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This recording is intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given.
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So, here is Job.
Job is blameless.
For Job stands in awe of God.
And Job turns away from evil.
He is good. Life is good. All is well.
Then here is God-holding court in heaven.
In God’s court strides The Accuser.
The divine D.A., if you will.
The Hebrew word for him is ha-satan .
God asks the ha-satan “Where have you been?”
I have always loved his answer: “Wandering to and fro upon the earth.”
A busy boy!
God asks the ha-satan if in his wanderings, he has visited God’s friend Job.
[As the story unfolds, one wonders if being a friend of God is a good thing]
As the conversation takes place between God and the ha-satan, it turns on this issue: will person will be good if there is nothing in it for that person? In the words of the Christmas song….”will a person be good for goodness’ sake!”
God says that Job will; the ha-satan, of course doesn’t believe it.
So, God and the ha-satan place bets.
God bets on Job.
And he tells the ha-satan, the Tester,
that he can do anything he wants to Job except kill him.
Job, God says, will be good for no reason but to be good.
So, why are ‘the good’ good?
The Ha-satan’s proposed answer: the good are good because there is something in it for them!.
Those of us who are reading the Bible in Ninety Days know that this is a prevailing theme. Those who are good get rewarded; those who are bad get punished. Therefore, it is too our advantage to be good.
That is easy enough to believe when life is good.
“I am good”, we say, “and the good things that happen to me are
because I am good.’
This is what the writers of Biblical history believed.
When the kings of Israel and of Judah are good-
which for them meas keeping the people faithful to God–
when the king is good, the people are good, the nation is good,
then good things happen.When the king is unfaithful, the people unfaithful, the nation unfaithful–then bad things happen.
Pretty simple. Black and white.
So we get in Samuel , Kings, and Chronicles this almost boring litanyof rulers who start out good, but fall out of favor with the God of Israelbecause they don’t erase those god’s over against Israel’s God.
Again the equation appears simple: God rewards good; God punishes evil. ,That’s the way it had been, that’s the way it is now , that’s the way it always will be.
Or so Israel wrote into it’s history.
Until we get to the story of Job.
Job is good.
In fact he is so good that we can hardly stand it.
No body can be that good.
But Job is! So Job obviously deserves “the good”.
Of course, th eha-satan’s opinion is that Job really isn’t that good.
So, the ha-satan [with God’s consent you realize] dumps on Job.
Everything bad that can happen comes Job’s way.
He loses his wealth, his children, and his health.
He doesn’t lose his wife, but often wishes he had.
He loses his standing in his community
He loses it all.
And he loses his friends-well most of them.
A few show up only to tell him that his thinking is wrong.
“Admit you are a sinner and being punished.”
“Give up this idea that you are a person of total integrity.
Clearly you are not, or all these things would not be happening to you.”
This is where we get the term “Job’s comforters”.
Comforters who are really critics.
Comforters who are bound and determined to give advice whether or not it is wanted.
Comforters who do not know when to shut up.
Next Sunday we are going to celebrate the tenth anniversary
of Stephen Ministry at the Kirk.
Stephen Ministers learn when to shut up.
Most people in pain don’t need advice.
They need compassion.
And compassion comes in listening.
Job had his comforters.
It isn’t as though what they said didn’t have some merit.
I think what Job’s comforters were really trying to do
is come up with answers to the problem ov evil.
They could not tolerate the fact that this “righteous man”
was suffering, for in their minds the truly righteous don’t suffer.
Read the Psalms.
Job’s suffering is upending their view of the world.
“Bad things don’t happen to good people.”
If something bad can happen to Job, then what about themselves.
Job must secretly have done something wrong.
Unwilling to blame God, his friends blame Job.
Job must, they believe, trust in the justice of God.
Job somehow must be at fault
[My editorial comment: It seems to me unfair of God
to let Job take the fall for a game that God put into play.]
Scholars call Job “protest literature.”
The Book of Job protests the belief that bad things don’t happen to good people, and good things don’t happen to bad people.
Job’s comforters give right answers too quickly. Too glibly!
Job’s comforters cannot take the heat of not having a reason for suffering.
[Cue in Pat Robertson?]
In the middle of all these words comes an idea that Job might be
suffering because suffering is a learning experience.
But Job has had all joy taken from him.
There is nothing left for Job to learn.
Everything, including his dignity has been taken away.
Why should he suffer any longer?
So, Job argues with God.
“You fashioned and made me. Now you would destroy me.”
What’s the point?
Cruelty for cruelty’s sake?
How does this make one wise? How does this make me good?
“We are dust and to dust we shall return.”
Then just let me die-and have it all over with.
Hide me in the place of the dead.”
Why do bad things happen to good people.
Ultimately the answer in Job is “we don’t know.”
Nevertheless, we argue with God.
We call God to account.
We put God on trial for God’s injustices.
Someone has said, rightly I believe, that for some of us
the only way to come to faith is to argue with God.
Some of accept bad things happening simply by saying
that this is the way the world is.
Others of us cannot or will not do this. We argue with God.
Elie Weisel, in his book Night, a novel based on his own experiences in Nazi concentration camps, says that “it is permitted to accuse God providing that it is
done in the name of God….’
We can and must challenge God when we think God is not being fair. That is what Job did.
Job’s God is an unfair God. Bad things happen to good people. And Job is not going to take it.
But there is more to the story.
For God comes back at Job.
Man, does God come back at Job!
“Shut up and listen!”
For three chapters of the text God rants at Job with a biting sarcasm, with speech full of irony.
In essence God says this: Who do you think you are?
Were you there at the beginning when I laid out the dimensions
of the universe?
Were you there when I created macrocosms.and microcosms?.
Were you there when I flung the stars into space, and made the sea-dragons and the hugh hippos?
Were you there when I played with sea monsters and raised up the mountains and dug the deeps?
Answer me, Job?
Were you there?
Who are you to stand in judgement over me?
Do you have my wisdom? My vision? My insight?
Answer me, Job!
Yet, Job never gives up his demand that God be just–.
his call for God to live by God’s own highest standards.
Job will never forget the injustices that he sees.
Like Elie Weisel, he will never forget what he has experienced…even “if he lives as long as God himself.”
So his closing statement to God looks to be submissive to the will of God, but it really is not.
Job simply understands that he is not going to get a straight answer from God about why good people suffer, why suffering exists.
Because, in the mystery which is suffering, and the mystery which is God, sometime we simply have to “let it be” because there are no answers. No solutions.
I get the morning News and Observer. Early.
Some folk open to the sports page, others to the comics.
I open to the obituaries.
[If I am not listed, I figure I am good for another day. ]
Every so often, curious vignettes turn up in the obituaries.
I want to read you a few lines from the obituary of one,
Jason Lee Francis. A musician and showman.
Here is what someone wrote about him…
“Jesus took Jason on a colorful ride through life. He believed
in and experienced God and led us all into open fields of grace. ”
His dying words were ” God is sovereign. God will do what God will. And I love it.””
I believe that is where Job ended up.
God is sovereign.
God will do what God will.
I will argue!
And I love it.
For that leaves things in the hands of God.
Where they belong!