Monday, November 02, 2015
"Seeing the Sovereign Goodness of God" Sermon: Job 42:1-6
“Seeing the Sovereign Goodness of God”
October 18, 2015 Hope Reformed Church
October 25, 2015 Second Reformed Church
One of my doctors, who is an Orthodox Jew, asked me this week, “Given the violence and murders and killing that we see in the world, how do you understand God’s creating the world the way it is?” Given what we know about God and His Character from the Bible, why did God create the world in such a way that all of this horror and suffering – at least could – occur?
The question he asked me comes under the general question of what is called, “the problem of evil” – if God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world?
It’s a question that bothered me terribly before I became Reformed – it’s one of the reasons I studied Buddhism in college – because in Buddhism, if you do something wrong, you get knocked down a peg, if you do something right, you go up a step – and this process continues on and on through various lives. It made sense: what goes around comes around, and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, karma – evil is punished, good is rewarded – simple. The only problem is, there is no explanation for how we first got into this mess – how it all began.
The Reformed understanding of the Scripture makes sense of the “problem.”
I’d like us to consider Job this morning – especially the last thing he says in the book – but let us begin by remembering who he was and what happened to him.
The date of the history of the events of the book of Job is unknown, but it is likely that this account took place rather early in the history of humanity.
We’re told that Job lived in the land of Uz, and he is described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1b, ESV). Now, let us understand that Job was not sinless – he was not like Adam and Eve before the Fall, and he was not perfect and holy. However, compared with most people, Job was a “saint” – he was the most holy person anyone knew. Yet it would be wrong to say that what happened to Job is unjust because he was sinless. That’s just not true – Job was a sinner, but he was someone who strove to be faithful and obedient, and he was an exemplary person.
Job was married and had seven sons and three daughters.
We’re told that Job was the wealthiest man in the “east” – he had 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, and five hundred female donkeys, and an enormous number of servants.
Each of his sons hosted a feast for the family each of the seven days of the week, and then, as their father instructed them, Job would consecrate them, and offer up burnt offerings for each of them for any sins they might have committed during the day.
Job was a man who had prospered in every way and loved his family, but loved God and obedience to Him even more.
Since Job didn’t know what happened next, and we don’t know all of the workings of the Mind and the Counsel of God, we will skip the next section of the history.
Now, one day when the daily feast was occurring, and a servant came to Job and told him that the Sabeans – a known, vicious, cattle-rustling group of people – attacked Job’s herds and took away all of his donkeys and oxen and killed all the servants who were trying to stop them. Then another servant ran in and told him that fire had come from heaven and killed all the sheep and all the servants with them. Then another servant came and told him that the Chaldeans – another known vicious cattle-rustling group of people – attacked Job’s herd and took away all of his camels and killed all the servants who tried to stop them. And a final servant came and told Job that a great wind had arisen and caused the house of his son to collapse and kill all of his children and all of the servants in the house.
His wealth was gone; his children were gone. So Job tore his robes and cut off his hair and worshipped God, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21, ESV).
Let’s understand that Job was not unfeeling – he was deeply in mourning – as we see in the tearing of his clothes and the cutting off of his hair. What he was saying with these words is that God is Sovereign and God is always worthy of worship – no matter what any of us may be enduring.
And then Job was struck down with painful, foul-smelling sores, from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, and he sat on the ground with the piece of broken pottery and scraped the sores off – cutting off the sores being the lesser pain.
At this point, Job’s wife had had enough, and she urged him to give up his integrity before God and to curse God and die – surely, she reasoned, death would be a relief from this profound suffering. But Job did not sin, and instead responded, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10b, ESV).
And again, let us understand, Job was not saying that God does evil – that God sins. Job was saying that every good and every disastrous thing that happens in the world happens only according to the Will and Plan of God – nothing can occur that God does not allow to occur.
Then Job’s friends came to offer him sympathy and comfort – and for seven days and nights they just sat with him in solidarity. But then they opened their mouths, and for thirty-five chapters, they explained to Job that suffering comes from sin: “It’s a simple equation: if you sin, you suffer. People who don’t sin, don’t suffer. So, you must have committed a sin – and it must have been a terrible sin with the amount of suffering you are suffering, so think hard, confess your sin, and everything will be right again.”
Job has two responses – one to his friends, and one to God:
To his friends, he argued, “I did not sin – this suffering is not the result of sin. Sometimes suffering follows sin, but not always, because God is not just a just God, He is a God of mercy and forgiveness. God is patient and long-suffering. There is no simple and obvious equation between sin and suffering.”
To God, he pleaded, “I know You are the Holy God. I know You are the Almighty God. I know You have the right to do whatsoever You will with Your creation. I just want to know why? God, please just tell me why? Please give me a reason for this suffering – and then I will be satisfied.”
Job was not suffering for his sin – that is made clear in the historical record – but it is also clear that at this point, Job does sin: Job sins in demanding that God give him a reason for his suffering: “I just want a reason God – that’s the least You owe me – explain Yourself God!”
In chapter thirty-eighty, God responds to Job, speaking to him through a whirlwind – and for the next four chapters, God asks Job, “Who do you think you are? Who are You to question Me? Were you there at the Creation? Can you control the monsters? I don’t have to explain Myself to you.”
We read Job’s final response this morning, and we see:
First, Job acknowledged the absolute sovereignty of God: “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’
God is able to do anything and everything that dies not contradict His Being. God has a plan and God is carrying out that plan through various means – through directly speaking His Will, through allowing others to do both good and evil to bring about His Will – and nothing and no one can possibility hinder God’s Plan – His Purpose – to Glorify Himself.
Everything that God desires and plans and wills to happen will happen. God cannot fail to accomplish everything He has set out to do – the greatest of these things being to glorify Himself in all that He is and does.
We can be assured that everything God has planned and promised will come to pass.
Consider the ultimate example: who crucified Jesus?
Peter preached, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23, ESV).
It was God’s Will and Plan that Jesus be crucified, and God accomplished that through the sin of the Jews and the Gentiles who crucified Jesus. God may act directly to accomplish His purposes, or He may use our good works, or He may use our sin, or some combination of these things, but God Sovereignly accomplished everything He wills.
Job confessed that he knew and believed that God is absolutely Sovereign and will accomplish all that He desires.
Second, Job confessed the greatness of God.
He began by quoting God’s question: ‘“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.’
God said to Job, “Who is this that is calling Me to explain Myself while he does not take what he knows about Me into the equation?”
Job answered, “I repent of speaking foolishly – of asking questions that are far beyond my ability to understand.”
God is so great that we can’t possibly understand everything about God and what He does – our minds are finite – and even if God were to explain, it is unlikely we would understand, because God is so much greater than we are.
Even as we look forward to the full coming of the Kingdom of God, we will not understand everything in the Kingdom, because we will still be creatures – perfected creatures – but still creatures with limited minds and understanding. God knows everything and how everything works together – that’s His business – our business is to be faithful and obedient.
And so we see Jesus, in His humanity, praying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV).
And James cautioned, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15, ESV).
We ought to acknowledge the greatness of God and His Will, submit to Him, and humbly be aware that His Will has priority over anything we desire.
Job confessed the greatness of God.
Third, Job confessed the mercy and holiness of God.
Again, Job quoted a question God put to him first: “Hear and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”
And Job responded, ‘I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.’”
Job stated that he heard about God – he knew about God – by hearing about God. There were teachings about God that he had heard taught and preached. But now, Job said, he saw God.
How did Job see God?
Job made a great confession earlier in the book, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth. After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold him, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-26, ESV).
Job confessed and prophesied that God, his Redeemer, would come to earth in human form that he would see with his eyes, after he had died and had been risen from the dead. And Job is with Him now, and we who believe also have that great hope that we will see Jesus in our flesh on the Day of Resurrection and for all of eternity in His Kingdom.
But that is not what Job is referring to here.
Job could be referring to “seeing” God in the whirlwind – since God spoke to Job through this violent natural phenomenon, and Job recognized that it was God speaking.
Job saw the mercy of God as this destructive force stood before him, but God did not strike Job.
Still, even more so, Job saw God in his suffering: in the loss of all of his cattle and the death of his children and servants, in the desertion by his wife, in his great illness and physical suffering, and in the suffering at the false wisdom of his friends, Job understood that God was behind it all – sovereignly, not as a punishment, but as part of His good plan. Even though God never told Job why he endured all the suffering he endured, Job saw the Sovereign Goodness of God through it all.
Why did it all happen? He never knew, but he knew God well enough to know that God was completely in charge, even when horrible things happened, and that God is good – all the time – God does not sin.
That is not to deny our real emotions in times of trouble – look at Job, look at the Psalms – be emotional, weep, tear your clothes, cut off your hair, but never, never, never think that God slipped up or that God sinned against you. No, let us have this rock solid confidence: God is Sovereign – all the time – and God is good – all the time.
And whether or not we suffer when we sin, let us repent of our sin and follow after God again – as Job did, because God is holy and does not tolerate sin, yet He will forgive us – He is full of mercy – if we come to Him truly repentant of our sin.
Job confessed the mercy and holiness of God.
And we might think, “OK, Job acknowledged the sovereignty and greatness and mercy and holiness of God. He admitted he overstepped and sinned in demanding that God explain why he was suffering. I understand we are to trust God and obey God and have faith in God, knowing that God is Sovereign and Good. But, isn’t there anything we can say about the suffering that we are enduring? Yes, we have comfort in God, but is there any comfort about the very things in which we are suffering?”
Paul wrote, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
If we love God, if we have believed in Jesus and His Gospel savingly, if we know God to be Sovereign and Good, then we can believe this promise: everything that happens to us – everything – every thing – everything that happens to us – will work together for our good. That doesn’t mean we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise, after we suffer – but surely, we will at least receive good spiritually from whatever comes to pass. Because we have been called according to His Purpose.
God has a plan – a purpose – and God is bringing us through everything that must occur to accomplish His Will – the Will of our Good and Sovereign God – and every moment – from the highest joys to the deepest sufferings – God is working together for the good of every one of us who believes.
Do you believe?
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for the example of the life of Job. We thank You for allowing us to see that You are Sovereign and Good – that everything is happening according to Your Plan, and even when we don’t understand why suffering occurs, You are bringing all these things together for good for all we who believe in Jesus Christ. Lord, strengthen us to trust and believe on our weak days. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.