Mind Blowing Moment
Preached by Jason Abbott
Most if not all of you are aware that we practice a copastor leadership model at Community Free. Essentially what that means is that Benjamin and I share many of the senior pastor responsibilities—we preach equally; we fashion vison together; we lead staff together. Suffice it to say, this isn’t the typical western church model. This isn’t the CEO model, the top-down model of leadership.
At some point, after Benjamin had arrived, we had a meeting with a bunch of other pastors. And, as we were going around the table making our introductions, I introduced myself as a teaching pastor at Community and Benjamin followed me with the same introduction. A pastor, from across the table, immediately asked us who was the lead pastor. We explained that we co-lead—that we share leadership. This explanation didn’t register for him. So, he asked us who made the final call when we disagreed. So, we explained that, if we’re at crosshairs, we work together to find a united way forward. But, that answer didn’t seem to help either.
As we tried to explain copastoring to him, this was his reaction. 1
This poor guy’s mind was blown by our model of leadership in the church. He couldn’t understand it. He had one view of pastoring, but it was way too small. He didn’t have a category or words for how God was leading in our context.
And, in a similar sense, that’s what’s going to happen to Job in today’s text. He’s going to have his pedestrian views of God destroyed when he meets the Lord. As God questions him, Job is going to have his mind blown. He’s going to realize how his view of God has been too small. And, this realization will bless Job.
Now, I’m not going to read all of these chapters, but I’ll give you the sense of them by taking a panoramic view of God’s response here. For all four chapters, he answers Job by asking him questions. Here’s how today’s passage begins:
38 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me… (38:1-3).
So, I wonder, if you’re disappointed that God doesn’t answer Job directly. Do you think it’s rather harsh of the Lord to put this man who’s lost so, so much thru this kind of questioning? Friends, I think we’re meant to be surprised that God doesn’t clear up the mystery here. Afterall, isn’t that what Job and his three friends were waiting for him to do—to give them an answer?
Yet, if we think God doesn’t answer, then we’ve misunderstood the passage. This is an answer. It’s just not the one we expected. So, in order to see the answer, we need to ask two questions—(1st) what’s God literally saying thru the questions? And, (2nd) what’s God figuratively saying through the questions?
1. What’s God literally telling us?
The answer is that God tells Job and us that we’re small, and our knowledge of things is small. And, God tells Job and us, through these questions, that he’s big and his knowledge of things is big. (By the way, that’s a massive understatement about God! When you think you know how big he is, he’s still bigger. Just saying!) So, that’s the literal answer the Lord gives us through these questions.
Just think about trying to answer some of these questions. They’ll make you feel your limitations acutely. God asks:
Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, / that a flood of waters may cover you? / Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go / and say to you, ‘Here we are’? (38:34-35). (Can you control the weather?)
Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars / and spreads his wings toward the south? / Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up / and makes his nest on high? (39:26-27). (Did you design the beasts?)
Have you an arm like God, / and can you thunder with a voice like his? / [If so, then]…Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low / and tread down the wicked where they stand (40:9, 12). (Can you establish justice?)
I’ve heard Benjamin say many times that nobody stands over the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to feel big. Likewise, I’d say nobody reads God’s questioning of Job to feel big. These questions put us in our place and expand or view of God. That’s the literal point they’re making.
A while back, my five-year-old would regularly claim he knew everything. You’d try to explain how something works (e.g. time zones or basic traffic laws), and he’d say: I already know that. It got so bad that we began asking him questions he couldn’t possibly know the answers to (e.g. Who was the 12th U. S. President?). He, consequently, began saying: I already know that, but I don’t want to tell you. (We’re all prideful sinners from birth.)
Friends, often we imagine, like my five-year-old, that we know everything—that if we ran the world things would go better. And, yet, that’s an outrageous idea. We have trouble running our own households let alone the world. Our idea of God is too small and our idea of ourselves is too big. That’s my five-year-old’s mistake. That’s Job’s mistake. And, that’s our mistake. We can never know God as Savior as long as we think of ourselves as savior. So, the Lord’s preparing Job—and us—for salvation through all these humbling questions.
And, this brings us to our second question.
2. What’s God figuratively telling us?
Here, I only have time to give a couple of examples of how God’s questions offer a humbling yet hopeful answer for those who are in the midst of suffering. Through these questions posed poetically (remember the genre is all poetry here!), God speaks reassuring words into Job’s situation. We just looked at the literal truth of the Lord’s words. Now, we’re going to look at the figurative truth behind them. Let’s begin with the figure of the sea.
People around these parts love the beach. Natalie and I are from the Midwest and, therefore, didn’t vacation at the beach much until we moved nearer the coast. Yet, now, we also love going to the beach and swimming in the ocean.
Well, if you love the ocean and are a Christian, then you’re likely concerned when you read the book of Revelation. You probably don’t like the picture you get of the New Heaven and the New Earth in Revelation. And, all your consternation is spawned by one verse. Do you beach-lovers know what verse I’m talking about? It’s Revelation 21:1, which ends with this statement: “…and the sea was no more.” So, all you beach-bums lament—Wait…how can it be heaven without the beach?! Turn back! It’s a trick!
But, it’s not a trick. It’s figurative language to communicate a glorious truth. You see, in the Bible, the sea is often used to represent chaos, disorder, and danger. So, in Revelation, when John (inspired by the Holy Spirit) tells us the sea is gone, he’s telling us chaos and danger are gone. God has removed them from creation; the Lord has made the world safe and secure.
Now, in light of that, consider these questions God asks Job in chapter 38. He says to this man, who has experienced intense chaos and danger:
…who shut in the sea with doors / …when I made clouds its garment / and thick darkness its swaddling band, / and prescribed limits for it / and set bars and doors, / and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, / and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? (vv. 8-11).
Friends, is God talking literally about creation? Certainly, he is the Creator. Yet, at another level, he is speaking figuratively. He’s asking—Who limits chaos and danger in this world? Who controls them and establishes their boundaries? Who can push back their waves? The answer is that only God does—only God can. Job knows he can’t, but now he is before one who can. (This means there’s hope. And, as the verse in Revelation 21 assures us, the Lord will not merely limit them but eventually destroy them completely.)
If you’re in the midst of suffering now (or if you face suffering in the future) know that this questioning assurance from God is not an easy, naïve kind of hope or assurance for you. There are no easy answers in the midst of suffering.
Yet, it’s a deep, mysterious assurance—that the God who’s infinitely wiser than you are and the God who’s infinitely more powerful and capable than you are, is also the God who can limit and push back the awful forces of chaos and danger in the world. And, he’s personal too. God sees Job’s suffering, and he answers him. Not with the answer Job wants, but with the answer Job needs! The Lord tells him and you: I’m far greater than you can imagine, and I’m in control. Trust me.
Next consider the figure of darkness. We hardly get any real darkness here. There’s so much light pollution that it’s hard for us to understand ancient darkness, or zero-light-pollution darkness. But, the ancients really knew it and its dangers. Nowadays, we only know darkness-danger in scary movies. It’s not the same.
There’s this really dumb doorbell-security-camera commercial on right now. I love it because it’s so dumb. Essentially, these two burglars park their car in front of a nice house and approach it intending to break into it. However, it’s ridiculous because it’s broad daylight, and they’re apparently going to break in the front door. What idiot criminal would do that?!
No…thieves come out at night. They do their deeds in the dark…don’t they. The ancients knew this well. They knew at night that evil people operated freely—pursuing their evil things. So, the nighttime was often associated with what’s evil, while the daytime was often associated with what’s good. This figure is also used in Revelation to picture heaven—“…And night will be no more” (22:5). In short, this means that the time of evil will, at Christ’s return, end forever.
Now, consider this truth in relationship to what the Lord says to Job here about darkness or night. He asks:
Have you commanded the morning since your days began, / …that it might take hold of…the earth, / and the wicked be shaken out of it? (38:12-13).
God says—Do you have the power to shed light upon the injustices of life? Can you peer into the evil darkness and, then, direct the righteous light of justice upon it? Of course, the answer’s no. We can’t shake the wicked out of the darkness of this world. Only God can. (And, again, this is supposed to be an encouragement to Job. God says, I see the injustice and pain and suffering. I see all that takes place in the darkness. And, a reckoning is coming.)
Friend, if you have cancer, you need to know that God sees you and despises what you are suffering! You need to know a reckoning is coming in Christ Jesus. God’s going to one day disperse the darkness of disease once and for all.
Friend, if you’ve been devastated by the death of a loved one, then you need to know that God sees your pain! You need to know that a reckoning is on its way. God’s going to shine the light of Christ’s resurrection into the world.
Whatever darkness you’re experiencing, know that the Lord God can see it, and a reckoning is coming in Jesus Christ. This is our great hope as his followers. And, it is a powerful hope! It shines with blinding brilliance through the darkness of this fallen, sinful world. And, when you see it, you know it.
On June 17, 2015, a young man—who was motivated by racism—walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and shot and killed nine people during a Bible study. Those people welcomed him as a visitor with open arms. But, he killed them anyway.
Doubtlessly, many wondered—Where was God? Why did he let it happen? Friends, I don’t know why God let it happen. There are no easy answers to that.
What I do know, however, is that just two days after this horrific act of hate, during the first hearing in the trial of the man who readily admitted to the murders, the tremendous power of Jesus Christ was on full display as survivors of the attack and family members of victims, one by one, stepped forward to offer this man—who had taken so much from them, inflicted so much pain and suffering on them—forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ. 2
The media didn’t know what to make of their mercy. The public didn’t know what to make of their forgiveness. But, as believers, we should know what to make of it. We know where that mercy and forgiveness and matchless power come from. They come from the God who reigns and the God who relates.
They come from knowing the God who knows everything, sees everything, and controls everything. And they come from having experienced his tender care—his mercy and his forgiveness and his matchless power in the sufferings of Jesus for salvation. They come from God’s gospel work in us. Amen!