Monday, July 06, 2015

Sermon on the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S., for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today I am going to speak in response to a monumental change that has happened in our country, that is of great concern to most of us. That change is the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. Many of you have already begun asking questions of how the church will respond, and what this means for us as Christians. This is without a doubt, an issue on which the church cannot remain silent. And the authority with which the church speaks is the authority of God’s Word alone. If we are to remain faithful Christians to follow our Lord Jesus, then we must be faithful to His Word. May God grant me to speak to you today with faithfulness to Him, that all who are willing may hear and receive God’s Word. Amen.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus sends out His disciples to various villages, to teach the Good News of His kingdom. He warned them ahead of time that some would gladly received His Word, while others would refuse and resist it. He gives clear instructions to His disciples to leave those towns and homes where they are not received, shake the dust off their feet as a warning, and to go on to places and homes where they are received and welcomed. These instructions also inform us about how we as Christians proceed into a world that is increasingly unwelcoming to the Good News. Jesus did not send His disciples with swords or clubs to force anyone into the kingdom of God, but sent them equipped with virtually nothing but His own Word. If the message itself did not win the hearts of those who heard, they were to move on. In other words, His own Word would change hearts and create the reception and hospitality and support they needed to continue. Those who did not receive it were not harassed or threatened, but left alone with a reminder that they had been told, but resisted God’s Word.
As we address this issue of same-sex marriage in our society, it’s vital that we first have some of the basics firmly in our minds. God’s Law is higher than any laws of men that change, laws that come and go, laws that serve a society for some period of time, or even laws that run against the greater good of a society. God’s Law is the final authority, no matter what 5 or even 9 judges may say, or even if a whole country should have voted in favor of some law (which in this case, they definitely did not). God’s Word endures forever. So in a certain sense, for the Christian who believes in God and His Word, nothing at all has changed. God is still on His throne, His 10 Commandments are still as true as they were yesterday and 3,000 years ago and 1,000 years from now. From the standpoint of God’s authority, nothing has changed. His kingdom and power remains forever and ever. This is why Psalm 146:3–4 states, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” Long before it ever appeared on our money, the Bible reminds us to trust in God, not government. Men and their laws cannot save us, and their plans are short-lived. God’s plans, on the other hand are eternal, and He alone saves.
At the same time, we have to live in the midst of changing laws and fickle governments. In some times and places they are more protective of the church; at others they are more unfriendly or even hostile to the church. Laws about marriage affect our families, the definition of parenting and the relationship to children, the programs of public education, and a host of other issues. Even aside from any laws, we know family or friends who identify as homosexuals, or wrestle with those desires. It may affect us on a deeply personal or emotional issue. If it sometimes seems like a political issue, it is every bit as much a family issue, a faith issue, a how-do-we-live-together-in-society issue. Simply, it is a life issue, on which God’s Word speaks, and on which society is speaking also, loud and clear—yet a very different message from God’s Word.
God’s Word is our authority for faith and life, and tells us who we are. Being a Christian means that you are a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ. You have heard His Good News, you have believed it, and have answered His calling to follow Him. As Christian disciples, we answer to the higher calling and authority of God’s Word. We commit to live by Jesus’ teaching. This includes Jesus very clear teaching that (Mark 10:6–8) “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.” Jesus’ teaching on marriage is that it is meant to be a permanent, life-long union between one man and one woman.
As we disciples commit to this and the rest of Jesus’ teachings, we recognize many others do not know Jesus’ teaching or desire to live by it. In 1 Corinthians 5, St. Paul explains that this means we are to hold Christians inside the church accountable to God’s higher standard—to call them to live by God’s plan for sexual purity—abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness to a spouse of the opposite sex in marriage. Paul says that we’re not to permit Christians among us to practice “sexual immorality or greed,” or be “an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler” (1 Cor. 5:11). As a disciple or follower of Jesus, we commit ourselves to humbly listen to the rebuke and correction of fellow Christians, to call us to repentance when we sin, and that they gently urge us away from sin and temptation. Heterosexual sins of adultery, cohabitation, pre-marital sex, divorce, and others are just as much forbidden for the follower of Jesus, as are homosexual sins.
On the other hand, Paul says that we have nothing to say about judging outsiders—those who do not profess to be Christian—God alone is judge (1 Cor. 5:12). We do not expect our friends and neighbors in the world who are not Christian, to hold to Jesus’ teaching, and therefore we do not judge them for it. Nor do we have to avoid associating with them, as Paul says this would mean we’d have to leave the world! We do, however, lovingly tell our unbelieving friends about Jesus, and the Good News, if they are willing to listen. Though they may not be part of the church, they may be open to hearing about a better way, if they have experienced the consequences and guilt of sin in this world of brokenness.
Those who reject and refuse the authority of God’s Word, and who refuse to be ruled by God’s 10 Commandments will live as they please, and experience themselves the natural consequences of sin. Whenever we ignore God’s commandments, it’s not as though we are just ignoring suggestions or advice, but actual commandments. And there are consequences for it. If we don’t learn by listening and obedience, then we sometimes have to learn through the heartache and pain of bad choices, or negative consequences to our health, or relationships, or finances. All of our sins and wrongdoing bear consequences. However, it’s not as though we can or should try to trace back and figure out how things go wrong in our life and find a particular sin to blame. As though God made your car break down because you ran a stop sign, or that God made your body break down because you stole something from a store. But some choices do have obvious and direct consequences. It’s not earth-shattering that some choices are healthier than others, and that certain lifestyles lead to better or worse health. This applies to bad choices regarding our sexuality as well. When we deny or ignore those realities in order to keep doing what we want, it only hurts ourselves. We should not be surprised that our relationships break down if we are cruel or unfaithful, or that our reputation breaks down if we cheat or steal, or our health breaks down if we make destructive choices.
We never know where and when God is preparing and opening a person’s heart to receive His message. Learning things the hard way may open a person’s heart as it never was before. The Church’s message is not for us only, but we are to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all people. As the church continues to point all people to Jesus, it will most certainly continue to call people to Jesus who have committed heterosexual as well as homosexual sins, and sins that have nothing to do with sexuality at all. And each new believer who becomes a disciple or follower of Jesus is called by Jesus to part from old sinful ways, no matter what the sin. Things that may be deeply ingrained or habitual, like pride, or selfishness, may be very hard to change, but we are reborn in Christ Jesus. All who receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are born again by water and the Word of God in Holy Baptism, receive a new life. We are washed and cleansed of former sins, and God pours down His continual grace on our lives as we are regenerated in His image. We come with our sins, repent and leave them behind, and Jesus forgives us and strengthens us to walk anew after Him.
So we are made a new person, and it’s only by His grace and help that we can change anything, whether it be the urge to lie or some other more powerful urge. The church remains a hospital for sinners, a place where we all come with our brokenness and sin, and God brings us the healing balm of His forgiveness, and grace to walk anew with Him. We treat all people with dignity and respect as human beings made in God’s image—regardless of their beliefs or personal choices. Anyone is welcome and encouraged to come and hear God’s Word. To take that next step of becoming a believer, a disciple of Jesus Christ, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. To have faith, or trust in Jesus, is when God opens our hearts for His treatment, for us to move from the “lobby” of the hospital into the “operating room”, where Jesus begins to help and heal us by His gifts. By His gift of faith, we begin to receive the benefit of His help.
Each of our own lives are examples of the grace of God has made us a new person in Christ Jesus. We are like the Corinthians, to whom Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Like the Corinthians, some of these things may describe our former life—but they are not who we are now. God redeems sinners from all walks of life. Jesus has broken and continues to break the hold that sin has on our life, and that old sinful nature is not who we are now in Christ Jesus. In Christ Jesus we are washed and made new. We are justified—God declares us forgiven—righteous—an heir to the kingdom of heaven. There is no sin that is greater than Christ’s power or His cross. He has died for them all. Whatever your sins are, hand them over to Jesus by repentance, and call upon Him to forgive you and help you to overcome. For He has already overcome sin, death, and the grave for us.
There is certainly much, much more to be said about how we as Christians live in the midst of a changing world. But it all begins with knowing who we are in Christ Jesus and what His grace has done for our lives, and freely extending that same grace to others. Everything else is built on that foundation of discipleship, that we have been made disciples of Jesus, and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching everything that Jesus has taught us. Though many may not welcome Jesus’ message, we cannot be afraid to speak it. We must continue to boldly bring His eternal, unchanging Word to all who will hear it and believe, and to move on when necessary. Trust that Jesus’ Word will bring in its own harvest. In His Name, and by His grace, Amen.

Sermon on Mark 5:21-43, 5th Sunday after Pentecost, "We Need Jesus"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Much is familiar to us in the Gospel reading today. The experience of families who wrestle with the terminal illness and the death of a child. The experience of individuals with chronic disease, incurable by doctors, growing progressively worse while money runs out. The experience of suffering and death by those inside the church community, and the isolation and loneliness of those experiencing the same outside the church community. The wish to remain invisible in the crowd, or the urgency to get Jesus’ help quickly and without delay. They are all familiar emotions to those who struggle with the daily challenges of life, with faith and prayer to God. Even the experience of being mocked for believing that death is not final, holding out hope against all despair, that Jesus can deliver us even from death.
Jesus, who is at the center of it all, does not behave as the people there that day expect or necessarily want Him to. He sees the situation from a different vantage point, and is not blinded by the fear or doubt or even scorn that holds the others captive. He does not accept the finality of death, and knows that He holds power over it. He is resolute, determined, and yet when the needs of another woman come into the picture, He has all the time in the world to give her the attention she isn’t even seeking, and show that He cares for her too. This same Jesus cares for our needs, hears and answers our prayers in His own good timing and mercy.
For Jairus, who ruled the synagogue—similar to a pastor or president of our congregation today—to come to Jesus and ask for a healing, was huge in itself. Jesus was still an uncertain figure around the synagogues—sometimes welcomed tentatively, but often rejected and turned away. There would likely have been many disapproving eyes in the crowd, critical that Jairus would turn to Jesus. As Christians, do you look over your shoulder and worry about what someone else thinks about your faith in Jesus, or do you simply put your full trust in Jesus? The great need of his daughter drove him to the One who could truly help. Jairus, his wife, and daughter, they needed Jesus. And we have great need also. Our sins that weigh us down, our fears and doubts that blind, and our illnesses and sufferings, and the needs of our loved ones. We need One who can help. We need Jesus.
When the needs of another woman, a woman with chronic bleeding, interrupts the scene and delays Jesus, I cannot help but imagine that there was some nervous, agitated, and impatient squirming on the part of Jairus and those who were urgently trying to get Jesus there before his daughter died. We have urgent prayers and requests that we feel cannot wait, and sometimes we cannot understand why God seems to delay, or not answer. For us there is usually only the “NOW”—but for Him there is eternity. Our earthly vantage point does not see time, suffering, and death as Jesus does. For Him there are no obstacles.
Her particular suffering went on for 12 years. 12 long years of hoping for a cure, spending every dime on medicine and doctors that didn’t help. We give thanks when modern medicine offers cures, but we also relate to those that are never helped, never healed. Those who tried everything, and only got worse or died. 12 years certainly seems long enough for us to give up hope. But Jesus brings hope when hope seems gone. Her suffering was not merely whatever pain or weakness she would have experienced, but it also meant 12 years of uncleanness, isolation. She couldn’t enter worship while unclean. She was isolated from the community of faith. But she too needed Jesus, and had faith that Jesus could heal her.
Her hope was simply to touch His garment and be healed—to remain anonymous in the crowd. It would have been easy for her to do so, and for Jesus to ignore her, as His disciples even expected Him to do. The people like this today, who are outcasts or outsiders, by choice or not, are probably not in our churches this morning. They may nurture a hope and a faith in Jesus that they too can be healed, but for whatever reasons they are outside, alone, anonymous. The power of Jesus’ name is known and is effective well beyond these walls. But Jesus searched the crowd nevertheless, to find her. To find the one who had sought His help for her need. And Jesus is looking for those today who need His help, who cry out silently amidst the sea of suffering humanity, and whom He hears. And they are not nameless or faceless to Him.
We can pray that God also open our eyes to see those who are hurting and lost with the eyes of Jesus. To have compassion on the people whom God places in our way, and not to just be unfeeling towards suffering because there is too much or we fear we cannot make a difference. As Pastor Greg Finke told us at our District Convention, we are not able or responsible to do the good that “fixes” someone, and all their problems, but we are able and responsible to do the good that blesses them. Even if that “good” is simply to bring them Jesus. We may more often than not find that we have no solution to the earthly problems someone faces, but we can bring them Jesus. We can listen, pray, share an embrace, as Jesus was unafraid to do, for an outcast.
Still, when the woman finally made herself known to Jesus, and fearful of what He might do—He surprises her by loving her and calling her “daughter.” “Daughter.”  You are not forsaken, alone, or lost. You are my dearly beloved child. “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Her healing, her rescue, was in body and soul. The same healing and salvation that is a final promise for us in eternity. Healed in body and soul, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
God’s attention is not divided or distracted among the 7 billion residents of earth. And though we may fear that we are, or even want to be anonymous, Jesus knows our name, He knows our needs, and He even knows the hairs on our head. Jesus knows all His sheep by name and He calls them, and we hear His voice and follow Him.
After the seeming “interruption” of this healing, Jesus and the crowd proceeds to Jairus’ house, but is stopped by messengers who advise Jairus to give up—it’s too late—your daughter is dead. In other words, embrace death and your despair, because hope has flown. But Jesus has a different vantage point, and He says, “Do not fear, only believe.” We hear the naysayers, and sometimes we are the naysayers, who face death as a defeat. Grief would easily swallow us if given the chance. But Jesus steps into the yawning throat of death, and snatches back one of its victims. Remember Scripture teaches that God swallows up death forever. Ancient theologians of the Christian church pictured death swallowing up Jesus on the cross, but that Jesus burst death’s belly. So Jesus answers our grief with hope and life. He shows the enemy is defeated, so we do not lose heart. “Do not fear, only believe.”
On scene at Jairus’ house, the unbelief and resistance to Jesus becomes hostile, with ridicule and laughter, when Jesus states that the child is not dead but sleeping. Here again we face today’s modern skepticism and even outright mockery of Christians. Belief in God or life after death is dismissed as fantasy or a crutch for those who can’t face the cold, hard facts of life. And presumably, the cold, hard fact is that death is the end. An increasing number of people today believe that death is the end. That it’s rational, or scientific, and to think otherwise is ignorance. But Jesus forcefully challenges that assumption, and throws the naysayers out of the house, while He and the parents and disciples go in. Jesus raises the little child from the dead, taking her by the hand, and saying, “Little girl, I say to you arise.” Jesus plainly demonstrated to them that death was not final, and that He was greater than death. Jesus, not death, was in command of the situation.
But the even bigger challenge to that assumption, was when Jesus Himself died on the cross. Even His own disciples, who had seen at least three miracles where Jesus raised the dead—did not seem to think that He could defeat His own death. But once again, Jesus would prove them and all the naysayers wrong. Jesus rose from His own grave, bursting the gut of death, on the third day from His death. People still will refuse to believe it, because they cannot get over the idea that death is the end. But they must ignore the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to do so, and the many eye-witnesses who knew with such certainty what they themselves had seen, that many went to their deaths giving witness to it.
The reasons they needed Jesus, are the same reasons we need Jesus. In the face of death, whether it be a child or an adult; in the face of chronic suffering and disease that finds no relief, we need Jesus. In the face of doubt or fear or loneliness or grief, we need Jesus. Jesus’ words echo back to us, “Do not fear, only believe.” There is no other person on the planet or in history who has kicked death and the grave, and promises to do the same for you. No founder of any religion, save Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, can say that they walked out of their own grave after three days in death. The trust that Jesus can make us well, and that we will live, is well placed in Him. Aside from Him, darkness, loneliness, despair, and anger are all rational responses. But in Him, fear, doubt, and despair are driven away. Hope is restored by His hands and words. Unbelief gives way to faith. You are a son or daughter to Christ Jesus, and your suffering and grief is known to him, however personal and private or public and open you have made it. He delights to call you His own, as a father delights in His children.
Life is such a precious and fragile thing, and death and suffering seem so threatening. We understand the fears and doubts, back then and today. But Jesus shows great compassion both for those who openly sought His help and the one who wanted to remain hidden. Neither risked losing His help at the expense of the other; Jesus helped both. We cannot understand God’s timing, and we face many deaths that seem premature by our timing. But God, in His perfect timing, knows and sees all, and forgets and overlooks none. And the life that Jesus comes to bring us will not be a frail, fragile thing, but His own imperishable life. Body and soul, the whole you, will be restored on that day when faith becomes sight, and we see face to face, no longer through a dim mirror. Then we will stand alive with our Savior Jesus. We need Jesus, and the good news is that we have Him. He has given Himself freely to all who put their trust in Him. As He said, John 11:25–26 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Jairus, the synagogue ruler, would have been like a pastor or president of a congregation today. He was a lay person, but would have been responsible for the worship and instruction of the assembly. As such a prominent leader in the town, why might it have been “risky” for him to seek such help from Jesus? Luke 13:14. Why did he pursue Jesus’ help anyway? Did he have faith?
2.      How is the woman with the chronic bleeding connected by circumstance to Jairus’ daughter? Mark 5:25, 42. What would her bleeding have meant for her in regards to worship? Leviticus 15:25. How can we be more attentive to the lost and those who are “outsiders” to the church for any reason? What would it mean to see them with “the eyes of Christ?”
3.      What emotions and experiences do people today face, when they have chronic illnesses that are uncured by doctors? Did she have faith to be healed? Why did Jesus not let her go unnoticed? What did He want to say to her and call her? Mark 10:34.
4.      The onlookers seem to accept the “finality of death”, while Jesus does not. Do you see people expressing this same unbelief today? How do they respond to Christians who believe in eternal life in Jesus?
5.      What did Jesus do to those who laughed at Him? Mark 5:40. By Jesus’ word and touch, He raises the little girl. Where do we place our confidence when death approaches us or our loved ones? John 11:25-26
6.      What comfort is there in knowing that we are not a faceless crowd of sufferers to Jesus, but that He sees and knows our individual needs? How do we know this is true? John 10:3, 14; Matthew 6:8.
7.      Both the woman and little girl needed Jesus, and couldn’t be healed apart from Him. When we cannot give the physical healing that we would want to give someone, we can always still give them Jesus. Who is one person you know who needs Jesus, and how can you give them Him?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sermon on Job 38:1-11, for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, Father's Day, "The Immense and Human-sized God"

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). In the Name of the Father of Lights, and of Jesus Christ His Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Father’s day, like Mother’s Day, is not really a “church holiday”, but a national holiday that’s always on a Sunday. Even though it’s not a church festival, per se, God’s Word and the Church obviously has much good to say about the roles of fathers and mothers. But for some people, they can also be painful or awkward days for many reasons—we’ve never had a father in our life, or the father we had was bad, or because you were never able to be the father you wanted to be, or because I have fallen far short of my hopes and desires in being the “ideal dad.” But whether it awakens painful memories and awkwardness, or whether it fills you with great respect or admiration for a wonderful earthly father, for whom you are thankful, or somewhere in between—Father’s Day is a great opportunity to talk about our True Heavenly Father, the Father of Lights—the Creator and Maker of all things. “Our Father, by whose name, all fatherhood is known” (LSB 863:1).
The Old Testament reading from Job 38 struck me immediately as an amazing “father to son talk”, from God our Heavenly Father to Job. Job is such an amazing and expansive book, that it could never be squeezed down to a single sermon or even series of sermons. It’s one of those Bible books that you need to sit down and read through again and again. But even after your 5th time or more, you’ll feel like you barely scratched it’s depths. But if you don’t know Job, here are a few introductory points. Job suffers incredible losses of family, possessions, and physical health, and never has any understanding or answer of why it is happening to him. His friends come to comfort him, but almost all prove to be “miserable comforters” who come to completely wrong conclusions about his situation, and even blame him and speak in error about God. Job, for his part, pleads his innocence and the unfairness of it all, and cries out terribly to God for an answer or some deliverance. He at times goes as far as accusing God of using him as a target for His “arrows” as though God were ruthlessly picking on him for no reason. But Job never abandons his trust in God, and his final confidence that whether God gives from him or takes away, Job will always still bless the name of the Lord. And for that faith and patience, God gives Job his final commendation, and holds him up as an example.
Our reading today, Job 38, is just the beginning of God’s first spoken response and answer to Job. Job and his friends had argued back and forth and speculated unproductively about God and the what, why, and how. But finally God Himself answers. And it’s not the soft, gentle, father to son talk we might be hoping for. If you know the story of Elijah, in another part of the OT, you see a beautiful example of God coming to the discouraged prophet, and speaking to him in a “gentle whisper”. God comforts and consoles. But here God speaks to Job straight out of the whirlwind—the complete picture of what his life had become—spinning out of control and being ripped apart like a tornado. And this is how God answers: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” Job, already feeling pretty sorry for himself, is warned by God that he’s speaking foolishly, and has gone way out of his league. But get ready to stand up and face action like a man. God effectively says, “You answer to me—I don’t answer to you.”
God proceeds to describe in vivid poetry, how He built the world and universe, like He was wielding a God-sized measuring stick and pouring the foundations of the earth. A construction project the like of which our most fabulous sky-scrapers and ancient ruins cannot even compare. He describes how angels sang in amazing chorus to see creation take place. He asks Job where were you when I did all this? Who, but God, could tame the whole raging ocean that encircles the globe, and wrap it up and calm it like a newborn infant kicking and screaming, and place boundaries and stops for its proud waves? God continues to lay out His “job description”, if you will. He shows Job the size of His shoes, and asks if Job can handle.
Job eventually gets enough chance to admit he spoke of what he didn’t understand, and now he’ll keep his mouth shut. Feeling pretty small. At this point, we may wonder, why did God need to proclaim to Job His power and might, when Job was already feeling small and helpless?
I suppose that if our problems in life were all rather small and trivial, it would be sufficient to have a “god” that just cheered and entertained us when needed. But we don’t have a small god who is limited, distant, or “on call” for the rare occasion when we decide we need His help and want Him to come running like our servant. Rather, God is the infinitely powerful Creator and Master of all the universe. The wildest and most enormous creatures and forces of nature were made by God and answer to His command. He is all seeing, all knowing, and He is immense. Since God is so great, I can know that my problems are easily handled by Him.
But notice, that the conversation is not what we might expect from a bad example of a human dad puffing up his importance before his son, going on about the big, important things he does, and then saying something like: “I don’t have time for your little problems! I’ve got more important things to do!” Rather, God is speaking to Job, He has heard Job’s complaint and is answering. He has not merely cast off Job like a puny speck, and told him to stop wasting His time. A God that hears and that speaks is a wonderful thing.
But if you look back through the rest of the book, you find that Job’s longing toward God is greater than just that God would be big enough to handle his troubles. He knows that He is. But Job also longs desperately that God could be a man like him. That He could have a mediator to take His case before God, or that He could contend with God Himself. What Job urgently longed for, what He believed in and hoped for, but never saw—is what we now have in Jesus Christ. God coming in human flesh. The incarnation. God becoming a man like us. And in Christ Jesus, we have the one true mediator between God and man. The immense and almighty God became man-sized for us. He came down to our level, to reach us, to see and hear and touch and help in the flesh.
Jesus is the mediator Job hoped for. And in one of the most powerful confessions of his faith in God that Job made in the whole book, are those famous words: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he shall stand on the earth. And after my flesh has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Job longed for his Redeemer, Jesus, who would one day stand on the earth. And Job trusted in the resurrection of the flesh, the body, and that future glory in which we will see God. All of this came to fulfillment when Jesus lived, died on the cross, and was raised from His grave. Jesus is our Redeemer, and he suffered and experienced temptation and trial in every way that Job and that we have—and He did it without sin.
So not only has God come down to our size, human size, and experienced life with all its sorrows and difficulties, but He also lived that life for us. His suffering was not in vain, it wasn’t a gimmick, or just for the sake of sympathizing with what we’ve gone through. His suffering actually accomplished something for us. The forgiveness of our sins. Victory in life over the grave. The swallowing up of death forever, so that when Jesus raises our bodies, we will no longer live in this valley of the shadow of death. Jesus suffered to give us His life and bring us into His future glory, so that we might one day stand side by side with Job, and see God with our own eyes in the flesh.
Job was left with almost all of his questions unanswered, even when God spoke to him. Job was put back in his place to remember that he was just a creature, and not the Creator. That his time on earth was precious short, and his knowledge and power were nothing to measure up against God’s. And we are left much the same way. We don’t have answers to all the “whys” of life, and the suffering and death of our loved ones, or even ourselves. Our time on earth is just as short, and I know that God would not “bow” to any arrogant suggestion that our knowledge or power is far superior today to anything Job as an ancient man could know or do. We are far from solving the most important mysteries of life, and the greater our knowledge grows, the more we realize how much we don’t know, and the more we realize this universe is enormous beyond anything Job ever imagined. But we are held just as much in awe at the power and immensity of God who made it all. And we are held just as much in faith and love at the goodness and mercy of God who came to earth in Jesus Christ, and redeemed us from our sins and sufferings. We have an advantage on what Job knew in at least that much—that we have seen and known God’s salvation plan come to its realization in Jesus.
We know that we have a mediator to take our prayers, our requests, and intercessions to God—and that God hears them for Jesus’ sake. We don’t understand God’s will and timing, in the why’s and when’s of how He answers our prayers yes or no. But we have a God who knows our needs better than we do, and expresses them by the praying of the Holy Spirit. And we have Jesus who intercedes for us because of our sins, and pleads for God’s mercy. So yes, we too have a Redeemer, and our Redeemer lives. Life may be a whirlwind, and God may often need to humble us, but He will also sustain us and carry us through. God is greater than the whirlwind, but He’s approachable too. If we can hear God as our Father, speaking to His dear children, we can trust that He knows, He loves, and we’re in His immense and human sized hands. So give thanks that we have a God-size God for our God-sized problems of sin and death—and give thanks that we have a man-sized God in Jesus who came to teach, suffer, and proclaim His rescue for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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    1. The book of Job is a profound story of how a man put his trust in God despite all circumstances. It wrestles with the question of evil and human suffering, and where is God in the midst of all of it. By chapter 38-42, the end of the book, Job has not received answers to all of his questions. But what has he learned about who God is, and whether God cares?
    2. Job’s troubles were like a “whirlwind” as his life was spinning out of control and being ripped apart by a tornado. Does it surprise you that God speaks to Job out of the “whirlwind?” Read 1 Kings 19:1-18. Was there anything similar or different about the situations that explains why God in Job’s case spoke from the whirlwind, and in Elijah’s case spoke in the low whisper and not the strong crashing wind?
    3. What comfort comes in knowing that the terrifying power of the wind and the waves are handled by God as easily as swaddling an infant child? Job 38:7-11; Mark 4:35-41.
    4. Read all of Job 38-42. What does it teach Job and us about the whole scope and awesomeness of God’s “job description”, and all He is responsible for and able to do? How did Job feel at this realization? Job 40:1-5; 42:1-6. How often do we need to be appropriately humbled by God, to know who He is, and who we are? (cf. Romans 3:19-20). What happens when we forget our place, and think either that we are “gods” or judge Him?
    5. While Job is humbled, how does God’s conversation with Job and God’s approval of Job’s faith (42:8), and His restoration of Job (42:10-17), show that God had not simply cast off Job as a worthless speck, but loved him and was in control of everything Job couldn’t understand?
    6. In Job 9:32-35; 13:3; 16:19, Job longs for a witness, arbiter, or mediator between him and God. He longs for God to be a man, that he could speak to Him, and that God would understand. How is Job’s longing fulfilled and answered in Jesus Christ and the incarnation? Job 19:23-27; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; John 1:14. How does God intimately know all our sufferings? Hebrews 2:9-11; 14-18. How does that make God all the more approachable? Hebrews 4:15-16.