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Job 24:1-17
Trinity XIX
October 22, 2017
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

“Why?”

The Book of Job is about a man who walked in truth and righteousness – yet was subjected by the Ancient of Days to suffering… for a season and for a reason.

The setting of the Book of Job was the Land of Uz, thought to have been situated between Palestine and Arabia.

As you recall, on a single day, by God’s permission, this greatest and most widely known man in his part of the world was crushed under a relentless wave of overwhelming calamities. Vast herds of camels and oxen were stolen (and their attending servants killed) by raiders. Seven-thousand sheep (and their attending servants) killed in a thunderstorm. His family of ten children perished in a cyclone. And in due time, Job himself was afflicted with the most hideous, unsightly, and painful disease known to the ancient world.

The Book of Job details his conversations and ruminations with learned friends concerning the possible rationale for God permitting such decimation and distress, such anguish and misery. This – one of the oldest books in the Bible (dated circa 2,100 B.C.) – takes us to the border of man’s wisdom… and beyond, into God’s realm of understanding! And this is, of course, why Job forms a part of the Bible’s “Wisdom Literature” – for it reveals the meaning of life… from God’s point of view!

Thomas Carlyle, the nineteenth-century Scottish historian, testified regarding this most unique Book of the Bible (I quote):

I call this book, apart from all theories about it, one of the Grandest things ever written. Our first, oldest statement of the never-ending problem: Man’s Destiny, and God’s Ways with him in the earth. There is nothing written, I think, of equal literary merit.

Philip Schaff, the eminent Church Historian, who has gifted us with his scholarly study entitled History of the Christian Church (in eight volumes) left this insightful witness:

The Book of Job rises like a pyramid in the history of literature, without a predecessor and without a rival.

The verses before us this morning are drawn from what has been called Job’s Eighth Discourse. His friends had represented to him the shallow and incomplete observation of life that man’s suffering is always proportional to his sins.

And in the verses just read together, Job pointed out many examples from his own day and from the midst of his own society in which the poor, the needy, the widow, the fatherless, the hungry, and the wounded suffered – not because of their sins.

We ought to be moved at the reverence of dear Job in the midst of such afflictions. He is most careful not to blurt out any blasphemous accusation. He is most careful not to impugn the motives of the Almighty nor to lay blame at His Holy Feet!

So he states his quandary to his friends in most oblique terms (v. 1):

Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?

In other words, understanding that nothing is hidden from the Eyes of the Almighty, why do those who know Him… never see His judgment and His correction of such injustice and suffering?

God is so good to us to teach us about Himself through the 42-chapters of the Book of Job. He teaches us first, that He sees life much differently than we, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve, see life! He has higher and greater purposes for us in this vale of tears. And we may be sure His purposes are good and wholesome and true and enduring. We may trust Him fully and without reservation! We may place the full weight of the perplexities of our minds and the heavy concerns of our hearts upon Him Who most assuredly cares for us, even in suffering.

He teaches us secondly, that we – though sinful, weak and ignorant – are called to steadfastly follow, like Job of old, the proven pathway of purity and uprightness, even when in the midst of personal emotional turmoil and spiritual testing. We must remember that our Heavenly Father is not bringing destruction upon us, but in the final words of Job things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.

Third, we are taught that though we have many questions, we must not be so foolish as to judge the Almighty… His goodness and His magnanimity! I cannot count the number of times I have heard otherwise well-intended Christians defame their Heavenly Father with statements such as, “I disagree with God on this point…” Which leaves us with the question: “Who do they think they are that they know more than the Creator Who understands all things – inside and outside?”

Fourth, we are reminded that suffering – as with all our lessons in His School of Learning – are for a season… and for a reason! The psalmist, of old, proclaimed that weeping may endure for a night (a season), but joy cometh in the morning (a reason).

This morning, we stand six weeks from the start of the Advent Season when we begin preparing for the arrival of the Christ Child at Christmas. During Advent (mini-Lent) we remember the God-Man Jesus Christ, Who – though He also walked in truth and righteousness – even above that of Job — was likewise subjected by His Heavenly Father to unbelievable suffering, for a season and for a reason!

We remember that Jesus Christ – God Incarnate – came among us not as One Who was served, but rather as One Who Himself served. He came among us to be known as the Man of Sorrows. He came to our benighted sphere as One destined to follow a pathway marked by bloody sweat, humiliation, degradation, injustice, and tears. He came to earth to suffer unfairness and pain, and then to die an ignominious death.

It certainly helps us understand the role of suffering in this world when through the Hand of God we see Own His Son carrying a heavy, rough-hewn Roman Cross along the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows. For in this marvelous and gripping vignette, we behold God suffering with mankind… God suffering with those made in His Image.

And He thereby shows us the superiority of righteousness with suffering as opposed to wickedness without suffering. Moses, we are told, chose rather to suffer with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin – for a season.

In understanding the magnificent outcome of our Lord’s grisly death on Golgotha… hanging between heaven and earth, we ought not to have any difficulty – we ought not to have any doubt – in believing that our own suffering is in some manner intended for some great good… some enduring purpose for our Heavenly Father Who loves us and Who subjects us to it – for a season and for a reason!

What we do not understand fully in this life will certainly be adequate cause for praise and adoration when it is finally understood in the life that is to come – if we faint not… if we falter not.

So it was in the beginning. So it has always been. And so shall it ever be. World without end.

Amen.

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