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.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:
Listen to audio at:
    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.

No comments: