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Job: Faith That Doesn't Let Go of God

June 28, 2020 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Examples of Faith According to James

Passage: Job 1:1–2:13, James 5:7–5:11

Job shows steadfast faith in suffering.

When a couple stands at the altar on their wedding day, they are only a few miles into a relational journey that is going to last many miles. They don’t yet know the bumps in the road they’ll go over, twists and turns they’ll have to navigate, and breakdowns on the side of the road they’ll have to figure out. Their relationship has probably been pretty easy so far. Romance has been in the air. Elton John’s “Can you feel the love tonight” has been playing in the background wherever they go. If they were an emoji, they would be the one with hearts in their eyes.

That’s why traditional wedding vows usually include words like this. Let’s see if you can complete them:

"I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part...

Marriage is a commitment from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. It’s a commitment to stay together when times are good and when times are bad.

We are going through a series right now called Examples of Faith According to James. In James’ letter that he wrote to believers, he used four people from the Old Testament as examples of faith: Abraham, Rahab, Job, and Elijah. We are looking at their lives to see what James saw in them. Each of these four people went through a trial where their faith was tested.

So far, we have seen Abraham and Rahab as examples of people for whom faith wasn’t just “talk”. When they said they believed God, they really meant it. When their faith was tested, they showed it was alive and well by their actions.

This week, we will meet Job. James uses Job not as an example of faith in action but as someone who was steadfast in his faith. Job went through a trial where he experienced a great deal of suffering but he remained steadfast in his commitment to God. He didn’t abandon his relationship with God when times were bad.

James too was well acquainted with trials of suffering: famine, poverty, persecution for his faith. James’ readers were also experiencing trials of suffering: poverty, rich landowners withholding wages and taking them to court, persecution for their faith.

Are you going through any suffering right now? A trial?

In chapter 5 of his letter, James focuses their attention on Jesus’ second coming when their suffering will be over. Jesus will judge evildoers who oppress them, harm them, and persecute them. And he will reward those who remain steadfast in their faith. James said in chapter 1 verse 12:

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

This is where Job comes in as an example. James says in chapter 5 verse 11:

11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)

Job went through a trial where he experienced suffering but he remained steadfast. The reason Job’s story is an encouragement is because we know the outcome of it: God blessed him at the end.

If you want to flip to the book of Job, it’s in the Old Testament right before the book of Psalms. The first sentence of the book introduces us to Job by telling us that he was a blameless and upright man, who feared God and turned away from evil. This is one of the highest descriptions of a human being in the Old Testament. Job is someone who worships God, loves God, and obeys God. He is a righteous and good person. This is someone we could all admire and look up to.

Next we are told that he had seven sons and three daughters. He also possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and had very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. The description of Job’s children and his wealth and possessions shows a completeness to his life. He is a righteous man who has been blessed by God.

His children would often hold feasts together and when they were done he would offer sacrifices on their behalf in case they had sinned and cursed God in their hearts. This adds even more to the picture of his goodness and righteousness.

After this description, the scene shifts to a meeting in heaven between the LORD and heavenly beings who are gathered before him like a council before a king. Then another being enters called Satan who has just come in from roaming the earth. It seems he was out looking for people who truly love God and has not found any.

So the LORD asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8) The LORD calls Job his servant and describes him in glowing terms. The LORD presents Job as someone who truly loves him

Satan responds, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9-11) In other words, Satan thinks Job is working the system. Job fears God because of what God gives him for doing so. Job is a good person because God blesses good people. Job worships God because God blesses people who worship him. Job loves God because God gives nice things to people who love him. Job is in this relationship for the benefits. Satan is saying, “Take away the benefits and you’ll see Job’s true character come out. You and Job just have a transactional relationship.”

So what does the LORD do? He agrees to the test. The LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” (Job 1:12)

We shift back to Job’s life now. Let’s read what happens in verses 13 through 19.

13 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.” (Job 1:13-19)

Job just lost his entire livelihood and all his children one right after another. How will he respond?

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. (Job 1:20-22)

Job expressed his grief by tearing his robe and shaving his head. But he also fell on the ground before God to worship. He recognized the Lord gave it to him and the Lord took it away. And instead of cursing the Lord, he blessed his name.

The scene then shifts back to the throne room where the heavenly court is gathered once again. Satan has come in from roaming the earth in search of someone who truly loves the LORD and the LORD again presents Job to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason?” (Job 2:3) Satan’s response is, “Job himself was left untouched. Afflict his bone and his flesh and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”

And here’s what the Scripture says:

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:7-10)

Job’s wife has reached the breaking point and who can blame her. We can all empathize with how she’s feeling even if what she asks Job to do is wrong. She thinks Job should do what Satan predicted Job would do: “God has taken away all of our stuff and all of our children and now he has taken away your health. Curse him and die.” But Job won’t.

Next, three of Job’s friends arrive. At first they wept with him and sat in silence with him for seven days. Then Job broke the silence by expressing despair about having ever been born. He’s depressed and in anguish. Then his friends basically ask, “So what did you do? What did you do to deserve this? We know that God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. So what bad thing did you do to deserve all this?” Job insists that he has done nothing and that he is innocent. He doesn’t understand why this is happening and even accuses God of mistreating him. Eventually he gives up on convincing his friends and starts complaining to God, demanding that he be allowed to argue his case before God and that God give him an answer for why he’s been treated this way.

Finally after 34 chapters of arguing with his friends and demanding that God explain himself, God does show up. He speaks to Job from a whirlwind. But God doesn’t explain himself to Job. He doesn’t tell Job why he is suffering. Instead, he gives Job a tour of the universe and asks Job some questions like: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Do you cause the sun to rise? Have you entered the storehouses of the snow? Can you send forth lightning? Can you give understanding to the mind? Do you know how the animal kingdom works?”

What is God doing? Let’s say you make a decision that seems unfair to a child and they accuse you of being unfair and demand that you explain yourself. Perhaps you said “no” to buying them something that they wanted. One way to respond would be to do as they have asked. You explain yourself and give them more information. You try to help them see it from your point of view. You explain the family budget. You explain that the family only has so much money and that you need to buy groceries and pay rent and that you are saving to pay for her college. You explain instant gratification versus long-term goals. You explain the importance of saving. You explain how credit cards are bad and how you need to live within your means. That’s one approach - to get the child to see it from your perspective.

Another approach would be to put your arm around the child and say, “Come on, I want to show you something.” You take them out to the garage with you and have them watch you change the oil on your car and check the fluids while pointing out the different tools you are using and the different parts of the car and what they do. Then you take them with you to where you work and let them see what you do and meet some of the people with whom you work. Then you sit down at night with them to check over the family finances - budget, retirement account, bank accounts savings. In this approach, the goal is not for them to see that one situation from your perspective. The goal is for them to gain a new perspective on all of life. The goal is for them to see how much you as their parent are managing and taking care of that they aren’t even aware of and that they have no capability to take care of themselves. The goal is not for them to see that one particular situation from your perspective but to see how limited their perspective was in looking at that particular situation. The goal is for them to once again see themselves as the child and you as the parent. The purpose is not for them to feel stupid, but to feel humble.

This is exactly what it does for Job. Job humbles himself before God. In the end he realizes that God is God and he is not. God didn’t need to explain why he is just or fair. He needed to remind Job of who he is and who Job is in relation to him. Wisdom begins with proper perspective.

Perhaps you feel weird about this whole scenario where God agreed to test Job in this way. Remember what Joseph says in Genesis 50:20: What you meant for evil, God meant for good. What Satan means for evil in this scenario, God meant for good. Satan wanted to prove that Job was selfishly working the system. He wanted to prove that Job was in relationship with God for the benefits - that he married God for his money. God wanted to prove that Job had integrity - that Job really did love him. God praised Job’s commitment to him. He thought Job was in a relationship with him for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. I find it encouraging that God would have such pleasant thoughts about Job.

How does James see this story?
What does James want us to see in this story? James says in chapter 5 verse 11:

11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11)

After Job humbles himself and repents, God talks to Job’s friends and tells them to have Job pray for them because they haven’t spoken rightly about him like Job has. Then God blessed Job and restored his fortunes to twice what he had before. He had seven more sons and three more daughters.

The end for Job was earthly blessing, but the end that James has in mind for his readers and for us is the crown of eternal life that God will give to those who remain steadfast until the end. James’ point is that God was compassionate and merciful to Job after his test and he will be compassionate and merciful to us. The test for Job was whether he really loved God or whether he just loved what God could do for him. That’s what Job’s trials were testing.

That’s what trials test for us too: why are we in relationship with God? Why do we worship him? Why do we love him? Why do we fear him? Why do we honor him? Is it so that he will give us the things we want? Is it so that he will bless us? Protect us? Is it so that we can get out of hell and get into heaven?

God wants more than a transactional relationship with you.

Trials test our motives for being in relationship with God. They test our integrity. If life isn’t going our way, will we abandon God? Will we give up on God? Will we curse God? Or are we in this relationship from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health?

Job is an example of steadfastness. He shows us faith that doesn’t let go of God. Yes, he yells at God, He demands an explanation from God. He wants to argue his case before God. He thinks he is right and God is wrong. He needs to learn humility. But he doesn’t let go of God. He’s still in a relationship with God. He’s still dealing with God and God is still dealing with him. That’s relational steadfastness. He’s not walking away from God. Job has a faith that doesn’t let go of God.

And what’s even more important to see is that God doesn’t let go of him. The gospel is that no matter how much we’ve screwed up this world or screwed up our lives, God has still loved us. Job didn’t go through his trial always looking on the bright side of things, whistling, and telling people it could be worse. Job was sad, depressed, and angry. Job yelled at God, Job accused God of mismanaging his life. Job wanted God to argue his case before God and have God explain himself.

Did that disprove Job’s integrity and faith? No. In fact it proved his steadfastness because he’s still relating to God. God doesn’t say, “Well, I guess you’re right Satan. Job doesn’t love me.”

And how does James say God treats Job? Compassionately and mercifully. That’s God’s heart toward us in our suffering. The worst thing we can do in our suffering is not talk to God or walk away from him.

I don’t know what you’ve gone through in the past, what you’re going through now, or what you will go through in the future, but you need to know you can go to God in your suffering. God does not stand distant from us in our suffering. He entered into it. Romans 5:8 says that God proved his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God entered into human suffering when he sent Jesus to suffer and die for us. Hebrews 4 says that Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses. He knows what it’s like to be us.

Our suffering and even our difficulty when we go through it does not separate us from God, as much as Satan wants us to believe that. I want to read the end of Romans 8 that reminds of this then close in prayer.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
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. (Romans 8:31-39)

More in Examples of Faith According to James

July 5, 2020

Elijah: Faith That Looks to God

June 21, 2020

Rahab: Faith That Puts Life in God's Hands

June 14, 2020

Abraham: Faith That Holds Nothing Back