January 15, 2023 (Four days after a major tornado hit our county)
Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville Alabama. James Jackson, Pastor
Good morning! We are going to be in the book of Job this morning. I know the slide says we are covering Job 1-42. But don’t panic. We aren’t going to read all forty-two chapters this morning. What I want to do is look at the overall point of the book of Job, and try to give some answers to the big question that dominates the book.
Let me say also that I am so glad so many of you are reading through the Bible this year. And if you haven’t started yet, you still can. You can start with Day 16 tomorrow, when we leave Job and go back to Genesis. That would be a natural place to jump in. Or, even better in my opinion, you can start at Day One and just go at your own pace. There is nothing magical about finishing in a year. But there is something transformational about reading the entire Bible. And that goes for anyone that falls behind in the reading plan. Don’t feel like you have to double up on days to catch up. And don’t beat yourself up. Just keep going.
So here we go with the book of Job. Like I said, there is one big question that dominates Job. It’s actually the same question that people have been asking for thousands of years: Why do bad things happen to good people? Or maybe you are theologically sophisticated enough to say, “Well, the Bible says there is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:12). So, technically, there are no good people.”
Which, ok. I’ll give you that. But here’s the thing. This week, a tornado tore through Autauga County. Seven people lost their lives, and that number could still go up. Dozens of homes were destroyed. One of our sister churches in the Association was cut in half. And as I was out in the community on Friday with Alabama Disaster Relief, seeing the devastation, seeing shell-shocked people trying to make sense of what had happened over the last twenty four hours, I am 100% sure that none of them were pondering the doctrine of total depravity. Their questions were not theologically sophisticated: Why me? Why now? Why our church? Why didn’t God stop it? Or is it, Why couldn’t God stop it?
These are the questions people have been asking for thousands of years. And honestly, these are the questions that have kept many people from putting their trust in God, or even believing there IS a God.
The argument goes like this. If God is all powerful, He is able to prevent suffering. And if God is all good, He would want to prevent suffering. So when we have a day like this past Thursday, they come to the conclusion that if God wanted to prevent this, but couldn’t he’s not all powerful. And if He could prevent it, but didn’t, He’s not all good.
These are the questions the book of Job forces us to reckon with. Let me pray, and we will dive in.
If you aren’t familiar with the book of Job, let me give you a quick overview. No one knows who wrote the book of Job. Most scholars believe it was written during the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). So it is generally accepted that it was the first book of the Bible to be written.
Job basically has four sections: Prologue, Dialogue, Monologue, and Epilogue [briefly explain this]
In the prologue, we are introduced to Job. He’s described as a man of complete integrity (CSB) or blameless and upright” ESV. He fears God and turns away from evil. Verse 3 says he is “the greatest man among all the people of the east.”
Then verse 6 shifts to the throne room of heaven. Scripture says that “the sons of God came to present themselves to the Lord, and “Satan also came among them. Now, I want to pause here to point out something we’re going to circle back to at the end. The book of Job has more questions than any other book of the Bible. It has 330 questions, over twice as many as the next most—160 in the book of Psalms. Job asks God questions. Job’s friends ask Job questions. But I want you to notice that the first two questions come from God Himself. He asks Satan,
7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
Then, God asks the question that sets up the rest of the book. He asks Satan,
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”
And Satan asks a couple of questions on his own. He says to God,
9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
And amazingly, God agrees. Shortly after that, Job experiences the worst day you can imagine. His oxen and donkeys are stolen in a raid and some of his servants are killed. Then “fire fell from heaven”—probably lightning—and destroyed his sheep and some more of his servants. After that, his camels are stolen in another raid, and whatever servants Job had left were also killed.
7000 sheep. 3000 camels. 500 pairs of oxen. 500 donkeys. Gone. Just like that. Now, I visited with a lot of people on Friday who had lost everything, but could still say, “None of our family was hurt, so we are blessed.” And maybe Job could have said that. Maybe he could have said, “all those are just things.” Even when all his servants were killed, Job might have said, “Well, at least my children are safe.”
But then came the tornado. Verse 18-19, one more servant comes with the ultimate bad news:
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”
Losing one child is devastating. Some of you have been through that, and I’m not sure if anyone fully recovers from that. But Job lost all ten of his children. What would you do? Could you do what Job did? Look at verse 20. Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground. None of that is surprising. But look at the next phrase: he worshiped.
And then, Scripture says what Job did not do. Verse 21: In all this Job did not sin, or charge God with wrong doing.
Chapter two is basically the same set up as chapter one. God and Satan have another conversation. Once again, God says,
3 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?
Then, God adds
He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
And Satan basically says, “Well, he still has his health. But take that away, and He will curse you to Your face.” And God gives Satan permission to strike Job with painful boils—loathsome sores in the ESV. His own wife, the one member of his family that wasn’t killed in the tornado, shows contempt for both Job and God when she says, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” And Job rebukes his wife, and the narrator has this to say:
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Now I’ve got those two verses up on the screen to remind you that we know something the Job’s friends don’t know. We know something even Job himself doesn’t know. We’ve seen behind the curtain and seen that all Job’s suffering is because God staked his reputation on Job’s response to suffering. And we know that Job passed the test. Twice, Scripture makes clear that Job did not sin.
But like I said, Job’s friends don’t know that, and for the next twenty two chapters, Job’s friends try to convince Job that his suffering has to be because he sinned. And Job tries to convince his friends that it isn’t. But because they haven’t seen behind the curtain, they are kind of in the same position all the people in the Kingston area and Deatsville and Wadsworth are asking: Why, God? Why did this happen to me. Why didn’t it happen to someone else? God, do you just like them better? How did I get on your bad side?
So many questions. And we find ourselves kind of like Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men: [explain briefly]
We want answers. We think we are entitled to answers. But can we handle the truth? Let’s look quickly at what the rest of God’s word says about suffering:
- Sometimes we suffer because of our sin. This was what Job’s friends kept coming back to, over and over. And you can’t deny that the Bible says God punishes people for their sin. Psalm 89:32, Isaiah 13:11, Isaiah 26:2, and dozens more all say that God punishes sin. It can be direct, where God Himself punishes. It can be indirect, where God just allows the consequences of sin to run their course. We see that with heart issues related to the sin of gluttony, alcoholism and addiction, emphysema from abusing your body with cigarettes. And without repentance and trusting Jesus as your Savior, there will be ultimate and eternal punishment. But on the other hand, Job’s example shows us that not all suffering is the result of our sin. Remember how Job is introduced. He is blameless and upright. He wasn’t perfect, but he regularly made offerings for himself and his children to atone for sin. But he still suffered.
- Sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sin. Exodus 34:6-7 and Dt. 5:8-10 both say that The Lord…visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7 = Deuteronomy 5:8-10). And I’ll be honest, this one may be the hardest for me to accept, because it seems so unfair. But again, think about the consequences your sin sets in motion. Anyone who has grown up in an abusive home, or whose parents’ marriage fell apart over a moral failure, or has had to deal with alcoholism’s effect on the entire family can tell you that it’s not fair, but it is a reality. And as far as that “to the third and fourth generation” bit, we know that 75% of those who commit acts of abuse against others were themselves abused as children. I want to be clear that the reverse is NOT true, the vast majority of those who are sexually abused DO NOT go on to abuse others. But still, we see people suffer because of other people’s sin. But again, this was not Job’s story.
- Sometimes we suffer because of original sin. Original sin is the doctrine that we all have inherited the sin nature from Adam. We see this teaching in Romans 5:12, where Paul wrote that,
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[e] because all sinned—
So this means that everyone dies. Statistics show that one out of one people dies. And death causes suffering. It might be expected, it might be a shock. But there is grief, and sadness, and loss, and this was not what God intended when He created Adam and Eve.
Original sin also means that creation itself feels the effects of sin. When Adam sinned, the first judgment God made against him was that the ground would be cursed because of him. Even to this day, Paul said, that all creation groans. This is worth spending some time on, because I think this probably more than anything else explains what our community experienced Thursday.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Rom 8:20-22)
We live in a broken world. A world with flooding and earthquakes and forest fires and avalanches and hurricanes and tsunamis and yes, tornadoes. All of them cause immense suffering, And all of them are symptoms of creation groaning because of sin.
- Sometimes we suffer to turn us from sin (33:29-30). We can be heading down a road that is going to end in destruction. And God can allow a little pain, a little hardship, to get our attention. Elihu, the last of Job’s friends to speak, says in Job 33:29-30 that
29 “Behold, God does all these things,
twice, three times, with a man,
30 to bring back his soul from the pit,
that he may be lighted with the light of life.
So far, everything I’ve talked about has connected suffering to sin. But remember that not all suffering is the result of sin.
- Sometimes we suffer so that God will be glorified (John 9:1-3). Remember when Jesus and His disciples came across a man blind from birth? All the disciples were thinking like Job’s friends: Rabbi, who sinned? Jesus answer was that it wasn’t this man’s sin or his parents sin that caused him to be born blind. It was so the works of God could be displayed in him.
- Sometimes we suffer so God’s people will be unified (1 Cor. 12:25-26). When Paul taught about the church being one body with many members in 1 Corinthians 12, he saud, “If one part suffers, we all suffer.” We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, but we are also to weep with those who weep. Its not just feeling sorry for, its feeling sorry with.
Here is a bonus one that’s not on your handout, but I’ve seen it in action this week, and it is AWESOME:
- Sometimes we suffer so the church can be mobilized. I’ve seen it over and over and over this week. You’ve made chili. You’ve cooked meals. You’ve sent out lists of things specific families need. You’ve fired up the chainsaws. When we got to Wadsworth Baptist Church the other day, we saw so much devastation. Their welcome center, that they put $40,000 into just last year was destroyed. This was what was left of the pastors office [picture]. Everywhere we looked, we just saw destruction. But you know what we smelled? Hamburgers! The church was not turned inward. It was turned outward. They were feeding the community. That’ s because, while the church building was destroyed, the church wasn’t. Their mission and vision has not changed.
Let me bring this in for a landing. You guys have hung with me while I’ve basically turned the fire hose on you. I’ve given you seven answers for why there is suffering in the world. But if there’s anything that we learn from Job, it’s that…
- Sometimes we don’t get answers (Job 38-41; Dt. 29:29). For most of the book of Job, Job has been asking for an audience with God. He wants answers to why all this has happened. I told you earlier that there are 330 questions in the book of Job. Guess who asks most of them? Not Job. Not Job’s friends. God. In chapter 38, God finally speaks. Verse 1 says, Then God answered Job out of the whirlwind. But it doesn’t say God explained Himself. It says He answered. How does he answer? With questions! The first thing He says is, “Who is this that darkens my counsel, who speaks empty words without knowledge (38:2) After this, God asks Job 85 more questions. More than a quarter of all the questions in Job come in the next three chapters. Where were you when I made the world? Who placed the stars in the sky? Who sends the rain? Who has storehouses full of snow?
Through it all, Job never gets an answer to why this has happened to him. And neither do we. Dt. 29:29 says, the secret things belong to God.
But Instead, Job gets something better: Look at Job 42:5:
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[a] in dust and ashes.”
We talked last week about how much we can learn from the footnotes. That little “a” next to “repent” points to an alternate translation. I am comforted in dust and ashes.
- Sometimes we suffer so we will be satisfied with God’s presence. Why did God answer Job “from the whirlwind?” Because that’s where Job was.
[Hymnal in the debris picture] On the cover of the bulletin, there’s a picture of a hymnal I found in the debris around Wadsworth Baptist Church on Friday. I promise I didn’t stage this. It was lying exactly how it was when I took the picture. And you can’t tell what hymn its open to. So here’s a close up: Near to the Heart of God, and Jesus is Lord of all.
Why is it that suffering brings us near to the heart of God? Because God suffered too.
God asks the last questions in Job. But He also asks the first questions. Way back in Job 1, God asks Satan, Where have you been. After Satan replies, God asks, twice: HAVE YOU CONSIDERED MY SERVANT JOB? Think about it: of all the people Satan found while he was roaming on the earth, God singled out Job. He said, there’s no one like him, blameless and upright.
And Satan said Wanna bet? Let me mess with him. Let me send a tornado that wipes out everything he has. Let me take one of his children. While we’re at it, let me take all of them.
Let me cover him with open sores. And then, just to put the cherry on top, let me leave him with a wife who turns against him and holds him in contempt and says “Curse God and die.” I’ll bet Job will curse you to your face, God.
And God looked at Satan and said “You’re on.”
So let me end by asking you a question: Could God stake His reputation on you?
I think I would fail that test. I know I would.
Which is why I thank God that millenia later, God would make another bet with Satan. He said, Have you considered my Son Jesus. There’s no one like Him. He is my only begotten Son. He is blameless and upright. No sin can be found in Him. And Satan, I’m gonna let you do your worst to My Son. And after all of it. He’s gonna past your test. And all who trust in Him will one day stand before Me, not because of their blamelessness, but because of His.
 Source 1in6.org