Who’s In The Whirlwind? Part II
WHO’S IN THE WHIRLWIND
PART II: JOB
Job 4:1-21, Job 42:1-17
Last week we talked about who God is in the book of Job and the Bible in general. Today we are going to talk about Job’s character. Because the book of Job holds Job up as the type of person we are supposed to be when we are suffering. When the whirlwind hits who are we when we go in and who are we when we come out? I think the book of Job is clear we are called to be people of integrity.
Over and over Job says he shall hold fast to his integrity, even when his wife tells him to curse God and die. The Hebrew Word for integrity means to be complete. Know the Lord, and know yourself, and do not buckle under pressure. Think of a bridge that has structural integrity. It means that is not going to fall down when you put something heavy on it. Job is described as a model human being. In many ways he is an Old Testament image of Christ.
I think the key to understanding Job’s integrity is to understand what he did with the things God gave him. In Job 29, he tells us what he did with the time and the wealth the Lord had given him, “When the ear heard, it called me blessed, and when the eye saw, it approved, because I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me; and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was father to the needy, and I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous and I made him drop his prey from his teeth.” Job spent most of his days fighting for those he didn’t have a lot in common with. He spent most of his days fighting for justice.
Who I think of when I think of a family and a man who sacrifice for what is right is Craig Puryear and his family. Craig works hard. He has a physically demanding job. He takes care of his family and after he is done he goes and puts on a boyscout uniform. Saturday night we had Casey Puryear’s Eagle Scout ceremony. I did not know much about the scouts before. And I was so moved by the scout law and the scout vows. I was moved in my Spirit. I felt the Holy Spirit say. This is my Spirit. The scouts do not only take kids out of the jaws of unrighteousness. They stop them from going in. And that is something we should be proud of as a church. All of you are men and women of integrity. And I am proud to be your pastor.
Next, Job prayed. Day and night he prayed for his family. He prayed and offered sacrifices for his children, not knowing their hearts, not knowing if they had sinned or not. Job prayed for others and praying for others made Job a good Father and it made him a good friend. Job’s friends journeyed from three different nations when they had heard about Job’s sufferings. When they saw him from a distance they did not recognize him for he was covered with sores. And they raised their voices and wept, tearing their clothes, and sprinkling dust on their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and they did not speak a word for they saw his suffering was very great. And Job regretted the day of his birth. Job was suicidal. If you are holding on by a thread today there is nothing wrong with you. Keep holding on.
The scripture says the Devil afflicted Job’s flesh, but one has to wonder if He did not also have a hand in turning Job’s friends against him. For the Devil is called the accuser in the book of Job but only Job’s friends do the accusing for thirty eight chapters. People say sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me to hide the fact that words hurt a great deal, more than sticks and stones, more than sores that consume the flesh. Sickness a man can bear but what man can bear a crushed spirit (Proverbs 18:14). The theology Job’s friends knew was good theology. And they had good intentions in their minds. Yet, there is nothing more hurtful than good theology and good intentions, devoid of a heart full of love. For thirty eight chapters Job’s friends accused Job, thinking they knew what God was doing in Job’s life. They had good intentions. But as the book of Job shows us the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Job’s friends had good intentions but they were being used by Satan. They were sincere but they were sincerely wrong. I just realized reading through Job that though all of Job’s friends are cruel to him the LORD rebukes only Eliphaz the Temanite directly. I found this to be strange because Bildad and Zophar were not exactly being Job’s BFF’s (Best Friends forever). I think it is because Eliphaz was the first to be deceived and when he spoke the infection spread to the other two. He says a Spirit came to him in the night. A Spirit he interpreted as God. The Spirit said all the right things. But the intent behind the words were evil. It is sort of like the Southern expression “Bless his heart” which is usually followed by something very hurtful. It reminded me of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness where the Devil challenges Jesus to throw himself of the Temple by quoting Psalm 91:11, “He Will command His Angels concerning you.” The Devil knew that without the right Spirit, a Spirit of love, truth, integrity, and compassion, you can use the Bible to say anything you want it to say. Biblical knowledge is no guarantee of a heart changed by the Word of God and a lack of knowledge of the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean that folks have not received the Holy Spirit. In the power of the tongue is life and death. A Word of Hope can bring life. A harsh word can break someones spirit. Eliphaz knew his theology but he didn’t know the heart of God, which is the heart of a Father, and thus he was deceived. And because of that he deceived others.
Perhaps the greatest trial of Job is the trial that is suggested in the book but not described. The scripture makes clear that the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends. There is no indication that God told Job ahead of time that if Job prayed for his friends he would have his fortunes restored. That is not how God works. There is no tit for tat. But he is good and He does draw us in with his grace and kindness. The book of Job doesn’t describe Job’s reaction to God’s command to pray for those who had just spewed vile at him for God knows how long, it could have been a day, a week, months, there is no measure of time here.
We don’t know how Job felt about praying for his friends. He was a praying man. But even though job was a praying man he contemplated suicide. So even Job had his breaking point. Every man and woman does. It is clear that Job was unhinged. So he probably wasn’t in the best of states. I don’t know about you but if God asked me to pray for people who had spewed vile at me I would say, “who are you kidding?”
The thing is Jesus does. After the Lord’s prayer in Matthew Jesus says, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
But pastor I thought forgiveness was won on the cross and there is nothing we need do to earn it? That is true. But forgiveness is a gift. It is a gift you have been given. And if you can not forgive others you have not received God’s forgiveness. For God had every right not to forgive us but instead he sent Christ to die for us. So by not forgiving others you mock God’s gift of forgiveness to you and you deny the power of that gift to others. Maybe forgiveness gives us soft hearts so people react to us better and we naturally receive good things from people. Maybe God blesses us in a special way when we forgive, though He doesn’t have to. Maybe we set ourselves free from the memory of those who hurt us. Whatever the positives or negatives for us forgiveness is a command. And we know we have forgiven when we can pray for and bless those who have persecuted us.
But what is forgiveness? Richard Foster says this, “Forgiveness does not mean that we will cease to hurt. The wounds are deep, and we may hurt for a very long time. Just because we continue to experience emotional pain does not mean that we have failed to forgive.
Forgiveness does not mean that we will forget. That would do violence to our rational faculties.
Forgiveness is not pretending that the offense did not really matter. It did matter, and it does matter, and there is no use pretending otherwise. The offense is real, but when we forgive, the offense no longer controls our behavior.
Forgiveness is not acting as if things are just the same before the offense. We must face the fact that things will never be the same. By the grace of God they can be a thousand times better, but they will never be the same.
What then is forgiveness? It is a miracle of grace whereby the offense no longer separates…… forgiveness means this real and horrible offense shall not separate us. Forgiveness means that we will no longer use the offense to drive a wedge between us, hurting and injuring another. Forgiveness means the power of love that holds us together is greater than the power of offense that separates us.” Forgiveness is the greatest trial of Job, it is the greatest trial of my life, I am sure it is the greatest trial of yours. May you be given the grace to forgive. The grace to let go. The grace to pray for those who once accused you.
Finally, Job sought the LORD. When he had lost his family, his wealth, and his health, Job still sought the LORD. Talking theology wasn’t enough. Debating why bad things happen to good people wasn’t enough. Job sought the living God, even though he didn’t know when that God would show up.
If you are feeling forsaken its okay to put your spiritual life into neutral. It is okay to take a breather. I stepped away from the church for a long time at one point in my life so deep was my hurt and my bitterness. But though Job was suicidal he never stopped seeking. He held on by a thread but he held on nonetheless.
If Job had stopped seeking the LORD he might have concluded that God was an unjust judge. An aloof figure that cares nothing for our plight. But Jesus explicitly says that is not who God is. Instead God is a good Father, who will surely hear the cries of his elect who cry for justice day and night (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus also tells us that God is not a guy who is sleeping who doesn’t want to be bothered when we come to him in the dark of night. Instead he is a good Father and a just judge. While he cares for us everything he ordains in the world doesn’t revolve around us personally. Sometimes there are bigger things at stake, sometimes we will never know the reason. But still we must seek God. The answer may not always be what we want to hear but we shall find an answer. Often in life there are many doors, many possibilities. Often we get stuck because of stubbornness, unforgiveness, and bitterness ,and are not willing to move on to the next door. But there is only one with the key to answered prayer and that is Jesus. If a door is shut it is because he doesn’t want to open it. We ask and he may be gracious and open that door. But if he doesn’t we must seek other doors. As John says in the book of Revelation, Write this letter to the angel of the church of Philadelphia. This message from the only one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open.” (Revelation 3:7) As Jesus says, “And I tell you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened.”
Job sought the LORD but I am not sure he had a plan of what to do when he found God. Job was sort of like a dog chasing a car. What’s the dog going to do if the car turns around and starts heading full force toward the dog? This is what Job said when that happened,
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Through all the trials Job discovered Who was in the Whirlwind, he came to a deeper understanding of the LORD. And He discovered who is was in the Whirlwind. A man of integrity who held on by a thread but held on all the same. A man who did not buckle under pressure. A man who met the LORD and was changed to face his greatest trial. Blessing those who had cursed him.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.