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An Easter Sermon – Job 19

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What words of comfort do you commonly use?

Imagine you tell of some bad news:

My credit cards have been stolen, they’ve cleared out my bank account...

How do you finish that sentence?

...still, worse things happen at sea

... serves me right for being so careless

... I suppose I’m just cursed

... I guess I should count my blessings

... at least I’m not being boiled alive in sulphuric acid

... at least I have my health

... such is life

Whatever we tack onto the end of our stories of suffering gives a little window onto our theology of suffering.

Me and a friend have stock lines we use and we make fun of each other for them.  He calls me a cautious optimist.  I call him a stark realist.  When I get to the end of my news I say: “So we’ll see.”  When he gets to the end of his news he says “So there we are!”

What’s your response to suffering?  In church we often have some more spiritual sounding consolations.  Things like “Just got to keep trusting I guess.”  “God’s got a plan.”

But none of these are a patch on one line I heard recently.  It was from a woman suffering with cancer.  And after she’d told people the seriousness of her condition she’d say “Still, nothing a resurrection won’t fix.”  Now that’s consolation.

Nothing a resurrection won’t fix.

That’s what Easter is about.  The darkest day on planet earth was Good Friday when the LORD of Glory was barbarically executed - slaughtered as a lamb.  When you kill your father it’s called patricide.  When you kill a king, it’s called regicide.  This was deicide – killing God.  The Word of creation comes and we silence the Word.  The Light of the cosmos shines, and we extinguish the light.  The Life-force of the world comes and we kill the Author of Life.

The sun stopped shining and the earth quaked when the LORD our Maker was lifted up on the cross.  Abandoned by earth, forsaken by heaven – He’s thrust into the air, hanging between heaven and earth, He dies the death of the rejected.  Spat upon, mocked, derided, a spear thrust into His heart.  Taken down, His cold, lifeless corpse was laid in the tomb and the entrance was sealed.  God was dead and buried.  It was the worst thing that has ever happened.

But Easter Sunday – He burst out of the ground, NEW.  The same Jesus – but now He’s been perfected.  He has passed through the fires of judgement and come out refined, glorified.  He hasn’t just dipped His toe into death and come back.  He has passed all the way through death and come out the other side into immortal, resurrection life.

And on Easter Sunday we remember the stories of how He appeared to His disciples, still bearing the wounds of His crucifixion.  He keeps the marks of His death, because we will praise His death into all eternity.  But they are glorified wounds.  Jesus redeems death – He redeems even His death, even deicide is redeemed through the resurrection.  There’s nothing His resurrection won’t fix.

And what I want us to understand this evening is that Christ’s death and resurrection isn’t just an example of how, sometimes, good can come out of suffering.  This isn’t an example – it’s the engine of God’s cosmic redemption.  What God did through Jesus that weekend – He will do to the whole universe.  There’s nothing His resurrection won’t fix.

Just before Jesus died He said this in John 12

24 I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Jesus is the Seed who falls dead into the ground, but rises up new to produce MANY seeds.  His death and resurrection is the pattern and prototype and power for MANY resurrections.

Put it another way – Jesus is the Head of a new creation.  And as He takes the old humanity down into the grave He rises as Head of a new humanity.  And all who are united to Him by faith are raised with Him.

Put it another way – Jesus is like the needle going through the thick black cloth of suffering, judgement and death.  And Jesus bursts through the other side – taking with Him, the thread.  Us – anyone who trusts in Jesus is united to Him and takes the same path.

Easter Sunday is not just an example of new life.  It is the pattern, the prototype, the power for cosmic resurrection.  And it’s what God is doing in your life.  He is moving you from Good Friday through to Easter Sunday, and there’s nothing His resurrection won’t fix.

Let’s look at Job.  There’s no better book to look at on this subject of suffering and resurrection

NIB Job 1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. 4 His sons used to take turns holding feasts in their homes, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, "Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." This was Job's regular custom.

Here’s a man in Uz – Uz just means wooded place, like a garden.  It’s a wooded place in the East where there’s a man in charge of lots of animals.  Sounds very like Eden really.  And just like in Eden – Satan is about to come and spoil things.

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it." 8 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." 9 "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. 10 "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." 12 The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Now of course Job has no idea that this is what has happened.  In the book he is never let in on why he goes through suffering.  As readers we know, Job doesn’t.  And he will ask 20 times in the book, “Why?”  And in terms of the specific suffering he endures he never finds out.  But instead he is taught huge lessons about suffering in general.

13 One day when Job's sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" 16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" 17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" 18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"

It’s like the phone ringing again and again with disaster after disaster.  He has lost all his wealth and all his children in one fell swoop.  What’s his response?

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." 22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Incredible response.  But Satan isn’t finished with Job.  In chapter 2 he wants to target Job’s health.  And the LORD allows it.  Verse 7

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. 9 His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

He’s lost his children, his wealth and now his health.  What lines of consolation would you use on Job?  “Worse things happen at sea.”  No they don’t.  “At least you’ve got your health.”  No he doesn’t.  The platitudes never work when you’re faced with real suffering.  How would you seek to console Job?

Well here come his three friends in v11:

11 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathise with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognise him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No-one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

And that’s the best thing these friends do.  They say nothing.  When they open their mouths – that’s when trouble comes.

Well Job eventually opens his mouth in chapter 3.  Here’s what he says:

Job 3:1 After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 He said: 3 "May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said,`A boy is born!'

I wish I was never born.  That’s Job’s feeling.

How will his friend Eliphaz respond?  Well he does what each of these three friends do.  Read with me an example of the wisdom of Eliphaz – chapter 4:7

Job 4:7 "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? 8 As I have observed, those who plough evil and those who sow trouble reap it. 9 At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish.

This is Eliphaz’s philosophy: What goes around comes around!  Job you are perishing.  You cannot be innocent.  Good things come to good people.  Bad things happen to bad people.  Job you must have done something, I don’t know what it is, but it’s clearly a massive sin.

As crass as Eliphaz is here – I think he’s expressing most people’s default view of suffering.  “What goes around, comes around.”  We like to think this, because we like to think that we are safe from Job’s sufferings.  As long as we keep our noses clean we will avoid Job’s predicament right?  Good people don’t suffer do they?  That would be too awful to contemplate, because it would mean that no-one was safe from the appalling suffering they see in Job.

Well Job has to stick up for himself and say “No this really is innocent suffering you’re seeing.”

Bildad, the second friend, is having none of it.

NIB Job 8:1 (p514) Then Bildad the Shuhite replied: 2 "How long will you say such things? Your words are a blustering wind. 3 Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? 4 When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. 5 But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, 6 if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf and restore you to your rightful place.

Bad things happen because of bad behavior Job.  Your kids died because they were sinners (unlike me and my children, obviously!).  Sort out your life Job, become more committed to God – and then you’ll be free from suffering.

It’s horrible, isn’t it?

Well in chapters 9 and 10, Job sticks up for himself again – he really is innocent and he really is suffering.

Well Zophar has a go at this peculiar brand of comfort from chapter 11.  Look at verse 13.  Zophar says

[You’re in a sorry state now Job…] "Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, 14 if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, 15 then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear. 16 You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by. 17 Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.

Be more committed Job, then life will turn out alright.

Well from chapter 12 Job sticks up for himself

Job 12:1 Then Job replied: 2 "Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! 3 But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?

That’s tremendous sarcasm!  “Wisdom will die with you!”  Job has to spend all his time defending against his so called comforters.  And you start to think, what’s worse – the boils or these so-called ‘friends’?

So Job has to remind himself of gospel truth.  That’s what his friends should be doing.  Job should be pouring out his heart and his tears and then his friends should be reminding him of the good news of the resurrection.  Instead his friends are pouring out judgement and scorn and Job is the one who has to remind himself of gospel truth.

So in chapter 16 for instance he reminds himself of his true Friend.

Job 16:19 Even now my Witness is in heaven; my Advocate is on high. 20 My Intercessor is my Friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 on behalf of a man He pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.

Job’s earthly friends are rubbish. But he has a Heavenly Friend.  A witness, an advocate and an intercessor who makes our case for us before God.

Job is looking to the intercession of His Heavenly Friend who pleads his case before the Father.  That’s Job’s consolation when his earthly friends are so rubbish.

In fact as we come to chapter 19 we see what Job’s friends really are – verse 2, they are tormentors.

In chapter 19 Job speaks of the alienation he feels from everyone.  The suffering is multiplied because now he has become a pariah.  Verse 13, his brothers are alienated from him and his acquaintances.  Verse 14 his kinsmen and friends have gone away.  Verse 15, his guests and maidservants count him a stranger.  And v17, “My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers.”

Here is a man all alone.  And he asks for pity:

Job 19:21 "Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me. 22 Why do you pursue me as God does? Will you never get enough of my flesh?

When you say “This suffering is because of this sin”, you are putting yourself in the place of God.

But Job longs for something more solid than the words and opinions of religious men.  Verse 23 and 24.  He wants the certainty of a written word to speak on this subject of suffering.  And what does he want written down?  These words:

25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

Let me highlight four words from this.  First REDEEMER.

Job looks forward to seeing not just his Saviour – who will rescue him out of suffering, but his Redeemer, who will take even this suffering and redeem it.  Turn it to good.  Like the wounds of Jesus, glorified in resurrection – every suffering of Job’s will be redeemed, glorified.  And the glory will be greater because of the suffering.  Job trusts in His Redeemer.

And in the end His Redeemer will stand upon the EARTH.  That’s the second word.  The earth!  Job is not looking forward to escaping this nasty planet and wafting around in some spiritual dimension.  He knows that God’s future is here on planet earth.  Earth is not going into the trash heap.  No, Christ is going to redeem this suffering world and raise it to new life.

So on Easter Sunday after Jesus rose from the dead, what did He do to give us a picture of resurrection life?  He went for country walks, He went fishing, He cooked breakfast on the beac and He ate many meals.  Resurrection life will be very earthy life – because the future is here on a redeemed planet earth.

The next word I want to highlight is FLESH.  Job’s skin would be destroyed, but in his FLESH he will see God “I and not another.”  Job knew that his skin would perish but that he would also be raised bodily, flesh and all.  And these eyes will see God.  That’s a stunning thought isn’t it – these eyes will see Jesus.  These hands will cling to Him.  These vocal chords will sing in His presence.  They will first perish, but after passing through death, they will be redeemed, resurrected.  In this flesh I will see God.

People sometimes talk about our future hope in such wishy washy terms.  But the bible doesn’t.  The bible is interested in our bodily resurrections on planet earth.  And what will be at the centre of our future experience?  We will SEE God.

That’s the fourth word – SEE.  Job has endured terrible suffering and he’s never known why?  The reader gets a glimpse into heaven to know what’s going on, Job never does.  One day Job will SEE God.  All God’s ways will be transparent to Job and to us, and we will happily look on Beauty Himself.

25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

That’s what sustains Job in the midst of suffering.  Resurrection hope.

But let’s just fast-forward to the end of the book to see how this hope plays out.

Zophar, Eliphaz and Bildad each have another go tormenting Job.  Then a good guy called Elihu speaks up from chapter 32.  But then Someone shows up in chapter 38 to give everyone the shock of their lives.  The LORD Himself.  And His speech puts everything in perspective from chapter 38-41, you can read it for yourselves, I just want to fast-forward to the end.

NIB Job 42:1 Then Job replied to the LORD: 2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked,`Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 "You said,`Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

It’s very interesting – Job never gets an explanation for his suffering.  What he gets is an experience of the LORD.  And that’s what he really needs.  There’s plenty more to be said about that and there’s plenty more to be said about verses 7-9 where the LORD deals with Job’s worthless friends.  But let’s cut to the happily ever after of v10:

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.

It’s a book that began with a man in a wooded place in the east.  Through Satan paradise was lost.  But here paradise is MORE THAN regained.  He has twice as much as before.  And Job’s story is really the story of humanity.  We lost paradise at the beginning, we live in a vale of tears, but through the Resurrection of Christ, we are headed to a future FAR GREATER even than Eden.

We are headed towards prosperity, feasting, comfort and consolation.  We are headed towards riches and blessing and fruitfulness and beauty and fullness of life.  This happy ending in Job is not a fairytale.  It is the certain future hope guaranteed by the resurrection.  Our Redeemer lives.  He redeems even His own death – even deicide is redeemed.  And He will redeem our bodies, our wounds, our circumstances, our sufferings, even the whole universe – Easter Sunday guarantees it.

Which means that there IS NO senseless suffering.  Whatever you are facing – whatever wounds you are enduring – Christ will redeem it.  There’s nothing a resurrection won’t fix.

Think now of suffering you’re going through.  I don’t know how, and you won’t know how, but Christ WILL redeem it.  On Good Friday people would have watched the Messiah murdered, they may have gone home that night and thought – there’s no way any good could come from that.  As a matter of fact the greatest good imaginable came from that.  And Easter is not just an example of redemption but the engine of redemption.  It’s the pattern, the prototype, the power of redemption.  There’s nothing the resurrection won’t fix.  And not just fix – like Job you will receive a double portion.

At the end of the second Lord of the Rings film, the Two Towers, Samwise Gangee proves to be a GOOD comforter of his friend Frodo.  When Frodo is tempted to buckle under the suffering of this world, Sam says:

It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

There’s nothing the resurrection won’t fix.

Let’s pray:

25 I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!


8 thoughts on “An Easter Sermon – Job 19

  1. Bird Brain

    This evening's was one of your best sermons. We've been blessed having you Scriveners with us :)

  2. Gav

    Thanks from me too! I've been reading Job and its given me a whole new perspective and lesson. Cheers

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  6. Mark Williams

    There was a time I didn't really understand this book, but with the help of people like Glen here, I am beginning to. Thank you. Praise The Lord!

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