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Job 1:1-2:10: Do You Trust God When You Cannot See the Whole Picture? Print E-mail
Job
Sunday, 01 May 2011

The book of Job puts before us two simple, but important, questions.  First, do you trust God?  And second, is God enough for you?  Now we might hear those questions and answer them both with a quick ‘yes.’  But the book of Job does not allow such a hasty answer.  No, these questions from the book of Job are much more weighty.  It is as if you are standing on the edge of a huge chasm with nothing but rocks and death at the bottom and when the ground below begins to shake and give way the Lord takes your hand and looks you square in the face and asks: ‘Do you trust me?’  Or it is the Lord standing outside your home that has just been demolished, with all of your possessions and all of your family, by a terrible tornado turning to you and asking: ‘Am I enough for you?’  These are the questions that the book of Job demands we answer.  These are not questions for sitting by the fire sipping tea.  These are questions for when our whole world is on fire, when all is not comfort but crisis.  The book of Job prepares us for (and sustains us in) such moments.  It is not so much a book of answers as it is a book about trusting and treasuring God when we do not have any answers.  It does not necessarily tell us all of the reasons for our suffering, it simply instructs us in how to suffer well.  For all of its mystery and intrigue, the book of Job is book that teaches us to trust God and treasure Him above all else.

 

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We do not know when the book was written, although most believe Job probably lived around the same time as the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).  Some think that the story is not necessarily historical but more of a parable.  I disagree with this approach since Ezekiel (14:14, 20) and James (5:11) both treat Job as a historical figure.  Although the author of the book tells the story in a unique literary fashion (poetry, cycles, speeches, etc.) that does not mean that the story is not real history.  The book can be broken into three main sections: the prologue (1-2), the speeches (3-42:6) and the epilogue (42:7-17).  For the series, I want to look at the prologue this morning (1:1-2:10), the three cycles of the friends’ speeches next week (2:11-31:40), the speeches of Elihu (32-37), the speeches of Yahweh (38:1-42:6), and then the epilogue (42:7-17) to close.  Since we are dealing with multiple chapters, I want to begin each sermon by giving an overview of the passage.  In light of the text, I want to focus on one specific question each week that revolves around the theme of trusting and treasuring God.  So then, let’s begin with a quick overview of the prologue.

Passage Overview:

The prologue begins with a simple introduction to the person of Job.  We are told that he lived in Uz, an area outside of Israel.  We are told of his family: seven sons and three daughters.  We are told of his numerous possessions: 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants.  Not only this, we are also told of his character: he was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.  This is not to suggest that he was perfect or sinless, but he was a God-fearing man whose life was characterized by righteousness.  We cannot doubt this for God will confirm it twice in His dealings with Satan (1:8, 2:3).  We are also told that Job cared for his family.  They would regularly have feasts together and afterwards Job would pray for them just in case they had cursed God in their hearts.  All of this tells us the kind of man that Job was.  He was blameless and upright.

After introducing Job, we quickly move to the first of two cycles in the prologue.  Each cycle contains three components: the heavenly challenge (the ridicule), the earthly outcome (the ruin), and Job’s response (the response).  The first heavenly challenge is found in 1:6-12.  Look at those verses with me.  Let me note a couple of ideas here.  First, we see that Satan is evil, but he is not in control.  One of my commentators sums it up well: “There is evil here, but not dualism.  Satan may be the chief mischief maker in the universe, but he is a mere creature, puny compared with the Lord.  He can only do what God permits him to do.” Second, we see the central challenge of Satan, namely he believes that Job only trusts God because God has blessed Him.  ‘Take away the blessing and God alone will not be enough for Job,’ Satan believes.  Thus, the Lord permits him to take all that he has…only against him do not stretch out your hand.  And when we move to the next scene, the earthly outcome, that is exactly what Satan does.  Look at 1:13-19.  In a very swift succession, Job is told that he has lost all of his animals and servants and all of his sons and daughters.  Ten children killed in one day.  This is unimaginable pain, heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching suffering. 

We cannot really understand the depths of Job’s struggle.  Only if you yourself have lost a child can you begin to know what he is experiencing.  It is breathtaking.  Yet, Job responds in 1:20-22.  Look at that with me.  In his darkest hour, Job fell on the ground and worshipped.  And notice, he didn’t even question the immediate causes (the Sabeans, the lightning, the Chaldeans, the wind).  No, Job knows who is in control: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.  Granted, we know that Satan was involved and Job was aware of all of the secondary causes, but at the end of the day, only God is sovereign.  Job knows this and it drives him to his knees in worship

The second cycle of the prologue runs through the first 10 verses of the second chapter.  Again, Satan challenges Job’s trust in God.  This time he focuses on Job’s on person stating: Skin for skin!  All that a man has he will give for his life.  In other words, Job would rather have his life (and health) than God, Satan believes.  Does Job value God or his own life more?  This is the second heavenly challenge.  Thus, God permits Satan to inflict Job with a terrible skin disease that drives him to scrapping the sores with piece of pottery.  Not only has he lost all his possessions and all his children, but now it seems that he will lose his very life.  His wife speaks to him and we read his response in 2:9-10.  Look at those verses with me.  His wife tells him to curse God and die.  Although most of my commentaries tried to put a positive spin on her response, it seems to me that she does not share the faith that Job has.  Instead of helping her husband, she only becomes another thorn in his side.  Job dismisses her advice as folly and once again looks to the Lord.  He asks a difficult question: Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?  We might be tempted to think that Job misspoke at this point, but the text will not allow for that interpretation: In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  Again, Job recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life.  Even though Satan is involved, God is still in control of Job’s suffering.  And Job is willing to trust Him.

The Question:

So then, let me put before us the question that I think this text demands that we ask: do you trust God when you cannot see the whole picture?  Before you answer, consider Job again.

Job is completely unaware of the heavenly challenges.  Job does know about what is going on between God and the Accuser.  He is never told.  He has no idea what is going on behind the scenes.  We know.  We are told.  But Job is not.  He is left in the dark.  Even when Yahweh shows up at the end and speaks to Job, He says nothing about what has transpired with Satan.  Job never really sees the whole picture.

Yet, he responds by trusting in God.  How does he do this?  How does he respond to such terrible suffering with trust in God?  Again, it is not because he has any answers.  That’s the one thing he never gets.  His trust in God is not built upon answers and explanations.  His trust in God is built upon a more solid foundation, namely God’s character.  Job whole-heartedly believes in God’s sovereignty.  He never doubts whether or not God is in control.  He never wonders who is ultimately behind His suffering.  He knows that God is the Sovereign ruler of all.  He knows that all belongs to God.  Look at 1:21 again.  Everything he has is a gift from God.  Let me remind of something very important this morning: you own nothing.  Everything you have, everything, belongs to the Lord.  And He can do with it what He wants.  In order to respond like Job when everything we have is taken from us, we must believe like Job that everything we have belongs to the Lord.  God will never wrong you by taking something back from you that was never yours in the first place.  He gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. 

Not only does all belong to God, but all comes from God as well.  Look again at 2:10.  Every situation and circumstance you face is from the Lord.  That neither means that our responsibility is mitigated or that God can be charged with evil.  It simply means that He is sovereign over everything we face in this life.  The storms that ripped through Alabama and Georgia and Tennessee this week were not outside of God’s sovereign rule.  Even if we try to point to secondary causes (wind, atmosphere, Satan, whatever), we still must recognize God’s rule.  Job knew that God was sovereign over his life.  Likewise, Job believed in God’s goodness and justice.  He will struggle in understanding God’s justice, but he believed it nonetheless.  He believed in the sovereign goodness of God.  And it is this belief that allowed him to worship God even in the darkest hour of his life.  He treasured God and trusted His character more than anything.

So then, do you trust God when you cannot see the whole picture?  To be honest, we have been given much more of the picture than Job ever had.  We know of Christ.  We know that He came to suffer in our place, becoming the ultimate righteous sufferer.  We know that through repentance and faith in Him God has promised to conform us into His image.  We know that when this life is over that we will go to be with Him forever.  We know this much of the picture.  But, like Job, we cannot always see it all.  We cannot always see how certain struggles and difficulties will make us more like Christ.  When those moments come, when we face the dark hours, our belief in God’s sovereign goodness needs to be settled.  We need to deal with these questions before the difficulties come.  The Enemy will be asking of us on those days: ‘Is God enough for them?’  And whatever we truly believe about God will be obvious on those days. 

So then, how do we prepare ourselves to trust in God in those moments?  We fill our hearts and our minds with the gospel.  We preach to ourselves and glory in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins.  For in the gospel we see the greatness of our God.  We see Him in all His beauty, love, mercy, wrath, justice, goodness, and perfection.  Through the gospel He becomes our greatest treasure.  And when we treasure Him above all else, we will be able to say with Job on the darkest of days: blessed be the name of the Lord.  Amen.

Francis I. Andersen, Job TOTC (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1974), p. 83.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 09 May 2011 )

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