Who’s In The Whirlwind? Part I
WHO’S IN THE WHIRLWIND? PART I
JOB 1: 1-12
JOB 38: 1-7
We are beginning a new sermon series on prayer. We will be going through the end of the year with this series covering different topics based off of Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home, which, besides the psalms, is the best book on prayer I have read. And I thought it would be good to do a sermon on the perennial question, “Why are my prayers not answered?” The deeper question behind this questions is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” When that question comes up most people end up thinking of the book of Job. Even if you haven’t been to church that much if someone says, “I feel like Job,” you know what they mean. The story of Job’s trials are part of our common culture. People ask why do bad things happen? I think God’s response to Job can be summed up as this,
“That’s above your paygrade.”
Even though we are told why Job is suffering, God and the Devil are having a cosmic wager of sorts, Job never finds out what all his suffering was for. And why these things are happening isn’t really the focus of the book of Job, and it is not really the focus of our life in prayer. Instead, the book of Job is a character study. Why is an interesting question, and sometimes we do receive answers. But the Bible is more concerned with the question of who? Who’s in the Whirlwind? Today we will talk about who is God in the book of Job and the Bible in general. Next week we will talk about who Job is and what that says about how we should pray.
- Who is God in this story?
First, who is God in the book of Job and in general? Though the Trinity isn’t a concept that is explicitly described in the Old Testament we Christians believe that Trinity is the best way to describe the nature of God. Saying that there is one God in three persons is notoriously difficult to understand yet one Pastor named N.Graham Standish, who writes a lot on church growth and spiritual formation put the Trinity in a way that makes it easier to understand. In His book Becoming a Blessed Church Standish argues that we as Christians experience the Trinity in terms of Purpose, Presence and Power. In relation to the Godhead often the Father is described as knowing every hair on our head. He brings the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). He knows our purpose and orders events. God working through everyday events is what we would call providence. The book of James describes God as being the source of light and wisdom.
Though Job’s pain is physical there is also a spiritual and mental nature to it. If Job did not believe in a God of purpose, presence, and power, he would just chalk up his misfortune to chance. But Job has lost his wealth, his health, his family, and his home. He is covered with boils and his wife has told him to curse God and die. Job knows this is not the way it is supposed to be. He affirms that God knows Him. He affirms that God knows his path. In Job 23:8 Job says, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him, he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Yet, when God finally answers Job here is God’s response. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
None of you fools know what you are talking about.
Are there consequences for sin? Yes. Does God defend the righteous? Yes. But God is a living God. And this is a broken world. We can’t always make rules for everything. He is the LORD and he does as he pleases. So does everything happen for a reason? I think the book of Job’s answer is yes but that reason doesn’t always have to do with you. God clearly says this to Satan in Job 2:3, where he says of Job, “ He still holds fast to his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” This is perhaps the strangest and most frightening verse in all of scripture. The LORD admits that what is happening to Job has nothing to do with Job and there is really no good reason for it. Some call it luck others providence. The point is we don’t live in a world nor do we worship a God that gives us y if we do x. Even so can we say as Job did, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD”?
Next, God is a God of presence. God is not a theory, God is not a set of natural laws, God is not a concept, God is a person. God has personhood. As the scriptures would say he is the living God. The work of his hands are throughout creation and his presence fills creation but He is not His creation. Part of the Christian experience is the experience of God with us. As I sensed when I first became a Christian I knew that Jesus was alive. Even when we do not experience this presence God is always with us. Yet, sometimes God reveals His presence to us in special ways. And part of Job’s pain is the hedge of protection has been removed. In his mind he knows God is there. But his life is a sea of suffering and he has drifted on the waves far from any sense of the LORD’s manifest presence. Yet even here Job maintains his integrity. Even here Job cries out to the LORD. Even here when Job has lost everything he waits on the LORD.
Here is what Richard Foster says about feeling forsaken, “ I would like to offer one more counsel to those who find themselves devoid of the presence of God. It is this: wait on God. Wait, silent and still. Wait, attentive and responsive. Learn that trust precedes faith. Faith is a little like putting your car into gear, and right now you cannot exercise faith, you cannot move forward. Do not berate yourself for this. But when you are unable to put your spiritual life into drive, do not put it in reverse, put it into neutral. Trust is how you put your spiritual life into neutral. Trust is confidence in the character of God. Firmly and deliberately you say, “ I do not understand what God is doing or even where God is, but I know that he is out to do me good.” This is trust. This is how we wait.” Job puts it this way, “For I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold, and not another.”
Finally, God is a God of power. Often in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity most referred to when God does something on the Earth. My minister growing up once described the Holy Spirit as the near side of God and that has always stuck with me as true. I have found in my life as a minister power and prayer are associated. The more I pray the more energy and power there is in my ministry and the more I am guided in ways I don’t fully understand. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all one God but they are also different. And as I have learned about the Holy Spirit I have felt the immense power of God. I have also learned that I don’t have a lot of control over what God does. We are more like Kites in the wind. If we go where the Spirit is blowing we may find that doors open and things happen in our lives that otherwise may not.
Talk about power and why things happen leads us back to the question of why bad things happen. And it leads us to the question of who this character of Satan is and how he relates to God and suffering. This is one of the few places in the Old Testament that Satan is mentioned. Here it is more a formal title. It can roughly translate as “the accuser” and has the same meaning that we might give to a prosecutor in a court of law. The sense is that while Job was going around doing the Will of the Lord, Satan was going around looking for trouble, thinking he was doing the Will of the LORD. He was overzealous for his job in testing Job.
In Christian theology there is an unholy Trinity as there is a Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The unholy Trinity is the Flesh, the world, and the Devil. In Christian thought the Flesh does not refer to the body though it has been taken that way. But really the Flesh is our distorted desires. It is the evil within our own hearts that cause us to love the wrong things and to step outside the boundaries that the LORD has established for our good. The World, are the structures people build to maintain our sinful desires. This is usually displayed around issues around what is fair and just.
Finally, there is the Devil. This is the idea that there is a personal evil that is not part of us or the world. The Devil is not like the eastern concept of Ying and Yang or the light and dark side of the force, two forces that balance each other out. The Devil is a created being who is under the full authority of God. As David Clines points out in his book The Gospel According to Job, the scene in Job is not a battle as much as it is a wager or a duel. And God is the one who sets the rules. Satan can afflict Job’s flesh but he cannot take his life. The New Testament affirms this view but shows us that the conflict between God and the Devil is far more intense. It is akin to a war.Yet, the Devil fights a war he has already lost and he rages on the Earth because he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). The LORD tells us to pray deliver us from the evil one. So I rebuke Satan in your life in the name of Jesus. That his influence would be made clear and his shackles broken.
Finally, one thing that Job lacked that we do not is the revelation of the incarnation of the Word of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Job believed in the presence of God but he did not know the presence of God as we do. He could not because Christ had yet to be revealed. He did not know that God understood his pain. But in Christ God showed that he cares about his creations enough to become His creation. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus wrestled with His Father before he was arrested and crucified. Jesus prayed fervently and did not receive what he prayed for. And yet God did not have to appear in a storm for Jesus to trust His Father. For He knew His Father’s heart in a way Job could not imagine.
This is what Richard Foster says about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “ Jesus knew the burden of unanswered prayer. He really did want the cup to pass, and he asked that it would pass. “If you are willing” was his questioning, his wondering. The Father’s will was not yet absolutely clear to him. “Is there any other way?” “Can people be redeemed by some different means?” The answer-no! Andrew Murray writes, “For our sins, He suffered beneath the burden of that unanswered prayer.” (Foster, 49).
There are not many things I learned in seminary that I found to be amazing. In fact, I have learned far more profound and important things working in churches and loving people. But there is one thing I learned that has stuck with me for years. For a time I thought I wanted to be a seminary professor. Yet, I lack the language skills. I suffered through Greek and Hebrew and today it is not my strong point. But in Greek I learned about something called the imperfect tense. The imperfect tense means something has happened in the past and continues to happen in the future. In Paul’s letters he calls Jesus the crucified Lord. And the tense used there is the imperfect tense. When I discovered this in my studies I was shocked. In the resurrection accounts I always thought that Jesus showed the wounds in his hands and feet for the benefit of his disciples. I thought in his glorified body he couldn’t possibly remain wounded.
But the language says that he was crucified and will be crucified forever. He reigns at the right hand of the Father a Crucified Lord, a wounded messiah. He is not ashamed of his scars. Job met God in the whirlwind. And what Jesus shows us is God never left, instead he took Job’s place. He took our place. He bore our iniquities and our diseases and by his stripes we are healed. He is the crucified Lord, he meets us in the whirlwind. And if he is not ashamed of his scars. Why should we be?
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Amen.