Sermon for October 17th

First Reading Job 38:1-7, 34-41

Second Reading Hebrews 5:1-10

Gospel Reading Mark 10:35-45

Sermon “God: So Much More Than We Imagine “

Last week we began our examination of the strange, yet wonderful and challenging book of Job. We heard his story as his life came tumbling down around him, with the loss of his possessions, family and his health. He was left miserable and destitute while his friends come to mourn with him and try to figure out why such a tragedy happened. Through the next 30 some chapters, the debate rages between Job and his friends – his friends certain that some wickedness in Job’s life was surely responsible, but Job passionately defending his innocence and questioning why God would allow such tragedy to befall him. He comes dangerously close at times to claiming that God treated him unjustly and yet at other times praises God and broadly proclaims his faith in spite of his present circumstances.

Job understands the majesty and greatness of the creation and understands that God is great and mysterious – beyond our comprehension as we hear in Job 26:9-11,14:

[9] He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. [10] He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. [11] The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke. [14] And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?”

Still in the midst of his misery, he latches onto the idea that if he could just track God down and make him listen, that he would be vindicated and could prove his case and be vindicated. Listen to Jobs words from Job 23:3-7

[3] If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! [4] I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. [5] I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say to me. [6] Would he vigorously oppose me? No, he would not press charges against me. [7] There the upright can establish their innocence before him, and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.

The youngest of Job’s friends, Elihu who has been silent for all of these protracted arguments finally speaks up near the end of the debate and reminds Job that God is not so distant and is in fact very present to those who will listen: Job 33:13-18 NIV

[13] Why do you complain to him that he responds to no one’s words ? [14] For God does speak—now one way, now another—though no one perceives it. [15] In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, [16] he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, [17] to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, [18] to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.

Elihu goes on to caution Job that God is great and good and that he does wrong to imply that God has treated him unjustly. Listen to these verses Job 37:5,14-16,23-24

[5] God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. [14] “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. [15] Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? [16] Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? [23] The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress. [24] Therefore, people revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart? ”

Just then, God does make a dramatic appearance as we heard in the first reading this morning. This is the moment Job has been demanding and waiting for. Will Job get to lay out his case before God? Will God tell Job why all of these terrible things have happened? Will God restore Job’s reputation, vindicating him of any wrongdoing? No, Not yet anyway. God doesn’t seem interested in providing answers to any of Job’s questions. Instead, God has some questions for Job — nearly four chapters worth of them — The kind with no apparent answers. “Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me,” says this God. Job is confronted with the Majesty and power of creation and asked just what part he had had in any of it.

Job 38:4-7[4] “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. [5] Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? [6] On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone— [7] while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” And from Job 39:1-2,5-10,13-18 we hear the questions continue:

[1] “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? [2] Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth? [5] “Who let the wild donkey go free? Who untied its ropes? [6] I gave it the wasteland as its home, the salt flats as its habitat. [7] It laughs at the commotion in the town; it does not hear a driver’s shout. [8] It ranges the hills for its pasture and searches for any green thing. [9] “Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will it stay by your manger at night? [10] Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness? Will it till the valleys behind you? [13] “The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, though they cannot compare with the wings and feathers of the stork. [14] She lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, [15] unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. [16] She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, [17] for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. [18] Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider.

Job is left awestruck and replies at the end: Job 42:2-6 [2] “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. [3] You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. [4] “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ [5] My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. [6] Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job is left in the same place as the psalmist David who sang: Psalm 8:1,3-4 [1] Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. [3] When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, [4] what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

Job found that God who had seemed so distant and uncaring was in fact very present, though he had not known it at the time. God did not explain himself, but instead reminded Job in a powerful way that he was God and that Job was not.

The universe that God has created is well planned and orderly, but in this sin-sick and broken world, tragedy does happen and it doesn’t always have a reason – at least not that is apparent to us. Perhaps It’s not that there is no explanation, it’s just that we likely can’t bear it. It’s not that there is no rhyme or reason to life, it’s just that we need to trust the God who is ultimately in charge of all life to do the right thing and to bring matters to their proper conclusion in God’s good time. God does not ignore Job, but certainly does not answer to him either. Job is not God but yet they are connected and in conversation with each other. Our relationship with God has been at issue from the beginning. We learn in Genesis that God originally created the garden, placed Adam and Eve there and would come and walk there, talking with them. That was the way it was originally meant to be, before the awful separation of sin, pride and rebellion entered the world, and Adam and Eve hid from their creator.

Of course, we can’t help but read Job in the light of the gospel. In its light, we know God’s ultimate surprise when dealing with sin, evil, and death. If we thought it was surprising to be shown a Planetarium show or reminded of the wonders of the animal kingdom when we thought we were going to hear a theology lecture, well then God’s word is vastly more surprising. It shows us a baby in a manger and a lowly carpenter’s son proclaiming the kingdom had come, when we thought (along with Israel) that we were going to see the armies of God marching to slay the forces of evil. If in Job’s story we thought it was unusual to be brought to the zoo when we thought we’d be stopping by a seminary to learn deep matters of the faith, it is far more shocking in the Gospels to see God deal with sin and death by dying himself.

Our Hebrews passage this morning describes Jesus and his role for us this way: Hebrews 5:1-2,5,7-10 NIV [1] Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. [2] He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. [5] In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” [7] During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. [8] Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered [9] and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him [10] and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is God’s representative to us and our representative to God. He is uniquely able to to this since he is fully divine and yet fully human. He personally knows what it is to suffer, to be misunderstood, to be rejected, to be exhausted and to have those closest to you turn on on you. He knows because all this and more happened to him. We can take our worries and hurts and ills to him in prayer knowing that Jesus understands. In Christ, God has done precisely what Job needed and more

We certainly don’t know all the answers or sometimes even the right questions, but we know the Creator God, who is in fact our Redeemer God. We know God through the wonderful surprise that is Christ Jesus our Lord. Considering the wonders this God has already wrought in Creation and in our Redemption, surely he can and will work another wonder some day – that will be when we see him face to face and every tear is dried from every eye. Perhaps we might even get an answer or two to some of those questions. Though we will have to wait until the great day of resurrection for that fulfillment.