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A. Job’s righteousness, then Satan, the instrument of Job’s suffering
B. To spend only one week on Job’s suffering is almost criminal. This is what he’s most famous for.
C. Job 1:13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “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.” 20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
D. 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And 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.” 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? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
II. Three waves of suffering
A. Job’s ten children are tragically killed on the same day; all Job’s wealth is also lost or destroyed.
1. Let’s not fail to appreciate the gravity of this. It’s traumatic for us to lose our job. But we don’t really have much of a parallel in our experience of a rich person losing all of his wealth. We hear of it happening to people who invest everything they have in something which went kaput. But I doubt of many of us know someone personally who has gone so quickly from riches to rags.
a. But imagine how traumatic that would be – everything you’ve worked for, all your future security, all your ability to provide for yourself and your family.
2. The gravity of losing one child – Who can imagine losing all ten children at once?
3. Already Job has been subjected to unspeakable loss, but that’s just the beginning.
B. Then Job is struck with “loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head,” so that “he took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.” (Job 2:7-8)
1. The pain possible with a skin disease
2. Job’s was so serious that he used a shard to scratch it.
3. Job 7:5 “My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt; my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh.”
4. Job 30:30 “My skin turns black and falls from me.”
5. Job was in so much pain that he couldn’t sleep:
a. “The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.” Job 30:17
6. You know how sometimes you go to sleep to escape from your pain but then you have nightmares instead? Job did that: “When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams & terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death.” Job 7:13-15
7. But that wasn’t the end of Job’s sufferings...
C. He also experienced rejection and a loss of friendship/support.
1. Each of us needs a supportive network of relationships when we experience suffering.
2. Even Jesus, in His moment of suffering, turned to His disciples:
a. Lk.22:15 He said to them, “I’ve earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
b. And then he took his closest disciples with Him to Gethsemane. Why did He do that if not to have their support during His dark time? And then He took His closest friends off to pray with Him.
3. Job had that too. He had a wife and a close circle of friends. But when everything crashed down around him, the very ones who were supposed to hold him up turned against him.
4. His wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” – Job 2:9
5. His friends turned against him, even to the point of mocking him.
a. Job’s 3 friends/counselors come from afar to visit him and end up having a very extensive argument with him, claiming that his suffering implies God’s anger and a secretly wicked life.
b. Job 16:10 Men have gaped at me with their mouth; they have struck me insolently on the cheek; they mass themselves together against me.
c. He said to his friends: How long will you torment me & break me in pieces with words? Job19:2
d. Everyone abandoned him. “[God] has put my brothers far from me, and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me. 14 My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me. 15 The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger; I have become a foreigner in their eyes. 16 I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must plead with him for mercy. 17 My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. 18 Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. 19 All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.” Job 19:13-19
6. All his support and comfort were gone.
7. What about the Lord? Wasn’t God still with Job? Yes, He was. He is always with His children.
a. But that doesn’t mean His children always sense His presence.
b. And we know that during the time of his suffering, Job did not sense God’s presence. Far from it.
c. Listen to what Job says about the Lord in Job 16:9-14, “He has torn me in his wrath & hated me; he has gnashed his teeth at me; my adversary sharpens his eyes against me...12 I was at ease, and he broke me apart; he seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces; he set me up as his target; 13 his archers surround me. He slashes open my kidneys; he pours out my gall on the ground. 14 He breaks me with breach upon breach; he runs upon me like a warrior.” (Also see Job 19:7-12.)
d. It’s not that Job doesn’t want to be close to God. He was desperate to find Him. Job 23:1-9 “My complaint is bitter... Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his presence... I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand...I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.”
A. The story of Job teaches us that God sometimes allows His children to experience unspeakable pain. There are times when God allows us to experience deep darkness, darkness which feels permanent.
1. None of us knows the future, but all of us should know that it includes suffering, and, at times, intense suffering. This is not just a possibility. It’s a sure thing.
2. The gospel of Christ does not guarantee us any less misery than Job’s.
3. Jesus Himself said, “in this world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33)
4. The apostle Paul said, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22
5. Speaking to other Christians the apostle John called himself “your partner in the tribulation and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.” – Revelation 1:9
6. This is the way it’s been for all mankind since God subjected the world to His curse in Gen.3.
7. Every person tastes the physical and emotional agony God has imposed on the world (Rom.8:20).
8. This also means that every person is a fitting object of compassion.
B. Does the Lord enjoy inflicting suffering? Of course not.
1. “Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict or grieve the children of men from his heart.” Lam.3:32-33
a. (See also Ezek.18:32, 33:11)
2. If God is a God of love, then why then does He impose suffering on the world?
a. God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.
b. God did not enjoy removing Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity and watching him crawling around like an animal. But He did enjoy Nebuchadnezzar back on his throne, humbled and acknowledging that His power and success all come from God. (Dan.4)
c. God did not enjoy Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt and living in a dungeon. But as Gen.50:20 tells us, though Joseph’s brothers meant evil against him, God meant it for good, that many people should be kept alive.
d. You see, God uses suffering as a powerful tool to bring about real good in people’s lives.
3. You remember what Paul says in 2Cor.1:8-9 “In Asia we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. We felt we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”
4. Again, extreme suffering, but supreme results.
5. Think of the great value which Job’s suffering produced.
a. It gave us the book of Job, and all the benefits and comfort this great book has given to the people of God through the ages.
b. It proved that Satan was wrong, it proved that there is real godliness in the earth, that all faith is not phony, that all faith is not self-serving, that all faith is not selfishness in disguise, that all love of good and right is not just an act. Terrible pain bringing forth wonderful fruit.
C. Now pain doesn’t feel healthy at the time, it doesn’t feel beneficial. It feels chaotic & destructive.
1. The last thing Job’s losses felt like was something that would lead to great gain. The last thing his affliction felt like was something which would bring great healing. The last thing his rejection felt like was something that would make him one of the world’s most beloved characters.
2. But even so, God is in complete control of it, bringing about all these good things.
3. Actually, in God’s economy, chaos and tragedy do not exist, though there is definitely an impression of chaos and tragedy in the world.
4. MA and I watched the Best Picture movie, Nomadland. It was so bleak and depressing!
a. One of my favorite movies is The Game. So much chaos & catastrophe that my wife hates it.
b. But are the movies actually bleak and catastrophic? Not really. Those actors were glad to get their roles. They got paid lots of money. They got accolades. The movies made lots of money. Even in those scenes when they were sitting all alone looking bleakly at the horizon, they were actually surrounded by a large crew, ready to give them whatever they needed or wanted. They had a cast party when it was done. They all went back to their homes.
c. It felt chaotic and catastrophic, but really it was all carefully choreographed and safe.
5. Your life will sometimes look and feel like chaos and tragedy, but it is actually carefully choreographed, and perfectly safe. No believers were hurt in the making of this movie.
6. Not only was God actually with Job, God was pleased with Job, though Job had the impression that God was unconcerned and even antagonistic.
D. We’ll see this when it’s all over. That’s when we’ll experience the greatest benefit of suffering.
1. God will make up for every tear (Ps.56:8), and abundantly reward us for every hurt (Rom.8:18).
2. “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” – 2Corinthians 4:17
3. Dorothy Sayers: “Something so grand and glorious is going to happen in the world’s finale that it will more than suffice for every pain we experienced on this planet.”
E. Can we trust God about this? Can we trust Him that He knows what He’s doing? that He doesn’t make mistakes?
1. I don’t want my children to suffer, but I know they will. I only hope and pray that their suffering is not wasted. I hope and pray their suffering is productive. I only hope that their suffering “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” – Hebrews 12:11.
IV. In conclusion this morning I’d like to reflect on two stories which are similar to the story of Job.
A. The first is the strange story of Jesus and the Syro-Phoenician woman in Matthew 15:22-28 A Canaanite woman came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But Jesus did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 So He said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
1. This is like a short, pocket-sized version of the Book of Job: seven verses instead of 42 chapters!
a. First God allows someone to experience unbelievable suffering, suffering which takes away their children. (Can you imagine how hard it is to have a child who is tormented by a demon?)
b. Then, when this person runs to God and cries for help, God acts like He doesn’t care and like He’s not even paying attention.
c. Then the people around mock and belittle this person. This person is even abandoned by the spouse.
d. But this person persists in their plea, and will not relent to all the pressures to give up.
e. In the end, God shows that He cared all along and gives the person just what they wanted, including offspring, and celebrates the person’s faith.
2. Yet, many Christians avoid this passage at all costs. It seems they just can’t get over the idea that the loving God sometimes acts cold – like He doesn’t care.
3. But those who grasp this reality have great fuel for their faith. Even when God allows them to experience suffering, they know He still loves them and cares for them.
4. “Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”
5. "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" written in 1773 by William Cowper
a. Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.
b. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
c. His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding ev'ry hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow'r.
6. When Job looked up at the heavens, he sure saw a frowning providence. But then he came to see even more vividly that behind that frowning providence had been hiding God’s smiling face.
7. We see that so vividly in the story of Job, which begins with God boasting about Job to Satan.
B. But there is another story in the Bible which also parallels the story of Job.
1. A story about the most righteous man enduring sufferings beyond anything we can imagine – even though He had done no wrong.
2. He was betrayed by his friends, even by His bride. He was mocked and ridiculed.
3. On top of the loss and rejection, He endured intense physical suffering.
4. He felt forsaken by God. And yet He would not buckle under pressure to curse God or despair.
5. And in the end there is a great reversal. God makes it clear that He loved this One all along, and vindicates Him, and rebukes all His detractors. In the end He receives from God much more than He ever lost, including a new family.
6. My friends, the story of Job proclaims Christ! It points to a greater Job – the Lord Jesus!
a. And to the immeasurable good produced through His undeserved suffering.
7. My friends, the greatest suffering, the greatest human injustice, the most brutal affliction ever endured produced the most splendid outcome, the most marvelous redemption.
8. In fact, God prepared mankind to grasp the redemptive power of Christ’s cross by giving us the story of Job. We wouldn’t understand the concept of Christ suffering redemptively if God hadn’t introduced it to us in the book of Job. Before that, suffering was assumed to be punitive.
9. But now we know. Job taught us, and then the cross of Christ REALLY taught us.
10. How can we look at the cross and question God’s use of suffering for good?
a. How can we object to His will in our lives&feel like the God who loves us is actually harming us?
b. How can we fear future suffering when we see God’s amazing ability in the past to use suffering to bring about such glorious results?
11. You are His precious child! Stop punishing Him for His tough love.
12. Accept His will and be grateful that He gives you just what you need – even if it’s hard.
13. And when it is hard, He will help you through it, and He won’t let it go on too long.