Job 1 & 2

Sermon preached on May 24, 2015 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

There's a John Lennon song that has the line in it,

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

The idea he expressed is that you're not really in control of your life. You try to order your life in a certain way but unexpected things happen to you and it often doesn't turn out as you planned.

Another song expresses this same thing. There's a line in it that says,

"If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him the plans that you have."

We make our plans, but often they are nothing like God's plans for our lives. James 4:13–17 tells us to recognize and acknowledge that our lives are in God's hands. He wrote,

"Now listen, you who say,
'Today or tomorrow we will
go to this or that city,
spend a year there,
carry on business and make money.'
Why, you do not even know
what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears
for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say,
'If it is the Lord's will,
we will live and do this or that.'
As it is, you boast and brag.
All such boasting is evil."

James tells us that the Lord is in control of our lives. His will determines whether we live or die. Our lives are under God's control.

This is also one of the lessons that the first two chapters of Job teach us. It shows us that

God has the right to order and dispose of our lives as He sees fit.

Job was a righteous man. He was a devout follower of God. There was no one like him on the earth. He was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. Yet God took just about everything he had away from him. He took his possessions. He took his 10 children. He took his health from him. The timing and the ferocity of his losses were astounding. Notice how it says about the successive messengers—"while he was still speaking". Unbelievable. God did that.

Did God have a right to do that? Was God just in doing those things? Yes. Yes. If Lamentations 3:22 is true, and it is, God has a right to treat us any way He sees fit. He can do that in perfect accord with His justice. Lamentations 3:22 says,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail."

At our best we are unworthy servants. (Luke 17:10) We deserve nothing good from God based on our own merits. God does not violate His justice or righteousness when He sends bad things our way. He can do such things. What David said in Psalm 103:10 is absolutely true,

"he does not treat us
as our sins deserve or repay us
according to our iniquities."

If we received from God what our sins truly deserved all of us would be much worse off that we actually are.

Job's life, and the lives of his children were in God's hands, to order and dispose of as He saw fit. In doing so God was acting in accord with His righteousness and justice.

God acted the same way with Eli's family. The only difference with Eli's family was that there was obvious sin there. Eli's two sons were extremely wicked. And Eli didn't restrain them as he should have. God said to Eli, (1 Samuel 2:31–33)

"The time is coming when
I will cut short your strength
and the strength of your father's house,
so that there will not be an old man
in your family line and you will see
distress in my dwelling.
Although good will be done to Israel,
in your family line
there will never be an old man.
Every one of you that I do not cut off
from my altar will be spared
only to blind your eyes with tears
and to grieve your heart,
and all your descendants
will die in the prime of life."

God judged every one of Eli's male descendants with shortness of life. God was right and just in doing that.

Or consider what the prophet Ahijah said to Jeroboam's wife when she came to him to inquire about her sick young son. Ahijah told her that God was going to punish the house of wicked King Jeroboam. He then said, (1 Kings 14:12–13)

"As for you, go back home.
When you set foot in your city,
the boy will die.
All Israel will mourn for him
and bury him.
He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam
who will be buried,
because he is the only one in
the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD,
the God of Israel,
has found anything good."

God took the boy because there was good in him. He died before all the others and was the only one buried—because there was good in him.

Throughout Scripture we see that God uses His people as He sees fit. Joseph was sent to Egypt as a slave in order to save his family. He was then cast into prison on a false charge. He endured much suffering for the good of His people, for God's plan to keep them alive in the famine. At the burning bush Moses was told by God to go back to Egypt to lead His people out of slavery. But Moses gave excuse after excuse to try and get out of it. First he pleaded that he was a nobody. God told him He would be with him. Moses then pleaded that he didn't know God's name and that if the Israelites asked him it, he wouldn't know what to tell them. God told Moses His name. Then Moses said that the Israelites might not believe him. So God gave him signs to show them. Then Moses pleaded that he wasn't eloquent. God said that He would help him. At the end, Moses asked God to send someone else. But God would have none of it. He sent Moses back to Egypt.

God told Jonah he wanted him to go to Nineveh to warn the people there. Jonah didn't want to do that. He argued with God. He tried to flee from God, from God's will. But God would have none of it. He sent a storm. He sent a fish to swallow Jonah and spit him out on dry land.

The point is that God has work for His people to do so that He would be glorified and that work involves difficulty and suffering. Remember what God said to Ananias about Saul of Tarsus, when God told him to go to him and say his hands on him to restore his sight. When Ananias hesitated and protested, God said, (Acts 9:15–16)

"Go! This man is my chosen instrument
to carry my name before the Gentiles
and their kings and
before the people of Israel.
I will show him how much
he must suffer for my name."

Or think about John the Baptist. When Jesus heard that Herod arrested John, what did Jesus do? We all know the story that we often don't ask ourselves questions about it. Jesus didn't go and rescue John from prison. He could have. But he didn't. Jesus could have sent angels to rescue John as He did for Peter in Acts. But he didn't.

If you could place yourself in John the Baptist's position—what would you do? I think a lot of us would try to get a message to Jesus to tell him about our situation so He could help us. But God had different plans. God's will for John the Baptist was that he die at Herod's hand. God wanted John to preach to Herod for awhile, then die at Herod's hands.

Or think of Jesus. He is the greatest example. The King of Glory came to this world to save us. He had a mission from the Father. In John 6:38 He said,

"For I have come down from heaven
not to do my will but to do
the will of him who sent me."

Jesus came to save us by suffering and dying in our place. It was the only way for human beings to be saved because the penalty of sin is death. Jesus came to this life to accomplish His Father's will.

This world is sinful. This world needs to see the glory of Jesus—in you His people. They need to see how devoted Christians are Jesus, how He is everything to them. They need to see how Christians have hope is suffering. They need to see how we bless instead of curse when we are persecuted. They need to see how we love our enemies. They need to see how Christians trust and rely on their great God.

We see this in our text—God afflicted Job because he was the best man on earth. Through much of the book Job questioned God and his treatment of him. There was much that troubled Job about it. But at the end of the book Job acknowledged God's right to do such things. God asked Job who was darkening His counsel with words without knowledge. Job acknowledged that he was unworthy. He put his hand over his mouth. Job said, (Job 42:3-6)

"Surely I spoke of things
I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
['You said,] 'Listen now,
and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

God's response to Job at the end of the book is incredible. Those are chapters that we ought to read and reread. John Calvin says about the book of Job, (Sermon on Job 1:1)

"The story written here shows us how we are in God's hand, that it is he who orders our lives and disposes of them at his good pleasure, that our responsibility is to yield ourselves to him in all humility and obedience, that it is only right that we belong completely to him in both life and death. We even learn that when it pleases him to raise his hand against us, even though we do not know why he does so, we nonetheless continue to glorify him, acknowledging that he is just and impartial lest we murmur against him and bring a case against him, for we well know that we will always be defeated when we take him to task."

Your life is in God's hands. He orders your life according to His wisdom and knowledge.

The second thing we see from our text is that

God orders and disposes our lives for His glory.

The background here is God's glory. Human beings were created for God's glory. In our text we see that Satan wanted Job to curse God—to do the exact opposite. Job's wife expressed this well when she said to her husband in chapter 2,

"Curse God and die."

Christian, your life is about God's glory. That's more important than anything. We see this especially in the fact that God allowed Satan's second accusation against Job to be tested. Christopher Ash writes,

"we must think hard about this second permission or instruction. Had we been writing the story, we would have had the Lord say to the Satan, 'Enough is enough. The man has suffered more than any human being in one day. He has been taken from riches to bankruptcy, from greatness to destitution, from a happy family to utter bereavement. That is enough, surely, to establish that his piety is genuine. The man worships me because he knows I am worthy of worship. End of trial.' That is what we would have said.That the Lord disagrees with us must teach us something very deep. The glory of God really is more important than your or my comfort. When all that Job has is taken from him, we may get an approximate or provisional demonstration that God is worthy of worship. But an approximate or provisional demonstration is not sufficient for the ultimate glory of God. In the end it is necessary and right that this man should suffer personal and intimate attack upon himself, so that we see absolutely and without doubt that God is worthy of worship. It is necessary for this man to demonstrate a full and deep obedience to the glory of God."

The apostle Peter's death shows us the same thing. After His resurrection Jesus took Peter aside and said to him, (John 21:18–19)

"I tell you the truth,
when you were younger
you dressed yourself and went
where you wanted;
but when you are old
you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you and
lead you where you do not want to go.'
Jesus said this to indicate
the kind of death
by which Peter would glorify God."

Peter's death brought glory to God. Nothing is more important than the glory of God. Whether we live or die is insignificant in comparison to the glory of God. He is worthy of all praise, honor and glory. We were created for God's glory. We were redeemed for God's glory.

The apostle Paul told us to do everything for the glory of God. He wrote, (1 Corinthians 10:31)

"So whether you eat or drink
or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God."

In Philippians 1:20 he summarized his hope for his life and death.

"I eagerly expect and hope
that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ
will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death."

One of the books on prayer that I have is called "The Valley of Vision". It's mostly a collection of Puritan prayers. One of them begins,

"Lord of all being,There is one thing that deserves my greatest care,that calls forth my ardent desires,That is, that I may answer the great end for which I am made—to glorify thee who hast given me being…"

Your life is in God's hands. He orders your life according to His wisdom and knowledge—for His glory. Isn't that incredible? I ask you—

can anything be better than that?

What's our answer? A lot of people would say,

"What? Are you and I talking about the same thing? If you look at Job, just about anything would be better than that."

That's what we sometimes think. We all pray the Lord's Prayer. It begins, (Matthew 6:9–10)

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth
as it is in heaven."

But do we really mean that about God's will being done on earth—in our lives? Usually, when something goes wrong, we want our will to be done. If we're sick, we want to get better. If we're in trouble, we want to get out of trouble. After all, how many of us want to be Jobs? The idea is good in theory—but when bad things happen to us we want our situation to change for the better and quickly!

My sister Rachel lost her son Rob to cancer three years ago. Last year she told Marg that while he was battling cancer that he would get better. They were a good Christian family and she thought that God would do that for them. But He didn't. Sometimes suffering for the glory of God will almost break your heart. At times like that we might wish that the prosperity gospel was true—but God shows us that it's not.

Christopher Ash writes, (Job)

"The book of Job is not about suffering in general, and certainly not about the sufferings common to men and women the world over. Rather it is about how God treats his friends."

Job was righteous and he suffered. He suffered for God's glory. He went through great trials. Peter, who went through his own trials, wrote, (1 Peter 1:6–7)

"In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer
grief in all kinds of trials.
These have come so that your faith—
of greater worth than gold,
which perishes even
though refined by fire—
may be proved genuine
and may result in praise,
glory and honor
when Jesus Christ is revealed."

Trials come to us so that God will be glorified in them.

Now what does this mean for us in practical terms?

First of all,

this means that you should accept with dignity whatever comes your way as being the will of God for you.

By this I don't mean that if you get sick you don't go to see a doctor and you don't pray for healing. I don't mean that if you are confronted with evil that you just accept it. No. Evil is an affront to God and it should be an affront to us. We should find evil repulsive. Nor do I mean that you should be a stoic. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. He was moved by his death.

No. I mean that we should know that we are here for one great purpose—God's glory and that should be sufficient for us and should be the goal of our lives.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Colossians 2:2–3 refers to Him and says that in Him,

"are hidden all the treasures
of wisdom and knowledge."

Romans 8:28 says,

"And we know that in all things
God works for the good
of those who love him,
who have been called
according to his purpose."

When John Calvin was called back to serve at Geneva, he didn't want to go, but he recognized that he must because it was God's will. He wrote to his friend William Farel, ( Blake, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals. p. 169)

"There is no place on earth of which I am more afraid… but because I remembered that the decision is not subject to my judgment, I offer my heart, slain, as it were, as a sacrifice to the Lord."

Secondly, this means that there is value in our sufferings, in our troubles.

The world today doesn't see that. They have the attitude of Job's wife—curse God and die. They see no point in suffering. They believe in euthanasia, in mercy killing, in suicide, in ending life.

Our sufferings can bring glory to God. Don't buy into the world's mindset. Remember why you are here. Jesus told us to rejoice when we are persecuted. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Thirdly, we should realize that

there is hope because of Jesus.

Job is a tribute to God's glory and His grace to Job. This was a test about Job. But more than that, if we understand biblical theology, it was about God's grace.

For a Christian, God's grace is everything.

In our study of grace last fall we saw that 1 Timothy 2:9 taught that we were given grace before the beginning of time. Ephesians 2:8 told us that that we are saved by grace. 1 Corinthians 15:10 tells us that everything good we are is because of grace. 2 Corinthians 12:9 teaches us that we overcome temptation because of God's grace.

And even though it's not specifically mentioned in the first two chapters of Job—it should be clear to us that these chapters are, in a sense, all about God's grace to Job. God's grace never left Job. God's grace was with Job in abundance. God's grace enabled him to prove Satan wrong. What the apostle Paul said of himself could also be put on Job's lips. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

"But by the grace of God
I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.
No, I worked harder
than all of them—
yet not I, but
the grace of God that was with me."

God's grace was with Job. In James 5:11 we read,

"As you know,
we consider blessed
those who have persevered.
You have heard of Job's perseverance
and have seen what the Lord
finally brought about.
The Lord is full
of compassion and mercy."

What this means is that God's grace will never fail you. Christopher Ash writes, (Job)

"So as we read the story of Job we think first and primarily of the greater story of Jesus, who walked the way of Job for us, who plumbed the depths of Job's suffering for us, and who was vindicated for us."

Christians, although at times you may not feel it, and you may not see it—you have no greater friend than Jesus. He will never leave you. He will always be with you. He is leading you to heaven's glory. Live for Him.