“There once was a man named Job.” This is how writers start parables and history books and biographies and we don’t know if it is fact or fiction. But this we know, it could happen to the best of us and the worst of us.
Job is described as “blameless—a man of complete integrity.” It’s important to realize this isn’t saying that Job was perfect, but that he was honest. There’s a difference. He gives burnt offerings for his kids who are far from perfect. Burnt offerings are to make atonement for sin-guilt. I met a lady on the streets Wednesday night that told me she still makes burnt offerings unto the Lord. She said people get on to her for smoking cigarettes, but to her they are burnt offerings and that’s biblical. Yet one of the big reasons Jesus came was to end all of our vain efforts to atone for our sin.
Jesus died on the cross, once and for all, to pay for the sins of the world. He is our atonement for sin and when we trust in Him we can find that forgiveness and blamelessness that Job was seeking. Back to Job…
“He feared God and stayed away from evil.” Job didn’t just talk about what was evil and what was good, it says he literally “turned away from evil.” Job was genuinely a good person. It doesn’t help us understand this book by trying to explain away his goodness based on a theology of total depravity or the idea that we are all sinners. Everyone in this book agrees that all are sinners, including Job himself.
Sin has consequences and our negative choices often lead to struggle and suffering. But Job teaches us that not all who are struggling and suffering have sinned.
It is possible for sinful people to be genuinely good. It might be rare, but it is possible for someone to love and obey God. It requires a lot of grace and a lot of work, and Job had made the effort.
There is only one man in the bible who surpasses Job in his goodness and his grief––Jesus. He was not only blameless but sinless and endured the greatest agony of anyone in history. In his perfection of obedience and suffering, the questions of Job and all of us have their final answer in Jesus. Yet while Jesus and Job help us answer some of the deep questions of life, they raise others. Isn’t it unjust for the innocent to suffer and the guilty be set free?
One of life’s oldest questions is “Why do bad things happen to good people.” And that’s exactly what is happening in the story of Job. To answer this sometimes we try to refute one of the parts of the question. Like Job isn’t actually a good person, but we’ve already talked through that. Others will argue that maybe these aren’t actually bad things that happen, maybe they will turn out for good. Really? It’s the violence of men alternating with the violence of nature and not only results in the destruction of everything he has, but the deaths of all of his family. Somebody say, “That’s bad.” Maybe, possibly, in theory something good can come out of it, but how does it make that right!?!?
And what makes it worse is that Job lives in a universe where God is ultimately in charge. Job believes in a God who can stop natural disasters, who can reroute pirates, and can destroy cancer, but he didn’t do any of that here. Job doesn’t think to curse the raiders, the watchmen, or even his stupid servants now laying dead for their watchlessness. All secondary causes disappear and only the Prime Mover, the Lord who gives and takes away who stands in the spotlight. This kind of tragedy is not as problematic for the polytheist, the dualist, the atheist, the naturalist, the fatalist, the materialist, or the agnostic. These are still terrible atrocities, but they make sense to them. But how can this make sense to someone who believes in a God who is both good and almighty?
This is what we will explore over the next 5 weeks. Why do bad things happen to good people? How can a good God allow tragedy and suffering at such magnitude? Not problems we can solve tonight. But there is a principle that I believe can help. It’s become a cliche on the walls of rooms of recovery but before that it was something that helped Job make it through another day. Accepting life on life’s terms.
Life’s terms don’t always include hardship and disaster. Sometimes life’s terms have sunshine and roses. But Job identifies the two terms we can bet our lives upon.
I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
You are born and you die. You come out of your mother’s womb with nothing and that’s how you return to the ground. Those are life’s terms. What happens in between is what we call life. Don’t waste your life.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Gratitude vs. Entitlement
Luke 12:15 – Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.
Life on God’s terms
The Lord as owner
There is great relief in being under a good landlord. When something is broken, you can know it will be fixed. If we need to move, we can work it out and not be responsible for the house after we’re gone. The Landlord pays the taxes and insurance, is responsible if natural disaster hits, etc. There comes great stress with home ownership. But our problem in Memphis are the sleazy slumlords. God is not a slumlord!
Job passes the first test. Verse 22 says he doesn’t “charge God with wrong” or blame God for these things.
Job’s confidence in God’s blessedness goes beyond any other in the bible. Eli watched his sons die at the hand of the Lord, but he knew of their wickedness. King David grieved the death of his baby from Bathsheba, yet knew he was only a victim of his adultery and murder. Job doesn’t have the satisfaction of knowing that he is paying for his sins, for he doesn’t have any, or at least done deserving punishments of such magnitude.
Back to how Job reacted to the news of his loss in v 20. He responds in 3 ways. He tears his robe, he shaves his head, and he worships God. Tearing one’s robe was a customary reaction to receiving bad news or to show extreme shock and dismay. Shaving one’s head was a practice of mourning, identifying the person has someone who is deeply sad. And finally Job does something unexpected. He worships.