Moving Forward | Responding to God
This morning we are wrapping up our annual stewardship campaign and our sermon series in the Book of Job. This has been a short sermon series, two weeks, but in that time, throughout the Book of Job much has happened. In case, like me, you took last Sunday off to sip espresso and eat croissants, let’s catch up on what Job has been doing. We read that Job was one of G-d’s most faithful servants. Job also had it all - wealth beyond what was necessary or reasonable, a family, a farm, and he was admired not only by his family but also by his neighbors. Job was the person everyone want to be and to know.
The story pivots when Satan challenges G-d. Satan thought he could turn Job against G-d if G-d would take away everything Job had.
Satan thought that Job would not be the faithful servant he had been to G-d if he lost it all. According to Satan, Job’s faithfulness was conditional. Job was faithful to G-d, in the eyes of Satan, because G-d had blessed Job. Take away everything G-d had given to Job and Job’s faithfulness would wane. Satan thought if Job lost it all, everything he held dear, he would curse G-d.
G-d allowed this to happen and over the course of a week Job lost everything.
Job was left in shambles, but to be fair if all of this happened to any of us in the course of a few days - losing everything we held dear - we too might be in the same condition. Job’s faithfulness hinged upon his understanding that good people, righteous people, are rewarded by G-d and bad pepole, the unrighteous, are punished by G-d. Job, in his mind, must have done something to displease G-d and thus this was the reason why he was suffering.
Three of Job’s friends confirm his suspicions. His friends examined his life, looking at every detail in an attempt to find the reason for why this was happening to him. Job insists however that he has not done anything wrong. Job believes he has not anything to warrant losing all that he has lost - wealth, family, farm, and health.
Job holds G-d accountable for everything that happened to him. Job goes so far as to demand an audience with the divine. Job wants G-d to come down from Heaven, stand before him, and account for everything that has happened.
Demanding anything from G-d is risky business because you might get exactly what you demand.
This encounter took place last week. G-d came down, spoke to Job, and turned the tables on him.
“Why do you confuse the issue?
Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about?
Pull yourself together, Job!
Up on your feet! Stand tall!
I have some questions for you,
and I want some straight answers.
Where were you when I created the earth?
Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!
Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean
when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose,
And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place.
Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’”
G-d told Job that the wisdom he sought was to only be fully understood by the Creator. What Job demanded to know was beyond his ability to comprehend. And, this is where we pick up today.
Job is still standing before the divine. G-d revealed to Job the secrets of creation, something previously not revealed to humans and something not revealed since. Imagine, G-d revealing that to you. Awestruck is the only way I can think to describe how I would feel.
Job traveled the cosmos and is overwhelmed by what he has seen but realized there is an order as well. Job goes on this journey twice and is then left to respond to G-d about the mysteries revealed to him. The forty-one previous chapters have led to this moment. Our reading this morning is the cumulating of the good and bad experienced by Job.
What will Job say to his Creator?
“I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
Nothing and no one can upset your plans.
You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
made small talk about wonders way over my head.”
This is Job’s confession and acknowledgement of the power of the divine that at times is unknown to us.
The positivity used by Job indicates a shift in his thinking. Throughout the Book of Job, Job has responded negatively to everything that has happened. His positive response indicates that change is happening or has already happened.
What Job knows now, having been intimately exposed to the mysteries of creation, is that there is so much he does not know. Job does not have the mind of G-d and cannot fully understand what has been revealed to him. Job has confessed the limitations of wha the can understand surrounding the mysteries of the divine.
We learn from Job that he wants to know as G-d knows. He wants to understand the intricacies of creation as the Creator does. In verses three and four, Job does not have the words to express what he wants to say to his Creator so he used G-d’s own words. Job has seen more than he could ever understand. Our Creator’s knowledge is too great and expansive for us to fully understand. G-d is who G-d is and Job is who he is, and that is enough for Job. In his response Job repents in dust and ashes. He humbled himself before G-d and acknowledged before the majesty of G-d that his life had changed. In his repentance, Job reorients his life. He sees who G-d is differently now. Job echoed the word of G-d but took it a step further to say that what he does not know or understand he will leave up to G-d.
Much of what we do as followers of Christ is based upon mystery. From the basics of how exactly did Jesus turn water into wine or how the feeding of the 5000 actually happen to the sacraments - Baptism and Communion - there is much that we claim to know but what we think we know pales in comparison to the mystery that still remains.
There are aspects of creation that I will never understand - violence, illness, and hate. I’m sure many of you have similar questions. Throughout the Holy texts, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in our own encounters with the divine we find that G-d is faithful. The covenant established by G-d remains with us. This covenant sustains us and there is nothing we can do to change that. G-d does not turn a back on us today just as G-d did not abandon Job. One day, all things will be revealed by our Creator to each of us. In the meantime, we live in the confidence that G-d, our Creator, will remain faithful even when we do not fully understand.