This last Sunday, we made our way back into our Whole Story sermon series after a powerful four weeks taking a look at how we can help people ‘move to the right’, out of and away from the kingdom of darkness, and into the kingdom of the beloved Son. The sermon also served the purpose of kicking off our entry into the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, with the story of Job as our first step in that journey.
One of the big questions that Job’s story raises is the cause of suffering. And while the account of his sufferings take up only a few verses of forty-two chapters, much of the book is a response to the intense and sudden sufferings he endures.
At the very beginning of the story, we are given a view into how Job’s suffering comes about, information Job and his friends are never given. Namely, an interaction between God and the Satan (the Accuser) where we see God responding to the presence of the Satan and his earthly travels by pointing out his servant, Job.
“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; see Job 1:6-12)
And even after Satan takes his family and his possessions, we hear God observe in a second interaction,
“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 without reason.”
(Job 2:3; see Job 2:1-6)
While we are never given an explicit reason for Job’s sufferings, I think we see in these interactions at least a partial reason from this interaction in the heavenly courts. For it strikes me that part of why God chooses Job in this way, for these trials, is precisely because he knows that Job will not fail to continue turning to and trusting in him. He knows his faith will endure, which is why Job is chosen. And in this way, Job becomes a powerful example for us—to show us that it is possible, frail as we humans are, to endure the most painful afflictions. And trust in God is the way.
Because Job never gives up on God. Even as he grieves, even as he laments, and complains, and challenges, and pleads, we read that “in all these things Job never sinned with his lips” and that “all that he said was right” about God. He is vindicated by God himself in the end, even as he repents for some of his strong language and assumptions (Job 42:1-6).
Therefore, this was a major aim in our study of the book. I proposed that Job challenges our assumptions about how much we should know or understand, that it confronts us with our limitations as finite creatures before an infinite, limitless Creator. We worked through this sentence as an outline of the book:
We often suffer—
we will not always understand,
but we can always trust.
I encourage you to take a listen to the sermon, in the hopes that God will use it in your life to give you hope and comfort in the midst of suffering—suffering you are experiencing yourself, or that you may be helping someone else endure. For further resources on this book, I encourage you to head over to the Bible Project, where you will find videos, articles, books, and outlines on Job to help you study and grow. In addition, be sure to check out their series on Wisdom, which has additional videos and resources for the books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
Finally, be sure to read Proverbs this week, in preparation for this coming Sunday’s sermon and study on that book.
grace and peace to you friends,
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.