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A. This is our last sermon on the book of Job: from a bird’s eye view
B. Job is a hard book.
1. To begin with, Job is hard because it’s a long book with 42 chapters.
2. It’s also hard because it deals with the subject of suffering, which is a hard subject.
a. Even just reading about Job’s experience of suffering is hard.
3. Job is also hard because it doesn’t answer questions we’d like to get answered, and the answers it does give us aren’t always the answers we want to hear.
4. The book is hard to read because most of it is dialogue between Job and his friends. It’s not easy to follow, it’s not easy to understand. The dialogue is very repetitive and Job and his friends go on and on, arguing with one another, never giving an inch to each other, so no progress seems to be made. And because Job and his three friends get corrected in the end, it’s not easy to know how to think about the things they say.
5. Job is also 95% poetry, which is very challenging because it involves artistic features and Hebrew parallelism and metaphors and similes, etc. That makes it hard.
6. It is also hard because of the vast cultural & historical distance between the writing of Job & now.
7. It’s no wonder that it’s not many people’s favorite book in the Bible.
8. But, as we have seen over and over again, the most precious jewels are found in the deepest mines. And this is certainly true about Job. We’ve learned many precious lessons from it.
9. And the book of Job shows us that the Bible doesn’t avoid hard things. It doesn’t paint a rosy or easy picture of human life.
C. Speaking of hard things, I would like to say something about Elihu. Elihu is a fourth friend of Job who doesn’t speak until after the others have all had their say. Then as soon as he’s done, God confronts Job.
1. Most sermon series on Elihu have one entire sermon in Elihu. But I have not done so. And I want to tell you why.
2. I didn’t feel secure about assessing Elihu. You see, Job speaks, and at the end God rebukes him – and you can discern pretty well what Job said that needed God’s rebuke.
3. Job’s friends speak and God rebukes them too – and it’s not that hard to see what they were saying that was wrong.
4. But then Elihu speaks. (Chapters 32-37 are him talking.) And after he speaks, there is no evaluation of what Elihu says – at all – neither by Job nor by God.
5. He speaks for six chapters, and then the story just moves on with God’s rebuke of Job, without any indication of whether or not Elihu’s words had an effect on Job.
6. Now, I agree that Elihu was much closer to the truth than the other three friends were.
7. But though some of the things Elihu says seem similar to the things God says in his rebuke of Job, and some things about how God uses suffering for the good of His children, other things he says are very similar to what the three friends said.
8. So, I just haven’t studied Elihu well enough to have the confidence to assess him rightly.
II. There are so many lessons to learn from the story of Job.
A. Job teaches us that sometimes God will allow all hell to endeavor to shake His beloved child.
B. Job teaches us that sometimes God will allow us to feel like He is absent and silent. But it also teaches us that even in those times when God is silent, He is still very much there – listening.
C. Job teaches us that suffering isn’t always punitive.
1. Job is where it begins to dawn on God’s people that even suffering can be a tool God uses to bless His people.
2. Satan meant it for evil; God meant it for good.
D. Job teaches us that sometimes God allows the most righteous to suffer much more than anyone else.
E. It teaches us that sometimes God is pleased with very imperfect people. At the beginning God brags about Job to Satan, then at the end God vindicates Job and rewards Job – though Job is clearly imperfect.
F. Job also teaches us that even righteous people can have a lot of wrong ideas.
G. Job teaches us that there is a spiritual world which is invisible to us, and that in this world, God uses His children on earth to prove His points, to show His power and His truth. This means that our lives are cosmically and eternally meaningful.
H. Job teaches us that every once in a while God’s child needs a strong rebuke.
I. Job teaches us that the true adversary of the God’s child is never God, as we often assume.
J. And yet, Job also teaches us that Satan only does what God in His goodness allows him to do.
III. Well, to finish our series on Job, we’re going to go back to the beginning of the story, where I would suggest we can learn the biggest lesson of all.
A. Job 1:13–22 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.
B. I would suggest that the biggest lesson of all in Job is that it teaches us to say yes to God.
C. As we’ve just read, at first, Job said yes to God. Even though he lost his ten children and all his wealth in one day, Job worshiped God, “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.”
1. Job gave God permission to do His will in Job’s life. “Not mine but Your will be done.”
2. In his early worship and acceptance Job shows us what is possible by faith.
D. But as time wore on, though he continued his faith and, as we’ve seen, had a number of precious declarations of faith, Job’s attitude began to sour.
1. When physical suffering was added, and then the pain of having his close friends turn against him, and then the element of time is thrown in, the weight of it all became hard for Job to bear.
2. And though he never denied the Lord and never ran away from Him, he certainly lost the exemplary attitude he had at first.
3. This shows us how fragile even the strongest faith can be, how easily wearied, how quickly eroded by unalleviated pain.
4. Of course, as we consider Job’s failures, we need to remember that Job didn’t have all the resources we have!
a. We have the book of Job; he did not. We have a whole Bible full of great stories and promises.
b. Surely Job would have done better if he knew about the exceeding and eternal weight of glory with which the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared!
c. And how Job could have trusted God if he had knowledge of Jesus and the cross?
d. Think of what it would have been like if Job knew of Romans 8:35–39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ...37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
E. But at the end Job seems to regain his attitude of saying yes to God. How do we know this?
1. He spends much of the book defending himself, but when God rebukes him, there is not a shred of self-defense, but only, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)
2. This reminds us of his initial response to the tragedy. He has recovered that spirit of humility, he has recovered that spirit of yes.
F. So, we learn from Job’s good example to say yes to God when things go very wrong, and then we learn from Job’s failures and repentance to say yes to God even when the struggle is unrelenting and just keeps getting worse.
1. The lesson of the whole book is that God’s people ought to say yes to God, even when He gives tough assignments, even when He leads through the valley of the shadow of death. Even in severe suffering, God can be trusted in His goodness, in His perfect wisdom, in His love for His little ones, in His faithfulness to them even in trial.
G. God gives us this precious story of Job to equip us to hold fast in faith even in the face of storms which batter us and frighten us.
1. For just as Job had no idea of the tragedy and calamity which was to befall him, so we have no idea of the circumstances which await us in the future.
2. Job has been one of the greatest resources and treasures for believers down through the ages as God equipped them to face their challenges and obstacles.
H. One of the people who needed this kind of encouragement in facing tremendous challenges was the virgin Mary. And it is very likely that Mary herself benefitted from Job’s example of saying yes.
1. Next week Advent begins. At this point, I’d like to introduce our transition from Job to advent by playing a little song for you by Bob Franke. It’s a song to Mary urging her to say yes to God when God calls her through Gabriel to be the mother of Jesus.
a. When the angel arrives there will be terror, but say yes
b. The sound of wings like the breaking of a mirror, but say yes
c. It will arrive where you’re little and you’re scared
d. It will lay claim to the things you’ve never shared
e. And though your heart and your soul are unprepared, say yes
f. And it may tear you from home and family, but say yes
g. It may demand you become a refugee, but say yes
h. And when you’re cold, and you’re hungry, and you’re poor
i. When you’re in pain in a room without a door
j. And when the angel returns and asks for more, say yes
k. Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you – Worlds without end depend on you
l. Blessed is the One whom you bring forth – Who no one else can bring
m. When the legions of angels call you blessed, say yes
n. And were you faithful in each and every test? Say yes
o. And when they ask you in story and in song, Were you upheld and protected all along?
p. Did the power of the Spirit keep you strong? Say yes
A. So, I would like to urge you, as we draw our series on Job to a close, to say yes to God.
B. The book of Job calls us to say yes to God no matter what – no matter how scary, no matter how painful, no matter how disruptive.
1. Always say yes. Say yes and keep saying yes. Keep saying yes even when it feels like saying yes is actually making things worse. Say yes even when it looks like yes is going to kill you. Say yes even when it seems like saying yes to God is saying no to happiness & security & to life itself.
2. Job teaches us to say yes, no matter how bad it gets.
C. Say yes to His discipline. Say yes to His will. Say yes to His commandments. Say yes to His assignments.
D. But as I was considering these things this week, I was convicted of one pretty obvious application which most of us American Christians are quite oblivious to, a way in which many of us refuse to say yes to God but don’t even realize it.
1. It occurred to me that when Job said yes to God, when he tore his robe & shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped, and 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,” when he did this, he wasn’t just saying yes to a command or to an assignment.
a. He was saying yes to the world God had now called him to live in: a childless world, a world of poverty, a world of loss, a world of memories without realities.
b. I mean, think about what life looked like for Job that day.
c. The only one he had left was his wife, and she just rubbed salt in his wounds.
2. But he didn’t despair, he worshiped. He was willing to face this new world and serve God in it.
3. And we also need to say yes to the broken world where God has placed us.
4. Do you know one way many don’t say yes to His call to live in this broken world? We live in fantasy worlds: video games, TV shows, movies, novels, sports, fantasy sports, pornography.
5. In our world today, we have the time, the resources, the technology to turn man's ability to fantasize into big business. so, if we want an escape, there are plenty of resources to help us. In fact, we have become a culture of fictional worlds, alternative realities which provides a buffet of escapes from the real world we actually live in.
a. Not only is this socially acceptable, it is encouraged and expected.
6. And so often it seems like the fantasy worlds are more interesting, more exciting, more engaging, less threatening than the real world we actually live in.
7. There was a time when the Christian church opposed novels and fiction, partly because of this concern. And that approach has been, in my opinion, rightly discarded. Fiction is not inherently evil. God gave us our imagination. But it can be used for evil. And one way it can be used for evil is by using fiction as a means of avoiding the difficulty of real life.
8. It’s so tempting to escape from the place God has assigned us because it’s unpleasant, instead of trusting Him that it’s just what we need.
a. How many of us have more of our heart invested in fictional characters on TV or in a novel than we do in our real flesh and blood neighbors?
b. How many of us spend a significant amount of time virtually every day immersed in some fictional world? And what real-life responsibilities are being neglected in the process?
9. And this has a lot to do with our relationship with Christ.
a. We don’t draw near to Christ unless we feel our need for Him.
b. And when we’re facing our real burdens and responsibilities in the real world, when we’re letting ourselves be confronted by the pain and struggle of people around us, when we are striving to serve them and minister to them in Christ’s love, it is pretty easy to discern our need for Christ.
c. But we don’t need Christ to live in a fantasy world. There might be times of suspense, but you don’t cry out to the Lord for help in the face of fictional dangers.
d. So, living in a fantasy world not only eats up a lot of our time, it suppresses our sense of need for Christ.
10. James 1:27 tells us that “Religion which is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
a. Hebrews 13:2-3 tells us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” and “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them.”
b. It sure is easier to watch TV or play video games than it is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, to show hospitality to strangers, and to remember those who are in prison!
11. I don’t mean in any way to imply that all of us are guilty of this. But I think this is one of those things about our culture which is so easy to fall into. And it damages our relationship with Christ, and our witness to those around us. and I think it’s a way many of us fail to say yes to God.
12. Part of saying yes to God in our present world is to say yes to His call to trust Him and serve Him in this broken and needy world. God help us!
13. That in the end, Jesus might say to us, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me...40 Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:35–36, 40