This sermon is number 10 in a series of 12
As Sparks Flying Upwards - Part 10
by David Legge | Copyright © 2002 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Job is just before the book of Psalms, so if you can find that great multitudes of Psalms somewhere in the middle of your Bible you'll be able to find the book of Job. We'll take time to read the first couple of verses, but I will be filtering through the book to a large extent this evening. We'll be doing an overview of the whole book to try and get the nature of the character of this man Job. Let's read the first couple of verses to really get the introduction to this great biblical drama.
Chapter 1 and verse 1: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly".
You will know, if you're familiar with the book of Job, that suffering is at the heart of this man's life story. Since all men and women in the earth know the experience of suffering at one time or another in their lifetime, this character of Job has a universal appeal - his experience cuts right across time and culture. We all feel an empathy and an identification with this man Job. I've entitled the message tonight 'Job's Enigma', and an enigma is simply something that is puzzling, or a riddle, or a paradox. The paradox and enigma and puzzle for Job is the fact that this righteous man apparently suffers for something that he has not done. It's not as if he's sinned in his life, it's not as if he's caused this suffering to come upon himself, and he's simply suffering - as we go through the book we find that he has physical ailments, but perhaps his greatest suffering of all is how his physical ailments are compounded by a mental anguish. The perplexing question that many human beings are asking in our world tonight, and maybe even you are asking in your own life's experience: 'Why me? Why is it happening to me? What have I done to deserve this fate? What have I done to bring this upon myself?'.
The character of Job, perhaps more than any other within the scripture, or any other within literary history, is one of these most perplexing people, with the most perplexing questions that face men and women in our world today. One of the greatest questions of them all is this, right throughout the whole book is this theme: are the ways of God just? Is what God does in our world just? Theologians have put a name on this, it's called 'theodicy'. If you look up the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of the theological word 'theodicy' is this: a vindication of divine providence in view of the existence of evil - a vindication of divine providence in view of the existence of evil. In other words, theologians and individuals, whether they realise it or not, the 5'8" walking down the street today, the average Christian, wrestles with the question: why is there the presence of evil in my life and in the world if God rules the world? If God is provident, if God is sovereign, if God is really in control, why is this happening to me? Why is there suffering? Why does God allow it to happen? Why doesn't God step in and stop it?
No later than last week I heard a broadcaster on Radio Ulster asking a minister very pointedly these deep questions: why doesn't God destroy the devil? Why doesn't God stop evil? Why doesn't He take away pain? If He's all-sovereign why does He let illnesses, diseases, problems, trials, and all kinds of abuses continue? Why doesn't He do something about it if He can? Let me say right at the outset of our study tonight, and indeed right throughout all of our studies as we look at this problem of theodicy and suffering: the Bible does not dodge the issue! Now it's very important for you to note tonight that the Bible doesn't ignore the fact that one of the greatest questions facing mankind today, and even in Job's day, is the fact that God is sovereign yet evil exists. We know that it doesn't dodge the question by the very fact that the book of Job raises the question. It is God who takes the initiative, and openly and up-front He writes a book that tells us about this fact of how we can know that - although God is real - there is still suffering in the world, and how we can try and understand the enigma of Job.
Of further interest to you ought to be the fact that not only is it God that raises the question first, but Job is probably the first book that was ever written in the Bible - even before the book of Genesis. So not only does God raise the problem of evil and the existence of God right away, but the very first book that God inspires in the Old Testament is taken up with this very theme. Incidentally, I think that we can draw from that the conclusion that, in a sceptical world in which we live that asks so many questions today, where our children and our young people are schooled and increasingly being taught to question absolutely everything - whether they be fundamental beliefs that were once believed in society, or absolute principles that were held by society in general or even the religious establishment - we need to realise that the Bible does not dodge these issues. As Peter tells us, we ought to be ready always to give an answer to everyone that asketh you a reason of the hope that is within you, with meekness and fear.
Although there is no doubt that the book of Job, and the Bible in general, deals and raises these deep theological questions about suffering; if we were to ask of the book of Job tonight: 'Does it answer the question? Are God's ways just? Why does God allow suffering if He is in control?', we would have to say that it answers the question, but simply in an affirmative: 'Yes'. Are God's ways just? All that the book of Job tells us is: 'Yes. God's ways are just' - but there's a full-stop after the affirmative yes. The book of Job doesn't go on to seek to explain God's ways, why God does things; it doesn't begin to justify God's reasoning in the eyes of mortal men. In the sceptical world in which we live, a world of relativism, a world where absolutes are absolutely extinct, we as Christians often feel bombarded with all the questions that we face day by day, with all the things that we're asked that we feel we cannot answer, and we don't know the reasons for the suffering that goes on in our world. We ought not to feel that way! In the light of the book of Job we need to realise that God doesn't give us all the answers! God doesn't even give Job the answers in this book - and, unless you've got a better source of answers than God, you're not going to find out the answers either!
We live in a generation where the mysteries of life are no longer tolerated, they have to be explained. We Christians can fall into the same trap and forget that there is much about God, in fact most things about God and His ways, that are still and always shall be a divine mystery. Even all the aeons of eternity in our perfection and in our divine glorification, our understanding will never grasp some of these deep, divine truths. As Moses said at the very beginning in Deuteronomy 29 verse 29: 'The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law'. God has revealed certain things to us, but the majority of His counsels, I believe; the majority of who He is, and what He is like, and why He does things have been held from us - and they have been held for a good reason! The book of Job may not answer the question why we suffer, but one thing it does do is it teaches us how we ought to suffer, and how we ought to suffer knowing that there is a God in heaven who only has our good in His mind.
It was in Job's crucible of fire that his enigma was formed. You know, if you've done chemistry, that a crucible is a little melting pot for metals - and you remember that Job in chapter 23 and verse 10 said: 'God knows the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold'. There in the melting pot, in the crucible, of Job's pain he goes through a severe test and a trial - and it is out of that that his great paradox and problem and enigma comes. In chapters 1 to 3, you're familiar with it, we've read the first chapter tonight, Job's crucible of fire is outlined for us. It's important to say tonight that Job is not a fictional character that's just thought up for dramatic effect in this poem, for in Ezekiel 14 Ezekiel names Job as an actual person; in James chapter 5 the apostle does the same. In chapter 1 and verse 1 it says that Job lives in the land of Uz - now that's the land of Uz, not the land of Oz! That may add to the little tale that this is a fairytale, if you pronounce it the land of 'Oz', but it's the land of Uz. We think today that it's probably an area in Northern Arabia - and in Northern Arabia, as we know it today, there lived a man who was, the Bible says, the greatest man in all the east, the richest man, the greatest man of status.
He had it all according to chapter 1 verses 1 to 5. He was rich in every way, and as we read down chapter 1 especially we find that he was rich in character. God says that he was a man who was perfect and upright, a blameless man, a man who tried to live according to God's ways. It doesn't mean that he was sinless, but it means that he was sincere and he was obedient as far as he had it in his power. He feared God and he feared sin. We find that he was rich also in his family, we read that he had seven sons and three daughters - and a large family in those days was seen to be prestigious, and especially if you have a majority of sons, it was esteemed in the east. He was also rich spiritual, in chapter 1 verse 5 we read that he had such a concern for his family that he prayed at the altar for them, he offered up sacrifices just in case they were unconsciously sinning against God, in case they hadn't the spiritual enlightenment and desire that their father did. He was a godly father. He was rich in character, family, spirituality and also materially - for we read that he had a great household, his livestock numbered thousands upon thousands.
Now right at the outset we need to see tonight that this was a man who was rich in character, rich with his family, rich spiritually, rich materialistically - yet he is unique even in our society today, even in Christian establishments we see that people tend to worship God, to praise God, and follow God when things are going wrong, when there's trouble in their life, when they get their back against a wall, when they're in the straits of fear and the storms of life come in - then they call out to God, even the damndest sinner in the world, when he's on his back and suffering from disease, can be heard to pray out to God for help. But here is a man who was the most successful man on the globe as we know, yet he is worshipping God in his prosperity and his riches!
Right away we see that this man had it all, but of course I don't need to familiarise you, I'm sure you know the story of Job - that this same man that had it all, lost it all. We hadn't time to read it all tonight, but from verse 6 of chapter 1 right through to the end of chapter 3 we hear the awful turmoil and trial that this godly man goes under. Of course it was unknown to Job that the sons of God came before the Almighty, before His throne up in heaven. All this drama before the throne of God between God and Satan is unknown to this man Job. Little did he know that God and Satan were discussing his case, God was pointing out to Satan Job's uprightness, his holiness, how he was a perfect man that feared God and eschewed evil - and then he doesn't hear Satan when Satan says: 'Do you think that Job serves You for nothing, God? God, if You just took away all of his riches, all of his wealth and his possessions, all of the things that he has that he prizes, he'll curse You to Your face!'.
Of course, you know the story, that Satan gets divine permission - and, incidentally, Satan needs divine permission to touch the child of God - and he's given it, and he goes and attacks all of Job's possessions in chapter 1. Before long, at the end of the chapter, we find that Job has nothing and he's lying in sackcloth and ashes, ripping his clothes and realising that he's destroyed. Satan insinuates: 'Do you think that you serve God for nothing? God, do You think that he's before You as Your servant, upright, for nothing?'. Yet at the end of chapter 1 we find that Job falls upon his face, and he prays and mourns for the dead, and he worships God, and he says these immortal unbelievable words: 'The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD'.
Now, you would have expected Satan's mouth to have dropped, and for that to have been the end of the throwing down of the gauntlet in the battle. You would have thought that he would have been convinced that Job did not follow God just for nothing, but that wasn't enough - such integrity only challenged Satan even more. He said further to God in chapter 2: 'Let me touch his body. I've touched his possessions, but let me go a little bit further and touch his body, his health. Let me give him some pain, and then You'll see how faithful he really is!'. So God permitted Satan to touch Job - and, incidentally, God can permit Satan to touch men and women - but He told him: 'You ought not to take his life away from. You can touch him, you can give him whatever you like, but you're not permitted to take away his life'. Incidentally, that insinuates that Satan at times can be permitted of God to take people's lives.
The Bible says that he was cover from head to toe in sore boils, possibly a form of leprosy or elephantiasis, but whatever it was he was full of pains all over his body. He became disgusting to his friends and to his relatives, and even to his wife - so much so that it comes to the point in their marital relationship where his wife tells him: 'Look, just get it over with! Curse God, and die, and have it finished with!'. This is a remarkable man, for in chapter 2 and verse 10 he replies to his wife in these words: 'Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips'. People often use this verse to try and prove that God is the Creator of evil, because Job says: 'Shall we accept good and not evil from God?'. The word 'evil' there would be better translated 'adversity' - it's not the evil of sin, but it's the evil of difficulties, the Bible says that God is not the author of evil or the author of sin. But again we see here: one, God can permit Satan to enter into the life of a believer to test them. He can allow Satan to touch their possessions, to touch their family, He can even allow him to come in and touch their very body - and Job insinuates here again in chapter 2 and verse 10 that God allows adversity into the life of the believer.
It is at this point in the drama that Job's three friends enter onto the scene. We're going to skip over a lot of ground, but just to say that they make an appointment to come and to comfort and to help Job. We read that they sat with Job - they didn't even say a word for one whole week - and they just wept with him, and they joined in all of his acts of humiliation: sackcloth and ashes, and so on. Incidentally, you may have found that most Christians only read the first two chapters and the last couple of chapters of the book of Job, and whenever it's preached on you find that the preacher usually labours on the chapters I've already been speaking about and then skips and does a great jump to the very end, to where Job is getting better again and God's giving him prosperity. The reason being that all the middle chapters are Hebrew poetry, they're very difficult to understand, very difficult to translate into English, and difficult to interpret for that reason. People feel that generally it doesn't add to our understanding of the book, you don't really need to know all that's in the middle - but what is in the middle of this book, and I want to concentrate specifically on this tonight, is the real crux of our understanding what this book is about. I believe that the full orb of the message of Job is enhanced, and completely understood, only when you grasp how Job is comforted by his friends. You don't understand how Job gets from chapters 1 and 2 in his prosperity and his trial, to chapter 42 into his new prosperity, until you know where he came from and how he got there.
More than that, and more applicable to you and I tonight, we also find that these chapters in between are extremely contemporary for us today - the church and each believer in the 21st century. So let's look at it tonight, his comforting friends - chapters 4 to 37. If you look at chapter 16 first of all, you see in verse 2 that Job calls these friends - or what's commonly called 'Job comforters' - 'miserable comforters'. They're a contradiction in terms. In fact, we can truly say that when they start to open their mouths they become miserable comforters, and if they had sat like they did at the beginning for a whole week and just sympathised with him and said nothing, they would have done a lot better. As one man said it is better to sympathise than to sermonise. That is exactly what Job's comforters do - they fail to sympathise with Job, and they sermonise and pontificate to him.
Let's look at them in a little bit of detail tonight. The first comforter you may be familiar with, and all the details are down on your sheet under your second point, all of the drama that has gone before us. We're not going to look through it, you can do that in your own private study, but the first person that we meet with in this drama is the man called Eliphaz - Eliphaz from Teman. He's the first speaker, and it seems that as you read all of his speeches right throughout the book of Job that this man, Eliphaz, bases all of his ideas on spiritual experience - his own personal spiritual experience. If you turn to chapter 4 you can see that, chapter 4 and verse 12. One night this man Eliphaz had a charismatic, if you like, spiritual experience. He says: 'Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof. In thoughts from the visions of the night', he had a dream, 'when deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying...', and so on and so on. He begins to teach Job, arguing from his personal experience, that God is a just God and that God will only make a man or a woman suffer if there is sin in their life. But what I want you to note is that Eliphaz argues from his own personal experience.
Have you ever had people coming to you and saying: 'Well look, when I was in your situation, I did this. I did this, and I coped with the problem, and I got through by doing this - and if you do this, you'll get through, and if you can't cope by doing this there's something drastically wrong with you. In fact, there must be something in your life that's wrong'. Have people ever said to you, and I think we're all guilty of it: 'Well, from my experience, you need this'. Others say: 'You need this experience. You need this to happen in your life'. Other say: 'Well, if I were you, I would do this'. Now, here's the immortal lesson of suffering that we get from this man Eliphaz, who based all of his counsel and comfort on his own spiritual experience - listen: everybody's experience is different! Have you got that? If I learnt anything through theological or college education it was this: in a counselling scenario, never say to anybody, 'I know what you're going through'. Do you know why? Because you don't! You may have gone through cancer, but you mightn't have reacted the way this person has, you mightn't have gone through it the way this person has; you might have gone through a bereavement, or in fact any trouble - 'as the sparks fly upward' we know that we're all born trouble - but everybody's different, and not everybody's experience is the same. This is were Eliphaz fell down.
The second comforter on your sheet is a man called Bildad. If Eliphaz was a man who based his counsel on spiritual experience, Bildad was a traditionalist. He was a man who looked to the past, a man who based his counsels on wise sayings of history. We read in chapter 8, if you look at it quickly, you will see that he built all of his counselling comforting case to Job upon the wise sayings of the ancient fathers from years ago. Chapter 8 and verse 8: 'For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers: (For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:) Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart? Can the rush grow...', and so on. He begins to recite all of these old proverbs and wise sayings that are from years ago. So Bildad, he comes and counsels Job not from revelation; in other words God has not given Bildad a message and a vision from Himself, but Bildad is advising Job by what the fathers, the ancient wise philosophers, if you like, believed.
He recites all these proverbs to lay down this fundamental principle that all of Job's comforters are bringing to him: 'God never judges unjustly. If you're suffering Job, you are suffering because of your sin, you're suffering because there's something wrong in your life. There's no smoke without fire!'. I don't know who Bildad reminds you of, but I know who he reminds me of: those Christians, mostly, who have all the answers off pat. They have an answer for everything, every problem in the book, every doctrinal heresy, they've got the answer right away. I think, when I think of Bildad, of the evangelical cliches, little sayings that can just drop of your lips like an effulgence of absolute verbal diarrhoea that we think is going to salve the problems and the trials of men and women who are going through hell on earth. It makes me think of people who have not thought through, or lived through many of the things that they teach to others.
So you have Eliphaz who counsels from his spiritual experience, you have Bildad who is a traditionalist and appeals to all these wise sayings and little quips; and then you have, thirdly, Zophar. When we look at Zophar - you see all the references there, we'll not have time to look at them - but we find that this man, above the rest, was extremely dogmatic in his teaching and in his advice that he brings to Job. He's portraying himself as a man who knows more about God than anybody else. He has arrived! He's got the special wisdom! He's had a special experience! It reminds me of those in our lifetime who tell us their wisdom, and tell us why we are suffering. They can be the legalist, the dogmatist, and they say: 'Now, this is the reason why this has happened to you, and it's nothing else - and don't try and tell me that it's anything else, I'll just not have it!'. And when you protest, and when you argue with a person like that, they take it as all the more evidence that they're right and that you're wrong. We find that that is exactly what Zophar does. When Job stands up for his own cause, and tells how he hasn't sinned, tells how he is trying to be a righteous man, tells him that if he could find God he would come before Him and argue his case, tells him that he ought not to suffer - we find that Zophar is only backed more into his rut of dogmatism and legalism, and he believes all the more that he's right. He is a know-it-all! Do you know any of them? A know-it-all - but the fact is that he doesn't know it all. If anything the fact the book of Job teaches us, is that nobody - Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar - none of them can know it all.
All of these three comforters, we find, make the same mistakes. The first mistake they make is that they fail to enter into Job's sorrows, they fail to sympathise and empathise with him. We find that at one stage Job longs for somebody to represent him, for somebody who is touched by the feelings of his infirmities, that will not just tell him what's right and what he ought to do, but someone who will enter into his own sorrows. Don't you feel like that when you're suffering? You want someone to sit where you sit and shed a tear with you, and not tell you what's right and what's wrong and what you've got to do.
The second mistake they made was that they had a rigid concept of God and how God's works happen. They had a rigid conceptualisation of God that was not balanced. God, in their eyes, was top heavy; God was either a real holy God and had no love in Him; or like some people today, God has all love in Him but He is not a holy God. Because they believed a wrong thing about God, they behaved in a wrong way for God.
Thirdly, they were too dogmatic, they were too proud; and their pride and their dogmatism meant that they didn't really listen to Job. You know, one of the best things to do in a counselling situation - and I don't claim to be the expert, but I know this much: some people talk too much and don't listen enough. As the man said, that's why we've two ears and one mouth - because we're to listen more than we are to speak. They didn't really examine their own beliefs, and they just rode roughshod over all of Job's feelings and all of his pains and all of his problems. Do you know what the greatest problem of all of them was? They tried to answer the question that God never answers Himself. They tried to answer why Job was suffering, but God never ever answered it - in fact, no-one knew the reasons why, nobody in the whole book knows chapters 1 and 2. We're given the benefit, with hindsight, God's Holy Spirit tells us of the divine drama that's going on in heaven, but nobody else knew about this. Yet they called Job a hypocrite, yet God called Job an upright and a holy, godly man. In chapter 2 and verse 3 God makes it clear that He had no cause or reason for afflicting Job, that Job was not a hypocrite, that Job was not a sinner. These are the reasons why God rejected Elihu's speech and all the other three men, we see it in chapter 38 and chapter 42 - God just rejects all of their reasoning, because there wasn't a specific reason that you could pinpoint whether it was sin or justice why God judged Job.
Now what I say at the end of all that, in contemplation of these men's counsel is: what a tragedy it would be if, in our counsel and in our wisdom that we expressed to others, that we are found to be in ignorance to what God really says, what God really thinks. Imagine, if we are advising other people and counselling other people, like these three, yet we are saying the opposite to God! Wouldn't that be awful? At the end of chapter 32 to 37 a new voice is heard, Elihu. He waits until the other three speak, and then he speaks and he advances his views. He has different ideas to the other three, and in chapter 32 through to 37 if you read them at home, you find that he says this: 'God sends suffering to chasten His own children, not to punish them but just to chasten them in His own righteous, sovereign will. He does it for their own good'. It's almost reminiscent of the epistle to the Hebrews, how 'whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son that He receiveth'. Elihu, out of all of the four of them, is the greatest in his conception of God - he has a high view of God, and all of his speeches if you read them have beautiful points about the power and the wisdom of God. Go home and read specifically chapter 37, especially, in its beauty and depiction of the ways and the word of God.
Do you know what is the most terrifying, fearful thing about this man Elihu? Everything he said was absolutely right! But God rebuked him. God says to him in chapter 38 verses 1 and 2 that he gives dark counsel. He asks Job, rightly, to submit to God and to trust in God - but what did he do wrong? He had all the right doctrine, he had all the right advice, he gave all the right absolute principles, but at the end of the day he talked and counselled to Job critically and judicially - and when God appeared before him, do you know what God said? 'You should have just helped him!'. If there's any message to the comforters in the book of Job, that is the message of God: 'You should have comforted him!'. Imagine if everything you believe, everything you say is right - all that you know about God - and there's none of us like that, yet because you don't help a person you fail.
Of course, we know, as you see on your sheet, that Job argued back with these men and we haven't got time to go into it all - but imagine, they came to comfort him, but they ended up criticising him. Really each of them had the same argument in different ways. They were saying: 'Well, God blesses you if you do good, and God curses you if you do bad. God has afflicted Job, and if God has afflicted Job that must mean that Job is wicked. Job, you would only be suffering if you'd done something wrong'. I hope you can see, tonight, the danger of mere mortal men trying to explain the ways of God. I hope you can see the danger of trying to put God into a theological box, because the Holy One of Israel does not like, and does not want to be limited! You might say: 'Well, I've read this book of Job, I've read about Elihu and Bildad, and Zophar and Eliphaz, and you know sometimes I read the things that they say and they're right'. Well, we said that already, but you think: 'No, but they're right in what they say. You do suffer when you sin, I mean is that not true that there are consequences for your sin?'. Of course it's true, we have to admit according to the word of God tonight that sin brings misery - the way of the transgressor is hard, and righteousness brings blessing. The word of God testifies to that, in Deuteronomy 28 when the law was given to Israel, they were told that if they obeyed it they would incur blessings, but if they disobeyed it they would be given cursings. The whole historical books in the Old Testament tell us of every king, one king after another, that were sent into exile with the people because they disobeyed God's law. They were cursed, they were brought misery because of their sin. Proverbs tells us that the way of wisdom is blessing, but the way of the foolish is cursing.
It's true that sin brings forth misery and thorns and thistles and trial - but you've got to see the difference about what these three men were saying. They went beyond that, they went to a point from that presupposition that sin leads to suffering, and they began to say the opposite: if you suffer it is because of sin - do you see the difference? [They said] that suffering is the sign of sin, that if you're suffering it's because you've sinned - and Job is suffering, so that must mean that Job has sinned. If the book of Job does anything for us tonight, it corrects any false idea and faulty reasoning that the reason why people are suffering as Christians is because they are sinning, and if they were righteous and holy they wouldn't be suffering. Job, above anything else as a character in the word of God, shows us a man who is suffering, and he is not suffering for anything that he has done.
Turn with me for a moment, very quickly, to John chapter 9 because I want to finish this study tonight. John chapter 9, for here we have an identical incident and illustration of how a man can suffer for nothing to do with himself - a bit like Job. Of course you know that in John chapter 9 you have the account of the man who was born blind, and the disciples of the Lord Jesus come to him and ask the question - behind it is the same idea as Job's three friends - and he says, look at it: 'Rabbi, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered', in verse 3, 'Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him'. Now listen, my friend, if you want to know the crux and the thematic message of the book of Job it is none other than this: Job suffered for no specific reason that we're given in the word of God, but the chief, supreme, all-transcendent reason that we are given is that the works of God should be made manifest in him, and that glory should be brought to God. 'Satan, have you seen anybody like My servant Job?'.
The truth of Job, and John 9 and John 10, is that God is glorified through the sufferings of His faithful children. This book doesn't, in one instance, give an answer to the specific reason - because there's no reason other than God's glory! What does it make you feel tonight, as you sit and you don't realise why you're going through what you're going through; why this has happened to you; why it's turned out this particular way; why your marriage has broken up; why your children have gone astray, why they're not converted; why your job has fallen apart; why you're left on the shelf and you feel that you're going to be single all your life; why you've failed in all your exams and everything that you've tried to do in your career; why you've lost that loved one, that husband, that wife, that child? At the end of the book of Job, if you're looking for an answer to all of those things specifically, you're not going to get one because Job doesn't even get one! But what happens to Job is: he loses his question 'Why?' in the glorious providence and sovereignty of God.
But what transpires out of the unanswered question 'Why is there suffering in Job's life?', is a greater question, and it's the greatest question in the whole of the book of Job - and it's not 'Why is there suffering?', but the greatest question is this: who is wise? That's the greatest question. While virtually all the characters in the book of Job claim wisdom and try to give their wisdom, it's only really at the end of the book that we find out what real wisdom is - because God comes to Job, and God speaks out of the whirlwind to settle the issue once for all about who has the wisest counsel. When He speaks there is no contest, no human has a legitimate claim on the kind of wisdom that our God has. What the book of Job is teaching you and I is that in the midst of our suffering, our pain and our turmoil and trial, God alone is the source of wisdom, and He distributes His wisdom and His works and His sovereignty as He sees fit.
That is Job's crisis of faith, that's where he finds himself in chapters 38 to 42, your third point. If you look at chapter 38, you will find how he comes to that point. Verse 3, God says to him: 'Gird up now thy loins like a man', stand up, 'for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?' - where were you!? Verse 12: 'Did you command the morning from the early dawn? Did you cause the dayspring to know its place?'. The proper human response to all of Job's questions, and all of his counsellors' and comforters' advice and wisdom, was that when God came to him and revealed Himself, he fell at God's feet. He didn't get the answers, but the answer to his problem was not getting the answers - the answer was falling at the feet of God, and repenting and submitting to God.
That's why in chapter 42, if you turn to it, Job realises this. Job says: 'Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge?', God is doing things and He's not explaining himself, 'therefore have I uttered that I understood not', I didn't understand, '[these things were] too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes'. He came to the point, when God revealed His own sovereign wisdom to him, that he realised that he knew God only when he realised he didn't know God! He realised that he could see God only when he realised he couldn't see God, that God is the immortal, the invisible, the only wise, the One whose ways we cannot trace, whose hand we cannot understand or see. Job comes to this heartfelt repentance of his own impatience toward God, his own misunderstanding. He's humiliated, and then he's vindicated to be seen to be the righteous one. Then, in chapter 42, you know he's restored.
Now listen, as we close tonight, let me just labour on a couple of points for a moment because you know that the story and the relationship between God and suffering does not end with the book of Job. When we go into the New Testament Scriptures we get a better understanding of God's dealings and sufferings. Job could be said to be the man of sorrows of the Old Testament, but when we go into the New Testament we meet the Man of Sorrows. We see how God's love is shed abroad through His Son towards sinful creatures, by sending Him to die on the cross, and we find that Jesus Christ is the true innocent suffer. He is the only one who is completely without sin, He is the only one who voluntarily suffered - Job didn't voluntarily suffer, he had to go through it. But Christ submits Himself to suffering for the benefit of sinful men and women - and, as the scholar Anderson says, the Lord Himself has embraced and absorbed the undeserved consequence of evil - it's the final answer to the book of Job and all of Job's humanity! Christ has come in the flesh to suffer, and if the answer to Job can be found anywhere in scripture, it is in the New Testament in the fact that Jesus - in the person Jesus, God enters into the world of human suffering at the cross, and He does it without complaining!
It's very interesting to note that the early Christian community saw the connection between the book of Job and the Lord Jesus, so much so that it was their common practice to read aloud the book of Job during the Passion Week. Do you see the reflection of the Man of Sorrows in Job? The Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief? That Man of Sorrows upon whom came sorrow and suffering from all sources at once, from the wicked who hated and rejected and killed Him; sorrows from beneath, from hell, as it assailed Him with all its strength and all its wickedness; sorrows from above, as Isaiah 53 tells us - that the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all! Job was acquainted with awful suffering that we will never know, but this Man's visage was marred more than that of any man, more than the sons of men. Not once did He use any of His divine attributes to quench that suffering, to prevent the full tide of His anguish flowing over His soul. Do you see Him in the garden of Gethsemane? Go there with me for just one moment tonight, and see Him there on His knees outside the city wall in Jerusalem, in agony - and the trees that are still there tonight can testify to the great drops of blood that fell in that garden, but more than that: they tell us that when the Man of Sorrows sought the comfort and the prayers of His three friends, He didn't get them! But there was none to help Him, none even offered to help Him, but He trod the winepress alone. He looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but He found none.
Surely He is the answer to the book of Job? Surely that is what Job's friends missed? My friend, you may have no answer to your suffering this evening, for all the pain and all that you have gone through - but here is the answer, here's the answer! Job's answer was 'trust and hope'. One: 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him'. Hope: 'I know that my Redeemer liveth' - that was his hope! That was his only answer! What a joy to know that Job's Daysman has become our High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, for He was tested in all points like as we are, apart from sin!
Father, we thank Thee, as we often sing here in the Hall, that Christ is the answer to our every need. Although Job was ignorant to the divine counsels between God and Satan in heaven, although he didn't know that, all his problems were answered when he said: 'I know that my Redeemer liveth'. Father, we thank Thee for the blessed hope that we have of the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that we know, no matter what our problems are tonight that are unanswerable, that one day all our hopes and aspirations will be answered in Him. And when we see Him, we'll not say: 'Lord, now why did that happen?', but we'll fall like Job, and we'll worship at His feet. In His lovely name we anticipate that day, Amen.
Preach The Word
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tenth tape in his 'As Sparks Flying Upwards' series, titled "Job's Enigma" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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