Title: The Restoration of Job
Date: 10:45am Traditional. 15 August, 2021
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Job 42:1-17
In the last of our Job series we explore the end of this Old Testament book where Job experience a restoration of his blessings and wealth. How do we understand this in the context of the rest of the book? What might be a better way of understand the way that God can bring restoration to our lives and families?
For the past 3 weeks we have been working through this Old Testament Book of Job. From that weird conversation between God and Satan; to the challenging question whether blessings motivate people to follow God; to the big question of WHY? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why doesn’t a loving God stop suffering? Why?
In week 2 of this series, we were introduced by Job’s friends to the Old Testament theology that God blesses those walk in God’s way and suffering happens to those who don’t – and therefore since Job is suffering, Job must have done something wrong. But Job was arguing back that this was not the case and as this slide I showed last week said, while some people can say that their suffering was the consequence of poor decision or sinful actions, you can’t backwards engineer this and say that if someone is suffering, they must of done something wrong. Most of the time, there is no reason to suffering, it just is part of life.
So – Job cries out to God to give him an answer to his questions and last week we heard God’s reply – 3½ chapters of God asking question after question about the complexities of life, the universe and everything. And then as the first part of our reading today noted – Job admits that we are just not capable of understanding these complexities; that we are to trust in the sovereignty of God. But we also touched on last week this beauty or mystery in the balance between blessings and suffering – that we need the suffering to recognise and appreciate the blessings.
And then in the second part of our reading today – the Epilogue – we get to the “happy ever after” part of the story. Job showed his patience in suffering and his commitment to God in both good and bad times … and now God materially blesses him with double the stuff that he had. In true Disney style, Job lives happily ever after in luxury and wealth and no suffering!
Does anyone else find this ending a little jarring? After all the talk about praising God in the storm; that we don’t need the blessings to serve God but rather trust in God’s goodness … the end of the story is … good things happening to the good person? Doesn’t it contradict one of the central messages of the book—that there’s no necessary connection between godliness and material blessing, between righteousness and rewards? The ending raises more questions than answers.
Actually – the end is so jarring that some scholars suggest that the original book of Job finished at maybe verse 6 or verse 9 with Job accepting his misfortunes as part of life; but people found that ending far too depressing, and so an ending where Job essentially hits the lottery in exchange for being God’s good servant, was written to give people hope. There is no concrete evidence for this, but I can see why some scholars would be suggesting this.
So how are we to understand the ending of Job? In my reading in preparation for this sermon – I noted that nearly all preachers when the same way in their explanations … something like this ….
Therefore, we can draw the conclusion that when we are going through difficult times, we know that there will be an end, and when the ending comes, so will God’s blessing … lots of blessing … and if it doesn’t come in this life, then it certainly come in the afterlife … but be assured that with God there is always a good ending.
I actually like that idea. I like that things work out well for Job. He had a really tough time … so why not have a good ending. It speaks of God’s overwhelming grace and generosity. And it does give hope. So I want to affirm this morning that if you are doing it tough, that yes, the suffering does not last forever. God has not forgotten about you. There is light at the end of the tunnel and whether it is in this life or the life to come, you will experience that same peace, comfort and blessings as Job did.
But .. I guess the biggest issue that I have with the ending of Job is the focus on the material possessions. That in response to Job’s suffering and faithfulness God rewards Job with wealth and possessions. I think that the word for what God for Job did was not compensate or reward but rather restore. I truly believe in a God of restoration.
My dictionary says that restoration means:
- the state or fact of being restored. (that’s unhelpful)
- a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition.
Yes … but this is not really the case. Job might have got 7 kids but he didn’t get his original kids back. God didn’t return what he had. This definition doesn’t work.
But then I found this third definition…
- the act of renovating; renewal, revival, or reestablishment.
This is the sort of restoration that I think God does. God doesn’t make things like they were before, God is about making things different, new, better…
Do you watch those home renovation shows on TV? In these shows they do restore houses, but not to what they were like originally, but taking some of the best original features and adding putting them alongside new ideas, concepts, layouts, appliances, and furniture to make amazing homes.
That is what I believe God restoration is about. God works within our lives, reshaping aspects, renewing aspects, replacing aspects to make us the best we can be.
And so for the next 5 minutes or so, I would love to share with you a much broader biblical perspective of what it means for God to restore … not only Job but us too.
Does the bible talk about the restoration of wealth and possessions? Well, yes it does (and Job is an example of that) but actually there are many, many more references to a more internal or spiritual restoration…
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restore … my soul.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not way from your presence
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me … the joy of your salvation
I could keep going but let me summarise ways or things that God restores…
2 Kings 5:15 Health
Isaiah 44:26 Communities
Jeremiah 30:3 People to where they belong
Matthew 9:30 Sight
Matthew 12:13 Hand / movement
Galatians 6:1 Righteousness or our relationship with God
1 Peter 5:10 Faith & Spiritual strength
Can you see a pattern emerging here? Restoration in the bible is much less about material wealth but much more about ourselves, our attitudes, our communities, our faith and our relationship with God.
So if we hold this against the story of Job … I am sure that the material blessings would have pleased Job, but that is not what he was about, that was not his focus. Right though out the book of Job, Job’s desire was to be with God.
I am sure that Job was much more interested in God renewing his spirit every morning … in the good times and in the tough times … than any restoring of materialistic benefit.
So where does this leave us? A sermon is supposed to challenge us … to help us in our daily walk with Jesus. What do we take away from this passage?
I don’t want us to go away thinking that if we are doing it tough then don’t worry because God has got a huge financial windfall around the corner. (Even though that would help our church budget). That is not the point of the passage.
Job’s faith and commitment to God was not dependant on his circumstances … nor was it dependant on a hope of a future blessings … Job clung to God because … well … because God is God and it just didn’t make sense to cling to anything else. Job continued to praise God in all circumstances.
That is our challenge.
And yes, in the spirit of Romans 8:28 – that God works for good in those who love him – I do believe in a God who wants to bring restoration. And we should hope and pray for restoration (or as 2 Corinthians 13:11 says “strive for restoration”) but in restoration of the things that really count.
Let’s humble ourselves and ask God to bring restoration,
To restore and to renew us in the inside
To restore our soul, to restore the joy of our salvation
To restore our relationships, our communities, our faith
Now that’s a great challenge. Amen.