The Answer Job 31:35-37, Job 38:1-11

Job 31:35-37 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
35 O that I had one to hear me!
 (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)
 O that I had the indictment written by my adversary!
36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder;
 I would bind it on me like a crown;
37 I would give him an account of all my steps;
 like a prince I would approach him.
Job 38:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
 I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
 Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
 Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
 or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
 and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors
 when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment,
 and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
 and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
 and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?
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Job has suffered. Job has suffered for no reason at all except that God has allowed Satan to test Job.
Suffering without cause. Illness for no good reason. Heartbreak for no good reason. Economic injustice for no good reason. War for no good reason. Cruelty for no good reason. Physical and emotional abuse for no good reason.
That’s how the world is.
Job had lived in a world that seemed to promise that righteous living would be rewarded and that sinful living would be punished. It worked for Job for most of his life, until Satan argued with God about Job’s faithfulness. Satan claimed that the only reason Job was faithful was because God was good to Job. Take away those gifts, said Satan, and Job would desert God. God dared Satan and Job became the poster child for bad things happening to good people.
Let me remind you that the events in this story never happened. They are the author’s attempt to understand and explain good vs. evil, punishment vs. reward in a world that is ruled by God. Job is a book about God, a book inspired by God, but it is theoretical rather than historical.
Job’s friends try to help him understand why God has let these terrible things happen to him. Their conclusion is that Job must have sinned. Remember, it is Satan, not God, who orchestrated this entire scenario. But neither the friends nor Job know this.
Job is so faithful, so strong a believer in a good and gracious God that he does not desert God. Instead, he pleads with God, argues with God, complains to God. He does not curse God. He does not give up on God. He does not tell God to go to hell.
Have you ever witnessed so much injustice that you were ready to give up on God? It’s not uncommon. How many people have walked away from God because life was too unfair?
Do people walk away from God because they don’t understand God?
Do they give up on God like giving up on a hard math problem?
Job will not give up. He wants to hear directly from God. And, because this is a story, Job does hear directly from God.
God speaks to Job from the middle of a tornado. That would be pretty impressive, would it not? Think of the overwhelming noise of a tornado and then think of the voice of God coming out of it, drowning out the noise of the tornado. Pretty impressive.
God does not mention one word about God’s bet with Satan. God never explains why Job has to suffer. God approaches from a different angle. Listen to God’s words again.
38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Gird up your loins like a man,
 I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
 Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
 Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 On what were its bases sunk,
 or who laid its cornerstone
7 when the morning stars sang together
 and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors
 when it burst out from the womb?—
9 when I made the clouds its garment,
 and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed bounds for it,
 and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
 and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?
God does not give answers. Instead, God asks questions. Seventy questions. But all the questions point to one idea: Job, who do you think you are?
Like many questions, there is an answer within all those questions. The answer is a comforting answer: God created a world that is ordered and organized. God created a world that operates on logical, complex systems.
Let’s take an example: climate change. Many people tell me that climate change is not man made, that it is jut a cycle in nature, like the ice ages. Yes and no. It is a cycle, but this is the first major climate change that is caused by humans. It started with the industrial age, with blowing carbon into the air, and now, we are reaping the consequences. It is part of God’s ordered creation, because that creation includes how molecules interact with each other. God thought of every detail. God added humans to God’s creation and here we are. The amazing thing about climate change is that the world, this beautiful earth will survive and continue to evolve. The sad thing is that humans, like dinosaurs, don’t have much to look forward to. Our bodies are not able to adapt as quickly as many of the other organisms on earth. It sounds funny, but the adaptations that scare me are that animals that can’t survive winters are already moving north. Will our grandchildren have to watch out for boa constrictors and anacondas in their backyards? Snakes scare me. I want them to stay where they belong—in somebody else’s backyard. Far away. Actually, that is not the greatest danger, but it’s easy to understand.
You see, we are not the center of creation. We are not “patent protected” anymore than land and water. We are a part of creation, so when illness strikes, when we are in danger, it is part of God’s creation.
Do not confuse this with God’s plan or God’s will. People often speak of God’s plan when someone dies unexpectedly or some other disaster happens. God’s plan for us is to be happy. God’s creation has it’s own rules. In the twenty-first century, we believe that we know most of those rules, that we understand the science behind buildings collapsing, behind weather, behind disease. And we do know more than our grandparents’ or our parents’ generation. But God’s creation, God’s brilliance is so complex that we don’t know everything.
That is the point of God’s seventy-plus questions to Job. Do you know everything there is to know? Who are you to question me? asks God.
So what does that teach us?
Knowing that Creation is beyond our understanding does not make the pain go away. Knowing that God is ultimately in charge does not stop children being separated from their parents, whether it be by DHS or ICE. Knowing that God is in charge does not stop hurricanes or radicals with AR-15s.
Nothing stops suffering. But suffering and grief are not the whole story of our lives. In those seventy-plus questions, God is describing an incredibly beautiful, brilliant earth and sky and universe. God reminds us that just as we suffer, we also benefit from the complexity of Creation.
Our reaction to suffering can go two ways. It can estrange us from God because we mistakenly think God is punishing us or that God has deserted us. The other direction is to draw closer to God, to seek comfort in God’s immensity and power. You might say that we need to see the bigger picture. Again, the pain does not go away, but, paradoxically, we are also immersed in beauty and joy and love at the same time.
I want to pause for a bit, so that you can remember a time when you were simultaneously immersed in pain and beauty. Think of a time when you found a kind of relief as you enjoyed something wonderful. …
I think of funerals, oddly enough, because even though we are saddened by loss, we are surrounded by the love of family and friends. I think of childbirth, which pain has no equal, but is accompanied by the joy of a brand new baby to hold in one’s arms.
Perhaps these last chapters of Job would be good reading in time of suffering. The next time life knocks you down, read Chapter 38 and 39. If nothing else, you’ll be distracted for a while. God’s final question to Job is this:
2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
 Anyone who argues with God must respond.”
Let us respond to God with prayer, praise and thanksgiving. God’s creation has provided us with illness, but also with penicillin and morphine. God’s creation has provided us with weather, but also shelter. God’s creation has required our labor, but has also provided food. Let us remember that God is with us in every moment, every piece, every sense of our lives.
Beyond those physical realities, remember the greatest gift of all: God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who died to rescue us forever from all earthly sin and pain. Amen.

Just Trying to Help Job 3:1-10; 4:1-9; 7:11-21

Job 3:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
3 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 Job said:
3 “Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, or light shine on it.5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds settle upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.6 That night—let thick darkness seize it! let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months.7 Yes, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry be heard in it.8 Let those curse it who curse the Sea, those who are skilled to rouse up Leviathan.9 Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none; may it not see the eyelids of the morning—10 because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, and hide trouble from my eyes.
Job 4:1-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
4 Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:
2 “If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking?3 See, you have instructed many; you have strengthened the weak hands.4 Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.6 Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?
7 “Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.9 By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.
Job 7:11-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
11 “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.12 Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me?13 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’14 then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15 so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body.16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath.17 What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, 18 visit them every morning, test them every moment?19 Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle?20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you?21 Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”
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We learned last week that God and Satan made a bet that Job only loved God because God was good to Job. God gave Satan permission to mess with Job’s happiness, as long as Satan didn’t kill Job. Satan had a blast. He sent robbers to steal seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys. The robbers killed all the servants who worked for Job. Then, while Job’ ten children were partying at his oldest son’s house, a storm came by and demolished the house, killing all within. Satan thought that surely Job would curse God after all those losses, but Job merely said, God gives, God takes. Satan took one more shot a Job: he covered him in sores, from head to toe. Job refused to turn against God, even when his wife encouraged him to do so.
At what point would you turn away from God? When you lost your job? When you lost your family? When you lost your health? We’ve all had losses in our lives, but have any of them amounted to absolutely everything good think we possessed?
I’m reading a book right now, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. She grew up in Kansas, the granddaughter of wheat farmers and the daughter of a construction worker and a real estate agent. She tells her story in her voice, but it is a story that could be told by half the country. The American dream is to grow up poor and break away to become rich. At least rich enough to never go hungry, to always be able to go to the doctor, to always have the same roof over your head for more than a year. The American dream means life insurance, no jail time, no addictions, good teachers in good schools, clothes that protect from the weather.
I have heard people complain that poor people just make bad choices. Lifestyle choices, like when your teenager chooses to run around with kids you don’t like. Lifestyle choices. What I am learning from this book is that all the lifestyle choices for poor people are bad. But, like Job, Sarah Smarsh’s people did not turn away from God.
Job had no choice in God and Satan’s big bet to see how long Job would last. Job’s luxurious lifestyle was ripped away from him and a very different lifestyle was thrust upon him. The point of Satan’s experiment was to make Job forsake God. If Job cursed God, Satan would win.
Job does not curse God. He does curse. He curses the day he was born:
2 Job said:
3 “Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man-child is conceived.’4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, or light shine on it.5 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it. Let clouds settle upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it.6 That night—let thick darkness seize it! let it not rejoice among the days of the year; let it not come into the number of the months.7 Yes, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry be heard in it.
Job has not lost everything. He has not lost his friends. They have been true friends. He can’t entertain them anymore, but they still come around. He is disgusting to look at, but they still come around. He is no longer the richest man in the county, but they still come around. In fact, for seven days, they simply sit with him in silence. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” (2:13)
But after seven days, they try to figure out just what has gone wrong for Job. How could all this happen to one man, and a good and honorable man at that?
Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:
2 “If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended? But who can keep from speaking?
Eliphaz approaches politely, but frankly. First, he points out Job’s great qualities, those for which he is respected in the community.
3 See, you have instructed many; you have strengthened the weak hands.4 Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.
Job has been a leader, a role model for those who haven’t been as fortunate as he has been. But now Job is getting a taste of what other people experience:
5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.6 Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?
Job has been known for his faithfulness to God. By the same token Eliphaz understands that God is the one in control and that Job has prospered because God has rewarded him.
So Eliphaz deduces:
7 “Think now, who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?8 As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.9 By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.
Eliphaz is hinting that Job must have done something to anger God. He implies that Job has offended God at some point, even though his life has been exemplary.
That is a common way of thinking about God. Those of us who believe in God believe that God is active in our lives. We also think of God as a parent—-we pray every day “Our FATHER…” What do parents do? They reward us for good behavior and punish us for bad behavior. So we see God that way. But what if we think of “our father” as the giver of all that is good.
.Matthew 7 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Jesus tells us that God gives what is good, only what is good, just as a good parents gives their children only good things. What does Jesus say about punishment? I’ll give you one example:
John 8:3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
Mercy. Forgiveness. Understanding. Not condemnation. Not punishment. That is the God we worship through Jesus Christ. So please do not think that God punishes you for your sins. Those days are over, because Jesus died for our sins and took all the punishment upon himself.
Job responds to Eliphaz by complaining to God”
13 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’14 then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15 so that I would choose strangling and death rather than this body.16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, for my days are a breath.17 What are human beings, that you make so much of them, that you set your mind on them, 18 visit them every morning, test them every moment?19 Will you not look away from me for a while, let me alone until I swallow my spittle?20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of humanity? Why have you made me your target? Why have I become a burden to you?21 Why do you not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?For now I shall lie in the earth; you will seek me, but I shall not be.”
Job blames God. Job questions God. Job asks God to just leave him alone.
We can blame God. We can question God. But God will never leave us alone. Remember, the story of Job is not about a real person. The book of Job is a story that questions and examines as it entertains. The story of Job gives us the opportunity to ask those questions about suffering and injustice.
Imagine if you were watching this as a television series. The series doesn’t end after the first episode. We have three more episodes in our series.
Each episode of series ends with some questions answered, but more questions presented. Will Job regain his health? What else will his friends say? Will God answer Job? Stay tuned. Amen.


Repentance is not a requirement but a response. Jeremiah 31

Repentance is not feeling sorry. Repentance is changing, turning, not repeating the same sin.