Preached by Jason Abbott
Job is a book that wrestles with the problem of pain. It wrestles with the idea of suffering and injustice, and it asks why—in a world created by a good and all-powerful God—suffering exists. It asks why bad thing happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. And, it is not shy about raising these questions. Friends, God wants us to wrestle with such questions in the worst of times and, especially, in the best of times.
Since this is so, we’re going to meditate on such questions in the book of Job for the next ten weeks, and we’re going to ask the Lord to deepen our faith in him through our study. So, let’s begin at the beginning.
1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
As we read these five introductory verses, it’s impossible for us not to notice that they’re all about Job. The verses and the book focus on a human being—Job. His life is under the microscope. He’s, in a sense, the battleground where questions concerning pain and suffering, good and evil, justice and injustice are argued over and fought for. As one scholar points out:
Job is…either on the stage or the subject of discussion at every point in the book. So we need to pay careful attention to how Job is introduced to us. 1
For this reason, we’re going to organize today’s study around this one man. What do we learn about him here? Well, we learn three notable things about Job—(1st) we find out that he’s devout and blameless; (2nd) we find out that he’s wealthy and powerful; and, (3rd) we find out that Job struggles against worry and anxiety. Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Devout and blameless (v. 1)
Each of us knows someone who thinks of others before himself or herself; someone who is generous and kind and eager to help other people out whenever and wherever he or she can. You know who I’m talking about—the kind of person who sends a birthday card that arrives right on your birthday each and every year or, for no apparent reason, gets you a gift just to make your day. I know you know what I mean—the people who make us feel bad because they’re so genuinely nice, with no strings attached.
My seminary advisor often used his father-in-law as an example of someone who was like this, because of his awe of God and the gospel. He owned an orchard in California and migrant workers would race every season to his farm for work because they knew he’d compensate them generously and because he showed them and their families genuine kindness, remembering their names as well as the names of their children. In fact, when his father-in-law died, many of these workers came to the funeral to pay their respects. This was the result of how he had lived his life in an upright manner for the Lord.
That, I think, is how our author describes Job’s character. The way Job lives in public is the way Job lives in private, or to quote an old rabbinical expression—“his ‘within’ was like his ‘without.’” 2 When Job is described as a blameless man, we are not to insert perfect. In fact, Job himself will confess his sinfulness later on. Rather, it means Job has a genuine or authentic faith in the Lord and lives his life (as much as he can) to glorify him.
Friends, this is an ancient book. Job lived a long, long time before Jesus did. He didn’t know how much his God would sacrifice to save him from sin and death. Job simply trusted in the Lord’s goodness and justice—believing him to be worthy of his worship and service. That’s why he lived so beautifully.
Yet, we have the good news. We have experienced the love of God in Christ. We know that through our faith in Jesus our sins have been removed as far from us as east is from west. We know that death has lost its sting. And, we have the Spirit of God living in us. We have every advantage on Job. It’s consequently our calling to live beautifully, just as Job did, for the Lord God—blameless and upright lives, fearing him and turning away from evil.
So, here’s your assignment. Think about how God has treated you in Christ, ways he was generous with you though you didn’t deserve it…or comforted you when you were in despair. Then, go do likewise. Live beautifully for Jesus Christ by reflecting his love for you. Live beautifully! Start small but don’t stop at small. Each and every day build small into bigger and bigger beauty for the glory of God. Live beautiful lives for Christ!
Well, that’s the first thing we learn about Job and from Job. Next we find out that he’s:
2. Wealthy and powerful (vv. 2-3)
Look at the next two verses with me. The narrator tells us:
There were born to [Job] seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man [Job] was the greatest of all the people of the east (vv. 2-3).
This is the ancient Near East’s version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Our author is playing at Robin Leach in these verses. (I know I’m way over some of the youthful heads in this room with that reference, but I had to bring it 1980’s and 90’s style for a moment.) This is Kardashian rich! (Hope that helps, youngins!) In his day, Job had it all. Let’s unpack this just a bit:
– Children were considered a special blessing from God, and Job’s got ten of them. The numbers are also important. Numbers communicated things for the ancients and 7, 3, and (add them together) 10 were all good ones.
– Animals were like luxury possessions, and Job has bunches and bunches of them. And, notice again that the number of animals add up to good.
– Finally, look at how many people he has on payroll—lots of them!
Thus, the narrator concludes that Job was the greatest person in all the east. And, this is precisely how you’d want it to be…isn’t it? This is how it should be. The guy with a godly character, who fears the Lord, and steers clear of evil things is also the guy with all the power. That sounds great! It sounds like beautiful music to us because in our world it’s usually the other way around.
I recently saw a Time online article that ranked the top ten abuses of power in modern history. 3 It was a disturbing list: A dictator who used army commandos to kidnap and enslave young women; a Chinese politician taking an $850,000 bribe so that a pharmaceutical company could sell unsafe medications; or, a businessman who took investors’ money in order to throw his wife a $2,000,000 birthday party. Disturbing abuses of power!
Yet, we don’t have to go far away to recognize that those who have power will often abuse their power. We see it in our workplaces and in our neighborhoods and in our own homes. This isn’t a problem that is far away from us but a problem that is close and personal. It’s a heart problem for us.
I recently took this picture and sent it to three of my childhood friends.
Underneath the picture, I wrote this to them: “I knew this day would come.” Now, you could have many extremely good and virtuous reasons to teach your son how to mow the lawn—to learn how to do a task well, to prepare him to get a job during summer vacation, to help him value the work it takes to keep up one’s home and property—but, let’s be honest, none of these were the reason I was celebrating with my friends. I was celebrating because I would soon have a lawnmowing slave, someone to do a job that I didn’t want to do.
We can abuse the power we’ve been given so easily. It’s in our very nature. So, ask yourself this—How do I use my power? How do I exercise my authority? Everyone of us has power and authority in some area.
– Is it as a parent at home or as an older brother or sister?
– Is it in the workplace as a manager of others—as a supervisor or a teacher or a CEO?
– Is it as a mentor to someone or as a small group leader in the church?
We all have power to influence other people for God’s glory, like Job does, or for selfish gain, like dictators do. How will you use the authority you’ve got? This isn’t a small question. The way you use your influence matters to the Lord—whether you’re a governor or a garbage collector. And, it pleases our God greatly when we serve him with the might he’s given us no matter how small.
Well, let’s move to the last thing we find out about Job. Namely, that he has:
3. Worry and anxiety (vv. 4-5)
Now, our narrator doesn’t state this directly, but he does picture it clearly. Look at the last two verses of our passage:
[Job’s] sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually (vv. 4-5).
Here, we have the first hint that something’s wrong in the world. Before this, you might think everything is as it should be. But, Job’s concern over his children shows us that things aren’t perfect—that things in this world, a sinful-fallen world, could go south quickly. Job is worried that one of his children might despise God in his or her heart and, thus, provoke his judgment. Furthermore, it’s clear that this isn’t an occasional concern or worry for him, but one Job has “continually” (v. 5). Job is a man who doesn’t know true security in his relationship to God.
Now, on one hand, these repetitive sacrifices are signs of both his reverence and piety. Job takes sin seriously. We should also take sin seriously—both our sins and the sins of others. So, from that angle, Job’s concerns are very positive ones. He is being an exemplary spiritual leader of his family.
However, from where we sit—from this side of the cross of Jesus Christ—we should recognize the blessing of security that we have in light of the anxieties and worries that Job has. So, as we close, let’s just consider this blessed assurance that’s ours in Christ.
If you have placed your faith in Christ, you don’t need to sacrifice anything at all to satisfy God. The author of Hebrews assures us of this:
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:11-14).
If you’ve trusted in Jesus as Lord, you don’t need to worry that you’ll slip from his hands. Jesus encourages you that it’s not your hold upon him that matters but his hold upon you. And, his grasp is unbreakable:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day (John 6:37-39).
Finally, if you are in Christ, you don’t need to worry that the wrath of God might break out against you at any moment, since Jesus has satisfied God’s wrath by his death on the cross. Through faith in him, you receive God’s love not wrath. The apostle John promises you this:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
Indeed, we live in a fallen and sinful world. We will without a doubt suffer and be treated unjustly. However, in the midst of those situations, one thing is sure: If we’ve trusted in Jesus, then we are secure. Sin will not win. Death will not win. Because, victory is ours in Christ.