Title: When life Crashes Down
Date: 10:45am Traditional Worship, 25th July, 2021
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Job 1:1, 2:1-10
Where is God when life crashes down? This week we are starting a new sermon series exploring the Old Testament book of Job – a complex book which wrestles with life and suffering and faith. This Sunday we will be not only getting some context of the story of Job but trying to gain some understanding of what is going on in the first few chapters. In the context of lockdown and concern – this book might be able to speak to us as well.
Max Lucado tells the story about a friend who was doing some vacuuming and decided to vacuum the birdseed of the floor of the birdcage. It seemed like a good idea until the phone rang. As she turned to pick up the phone – “sssopp”. The poor bird was sucked into the vacuum. The owner was frantic and opened the vacuum to find the bird covered with dust. She ran straight to the bathroom, turned on the tap and stuck the dirty bird under the running water. Then realising the bird was soaked and shivering, she reached for the hair dryer and blasted it with hot air. The poor bird was one minute perched in his cage and the next minute it was sucked in, washed up and blown over.
Life can be like that, can’t it? We can be happy living life when suddenly something happens which turns our life upside-down. Like how life can be going great and we suddenly find ourselves back in an extended lockdown.
Today we are starting a new sermon series based around the Old Testament book of Job. I need to say upfront, that the story of Job is not an easy one to hear. It is a story of a terrible loss and grief and suffering happening to a good person who did not deserve it. Nigel read us chapter 2, but if you also read chapter 1 as well … it is just horrible.
Job was a blameless and upright person of faith and in a single day he was raided by two different enemies who stole his flock, killed his servants, and fire came from heaven and destroyed the rest of his wealth. And on top of that, all of his 10 children died when a tornado collapsed the house they were in.
The loss of your wealth and influence is devastating … but I am not sure how anyone gets over the death of a child, let lone all your children in a single day. It really is the worst story ever.
So whether you are Job or the poor bird. How do we cope, how do we find understanding when life crashes down?
Let’s unpack Job a little. The book of Job was written a long time ago … a really long time ago. Actually, there is some evidence that it could have been the first book of the bible written down. And it is not just in the Bible. There is a similar story is found in the Koran – called Ayyub. The tragedy of a good person undergoing extreme suffering for no apparent reason seems to be a universal story which all people of all nations can relate to.
There is some debate Job is actually a real person who really went through these experiences – or a piece of creative writing – an analogy or reflection on what life is like? That is why most scholars when categorising the books of the bible – many scholars put Job NOT in the History section with books like Genesis and Exodus but rather in the poetry & wisdom books next to things like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Psalms … sort of implying that it is probably more of an analogy. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter if we believe that Job was a real historical figure or a story created to reflect the reality of life … the power of reading this book of the Bible is that it forces us to look at the difficult questions of why bad things happen to good people. And while that is the key question … why do bad things happen to good people …, I am going to leave that question for next week.
This week I want to explore what is happening in chapters 1 and 2 between God and Satan. How do we understand or what can we take from this cosmic dialogue?
It just raises a whole lot of questions.
- Both in chapter 1 and chapter 2 – Satan wanders into the presence of God and God starts talking to Satan. What is Satan doing there? He was thrown out of heaven … how he is allowed back in? Besides darkness cannot be in the presence of light
- And why does God feel like he need to prove a point to Satan about Job. Why would God care about what Satan thinks?
- And the most pointed question … why would God do (or allow) such horrible things to happen to a good person just to prove a point to Satan?
These are difficult questions because what is happening here seems to go against our understanding of the character and nature of God. I think the easy answer would just to say that Job is just an analogy – an attempt of ancient theologians to try give an answer of why bad things happen to good people … because God is trying to prove a point to Satan. But that feels like I am glossing over it. As I said, these are difficult questions.
I believe that the Bible is the living Word and that all passages in the bible – even the difficult ones – can speak to us and challenge us. So maybe the confronting nature of these two chapters are trying to get us to reflect on our own faith and life and invite us to also theologically wrestle with the question of God and Suffering.
I think the key verse here is Job 2:3.
3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
I wonder whether the writer is trying to get us to consider … why do we worship God, why do we love God? Satan question to God is about whether or not Job’s commitment to God is conditional or not. Whether Job’s love for God is because of the blessings he has received or not. Satan question was … if we praise God in the good times, would we continue to praise God in the tough times.
This is another challenging question. Is our relationship with God dependant on our current circumstances? Is our faith about us and what is happening with us, or is it about God and who God is? How do we answer these questions?
In the story … Job answered the question that he would stick with God regardless. He did not blame God but rather held onto God. Job’s wife has a quite different response. She tells Job to “curse God and die” – if God didn’t stop this tragedy, then it’s time to dump God.
I am trying to be careful not to rush to judge Job’s wife or anyone else who has gone through a tragic situation. When life crashes down, it seems natural to be angry at God. But when she seems to want to push God away … Job seems to want to lean in God, to cling to his faith.
When I was reflecting our Bible reading there was a word that jumped out to me. In verse 3, God affirms that Job is maintaining his integrity. In Job 2:9 Job’s wife says to Job, “Are you still holding onto your integrity?”
My dictionary told me that a person with integrity is one who is honest, a person who adheres to their principles no matter what. In other words, Job is a person of Integrity because his faith is not swayed by other people or by circumstances. He is sticking with God no matter what.
Another definition I found described integrity as “whole, complete, without any cracks”. For example, a ship might go through a terrible storm, hit a few icebergs but the “integrity of the hull remain intact”.
Isn’t this what Job was about.
Yes the storm of grief and suffering hit him,
The rocks of health issues banged him from all sides
His life was crashing around him.
And yet the integrity of his hull of faith, his commitment to stick with God, remained intact.
Satan asked the question … is Job’s faith dependant on his current circumstances? Will Job stop praising God if his great life crashed down around him? So far in the story Job showed that his faith had integrity and somehow was able to rise above the tragedy that struck. I am sure it was not easy – it really was hard as we are going on to look at in more depth next week – but Job stuck with God.
And to me … this is the challenge of this passage today. Whether the story is real or an analogy of life … the challenge for us is how would we answer the question of Satan?
Is our faith dependant on things going right?
Does our faith have integrity?
Are we willing to commit to sticking with God no matter what life throws at us?
I was going to finish my sermon there … but I felt that God wanted me to take this challenge a step further. If you look in chapter 1 verse 20 … just after Job heard the heartbreaking news about his kids being killed, we read: At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship.
In a deep moment of grief and suffering – Job not only clung to God, he worshipped. When I read that verse it reminded me of the line from Hebrews 13:15 about offering God a sacrifice of praise … lifting our eyes up to God even when we are hurting.
Casting Crowns – a great Christian band – wrote a song about 20 years ago called, “I’ll praise you in the storm”, If I was unsure about how Facebook would respond – I would play you their video. Look it up, it’s on YouTube. It is an amazing song, but here is the chorus:
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Acknowledging that our circumstances doesn’t change who God is. God is still worthy of our praise regardless of where we are. And it goes on…
And ev’ry tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
I am not sure what you are facing this week. Maybe we are struggling with lockdown or maybe you are in the middle of an even greater storm. Whatever your circumstances … can I encourage you not to push God away but rather lean into God because God has never left your side. And if you can … try praising God in the storm.