Meeting God through suffering [Job 1]
WHAT’S THE POINT?
It’s possible and necessary to hold grief and God together.
This series is a deep dive into the book of Job and the question of suffering.
Simply start by explaining in your own way why you think it is important to talk about suffering and why as Christians it should not be something we gloss over? Think about:
– How it’s been a year of loss (covid, friendships, school, sports vacations etc.)
– Suffering is biblical
– God’s character is to comfort and draw close to us
WHY DO I CARE?
This section will be a deep theological dive into our scripture.
Context of Job:
Biblical scholars have not come to a consensus about the author, date, or place where Job was written. It is written in an archaic and strange form of Hebrew which is unlike any other book in the Bible. It has more unique words than any other book of the Bible. Some have argued that the story of Job is a literal story, word-for-word, while others have argued it was simply written as an analogy to make a point. The fact is, we don’t actually know.
The one thing we do know, and all scholars agree on, is that the Book of Job is part of the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. Meaning that its purpose is to give us wisdom around a certain topic, the topic Job heavily leans on is suffering and grief.
God choose for the Book of Job to be in the Bible for a reason. We will have a lot of questions, some which may never be fully answered and we have to be ok not knowing every detail. But we do know God wants us to read this story and he wants to speak to us through it.
Today we are going to explore the beginning.
There are three distinct scenes in Chapter 1:
Scene 1 – Job in the Land of Uz
Scene 2 – The Conversation in the Heavenly Realms
Scene 3 – Job Loses Everything
Read Job 1:1-12
Scene 1 – Job in the Land of Uz
What do we know about Job?
– blameless & upright
– feared God & shunned evil
– married with 10 kids
– very wealthy
We get this opening picture that Job was a great man. A man who loved God greatly, loved his family and cared deeply for others.
If there was an award for the best person alive… Job would have been a strong candidate to win!
Scene 2 – The Conversation in the Heavenly Realms
All of a sudden, the scene changes. It’s like when you’re watching a gripping movie and suddenly the camera cuts to another conversation catching you off-guard.
We get introduced to a conversation in the heavenly realms with God and his divine council including a character named “Satan.”
STOP – This is the first point of Job that is really difficult to get your head around.
- God has a council of divine beings who he chats with?
- Satan is just hanging around?
- I thought Satan was thrown out of heaven?
- Can he just sneak in?
- What is going on here?!
The heavenly throne-room, is where God’s executive staff reports for duty. This is a very familiar image in the Old Testament that describes God as the sovereign King over all creation (see 1 Kings 22:13-23, and Psalm 103:20-21). He’s like a king who daily assembles his officers, surveys the land, and then sends them off for various missions (the context of Isaiah’s commission in Isa 6:1-8).
We’re told in Job 1:6 that God’s subservient divine beings (called “sons of God”) report for duty as usual, and that one standing among them is “the satan.”
Now let’s stop here: Who or what is “the satan?” Let’s first set the record straight, this word is not a proper name, like our modern translations that use the capital letter (“Satan”) might lead us to conclude. The Hebrew word satan is a descriptive noun, describing any person that stands “opposed to” OR as “an adversary” to someone else. For example, King Solomon faced multiple invading enemies near the end of his reign, Hadad the Edomite and Rezon, son of Eliada (1 Kings 11:11, 11:23). Both of these men are called in Hebrew “a satan,” that is, an adversary. King David himself is called “a satan” by the Philistines (1 Sam 29:4). The word “satan” can be used to describe an accusing attorney in a courtroom (see Ps 109:6-7). And pay attention to this one, “the angel of the Lord” is described as “a satan,” who opposes the infamous Balaam (see Num 22:22, 32).
So even the angelic messenger who represents the will and authority of God himself can take on the function of a satan. One conclusion from this short Hebrew word study is that a variety of people or heavenly beings can be described by the word satan. This means that the satan who appears in Job 1-2 is not necessarily identical with the full-orbed evil being called by that same title in the New Testament who we refer to as The Devil, Satan, Lucifer etc. (see, for example, Mark 1:13).
In fact, a heavenly figure called “the satan” appears only twice in the Old Testament. Both stories take place in the heavenly courtroom where a “good guy” stands before God and his staff and is then accused by “the one opposed” (or, the satan).
The Hebrew is called “Ha-Satan” which simply means someone who challenges.
So, what was this (ha-Satan) challenger challenging?
This being was challenging a theological principle that guided people’s thinking of the day.
The principle being, people, (like Job) who were good, therefore had a better relationship with God, therefore they were blessed more.
This principle is called The Retribution principle:
“A common belief that the righteous will prosper, and the wicked will suffer.”
So, at the core of what is happening in the book of Job is the nature of Job’s relationship to God. Does being a good person mean that God will bless you more and that you won’t suffer?
The age old question of why do bad things happen to good people?
INTERESTING THING TO NOTE:
- The Ha-Satan does not bring up Job’s name up in conversation, God does. God brags about Job about how good he is, but the Ha-satanchallenges God by saying that the only reason Job is so good because God blesses him.
- God gives permission for the Ha-Satan to take away Job’s possessions. God does not say to kill his children.
- The period between this conversation and Job losing everything is not immediate. But could have been decades later. (v13“One day”)
Scene 3 – Job Loses Everything
God removes his hand of protection and blessing.
Job begins to lose everything:
– Servants & animals killed
– Source of income
– 10 children
– And he will go on to lose his health
Stop for a moment and speak empathy to suffering. Acknowledge people’s grief and pain is real.
Share small personal stories of suffering that you have experienced or know of:
- I’ve lost count on the amount of friends who have lost their job
- My bible professor and his family (Covid)
- Close friends who have miscarried in the last year
- think of Sydney, a girl that I served at bible camp with who tragically & suddenly died a few months ago
There is so much suffering in our world.
And in our modern culture we do everything we can to distance ourselves from it, to try and not think about, to block it out….
And we get surprised by suffering, something in our brains wants us to believe that pain is not common, it’s for someone else or for somewhere else, and when we experience it, we are surprised that it would happen to us.
Jesus promised us that in our broken world we will have pain and we will have trouble. Jesus told us. He literally said “YOU WILL HAVE PAIN” and when it happens, we try to distance ourselves from the feelings of pain and grief and hardship and sit surprised that it would ever happen to us.
We spoke a few weeks ago that Jesus Never said that life would be easy, that there would not be any bad days. One of his promises is that “We will have trouble.” “Things will be hard.”
When Job is visited by suffering, pain and loss…. He holds grief and God together. “
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head.” v20
THE ACT OF LAMENTING [def: to express one’s deep grief about]
Job gives himself permission to feel, do you?
Job gives himself permission to grief, do you?
Job gives himself permission to be sad, do you?
This is really important because if you don’t have a theology (an understanding of God) that allows you to feel, to be sad, to be sorrowful to lament, then our humanity and spirituality is deeply compromised.
And some of us believe that to be sad and sorrowful, is actually a sin, therefore we do the exact opposite of what Job does:
- Instead of tearing our robes, we buy a new outfit.
- Instead of shaving our head, we style our hair.
This reminds me of something I witnessed over the past couple of months…
(Insert here a recent story that talks about lamenting, Chris will use Wandavision)
Forbes magazine “The most viewed television show in the world.”
The central theme of the show is trauma & loss.
Wanda has the power to create new realities which distance her from that loss, new realities which distance her from the feelings of pain, new realities which distance her from grief that is fueling and filling her heart.
And as she distances herself from her grief and her pain it not only impacts her, but begins to impact more and more people around her, eventually engulfing 100’s of people (and if you’ve watched the show, you know what I mean about engulfing) #nospoilers
This is what happens when we don’t learn to carry our lament and grief to God. And our inability to lament compromises every other aspect of our lives. Our inability to grief compromises our ability to have true joy inside of us.
And just like Wanda we do the exact same. We create alternate realities in our minds of how we are feeling, and we dress it up to look pretty and neat as if the Christian life, the Jesus way is a perfect blessed way where we don’t experience pain or suffering for hurt or sadness. We dress up our feelings with positive Bible verses and positive worship songs. We sing about the goodness of God but in reality, like Job we just want to tear our robes, shave her head and cry.
“The difference between a spiritually healthy person and someone who is not healthy is the ability to recognize grief, sorrow and sadness and lift it up to God, rather than suppressing it.”
And what I love about the book of Job is that we have the example of what happens when someone going through severe sorrow and pain lifts up their grief to God rather than holding it themselves or suppressing it.
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshipped.
Job holds grief & God together.
This is critically important for us.
We inevitably will reach out for something when we give and the invitation to you and to me is to reach out fort the living God.
“Watch what you reach for when you are in pain.” Aaron Stern
Everything we reach for doesn’t necessarily give its the healing we long for.
What do you reach for?
Where do you go when you’re in pain?
(Insert here some statistics or story that talks about where people go in pain. Chris will use Drug stats)
Overdose and Drug stats in the States
A retrospective study of the National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS), a large registry of more than 10,000 EMS agencies in 47 states, which showed an increase in the initial months of the pandemic in overdose deaths. The highest rates were in May 2020 and were more than double the baseline from 2018 and 2019. So far, the overall 2020 values were elevated by approximately 50%.
Research from the U of A
“After the pandemic hit, we saw a significant increase in overdose deaths across the country,”
We are all trying to survive…
And we all learn how to do it using our own means…. But it doesn’t go far enough. It’s not going to lead you to the freedoms you truly long for, can we try something else?
This is what Job does, he tears his robes, shaves his head and cries out to God.
WHY DO I DO?
When we experience pain there is a few ways we respond:
- Stuff it (insert example)
- Sooth it (insert example)
- Transmit it to others (insert example)
- Or we lift it to God (insert example)
The invitation to you is to reach out to God and ask him to intervene on your behalf.
Two questions we often carry when we experience pain:
- Why did this happen?
- Where is God?
This question may never fully be answered until we stand face-to-face with our creator. If anyone gives you an easy answer to this question, they truly have not taken the time to fathom the complexity and unknowns of the universe, which one day will be made known to us by God.
He is present. That is the gospel. I can’t tell you why bad things happen, but I know from scripture that God weeps with you, hurts with you and longs to be close to you and comfort you in your pain.
“It’s possible and necessary to hold grief and God together.”