Job 13:24

Sermon preached on February 11, 2018 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2018. 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.

When I was in seminary in Scotland one of my fellow students was a middle-aged man named Kenny MacDonald. He had worked for 25 years as a customs officer, became a Christian in his late 30's and started seminary in his mid-40's. He wasn't in my year, I was a third year student and he was a first year student. But since it was a small school, I think there were only about 22 students altogether, we all got to know one another. One of the great things about the Free Church College was the everyday the college provided us with a wonderful home-cooked meal. So for an hour every day the students and professors ate together. We got to know one another fairly well. I finished there in May of 1981 and that summer, Kenny's daughter, Alison and fellow student from the University of Aberdeen, Elizabeth Merry, went to India. I read that it was an exploratory trip as Alison, who was 19 at the time, was thinking of becoming a missionary to India. Elizabeth was planning to become a doctor and was hoping to help in some clinics, especially in Kathmandu, Nepal, which was to be one of their last stops. In mid-August they arrived in Sonamarg, a small village of 300 people, a popular tourist stop, in Kasmir, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Elizabeth wanted to do a 2 or 3 day pony trip to a nearby glacier. Alison didn't, so she stayed at Sonamarg, while Elizabeth went on her little trek. When Elizabeth returned from her visit to the glacier, Alison wasn't there. On the Monday morning when Elizabeth was away, Alison left her hotel, bought some apples at a nearby market, walked down a gravel road toward a bridge, and was never seen again. She seemingly vanished off the face of the earth.

In subsequent years Kenny and his wife never stopped looking for Alison. Kenny made at around 20 trips to India trying to find his daughter. At first he thought Alison was dead, but there were several clues that led them to believe that she had been kidnapped.

One of the clues was very troubling. One of the world's most notorious terrorists operated near the area where Alison disappeared. Several years later he had somehow learned to speak English with a very unique Scottish accent. Before I went to Scotland I thought there was one Scottish accent, but came to find that there were at least 5 different accents in the city of Edinburgh alone, unique to different parts of the city. The highland accent in Scotland is also quite different from the lowland accent. Not only that but villages a short distance from one another can have different accents. The accent of this terrorist was exactly like the accent of the area Alison was from, the western isles of Scotland. I'm not sure of the details but I think that Kenny actually got to interview this man, and recorded his interview. Kenny confirmed that his accent matched this remote area of Scotland. A linguistic expert examined the recording and agreed that the Scottish accent of the terrorist matched. It could have been that he learned to speak English from Alison.

In between trips looking for Alison Kenny continued school and after a few years became a pastor. But only after 11 years in the ministry, in 1996, he began to lose his eyesight. He was quickly diagnosed with MS. He had to retire from full time ministry as he had trouble with his balance and had difficulty walking. But he continued to preach and help in churches in need. His work was much like the work that Doug Chamberlain is doing now.

Two weeks ago Kenny died without ever finding his daughter. In a 2000 interview he spoke about first his trip to India immediately after he found out that Alison was missing. He said,

"I was praying to God all the time about the whole situation and praying to God about the fact that He promised, in his own word, 'Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you and you will glorify Me.' So I was praying in that vein to Him. But I remember quite distinctly… that I never thought that my prayers were going anywhere. It is a horrible feeling where you recognize your prayers aren't going beyond the ceiling. It's… as the Bible puts it—the heavens are as brass. They're not receiving messages at all from you. And in my diary I ask, 'Lord, when you're supposed to be with your people when they're in trouble, where are You?' I kept asking that."

Kenny felt that his prayers were not getting through to God. He said his feeling when he was praying reminded him of Deuteronomy 28:23. The context of that passage was about what would happen to the Israelites if they didn't obey God. It's about curses for disobedience. One of the curses was, (ASV)

"And thy heaven that is
over thy head shall be brass,
and the earth that is under thee shall be iron."

Instead of a glass ceiling that we speak about today, it was like the floor of heaven was made of impenetrable brass. God was telling the Israelites that if they abandoned Him, their prayers would not get through to Him. The throne of grace would be inaccessible to them.

Even though Kenny had not disobeyed God, he felt like God was not hearing him, it was like, in a sense, God had abandoned him. Kenny didn't lose his faith—but it was a very difficult time for him.

In our text, we see that Job felt the same way. Job said to God,

"Why do you hide your face
and consider me your enemy?"

It seemed that

God hid His face from Job.

This phrase, God 'hiding His face', can be, (David J. A. Clines, Job 1–20, WBC 17; p. 319)

"an expression of wrath"

or a,

"mark of God's refusal to be friendly and well-disposed"

John E. Hartley writes, (Job, NICOT; p. 227)

"When God hides his face, he no longer hears a person's prayers or acknowledges that person in any way."

What are you to do if you face such a time, when trouble comes upon you and it seems that God hides His face from you, when it seems that He is nowhere near to help you, not there to even hear your prayers?

When you feel that way what should you do?

The first thing you should remember is that

you can't go by your feelings.

Your feelings can deceive you. Your feelings are not a reliable guide as to whether God is close to you are not.

Some people who think they are close to God—aren't. Job's friends were like that. They thought that God was pleased with them and that He wasn't pleased with Job. But in actual fact the opposite was true. God was not pleased with Job's friends. Near the end of the book God told them to go to Job with sacrifices and that Job would pray for them and God would forgive them and not deal with them according to their folly. Job's friends were smug, self-righteous and thought they were serving God by criticizing Job.

People who are committing great sin often have a feeling that they're very close to God. I've heard of men who are committing adultery who have told friends that they're very close to God. A man has left his wife and he's living with someone's else's wife and he's saying that he feels very close to God. He'll tell people that he and his new girlfriend read the Bible together and pray together. They're very close to God.

No. Just because you feel close to God doesn't mean that you are close to God. In John 16:2 Jesus spoke to His disciples about the religious leaders of the day, who thought they were close to God. He said,

"They will put you out of the synagogue;
in fact, a time is coming when anyone
who kills you will think
he is offering a service to God."

These people would kill the true disciples of Jesus and at the same time think that they were close to God.

In order to be close to God you have to obey Him. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said,

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does
the will of my Father who is in heaven."

On the last day some people will say to Jesus, (Matthew 7:22–23)

"Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and in your name drive out demons
and perform many miracles?'
Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you.
Away from me, you evildoers!"

In the same way, sometimes people who are close to the Lord, like Job, like Kenny MacDonald, feel that God has abandoned them when He hasn't.

A common strategy of Satan is to make Christians feel that God has abandoned them. Satan's desire is that we curse God, that we abandon Him.

Many Christians have had the feeling that God had abandoned them. In Psalm 42:3 the psalmist said,

"My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long, 'Where is your God?' "

In verse 10 he continued,

"My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'"

Psalm 79:10 Asaph wrote, (See also Psalm 115:2)

"Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?' "

Don't be so foolish as to trust your feelings. In His great hymn, God Moves In A Mysterious Way, William Cowper wrote,

"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,But trust Him for His grace;Behind a frowning providenceHe hides a smiling face."

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense. Your senses can deceive you. Your eyes can deceive you. Did you ever hold up two fingers (sideways) and touch the tips in front of your eyes? If you have, you can see how your eyes can deceive you. In the same way, your feelings sometimes have nothing to do with reality.

We should remember that we are to live by faith, not by sight. The promises of God are true. You must lean on and trust the promises of the Word. They are true.

If you're a Christian you should never doubt that God is with you.

The writer of Hebrews 13:5 quotes from Jeremiah and says,

"God has said,
'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' "

It doesn't matter if you feel that has abandoned you. He never will. That is guaranteed. Because Jesus was abandoned by God on the cross means that He will never abandon you. Just the opposite. He has made His abode with you. In John 14:23 Jesus said,

"If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.
My Father will love him, and we will come to him
and make our home with him."

If you're a Christian God has made His home with you. He abides in you. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells you that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Colossians 1:27 speaks of the mystery,

"which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Christ is in you. You are united to Jesus. Let that sink in. He has purchased you. You are united to Christ. You are His. No one can condemn you. By His work Jesus has paid for all your sins. He has given you His righteousness. You have been justified by God. Your legal standing before God is one of being righteous. No one can condemn you. You have peace with God. Nothing in the present or future can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. You have been adopted into God's family. We are His. God is never going to abandon us. In 2 Corinthians 1:21–22 the apostle Paul wrote,

"Now it is God who makes
both us and you stand firm in Christ.
He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit,
guaranteeing what is to come."

What is to come is guaranteed. God is faithful. In John 10:28–29 Jesus said about His people,

"I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all;
no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."

The promises are great and exceedingly precious. Believe them.

So you see, it's like the poem
Footsteps. The walker asked why there were only one set of footprints during the most difficult times of his life. The answer,

"My precious child, I love you and will never leave youNever, ever, during your trials and testings.When you saw only one set of footprints,It was then that I carried you."

That is true. God doesn't leave us in our most difficult times. Isaiah 43 confirms this. It says, (verses 1-5)

"But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
'Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west."

We live by faith, not by sight. Believe the promises. Not one of them will fail. God will not abandon His people.

During the interview where Kenny MacDonald said that it seemed like God was not hearing his prayers, the interviewer asked him,

"So you felt quite despairing at that time?"

Kenny replied,

"Well it was just a strange, strange thing. But then when I came at the end, about a fortnight when I carried out the physical search and then the questioning, and there was a hope springing up in my heart, Allison is not dead. That suddenly, the Lord came back into my life. It was as if he said, you made up your mind, without reference to me, you think everything's black. I'll let you walk about and run about in your own little dark world. And when you come out, I'll deal with you then. It was a most strange sensation. But these two things, I think they made me definitely think that Alison was still alive."

The second thing we should see from our text is that

you can't judge whether you are close to God by certain things that happen to you in this life.

That's what Job's friends believed. Bad things were happening to Job so he must be a great sinner. But he wasn't. He was the most righteous man on the face of the earth. Yet he suffered.

This happens all the time. The righteous suffer. Remember what Stephen asked the Jews? (Acts 7:52)

"Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute?
They even killed those
who predicted the coming of the Righteous One."

Stephen is implying that all of God's Old Testament prophets, those faithful messengers of God—suffered abuse.

The righteous suffer, the wicked prosper. Sometimes that happens. In Psalm 73:3–7 we read,

"For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits."

Christians, know this—if you seem to suffer for no reason, if you are doing well and serving the Lord and still suffer—know that God has purposes in it.

On the one hand it is an opportunity to shine for Him that others may be bought into the kingdom. Paul and Silas suffered in Philippi for doing good. They suffered and were thrown into prison so that others would see their behavior in their suffering and be saved. Because Paul and Silas behaved so well the Philippian jailor and his family are in heaven today.

Job suffered to help you, so that in your suffering you could have hope because of Job and how God's grace in Him prevailed.

Sometimes Christians suffer because God is conforming you to the glorious image of His Son. Hebrews 12:10–11 says,

"God disciplines us for our good,
that we may share in his holiness.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces
a harvest of righteousness and peace for those
who have been trained by it."

C.S. Lewis said,

"I suggest to you that it is because God loves us that he gives us the gift of suffering. Pain is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world. You see, we are like blocks of stone out of which the Sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much are what make us perfect."

In a tribute written after Kenny's death Professor Donald Macleod, who knew Kenny well, wrote,

"Why does God allow so many who have served him so long and so faithfully to end their days in the shadows of weakness, sorrow and pain? And why do the most splendid gifts sometimes have to be exercised by broken hearts?I have no answer. But I know that the life of Kenny and Reta MacDonald has been a Triumph of Grace."

Jesus was faithful to Kenny. He will be faithful to you and bring you to your heavenly home. Trust Him.