Archive for July 30, 2014

Jul 30

Ten Questions to Wrap Up Job

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Follow-Up

On Sunday we wrapped up our series through Job, Out of the Whirlwind, with a final message, “The Latter Days of Job.” By the end of the book it became clear that God had not and was not going to explain to Job the answer to the question for why he was suffering. He never learned about the heavenly conversation between the Lord and Satan that kicked off the trouble in his life.

God didn’t forget. The “why?” question is not a question God is obligated to answer for us. But in the course of the book of Job, God did answer a number of other questions for us. Here are ten.

1. Is God sovereign over suffering and evil?

Absolutely. In the first two chapters we see that Satan, though allowed to pursue many of his wicked purposes, is yet constrained by what God does or does not allow him to do. The book tells us that Job did not sin when he said things like, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” or “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1:21; 2:10). As Martin Luther famously said, Satan is the Lord’s Satan.

2. Is God therefore evil?

Absolutely not. Remember, Satan had his sinister purpose to defame God and hurt Job, and while God allowed him to pursue Job he did so for a reason of his own. The Lord was vindicating his name and purifying Job’s faith from residual pride. God is sovereign over cruelty, but God is not cruel. Many verses in Scripture speak to this explicitly (James 1:13; 1 John 1:5). The book of Job presents us with a view of God’s sovereignty that is not flat, but complex. The unseen world involves many different players, and yet the Lord is the Lord of them all.

3. Does everyone who claims to speak for God actually speak for God?

Thank God, no. Many people will claim to speak for God and speak falsely about him. This is what Job’s three friends were guilty of, and at the end of the book they are rebuked by the Lord. Sufferers should be patient with those who can’t understand their suffering and say things that are untrue even if from good intentions. And yet where God is spoken for falsely, this should be rejected and corrected.

4. Is my suffering because of my sin?

There are several kinds of suffering presented to us in the Bible. There’s fallen world suffering. The creation is groaning and everywhere around us we see the effects of God’s curse on creation because of sin. There’s foolishness and sin suffering illustrated time and again in the book of Proverbs. Sometimes God gives us over to our sinful desires, and our sins bring with them consequences that God has built into the order of the universe. Then, there’s discipline suffering. This is where God graciously steers us toward repentance. If we have been indulging in sin and we think we’ve been found out, perhaps this is it. But much of our suffering is just random and horrible. This the kind that Job is meant to address.

5. Is God using my pain for some good purpose?

Thank God, Yes. He is always doing that for his children. Job was a better man at the end of the book than before. Job knew God better at the end of the book than before. God is doing a thousand things in our suffering, and one of them is bringing about humility and the purification of our faith, a precious gift indeed (Job 42:1-6; Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

6. Is it okay to grieve deeply for a loss or is that a sign that I’m not trusting in God?

It most certainly is ok to grieve. We should expect any good father to grieve at news of the death of his kids. Job grieved deeply and blessed the Lord through tears. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove his thorn. Deep grief is not incompatible with deep faith.

7. Should I attempt to comfort someone who is suffering incredible loss?

By all means and with much wisdom, Yes: sometimes with silence, sometimes with a hug, and sometimes with space. Sometimes with a note and often with a meal. Always by being available, sometimes with correction if their heart is hardening toward God. But never with a cookie-cutter answer for suffering, or in an academic formulaic uncaring manner. Always with a listening ear, always with a heavy heart, and, always with much patience.

8. Am I alone in my suffering?

No. Job has been there. And many others have gone before you. In fact, suffering seems to be a pretty common theme in Scripture. More than a theme, it is an indispensable part of Scripture’s story of salvation. Ask Joseph, or Moses, or David, or the prophets about suffering. Ask Jesus about suffering. Ask the New Testament Apostles about suffering. You are not alone. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, most of whom have suffered greatly (Hebrews 11:1-12:2)

9. Is there hope for the future?

Yes there is. In the story of the Bible there is a pattern of suffering and a pattern of glory to follow. Suffering to glory is the pattern of God’s salvation story. Again, ask Joseph, or Moses, or David, or the prophets. And of course, ask Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

On the topic of the future, when James turned to the book of Job for material he did so to make a point about suffering on the way to glory: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. . . . You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:7–11). So, how should we apply the book of Job? Wait patiently for Jesus to return. How should we apply the book of Job? Say with Paul, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

10. Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or danger, or sword, or the loss of our children, or the loss of our jobs, or Behemoth, or Leviathan, or anything else in all creation?

Well, this isn’t exactly a question from Job, but Job’s suffering sure raises the question. The answer? No one can separate us from the love of God in Christ. If God is for us, who can be against us?

The book of Job is about the God who is sovereign and good. It is also about the God who is bursting with compassion and with mercy. This rang out with profound clarity on the final page of the book.

Yes, because of Christ, God will graciously do for us in eternity what he did for Job on earth. The latter days of Job are a parable for the latter days of every Christian. Just read Revelation 21-22, a symbolic picture of the new creation. Job knew a restored relationship to God, and we will be God’s people and he will be with us as our God. He will dwell with us. Job had wealth in his latter days, and the new creation will be lined with streets made of gold. Job knew beauty in his latter days, and we will know beauty in our latter days. Job knew relationships in his latter days we will know the eternal depth of fellowship with one another in God’s presence free from sin. Job knew feasting in his latter days we will feast together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Job knew comfort in his latter days, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Job knew old age in his latter days, and in the new creation there will be a tree of life. In God’s presence we will never die.

In five weeks, we got through the book of Job, but there’s more treasure to find here. For a helpful sermon-like commentary on Job, get Job: The Wisdom of the Cross, by Christopher Ash, and check out Matthew Claridge’s interview with Christipher Ash over at Credo Magazine, published just this week.