or facing an uncertain future,
those who are separated from loved ones,
those who grieve this today,
and those who are sick in hospital or ill at home.
Hear their cries and restore them and seek wholeness for all.
As you intercede for us, Jesus,
we intercede for our world that all may know
the Good News of restoration in Christ. Amen.