I came across this quote recently. It comes from Dr. Fuerbringer who wrote a commentary on the Book of Job. Dr. Fuerbringer said this, “In general, we do not read our Bible enough, we don’t read the Old Testament enough, and in particular, we do not read Job enough.”
Yet, I think many of you are familiar with the story of Job. Job was that uber-rich guy, really successful, large family, and, best of all, he had a strong faith. In fact, in one of the strangest scenes we will ever find in the Bible, God brags about Job’s faith to none other than Satan himself. Satan, though, he doesn’t think Job’s faith is that strong. He thinks that Job is only faithful to God because God has blessed him in so many ways.
So, what does God do? He gave Satan permission to take away all of Job’s material blessings. And Satan did. In one day, Job lost all of his children, all of his animals, all of his servants. Everything was taken from him except for his wife. Job is, understandably, pretty torn up about all of this and literally tore his robes at the news of all this loss, but he remained faithful. He trusted God. He said, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
But the Devil was not done. He got God’s approval to inflict Job with horrible sores all over his body. At this point Job’s wife threw in the towel, “curse God and die!”, she told him. But Job would not.
I think many of us are familiar with this first part of Job’s story, and some of you might be aware that after this a couple of Job’s friends show up and they sort of try to comfort Job and yet also accuse him of sin. It’s fascinating dialogue – well worth a read – but, I’m going to tell you, the English translation of this Hebrew text misses a key point. Job’s friends always referred to God as a punishing God, a just God, and not a God of grace and mercy. And so, their words tore deeply into this already broken man.
Some of you have likely experienced something similar. Maybe you’ve gone through a rough patch in your life or are currently struggling with some difficulty, and you got those friends – those well-meaning friends – who attempt to explain to you why God is allowing this thing or that thing to happen in your life. It’s meant to be helpful; often it is not. It only makes it worse. It makes you feel worse. As these conversations with Job’s friends go on, we see that. Job’s own words begin to betray a fearful sense of abandonment. Job begins to question, dares to question God. And, throughout the book, we find him asking the same question again and again, “Why?”
Now you and I know why God allowed this. We were privy to that conversation God had with Satan. But I’ll ask you, does knowing why God allowed all of this to happen to Job make it easier to accept that it happened?
It’s here that I return to that quote from Dr. Fuerbringer., “…we don’t read Job enough.” You see how often have you not suffered like Job? No, not full-blown loss of everything including your health, but you’ve suffered. You’ve struggled. You’ve been sick. You’ve lost loved ones. You’ve wrestled with depression and doubt. And you’ve seen others suffer and go through incredible hardships too. And you, like Job, and everyone else, you sometimes just want to know “why?” Because, because, if God is all- powerful and all-good, he would never let some of these bad things happen, and, perhaps, because they do happen, that good-all-powerful God of the Bible doesn’t exist. You see, it’s hard to reconcile this all in our minds and we often come to horribly wrong conclusions because of it. And this is where we don’t read Job enough.
Let me explain. Go to our gospel lesson for today, that lesson from Mark. Jesus and his disciples are on the Sea of Galilee when a violent storm moved in. The disciples, some who were expert fishermen, believed this storm would be their end. So, they woke up Jesus – Jesus up to this point had been fast asleep. So, it was, in this moment of doubt and uncertainty, they did what many of us do when our life is falling apart, they cried out to their Savior for help.
Now, I don’t know what those disciples were expecting Jesus to do: bale some water that was rushing into the boat, grab an oar, help take down the sail – maybe something like that. What did Jesus do? “He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” And they did. Then he asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Then we hear this – and this is key – Jesus’ disciples “were terrified and asked each other, ‘who is this?’” Who is this? You see, when God appears in glory and power, he is terrifying. He is God, and one act of his power, it humbles us.
So, here is Job, and we come to him today near the climax of the book of Job. And, Job, wants to know “why?” Because he knows, contrary to what his friends said, that he isn’t some horrible sinner whom God is punishing. So, where is God and why is he allowing this to happen? Well, God shows up. He comes in a storm. And here is what he says, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
“Who is this…?” God’s talking about Job. “Who do you think you are Job that you can question me…accuse me…doubt me?” And then God begins to talk about the natural world, the wonders and immensities and intricacies of the world. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!” And God continues like this for 68 verses, all the way to chapter 40. Now what is the point? You’re probably seeing it, but go back to verse 2.
God asks that question, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” Counsel is a plan, and God is saying, “Job, you’re trying to say that my plan is dark and wrong, but how much do you really know compared to me?” God humbles Job. You know it would almost be like if a five-year-old would show up at your job one day and say, “Hey, you’re doing this wrong – all wrong!” What does that kid know? Nothing.
If you have a God big enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he’s not stopping your suffering or their suffering, then you have a God big enough and powerful enough to have reasons as to why he allows it that you can’t conceive of. Just because you or I can’t think of a good reason, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. So, God is telling Job, and us, if you believe in me, you really can’t question my counsel, my plan. Because who am I and who are you? Well, who are you?
The danger that confronts us almost every day is that we think we are him, God. Although we believe that Scripture has authority as God’s Word, we sometimes use our experience and our reason to judge spiritual matters, and, like Job, we darken God’s counsel. Maybe we latch on to science and trust it more than God’s promises. Perhaps we gravitate towards the thought that because of what I have or how I look, I need to feel guilty rather than give thanks for how God has made me and blessed me. Often though our darkening of God’s counsel it’s even more subtle, we add our experiences and emotions to God’s Word. We might even think we are in agreement with God, when really, we are in error, but it makes sense to us. That’s the problem, it’s not always going to make sense. And that’s when we need to remember who we are…and who God is…and trust.
In the worst of situations and in the best of situations, God asks you and me to trust him. But before you and I can truly trust God, we need to know who we are and who he is. We are those disciples in our gospel lesson terrified of a storm. We are Job broken and beaten and wondering “why?” And he? He is the one who came to Job in a storm, who said to the seas “This far you may come and no father; here is where you proud waves halt.” He is the one who woke up in the midst of a storm on a boat and with a few words left the disciples terrified, wondering, “Who is this?” That is God! And, I need you to know this, I need us all to remember this one point: God is always there.
God did not abandon Job. While Job lost everything of value, while his friends gave him miserable comfort and advice, while Job himself angrily demanded that God explain himself, God was there. He responded, affirming that he was present and listening all along, and that satisfied Job. He never got the reason for the suffering. God didn’t explain himself. He simply spoke; and that was enough. Job saw the personal relationship he had with his LORD, the God of grace and forgiveness, and that in all things his path was held in the hand of a God who was waiting to one day bring him home where all this suffering would be no more. That is who God is.
So, often we want a God who will fix things for us. A God who will give us clear reasonable answers and get rid of the storms of life. A God who will stand in that boat of life and say, “Quiet; be still!” And, while we are out looking for that God, the God we want, we forget that Christ is in the boat, he’s with us, with you, and that is all that really matters. And here is why.
It’s not part of our lesson today, but in Job chapter 40:8 God asks Job a question, “Would you condemn me, Job, to justify yourself?” or to put it another way, “Must God be condemned for you to be justified?” Yes, yes. You, see? God never answered Job’s question of “Why” and he won’t always give you a reason for your suffering either, but he does give you the solution. It’s there in the boat. The storms of this life, those struggles, the sicknesses – all of that terribleness – is a result of sin. In Jesus, God took that sin away. In Jesus, God condemned himself and made you holy. In Jesus, God gave you a new life, one that will be made complete, perfect, when you are with him for all eternally in heaven. And, until that day comes, God is where God has always been; he is with you. He’s in the boat, and, unlike his first disciples, you know who he is. So, let him handle the storms. Let him see you home. Amen.