Day 023: When we refuse to let God go (Genesis 32:24-29)

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. “Jacob,” he replied. 28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” he said. “It will be Israel[b] because you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.”

But he answered, “Why do you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. (Genesis 32:26b-29)

Through the Bible: Genesis 32-34

In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with God. Verse 24 describes the stranger as “a man,” but in verse 28, the man identifies Himself as God (Hebrew Elohim, the God of gods). After they wrestled all night he “did not prevail” over Jacob (which is a very strange thing to say about God, because God always prevails).

He dislocates Jacob’s hip, and demands Jacob to let Him. Jacob says no (which is a very, VERY strange thing to say to God). Then Jacob says “I won’t let you go unless you bless me.”

Same old Jacob. Still scheming to get the upper hand. Still trying to get a little something extra in the negotiations. Scheming Jacob, whose name means “He who Grasps the Heel” (Gen. 25:26), a name his brother Esau interprets as “Cheater” (Gen. 27:36). Persistent Jacob, who refuses to let go of God even though he will limp for the rest of his life from the encounter.

How does God respond to Jacob’s impertinence? He doesn’t call down fire from heaven to smite him. He doesn’t open up the ground and swallow him. He doesn’t squash him like a bug. Instead, he does what Jacob demands. He blesses Jacob.

Well, sort of. He asks for Jacob’s name, and Jacob tells him. In many ancient cultures, it was thought that if you knew an adversary’s name, you gained power over him. Perhaps Jacob is acknowledging his opponent’s superiority. And maybe saying his own name out loud is a confession of sorts. “I’m the Heel Grasper. I’m the Cheater. I’ve lived up (lived down?) to that name all my life.

So God gives him a new name: Israel, which sounds like the Hebrew for “he struggled with God.” Which at first doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade. From Heel Grasper to God Fighter. This is a blessing?

Then, perhaps in one last attempt to gain the upper hand, Jacob asks God to tell Jacob His name. God doesn’t respond. He merely says, “Why do you ask my name?” And he blessed him there” (v. 29).

And somehow, these three things are the blessing Jacob asked for: A lifelong limp. Permission to struggle with God. And the awesome, humbling, terrifying gift of seeing God face to face, yet his life being spared (v. 30).

AW Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can use a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” God honors the one who refuses to let go of Him without a blessing. He doesn’t reject us when we struggle with Him. Yet refusing to let go of God comes with a cost. You will learn your weakness. You will learn His absolute sovereignty. You will probably be hobbled for the rest of your life.

But you will see God face to face. And when He hobbles you, it may be so you will have no choice but to hold on to Him ever tighter.

When we demand God’s name, He is silent. When God reveals His name, we are blessed.

Day 019: Why the Oldest Saints Get the Toughest Tests (Gen. 22:1)

“After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” he said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”” Genesis‬ ‭22‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Through the Bible: Genesis 22-24

About the Image: I couldn’t find any information about the artist of this painting, but the image wrecked me. It’s the only painting I could find of Abraham and Isaac that emphasizes the deep love of the father for the son, instead of a raised knife at the point of the sacrifice. It’s also one of the few that shows Isaac as an adult and not as a young boy.

The story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac is at turns inspiring, horrifying, and terrifying. We are inspired by Abraham’s faith. We are horrified at the idea that God would ask anyone to sacrifice their own child. And we are terrified that God might ask one of us to make a similar sacrifice.

First, let me clear one thing up: God told Isaiah to offer Isaac; not to sacrifice Isaac. Child sacrifice always has been and always will be abhorrent to God (see Jeremiah 19:5 ). When you do a quick survey of the way the major English translations treat the chapter headings (and remember that the chapter headings are not part of the original text), you see a difference in what they emphasize:

  • ESV and CSB: “The Sacrifice of Isaac”
  • NASB: “The Offering of Isaac”
  • NIV: “Abraham Tested”
  • NKJV: “Abraham’s Faith Confirmed”
  • NLT: “Abraham’s Faith Tested”

In my opinion, the last three get it right. The first two get it wrong, and the New American Standard is in the middle.

So let’s look at the terrifying part of this story: would God ever put me to the test like this, and if so, how would I do? Just like we talked about with Job, (see Day 004: Have You Considered my Servant?), it’s hard for me to imagine God staking His reputation on my feeble faith. I don’t think I would obey if I thought God was asking me to make as great a sacrifice as He asked of Abraham.

But this morning, a note in the Spurgeon Study Bible changed everything for me. Spurgeon noticed the first three words of Genesis 22: “After these things.” What things?

  • Abraham obediently leading his family from Ur to Canaan (Genesis 12:4)
  • Abraham humbly offering his nephew the first pick of the land (Genesis 13:9)
  • Abraham bravely rescuing Lot when he was taken captive (Genesis 14:16)
  • Abraham confidently believing the promises of God (Genesis 15:6)
  • Abraham faithfully submitting to circumcision for himself and his household (Genesis 17:23)
  • Abraham persistently interceding for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-32)

Do you see it? Abraham had already demonstrated decades of trust in God before this ultimate test. Spurgeon wrote this about those three words, “After these things:”

God did not try Abraham like this at the beginning… There was a course of education to prepare him for this great testing time, and the Lord knows how to educate us up to such a point that we can endure, in years to come, what we could not endure today.

Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 28

Beloved, have you noticed in our reading so far that God gives the toughest tests to the oldest saints? Abraham was between 100 and 140 at this point (based on Sarah’s age in 23:1). Noah was six hundred when the flood came (Genesis 7:6). We don’t know how old Job was when God tested him, but he was old enough to have seven adult sons and daughters (Job 1:2), and to have Elihu call him old (Job 32:6). These men had demonstrated a lifetime of trust and obedience before they faced these tests. All three of them exhibited what author Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Friends, if you look at Abraham and think, “I could never pass that kind of test,” don’t be discouraged about it. Don’t discount what God is doing in your life right now, and be confident that God doesn’t set us up for failure. He is never going to give you a test that He doesn’t believe you are capable of passing. You may not be ready for it today, but take courage:

School’s not out yet.

Answers From the Whirlwind (Job 1-42)

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,

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,

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,

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.[1] 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

“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:

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
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. 


[1] Source

Day 010: Holding Fast to Your Righteousness? (Job 27:6)

Job Rebuked By His Friends, painting by William Blake, 1826

I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;
my heart does not reproach me for any of my days. Job 27:6

Through the Bible: Job 24-28

Job 27:6 could be taken as really arrogant. Who holds onto their own righteousness like this? Who would dare to say with so much confidence that, “my heart does not reproach me for any of my days?”

“Any” of your days? What about that one time back in high school? What about that night when your parents were out of town? What about that one day you forgot to scan one of the items in your grocery cart?

How hard are you holding on to your righteousness now?

But Job’s confidence is in the character of God. Unlike the gods of the people around him, Job had confidence that his God could be known. That it was possible to know what it took to please God. That God did not punish or discipline for no reason. That He is not petty or capricious or whimsical or temperamental.

Remember, Job had been in the habit of offering sacrifices for each of his children the morning after a feast, just in case one of them had sinned the night before (Job 1:5). Job was more than willing to own his sin. He just wasn’t willing to admit that God would punish him without reason, or keep from him the knowledge of how to live a life pleasing to God.

This is why Job holds on to his integrity and doesn’t follow his wife’s advice to curse God and die. He is confident that God is absolutely righteous. He knows that God makes Himself known to His children. He trusts that if he had displeased God to the point that all this suffering had been heaped upon him as a punishment for sin, that he would at least know what the sin was, and that God would love him enough to show him his fault.

So even though he sounds like he is full of himself in verse 6, what he is actually full of is confidence that man can know what it takes to please God. And that brings him more solace than these “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) ever could.

And one more thing: followers of Jesus have even more reason to hold fast to their righteousness. Why? Because it’s not our righteousness! Look what Paul says about righteousness in Philippians 3:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our righteousness is imputed to us. That means it is conferred or imparted to us by Jesus. We are declared righteous because of His righteousness. So in one sense, a believer who says he will hold on to his righteousness and not let go is saying that he will hold on to Jesus and not let go. Because the Lord will never let go of us.

The painting of Job’s friends at the top of this post is by the artist/poet/mystic William Blake (1757-1827) . A year before his death, he published a series of 22 watercolors of the entire book of Job. For a deeper dive into the symbolism and analysis of these stunning images, click here

Small Group Study Guide, Week Two

Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25
Day 26
Day 27
Day 28


Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage.

This week was all about Job. If your Bible has headings that describe each chapter or section, you can use those to get a good overview of the chapter. For example, in the ESV, here are the chapter headings for Days 8-9 (Job 17-23)

  • Chapter 17: Job Continues: Where Then Is My Hope?
  • Chapter 18: Bildad Speaks: God Punishes the Wicked
  • Chapter 19: Job Replies: My Redeemer Lives
  • Chapter 20: Zophar Speaks: The Wicked Will Suffer
  • Chapter 21: Job Replies: The Wicked Do Prosper
  • Eliphaz Speaks: Job’s Wickedness Is Great
  • Chapter 23: Job Replies: Where Is God?

Bear in mind that the chapter headings were not in the original text. So they reflect men’s opinion on what the main idea of the chapter is. That’s why not all translations have the same headings, and some don’t have any at all.

While we’re on this subject, not only were subject headings not in the text, neither were chapters. Or verses. Or even vowels. Take a moment to thank God for guys like Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury, who divided the Bible into chapters in 1227. Over 200 years later in 1448, Rabbi Nathan divided the Old Testament chapters into verses. A hundred years after that, Stephanus did the same thing with the New Testament. Thanks, guys!

You’ve probably noticed the structure of Job. After the Prologue (1-2), Job makes and opening statement (3). Then we get into the meat of the book: three cycles of speeches (4-27) in which one of the three friends speak, and Job replies. This is all of Days 8-9, and most of Day 10. But chapter 28 breaks the pattern. The CSB heading for this chapter is “A Hymn to Wisdom.” For a few minutes, Job takes his mind off his suffering and meditates on the value and perfection of God’s wisdom. It’s a beautiful hymn, and it’s easy to miss it, because by this time, we’ve all had so much gloom, despair, and agony that we don’t realize this is something different.

On Day 11, we get Job’s closing argument. For three chapters, he makes his final defense of his innocence. At the end of chapter 31, we read:

Oh, that I had one to hear me!
    (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
    Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

After that, we come to verse 40: The words of Job are ended. And for some of you, that may be your favorite verse in Job!

On Day 12, a new character comes on the scene: Elihu, whose name means “My God is He.” There are a few things that differentiate Elihu from the other three friends.

  • He is younger than they are (32:6)
  • He’s the only one whose father and family are named. He’s descended from Buz, the firstborn son of Abraham’s brother Nahor (see Genesis 22:21). His father is Barachel, which means “God has blessed.”
  • Later, God rebukes the three friends (42:7-9) because they “have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” However, God doesn’t rebuke Elihu.

Elihu’s speech is longer than any of the friends three speeches combined. All of Day 12 and 13 are Elihu talking. I guess he’s been saving it up for most of the book now. Then, at the beginning of Day 14 (Job 38) God speaks, and takes Job on a detailed tour of creation, essentially saying “Where were you when I made the world?”

Discussion Questions:

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage.

As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ? What questions did the readings raise?

Note to leader: This will be your first question every week. Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.

The following questions span the whole week’s reading. You probably will not have time to deal with all of them. Highlight the ones that are most interesting to you. As you listen to the group’s highlights, put a star next to any of the questions that address what stood out to someone in the group. Make sure you always ask Questions 9 and 10.

  1. When you look at all the dysfunction in Abraham’s family, what do you think God wants us to learn from these stories?
  2. Some stories in the Bible are prescriptive–they tell us what happened as an example to follow. Others, like Genesis 34, are descriptive–they tell us what happened without the expectation that we do the same thing. How do you discern the difference?
  3. Even after God gave Jacob the new name Israel, he is still primarily referred to as Jacob. Why do you think that is? Allow for responses, but suggest that it may simply be a way to differentiate Israel the man from Israel the nation.
  4. In the story of Jacob wrestling the man (Genesis 34), why does verse 25 say “the man” (God) “could not defeat Jacob”? Doesn’t God always win?
  5. Similarly, in verse 28, God says to Jacob, “you have struggled with God… and have prevailed.” What do you make of this?
  6. Jacob seems to demand a blessing from God in exchange for Jacob letting him go (v. 26). Is it right to “demand” anything from God? How do we make sense of this?
  7. Genesis 34:29 says that God blessed Jacob. But it doesn’t say how. Or does it?
  8. Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 12:3 (“all nations will be blessed by you”). Ask, did you see anything in the story of Joseph that was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? If no one says it, ask a volunteer to read Genesis 41:52.
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ?

Note to leader: This will be your first question every week. Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.

The following questions span the whole week’s reading. You probably will not have time to deal with all of them. Highlight the ones that are most interesting to you. As you listen to the group’s highlights, put a star next to any of the questions that address what stood out to someone in the group. Make sure you always ask Questions 9 and 10.

  1. Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 12:6-7. What does the fact that there are still Canaanites in the land God is promising to Abraham say to you? Is obeying God always going to be easy?
  2. Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20) has always been a mysterious figure. He is described as a priest who worships the Lord Most High, but he lives long before the Levitical priesthood was established. He is also described as a king of Salem, which means “peace.” Hebrews 7 argues that Melchizedek is a forerunner of Christ. What connections do you see?
  3. After all of Abraham’s bargaining over Sodom (see Genesis 18:16-33) does anything ultimately change? What does this tell you about God’s sovereignty, His patience, and human limitations?
  4. When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he was old enough to talk, to carry wood for the offering, and to notice that there wasn’t a ram for the sacrifice. Which means he was probably old enough and strong enough to resist his father, who was by now well over 100. What does it say to you that he didn’t? How does this point to Christ?
  5. In Mark 12, Jesus is arguing with the Sadducees about the reality of the resurrection. He references God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3) which is itself an expansion of His opening words to Jacob: “I am the God of Abraham and Isaac” (Genesis 28:13). How did Jesus use this to prove that there is a resurrection (for help, see Mark 12:27).
  6. We’ve seen a pattern emerging in our readings that God doesn’t always (or often) favor the firstborn son. Adam and Eve’s firstborn was Cain, and we know what happened to him. Japheth was Noah’s oldest son, but the line of Abraham goes through Shem (see Gen. 10:21). Isaac is younger than Ishmael; Jacob is younger than Esau (by at least a few minutes); and Judah is the fourth son of Jacob. This pattern will continue with Joseph, twelfth son of Jacob, Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:17-20); and with David, eighth son of Jesse. What’s up with this?
  7. It is natural for a husband and wife to each have a favorite child (or at least their kids think they do!). But Genesis 25:28, followed by the sad story of Jacob and Esau’s rivalry illustrates the consequences of parents playing favorites. As parents, how do you keep that from happening?
  8. Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 29:31. What does this verse reveal to you about God’s character?
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

Note to leader: This will be your first question every week. Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.

The following questions span the whole week’s reading. You probably will not have time to deal with all of them. Highlight the ones that are most interesting to you. As you listen to the group’s highlights, put a star next to any of the questions that address what stood out to someone in the group. Make sure you always ask Questions 9 and 10.

  1. Both Eliphaz (4:12-16) and Zophar (20:3) claim their counsel comes from “a spirit.” Is it safe to assume all our promptings and guidance come from God? How do you judge whether a leading is coming from God?
  2. Most of what we hear from the three friends is that all suffering is the result of sin. Do we tend to assume the same thing today? If not, what are some of the other reasons for people suffering? (Note to leader: The next two questions are intended to follow up this question. So give time for all three questions.)
  3. Ask a volunteer to read Job 33:29-30. Elihu suggests that God will allow suffering in someone’s life to bring them to repentance. Describe a time when you or someone you know has been in that situation.
  4. Ask a volunteer to read John 9:1-3. The disciples seem to have the same assumption as Job’s friends– that suffering is the result of sin. What was Jesus’ response? Have you ever seen someone who “displayed the works of God” through suffering?
  5. Which do you struggle with more– “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
  6. Say, The reality of evil can cause us to question two fundamental attributes of God’s nature– His omnipotence and His goodness. The argument goes like this: If God desires to prevent suffering but He can’t, then He’s not all powerful. If God is able to prevent suffering but He doesn’t, then He is not all good. How would you respond to this?
  7. How does the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus help you understand the reason and purpose for suffering?
  8. When God finally speaks to Job, He doesn’t answer any of Job’s questions. He simply reminds Job that He is God. Do you think Job saw that as a comfort or a rebuke? Why?
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

Faithful Plan, Fallen People (Genesis 3-8)

Sermon #2 in our series, “66 in 52” January 8, 2023, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL, James Jackson, Lead Pastor

Good morning! Please take your Bibles and turn to Genesis 3. Actually, Genesis 2, because we are going to start there. I’ve been so excited about the response to the 66 in 52 Challenge. Our Facebook group is over 120 people now, and I know of one Sunday school class that is planning on using this for their weekly discussion..

I want to remind you that I’ll publish the Discussion Guide each Monday for the upcoming week’s readings, and that can be used for anyone that wants to organize a small group for accountability and discussion. That will be posted on the 66 in 52 Facebook page.

Some people have asked me what they are supposed to do if they don’t have Facebook. Here is the solution. You subscribe to my blog and get most of what you would get on the Facebook page emailed to you. You can get the weekly discussion guide and all of the daily posts I write. If you have questions about anything you see in the daily readings, you can ask them on the blog. The one thing you’ll miss is the ability to interact with each other.

There is a reading plan in the Bible App that uses the chronological plan we are following. And that’s important because not all chronological plans follow the same order, because scholars are not in 100% agreement about when different events took place. So just to avoid confusion, I encourage you to use this plan. We also have paper copies available of the plan if you would rather keep up that way. 

Now, if you started Day One on January 1, that means Sunday will be the start of a new week. And in the sermon time, we will look back on a big idea from the previous weeks’ reading and expand on it in the sermon.

So this morning, I want us to look back at Genesis 3-8. We are going to look at how sin came into the world, but even more importantly, we are going to look at how God already had a plan to deal with our sin. And we are going to see how God illustrated that plan over and over, just in this first week of reading, and hopefully this will give you the tools to see how this foreshadowing runs throughout the Bible. Because remember, just as we saw in the opening video, every story casts His shadow. Let’s pray together, and then we will jump in.


If you were a first grader in the American colonies between 1690 and 1780, you would have learned how to read using the New England primer. It was the most successful textbook published in the 17th century, and you would have learned your ABCs with pages like this. Each letter had a little two word couplet that went along with the picture, and would help the child remember the letter. For example:

  • B is “thy life to mend this book attend”
  • C: The cat doth play and after slay. Apparently even the Puritans knew that cats were evil.  In later versions, the rhyme for C “Christ crucified for sinners died.”
  • F: The idle Fool is whipped at school (Those were the good old days!)
  • For all of us that started Job this week, check out J: Job feels the rod / and blesses God.

I doubt we would see a textbook in the public schools that taught the letter C with “Christ crucified / For sinners died.”

But I want you to take a close look at how children were taught the letter A:  “in Adams fall we sinned all.” We definitely wouldn’t hear THAT in public school. We don’t talk about sin in public places.

The truth is, we don’t talk much about sin in our culture today. We talk about mistakes. We talk about bad decisions. But no one talks about sin anymore, unless they are being intentionally ironic.

In Adam’s Fall, we sinned All. The Bible teaches that sin entered the world through Adam. And we have been sinning ever since.

So how did we get there? Let’s look at it together. When God first created the first man, even before Eve was created, Genesis 2:15-16 says,

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[d] of it you shall surely die.”

Now, there is a very important detail in that verse, and we are going to come back to it in a bit. But right off the bat, we’re like “Um, Lord, I have questions”

  • First, what’s so bad about having the knowledge of good and evil? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Parents, don’t we work hard to teach our children right from wrong? Wouldn’t it be great if they were just born with that knowledge already? Why is that tree forbidden?
  • But, God, if you’re going to make it forbidden, why make it look so good? It’s not poisonous; we know from the story of Eve and the serpent in Genesis 3 that Eve “saw that the fruit was good for food.” And it’s not ugly, like a Georgia Pine.  I hate those trees. Grew up with them in our yard. I’m not throwing shade on Georgia. But neither do the pine trees. They just grow straight up like a telephone pole for 40’  and then put out a few pitiful pine needles. But Genesis 3:6 says that the tree was “a delight to the eyes.” So why God? If you didn’t want them to eat from it, why not make it a pine tree? Has anyone ever been tempted to chow down on a pine cone?
  • And maybe the  biggest question of all: Why would God create a tree that they weren’t allowed to eat from in the first place? You created everything, so why couldn’t you just plant a garden without any forbidden trees?

we send all if we believe the story of Adam and Eve that maybe you wondered why all of us should have to deal with something that happened in the garden thousands of years ago why do we still have to bear the consequences of original sin we didn’t bite the fruit did we?

Let me try to give you my best answer on these. They aren’t the only answers, but here’s how I understand it.

First, understand that “ knowledge of good and evil” isn’t about information, it’s about determination.

God’s desire is that human beings would trust Him as the ultimate authority of what is right and what is wrong. But if Adam eats from this tree it’s going to be a rejection of God’s authority to determine right and wrong, and claiming  that authority  for himself.

See, this is the original sin. We think moral relativism is a modern problem—that we’ve only just recently started to say, “Well, my truth might not be your truth.”

“What might be right for you may not be right for some.” (It talks diff’rent strokes, it takes diff’rent strokes…)”

Second: Temptation always looks good. If it didn’t look good, it wouldn’t be a temptation. Think about every single beer commercial you’re gonna see when you watch the championship game tomorrow night. Everybody’s young and good looking. No one has a beer gut. They all look like they are having the time of their lives. You’ve never seen a commercial that says, “You’ve just thrown up in a dumpster. It’s Miller time.

Third: It is true that God could have made a temptation-free world. He could have removed anything and everything mankind could choose instead of him. But listen, in order to choose to follow God, it has to be possible to choose something else. There is no free will if there is no other option.

And you know what happens next. In Genesis 3, you see Eve deceived by the serpent. You see her give some of the fruit to her husband. You know their eyes get opened, and they realize they are naked, and they hide from God because they are ashamed.

And you know what happens after that. They start blaming each other. Adam blames Eve for giving him the fruit. And then he blames God for giving him Eve. Genesis 3:13:

12 The man replied, “The woman you gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

Then Eve blames the serpent: Genesis 3:14: The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

Again, you know what happens next. Sin separates them from God. It breaks the perfect fellowship they have with each other. And it even disrupts their relationship with creation. They don’t get to live in the garden anymore. They don’t get to talk to serpents anymore. Later on, after Noah and his sons leave the ark, God says that “the fear and terror of you will fall on every living creature.” (Genesis  9:2)

In our readings last week, we saw the continuing spread of sin. Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother because he was jealous that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s (Genesis 4)

God becomes so fed up with the sin of the world that he decides he will destroy the world and start over. He chooses one man, Noah, and his family to build an ark, gather two of every kind of animal, and then shut themselves inside the ark while the Lord pours out His wrath on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights. After the floods subside, God tells Noah’s sons to multiply and fill the earth.

They obey… half of God’s command. They multiply, but they don’t fill the earth.

So, within just a few generations after the earth is destroyed, mankind once again decides they can decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong, and so they decide  to stay in one place and make a name for themselves by building a tower.  

And we know what comes next. God confuses their language, people abandon the tower and scatter all over the earth, and that’s why we can’t understand people from Japan. Or Zimbabwe. Or Louisiana.

By the time we get to the book of Job, sin is so pervasive throughout the world that when Job experiences unbelievable suffering, the first response of his friends is “You must have sinned. We will spend the next two weeks on Job, so hold that thought.

So, all of this is familiar to us. We grew up with these stories. That’s why you’ve heard me say, over and over, “You know what happens next.” But let me ask you another question:

Do you know what happened before?

Before Job and his trials. Before Babel. Before Noah. Before Cain and Abel. Before Eve and the serpent. Do you know what happened before?

I want us to take another look at the Scripture we began with: Genesis 2:15-17. Remember I told you that there was a very important detail that we would come back to? Well, here it is. 

It’s the letter d. It’s a footnote.  And if you are using an online Bible, you can click on that little letter d, and it gives you an alternate translation of the Hebrew. Instead of “in the day you eat of it you will surely die,” or “if you eat of it, you will surely die.”

When you eat of it, you shall surely die.

And that little change changes everything about how you read the rest of the Bible.

If it’s “If,” then Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden caught God by surprise. He’s like, Oh, Me, what are we going to do now? We’ve got to scramble to put something together.

If it’s if, it changes how you read the beginning of the flood story:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.    

If you think the Bible starts with God not knowing what’s going to happen next, then you imagine verse 6 as God saying “I just never thought it would be like this. I’m just going to start over.

But friends, sin did not catch God by surprise. God regretted the choices man had made, to the point that he would pour out His wrath on all creation, but He wasn’t surprised by it.

The right way to read Genesis 2:17 is “when you eat of it, you will surely die.” God knew from before the foundation of the world that we would sin against him. Which is why, according to Ephesians 1, he chose us before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us[b] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Which is why, according to Matthew 25, we are going to inherit a kingdom prepared for us “from the foundation of the world”

There’s a song from about 20 years ago by a Christian band called Caedmon’s Call that I love. The song is called “Table for Two.” In the song, two friends are make a late night pancake run to Waffle House, and they wind up talking all night. They talk about  life and death and God and soccer and heaven and hell and girls and what’s going on in their lives. And in the last verse of the song, the narrator begins to speak to God directly, and he sings:

You knew how you’d save me before I fell dead in the Garden

You knew how you’d save me before I fell dead in the Garden
And You knew this day long before You made me out of dirt.  
And You know the plans You made for me. 
And you can’t plan the ends and not plan the means. 

Listen to the whole song here:

Focus on that last line. God has a plan for us.  We know from Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a plan to give us a hope and a future. And that plan was set in motion even before we sinned.

So put this together with Ephesians 1:4—5, that before the foundation of the world God had predestined us for adoption through Jesus.

Write this down in your notes: God planned it all before the fall.

Before the first man and the first woman ate of the fruit, God knew that one day He would send his son into the world to redeem the world. Job saw it, even in the middle of his suffering. If you’re caught up with the reading, this morning you got to Job 19:25:

For I know For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.[a]

I know we talk about Genesis 3:15 a lot—we talked about it just a couple of weeks ago in one of the Advent sermons.

“And I will put enmity (open hostility) Between you and the woman, And between your seed (offspring) and her Seed; He shall [fatally] bruise your head, And you shall [only] bruise His heel.”

I have it on the screen the way it reads in the Amplified Bible. If you aren’t familiar with that version, you need to know about it. Because it unpacks the nuances of the Greek and Hebrew right there in the English texts, using brackets and parentheses. It’s not great for just reading through because it interrupts itself so often, but its awesome for studying a passage. So look at what the Amplified Bible amplifies:

  • Her Seed is capitalized. This is how most translations emphasize nouns and pronouns that are referring to God. And since it’s the seed of the woman, we know its pointing to the virgin birth.
  • That seed will deliver a fatal wound to the serpent’s head, while the serpent will “only” be able to deliver a non fatal wound to the seed.

When God says the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent, it means that the power of sin will be crushed. It will be forgiven. Humans will be redeemed. Death will be swallowed in victory.

But this victory would come by the shedding of blood. Before the seed of the woman crushes the serpent, the serpent is going to bruise His heel. The Seed (Jesus) will suffer when He sheds his blood on the cross. Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness for sins. As I read this week, I started noticing how many times, even in these first few chapters of the Bible, there were signposts pointing to Jesus’ sacrifice for sin:

  • Genesis 3:21—when Adam and Eve were naked and ashamed, God covered their nakedness with clothing made from animal skins. For shame to be covered, something had to die.
  • Genesis 4—Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, and Cain’s was rejected. Scripture doesn’t explicitly say why, but it does point out the difference: Abel’s sacrifice involved the shedding of blood. For an offering to be accepted, something had to die.
  • Genesis 9—the first thing Noah did when he came out of the ark was to build an altar and offer up burnt offerings. God’s word says that  “When the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, he said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done.” For the covenant to be established, something had to die.
  • Job 1:5: Job made burnt offerings on behalf of his children every time they had a banquet. Let’s close by looking at this verse more closely:

Whenever a round of banqueting was over, Job would send for his children and purify them, rising early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for[a] all of them. For Job thought, “Perhaps my children have sinned, having cursed God in their hearts.”

Let this sink in: The father purified his children by making a sacrifice on their behalf. 

For the children’s sin to be atoned for, the father shed the blood of a lamb from his own flock.

This is the gospel. For God so loved the world that He gave His son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but will have everlasting life.

For sin to be forgiven, Someone had to die. 

And God planned it all before the fall.


Small Group Study Guide, Week One


Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25
Day 26
Day 27
Day 28

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage.

This week’s reading covered Creation and the Fall (Day 1). Day 2 showed the increasing spread of sin throughout the world, culminating in God’s destruction of the world. God showed favor (grace in the KJV) to Noah, saving him and his family, along with two of every kind of animal, and thus preserving life. On Day 3, the flood recedes and God makes a covenant with Noah commanding him to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:7). Humans do two out of three. Genesis 10 shows how they multiplied, but they failed to fill the earth, opting instead to make a name for themselves by building a tower in one place. So God confuses their language and they scatter to the ends of the earth. Genesis 11 ends with focusing on the family tree of Shem, culminating in the birth of Abram (Fun fact: this is where the term “Semitic” comes from).

Day 4 switches over to Job. If you have the technology in your meeting place, you may want to watch this overview together.

Job 1-2 introduce the central theme of Job, which is “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Job 3 is Job’s opening complaint. For the rest of this week’s reading, we see the pattern that most of the rest of the book will follow:

  • A friend responds (Eliphaz, Day 4; Bildad, Day 5; Zophar, Day 6)
  • Job responds to the friend
  • Repeat (Eliphaz again on Day 7)

You’ll notice as we go through the friends’ speeches they get progressively more confrontational with Job as they go on.

Discussion Questions:

As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ?

Note to leader: This will be your first question every week. Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.

The following questions span the whole week’s reading. You probably will not have time to deal with all of them. Highlight the ones that are most interesting to you. As you listen to the group’s highlights, put a star next to any of the questions that address what stood out to someone in the group. Make sure you always ask Questions 9 and 10.

  1. How do you see God’s grace to Adam and Eve, even after they sinned? (Invite someone to read Genesis 3:21-24)
  2. How could Cain know murdering Abel was wrong (4:14) if God hadn’t given the Ten Commandments yet?
  3. Why did God choose Noah to build the ark? (see Genesis 6:8-9)
  4. Why do you think humans did not want to be scattered throughout the earth, even though that was part of God’s command? (see Genesis 9:7; compare 11:4) How do we resist change today?
  5. What was your initial reaction to jumping from Genesis to Job?
  6. How does the author of Job describe Job (1:1-5)? Why is this important to understanding everything that happens next?
  7. Imagine God wanted to use you as an example for faithfulness in the midst of suffering. How do you think you would do if God said “Have you considered my servant [your name]?” (see Job 2:3)
  8. How do you respond to people when they are grieving? What did Job’s friends do right? (see Job 2:11-13)
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

Close in prayer.

The Four Most Important Words in the Bible (Genesis 1:1-4, John 1:1-14)

Part One of “66 in 52” January 1, 2023, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor.

Good morning! If you’ve got your Bibles to turn to Genesis chapter 1.

It’s a new year, and this morning we are beginning a brand new sermon series that we are calling “66 in 52.” The plan is that over the next twelve months—all of 2023, we are going to preach through the entire Bible. We can’t do that verse by verse, or even chapter by chapter. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, and if we spent a week on each one it would take us twenty-two years.

So if all you did was come to worship each week, you would get a broad overview—like a 30,000 foot view—of the storyline of Scripture. But our hope is that  you won’t just come to worship, but that you will commit to reading the Bible through on you own as well. We are going to use a chronological reading plan, which means we will read the Bible in the order the events actually happened rather than in the order they are laid out in your Bible’s Table of Contents. That’s why you notice on Day 4 we flip over to Job before we get to the end of Genesis.

We will publish the reading plan for the week in the bulletin. And the sermon each week will come from something in that week’s readings. So next week I will cover one of the Scriptures from week One.

In addition, we’ve set up a Facebook page for our church members that will provide links to a daily blog post, an opportunity for you guys to ask questions of our staff and Sunday school leadership, and will link to helpful articles and other resources to help you stick with this commitment. Also, each Monday we will publish a list of discussion questions for the week. You can use these as your Sunday school lesson, or in a small group, or just in your own quiet time.

And since today is January 1, you can go home and begin the reading plan now and you won’t be behind!

So, why are we doing this? Let me give you an illustration that might help you make sense of it:

If you’ve ever been to Paris you might have gone through the Louvre. It’s the largest museum in the world.  There are three hundred and eighty thousand pieces of art in the Louvre, and at any given time you can only see a less than ten percent of what’s there.

There are only (only!) about 35,000 pieces that are able to be displayed at any given time.

One person has said that if you spent 30 seconds on every piece of art that is on display in the Louvre, it would take you 100 days 24 hours 7 days a week just to see every piece that’s on display for 30 seconds each.

Some people look at scripture kind of like the pieces in the Louvre. They know the stories, and they know they’re all great stories.  They know they’re all masterpieces.  But they don’t really see how they all fit together.  When you go to the Louvre you might be in the Renaissance room, or you might be in the Egypt room or you might be in the Greek Room and you don’t really see how all of the pieces fit together because honestly they don’t. While they’re all works of art, they were done by different artists, over different periods of time, with different styles, and they are telling different stories.

On the other hand, some of you have been to Italy. That one’s on my bucket list too. In Italy there is a chapel called the Sistine Chapel, and from 1508 to 15 12 one artist named Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

When you look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the very center you see the Creation of Adam.  But if you look just below that, you see what God created on on the sixth day. And if you look just above that you see the creation of Eve. In fact if you study the pictures on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, you’ll see how every picture is all telling the same story. It’s all painted by one artist, with one brush, telling one story.

What I hope will happen as we go through this next year is that all of you will come to understand is that the Bible is one story.  It’s not like the Louvre, with a lot of different pictures by a lot of different artists that don’t all tell the same story . It’s one picture by one artist telling one story. And that one story is about how God desires a relationship with human beings.

It’s about how we who have fallen, who are far from God, who were born in sin, can find our way back to God. And most importantly, the Bible is about Jesus. Our Baptist Faith and Message says that “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” So even when we are in the Old Testament, as we will be for the first nine months of the year, we are still going to find the character of Christ and the revelation of Christ and the anticipation of Christ in every single page.

And you’re gonna hear the gospel. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking, “Well, we’re going to be in the Old Testament until October, so we aren’t really going to focus on the gospel.

Charles Spurgeon was once asked by a young preacher to give his honest opinion on the sermon the young man had just preached. He didn’t really want to answer because he didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings, but finally he said, “If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon.”

The young preacher protested, “Well, of course you didn’t, because it was from the Old Testament. Christ wasn’t in the text.”

Spurgeon said, “do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, ‘There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.’”

The young man said, “Well, but suppose you are preaching from a text that says nothing about Christ?” To which Spurgeon answered, “Then I will go over hedge and ditch until I will get at Him.” 

And that’s my prayer. That this year, we are going to find Christ on every page of Scripture. And that if we don’t immediately see the connection, we will have the patience to keep digging until we do.

 That story begins in Genesis chapter 1, verses 1-4.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Let’s pray together.


Okay so the title of the sermon this morning is “The four most important words in the Bible.”  If somebody asked you what were the most important words in the Bible, what would you say?  

Maybe you would say “for God so loved the world.” Those are pretty important words.

Maybe you would say “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Those are certainly important words too.

But I want to suggest to you this morning that the four most important words in all of the Bible are the first four words in the Bible:  “in the beginning God.”

Why would those be the four most important words in Bible?  

Because what we all have to understand is that there is a God, and you are not him.

There is a God who is in charge, who created everything that we see, and you are not that being.

So the first four words of the Bible establish God’s Authority.

It doesn’t say “in the beginning, me.”

It doesn’t say “In the beginning, my.”

“In the beginning God” is the foundation for a Christian worldview. Right off the bat, God’s Word challenges a man-centered worldview and replaces it with a God-centered worldview. It’s a theological Copernican revolution. You remember Copernicus, right? The astronomer who challenged the belief that everything in the universe revolved around the earth. Copernicus came along and said, “Nope. Everything does not revolve around the earth. It revolves around the sun.” A lot of people condemned Copernicus as a heretic. And it’s cultural heresy today to suggest that the universe doesn’t revolve around you.

God’s Word doesn’t start with your happiness.  God’s Word doesn’t start with your personal fulfillment. God’s word starts with in the beginning, God. It speaks to God’s authority.

A lot of people wish God had gone into more detail in Genesis. Why doesn’t it start with an explanation of who God is, or how He got here, or philosophical proofs for his existence?

The answer is that in the ancient world, the existence of God was a foregone conclusion. You didn’t have to convince people that there was a power greater than themselves. Creation already revealed it.  Psalm 19:1-4:

19 The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

 Genesis doesn’t need to start with “in the beginning, how.”  It starts with in the beginning, Who.”

One year after the Christmas holidays, a Christian and an atheist were talking with each other, and the atheist was complaining about all the religious holidays. He said “It’s ridiculous. If you’re a Christian you get Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter. If you’re Jewish you get Hanukkah and Passover and Purim. if you’re a Muslim you get Ramadan. How come there’s no holidays for atheists?

The Christian looked at him said, “Well there is April Fool’s Day.”

I’m not saying that to be critical of someone who is asking honest intellectual questions. But Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.”  For most people who say they don’t believe in God, it’s not an honest intellectual question that’s brought them to that point.

Most of the time, atheists’ objections are not intellectual, but moral. You might remember from last year’s study, Romans 1:18:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 

Atheists generally don’t have a belief problem, they have a sin problem, just like all of us. We all have a sin problem.  Our unrighteousness suppresses the truth.  It’s our unrighteousness that keeps us from understanding and focusing on and glorifying what creation has so clearly revealed, not just the existence of God, but the authority of God.

If we don’t get the first four words right– in the beginning God– we miss everything else.

Now let’s look at the fifth word of the Bible “created.” (By the way, I promise we will go a whole lot faster as we go through this series. You’re looking at your watches and thinking, wow—we are 20 minutes into this sermon and we are on the fifth word of the Bible—this is going to be a long year!”)

In the beginning God created.  That word in Hebrew for created occurs 48 times in the Old Testament, and it always, always is used with God as the subject. The only time you see the word created in the Hebrew Old Testament, it’s in reference to something God does.

Now, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t creative, or can’t be creative. My son Josh is one of the most creative people I know. And we all know people like that. Maybe you’re a person like that.  But what we learn from Genesis 1 is that human beings are only creative because they are created in the image of a creative God. Genesis 1:27 says that we were created in God’s image. It doesn’t say that about any other part of God’s creation. It also says that God created people male and female.

So this fifth word, created, is nearly as important as the first four words. It is God who assigns gender roles. It is God who assigns value to men and women. It’s not up to men and women to recreate what God has already created. And it isn’t for us to presume that God made a mistake when he made anyone male or female. We are living in a world where people think they can choose their own pronouns. But Genesis 1:31 says that God saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good. You might not feel that way when you look in the mirror. But please know that the FACT of God’s creation outweighs whatever FEELINGS of inadequacy or confusion you might feel. So maybe (and I say this with all respect) you’ve been focused so much on trying to live out “your truth” that you’ve lost sight of THE truth.

Why did God create you? It wasn’t because he was lonely, because the Bible teaches that God is complete in himself. God exists in perfect unity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all three persons of the Trinity have been coexistent from before the foundation of the world. Hold that thought, because we will come back to it.

So why did God create us?

Well first God created us for his glory.  Isaiah 43:6-7 says that God’s sons and daughters are scattered throughout the earth, and that they “are created for His glory.”

Every single one of us: black white, Asian, Hispanic, created in His image and for his glory every one of us male female in his image and for his glory. Every one of us young child, senior adult, created in His image and for his glory. Every one of us– whether we have mental or physical disabilities, whether we have a short term sickness or a long term diagnosis– every one of us created in His image and for his glory.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, which was developed in 1646, starts with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” We were created for His glory.

Number 2, we were created for relationship.

In Genesis 1, after each thing God created, he made an evaluation.

  • He saw that the light was good (v. 4)
  • He saw that creating the oceans was good (v. 10)
  • Creating trees and plant life: good (v. 12)

And so on with each element of creation, so that you get to verse 26 and it says,

God saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good

But then you get to Genesis 2:18, and God says,  it is not good for man to be alone I will make a helper suitable for him.

The only thing in all creation that was not good was being alone.

Part of being in God’s image is that we are created for relationship.  God exists in relationship–Father Son and Holy Spirit. God created us for relationship with himself and also in relationship with one another.

The most devastating thing about the fall of man is that it disrupted the relationship between holy God and sinful man.  You see, when sin entered the world it created a rift because God will not be in the presence of sin. So as soon as sin entered the world that thing that we were created for– a relationship with God– was broken. Next week we will talk about the rescue plan God initiated even before Adam and Eve sinned.

I want to close by pointing out a profound truth we see in these first three verses. Look again at the first four verses:

We actually see all three Persons of the Trinity in the first three verses of Genesis. In the beginning God—that’s God the Father.  Verse 2: “The Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” That’s God the Holy Spirit.

Notice that verse 2 also describes the earth as formless and empty. The Hebrew words there describe chaos and disorder. And the first thing that God did was begin to bring order out of chaos.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

I remember several years ago, the VBS theme was about creation. I was on staff at another church at the time, but I remember a panicked volunteer coming to my office because she had just noticed for the first time that God created light three days before He created the sun, moon, and stars. And she was freaking out, because she had no idea how she would explain this to a group of first and second graders if they asked her about it. So she was asking me to explain it to her. I told her I didn’t have a clue. I don’t know how there was light before there was a sun to give light. For that matter, I don’t know how plant life grew before there was sunlight.

But remember that Genesis 1 wasn’t intended to answer all our questions about physics or biology. It doesn’t answer the how. It just answers the who. So don’t get knotted up about how there could be light before there was the sun. Instead, focus on the fact that, before anything else existed, there was light.

So we clearly see God the Father in Genesis 1:1. We see God the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2. But where is God the Son?

Turn with me to John 1, or you can look at it on the screen. John 1 begins exactly that same way Genesis 1 does:

In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Sound familiar? Keep reading:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I want to suggest that the light in Genesis 1:4 is God the son. That before there was a SUN, S-U-N, there was the SON, S-O-N. Now, I want to be  crystal clear on this: I’m not saying God created Jesus. God did not speak the S-O-N into existence when He said Let there be light. There never has been a time when God the Son did not exist.

But John says that the life of the Son is the light of men.

The Word—the light of men–was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made. Without him nothing was made that has been made.  And just in case you don’t realize John is talking about Jesus, he spells it out in verse 14:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God brings order into chaos. God brings light into darkness. And that’s what Jesus does with human beings.

He brings light into our darkness. He brings order into our chaos.

He brings peace into our confusion. He brings joy into our suffering.

And as we will see in more detail next week, Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross for our sins was God’s plan from the very beginning of creation.


Let’s stand for the invitation.  

Maybe for years you’ve been saying I just I really don’t believe in God. I don’t take all of that seriously I’m not even sure he exists. I want to invite you to be a part of The Reason for God study, either on Wednesdays or Sunday nights.

But I also want you to consider that maybe you don’t have a belief problem, you have a sin problem. You were created for God’s glory, but you’ve made your life about your own glory. I want to invite you to submit to God’s authority in your life and to stop living as though you are the center of the universe. .

Maybe the chaos and emptiness that Genesis 1:2 describes is the way you would describe your own life this morning. I want you to know that Christ came into the world to separate light from darkness and to bring order and fullness to your chaos and emptiness.

You may need to simply say, Lord Jesus I need you to come into my life.  

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