Job 1:1-3

Sermon preached on May 31, 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.

When I arrived at the lobby of the County Jail on Thursday morning for Bible Study there was a gentlemen ahead of me waiting to be signed in. He was very well dressed and I assumed he was a lawyer who was there to meet with one of his clients. To my surprise he introduced himself. That was very unexpected because most of the people I've met in the lobby there aren't very friendly. I've seen people there who won't even acknowledge my existence until I speak to them. Because his introducing himself was such a surprise I forgot to note his name. But we started chatting and he said he was an attorney. He took one look at my Bible and asked,

"You're here for Bible Study?"

When I said yes, he said,

"I need some of that. Maybe I should sit in on your study."

That was the second thing that surprised me. I was taken aback and hesitated because I've never had an attorney say that to me before. Unfortunately at that point we got interrupted. A corrections officer came in and we had to talk to him, he signed us in and we parted ways. It ended way too quickly. Afterwards I kicked myself for not being more ready with information about our church and inviting him to it. I didn't even have my church business cards with me because you're not allowed to take your wallet in there—I'm just allowed to take my driver's license for identification. But that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was that I wasn't expecting to find a spark God's grace there in the jail lobby in an attorney. But God's grace was obviously starting to work in him because he was actually interested in Christianity. And I completely messed up because I wasn't expecting it. A spark of God's grace was there and I had an opportunity to fan it and I failed.

Pray for that attorney. Pray that God's grace will continue to work in him. Pray that the next time he expresses an interest in Christianity God would have him near someone who will clearly point him to Christ. I missed that opportunity.

God's grace often surprises us by being in a place we least expect it.

We see this principle in our text. We read, (Job 1:1, 3b)

"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…
He was the greatest man
among all the people of the East."

This is an incredible section of Scripture opening a very unusual book. The book of Job is not set in Israel nor is it about the Jewish people. It's about a foreigner in the land of Uz. There is some debate over exactly where Uz was. Since Job is referred to as the greatest man among all the people of the East it is clear that it was somewhere east of the land of Israel. Lamentations 4:21 suggests that it could have been in Edom or close to it. It says,

"Rejoice and be glad, O Daughter of Edom,
you who live in the land of Uz."

But we really don't know. Christopher Ash says,

" 'The importance of the name Uz lies not in where such a place is, but in where it is not'; namely, it is not in Israel."

Job was not an Israelite. He was a foreigner. He lived outside the promised land. We are also not sure when he lived. Job is mentioned in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 14:13–14 mentions how the people of that day sinned so much that God was going to judge them. It says of the land,

"even if these three men—
Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it,
they could save only themselves by their righteousness,
declares the Sovereign LORD."

So what we know for sure is that he lived some time before Ezekiel. Some think that he lived around the time of Abraham, either before or during the bondage in Egypt.

But what is certain is that Job was a worshiper of God from a foreign land.

God's grace was in him, in a great and marvelous way.

But it wasn't just a spark of God's grace that was with God. God's grace was with Job so much that God declared that there was no one like him on earth. He said to Satan, (verse 8)

"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."

God's grace to Job is one of the Old Testament places that pointed out that God's grace was going to be manifested to all the peoples of the earth. It's like Psalm 67 which reads,

"May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,
that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him."

I think the great lesson for us from this is that

you shouldn't be surprised to find God's grace operating in unexpected places.

This world is a dark place. Often there is much opposition to the gospel. But then there are places where we find marvelous instances of God's grace working in the most unexpected places. When you find it, whether it's a spark or whether it's full blown like in Job, you need to act appropriately.

If it's a spark you need to fan it, not extinguish it. Remember the story of Naomi and Ruth, when Naomi was leaving Moab? God gave Ruth some grace. What did Naomi try to do? She tried to extinguish it. She poured cold water on it. She said to Ruth, (Ruth 1:15)

"Look, your sister-in-law is going back
to her people and her gods. Go back with her."

Naomi probably did this because it's written in Deuteronomy 23:3,

"No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants
may enter the assembly of the LORD,
even down to the tenth generation."

But Ruth said to her, (Ruth 1:16–17)

"Don't urge me to leave you
or to turn back from you.
Where you go I will go,
and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people
and your God my God.
Where you die I will die,
and there I will be buried.
May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely,
if anything but death separates you and me."

Ruth wouldn't leave her mother-in-law Naomi. She insisted in going with Naomi. And God accepted Ruth. She was a Moabite who was accepted in the Lord's assembly. She was not only brought in, but she became the great grandmother of King David. Not only that but she is in the lineage of Jesus.

So there are two lessons here.

First, this means that whoever you are, the gospel is for you.

You may be a great sinner. You may be the farthest thing from a Christian. You may have a horrible past. But none of that matters. 1 Timothy 1:15 says that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. If you're a sinner, and you are, you're the exact type of person Jesus came to save. The good news is for you.

Secondly, for Christians, the point is that we shouldn't be like Naomi.

1 Peter 3:15 says,

"Always be prepared to give an answer
to everyone who asks you to give
the reason for the hope that you have."

I'm afraid with that attorney I was more like Naomi trying to persuade Ruth to stay in Moab. I didn't do that of course—I didn't say anything negative. But I should have been more ready with the gospel.

So Christians, be prepared with the gospel. Where you see a spark of spiritual interest—take advantage of it.

Secondly, our text shows us that

God's grace was with Job in such a way that he knew that he needed a Savior.

Personal righteousness can never save you. Job knew that. People who are 'good'. People who try hard at being righteous, people who in some measure succeed—they are still lost.

Even though Job was the best man on the face of the earth, this did not exempt him from great suffering, or even death. There was no one like Job. He was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. Did that earn him an exemption from disasters, from suffering, from death? Did God treat Job unfairly, unjustly when He afflicted him?

No. Job, like everyone else, was a sinner. Job knew that. In Job 13:26 Job made reference to,

"the sins of my youth."

And in Job 14:16 referred to,

"my sin".

Job was the best of the best. But when God took away his possessions, his 10 children and his health—Job did not charge God with wrongdoing.

But he was still a sinner. He needed someone to save him. Job himself recognized this. In Job 19:25–27, in the midst of his suffering, he said,

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

Job, the best man on earth, needed a redeemer, someone to save him.

Christians, the gospel is simple. You can explain it in a few words. We're all sinners. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14, says,

"There is no one righteous,
not even one;"

It also says that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) One can never work their way into heaven or earn it by some great deed. The punishment for sin is death, eternal death. We're lost on our own. The forgiveness of sin requires death. It requires blood. This is what all the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament signified.

We can't save ourselves. We need someone else to save us. That someone else is God Himself. The Father sent His Son Jesus. Jesus came to this earth as the God-man. He died in our place, for our sins. Anyone who believes in Him will be saved.

This means that you need a redeemer. The only One that can save you is Jesus—the One the Father sent to die in your place. Go to Him today.

Thirdly, God's grace to Job was such that he recognized what it was to fear God and to shun evil.

That's what verse 1 says about Job. What does it mean to fear God? You're not going to find that answer by looking at today's society. There's no fear of God there.

In fact, this concept of the fear of God is one of the ways that you know for sure that the political correctness and liberal theology of today is wrong. This is because they do away with the concept of the fear of God. There's no need of it because they make God and His will according to their own desires. They delude themselves about it.

For example, Stephen John Chalke is a prominent British Baptist minister and sometimes outspoken social activist. Last week, after the people of Ireland voted to allow same-sex marriages, he tweeted,

"Ireland's people vote in favor of Same Sex Marriage. The angels rejoice! God's love triumphs! Another dimension of oppression is ended!"

He thinks angels rejoiced at the vote in Ireland. He thinks that it's a triumph for God's love. Where does he get that? Where does he come up with such ideas? He just makes them up. He certainly doesn't get them in the Bible. He's making God after the image of what society says is right and wrong. He puts all those who disagree with him in the camp of the oppressors and himself on the side of the angels. They push aside God's Word as if it were irrelevant.

If you do that there's no place for the fear of God because you believe that God agrees with you. You make God after your own image.

So that's how you know all this new theology is wrong. The concept of the fear of God is totally removed.

But in the Bible, it shows that we're sinners, that we love the wrong things, that we need to change. It shows that God is angry with sin and with sinners. God is holy and we are not. We need to hold Him in awe. We need to respect Him and His Word. We need to, through His grace, bring ourselves into conformity to it.

What we must understand that

there is a very close relationship between God's will and His Word.

God says that lying in wrong. His very nature is one of truth, it's impossible for Him to lie. (Hebrews 6:18) So when he tells us in His word not to lie, (Exodus 20:16, Ephesians 4:25) we should understand that that's His will for us.

But what has happened in our society is that there is no fear of God and there is no shunning of evil. They deny God's Word. It's like He hasn't revealed Himself and His will to us.

Let me illustrate. I knew a couple where the husband wasn't very nice to his wife. He would often do the opposite of what she wanted. If they were together in the car and she asked him to turn the heat up because she was cold, he'd turn the heat down. If they were traveling together and she got tired walking and asked him to call a taxi, he would lead her and walk for miles looking for a bus.

She soon grew sick of that. That grew old really fast. How could he treat her like that and maintain that he loved her? He could only do it if he didn't care at all about her and made up something about what she said didn't really reflect her will. But an argument like that is ludicrous.

Yet that's exactly what people are doing today with God. They claim to love God. They claim to be following His commands. They claim to be honoring him. But they're not listening to what He says. They're disobeying His commands.

Unless they change, they're doomed. Isaiah 5:20–21 says,

"Woe to those who
call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight."

Lastly, God's grace to Job here shows us that

you should not be afraid of going it alone as far as holiness and righteousness goes.

Job stood out in Uz. There was no one like him there. For the most part, he stood alone.

The question is: why did God manifest such wonderful grace to Job in a foreign land?

That's a complicated question. But part of the answer, at least, is that God did not leave Himself without witness. I'm confident that God used Job and his life, his example, to bring others to him. Not only that, but the unbelievers around Job were rendered without excuse. John Calvin writes, (Sermons from Job, Baker, p. 9-10)

"although the greater part of the world was wrapped in many errors, and false and wicked fantasies, yet God had reserved some little seed to himself, and there were always some who were restrained under the pure truth, indeed, waiting for God to establish His church…" "God then, not yet having set up a form of the Church which could be seen, wished that there might always remain some little seed among the Pagans, in order that He might be adored, and that it might also be to convict those who had turned away from the right road, as the Pagans; for He needed only Job to be judge of an entire country. Noah has also condemned the world, as Scripture speaks of it, since he always kept himself pure and walked as before God, although everyone had forgotten Him, and all had gone astray in their superstitions. So then, Noah is judge of all the world to condemn unbelievers and rebels. So it was with Job, who condemned all those of that region, because he served God purely, and others were full of idolatries, of infamies, of many errors; and this came to pass because they would not condescend to recognize Who was the true and living God, and how, and in what manner He wished to be honored; yet God has always had this consideration… that the wicked and unbelievers should be rendered inexcusable. And for this He will that there might always be some people who would follow what He had declared to the ancient Fathers. Such was Job, as the Scripture speaks to us of him, and the present narrative shows well how he purely served God and that he conversed among men in all uprightness."

We are called to do the same. May God give us grace to do so.