Text: Job 2:1-10
Gary Carr tells the story of Chippie the parakeet. “Chippie never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage, sending a song into the air; the next second he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
“His problem began when his owner decided to clean his cage with a vacuum. She had stuck the nozzle in to suck up the seeds and feathers at the bottom of the cage when the nearby telephone rang. Instinctively she turned to pick it up. She had barely said hello when–ssswwwwwpppppp! Chippie got sucked in. She gasped, let the phone drop, and switched off the vacuum. With her heart in her mouth, she unzipped the bag.
“There was Chippie–alive but stunned–covered with heavy gray dust. She grabbed him and rushed to the bathtub, turned on the faucet full blast, and held Chippie under a torrent of ice-cold water, power washing him clean. Then it dawned on her that Chippie was soaking wet and shivering. So she did what any compassionate pet owner would do: she snatched up the hair dryer and blasted him with hot air.
“Did Chippie survive? Yes, but he doesn’t sing much anymore. He just sits and stares a lot.” Life is like that sometimes. You never see it coming, but sometimes you get sucked up, washed up, and blown over.1
This morning we’re starting a new series called “Suffering in the Sight of God.” In this series over the next four weeks we’re going to cover the Lectionary readings over the book of Job, and we’re going to hopefully be reminded of the fact that when our world turns upside down God is still in charge and He can still be trusted.
- Just as a fair warning, I think this morning’s sermon is going to be more information than application. And I think sometimes that’s good because sometimes I think as a preacher you just need to talk about the text and let the application come naturally instead looking “5 Ways to be More Spiritual” or whatever. I think this morning we just need to talk about what’s there and let the application naturally unfold.
Why “Suffering in the Sight of God?”
The reason I’m using the title, “Suffering in the Sight of God” is because I want us to see that when Job suffers, and more practically, when we suffer God sees it all. He’s not ignorant of what we’re going through. When we suffer, we suffer in His sight. When we suffer, He sees it all, and He doesn’t leave us. He’s there with us. The problem is not that He’s distant, the problem is that in our suffering we have a tendency to feel disconnected.
We think, “If I’ve been good, and if God is good, then I wouldn’t experience anything this bad,” and the book of Job teaches us that that’s faulty thinking.
“The book of Job is a great book, and like many great things our natural tendency is to get it down to a more understandable level so that we can piously misunderstand it.” – Douglas Wilson
If you read later in the book, then you know that this is exactly what Job’s friends did with his suffering. They piously misunderstand his suffering, and assume that because Job’s life is chaotic and he’s lost everything, then he must have done something to deserve it when in fact God is at work in the suffering, and you don’t see the result of his suffering until the end of the book.
- And I think that’s a practical word in and of itself. You’re not going to understand what your suffering produces in you until you get on the other side of it. So, hang on. It’s been a bumpy ride and it may get bumpier, but if you don’t hang on, you won’t see the good on the other side of your suffering.
Another thing that I think is worth pointing out is that the book of Job is a very direct book that provides little to no explanation to what we’re reading.
- There’s no historical connection to hardly any other place or event in Scripture. It’s been the archaeologists and historians who have figured out for us that Uz was apart of Edom so we can assume that Job was an Edomite, and then in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) there’s an added paragraph at the end of Job that tells us that Job was the second king of Edom mentioned in Genesis 36:33, known as Jobab… which would explain his immense wealth and prosperity. It is also supposed that his three friends (four if you count Elihu at the end) were members his cabinet.
One final thing, by way of introduction, when someone brings up the question of evil, we’re quick to respond because we all know the Genesis 3 narrative, but we quickly learn that there is a vast difference between, “Why is there suffering?” and “Why am I suffering?”
- The first question is philosophical and theological.
- The second question is practical and personal.
The Story So Far…
The story so far up to our passage is that we are introduced to Job, his family, and his possessions, and then in 1:6-12 we see a picture of a time when some heavenly beings came before God. They are identified as the sons of God (1:6), and then we read where Satan does what he does best. He accuses Job before God, he basically says, “You know, God, Job doesn’t really love you. He loves all the things that you give him, but He doesn’t love you, but if you were stretch out your hand against all that he owns, he will curse you.” And then this is God’s reply in Job 1:12.
“Very well,” the Lord told Satan, “everything he owns is in your power. However, do not lay a hand on Job himself.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.” – Job 1:12, CSB
And then that’s when all hell broke loose in the most literal sense of the phrase.
- Have you ever had hell break loose in your life? If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
- You’ve got bills back to back and you can’t get caught up, you’ve got projects at work that just pile up on your desk, in your family you’ve got loved ones dropping left and right, it just seems like out of nowhere everything hit you all at once and you can’t seem to find a normal.
- I think one of the most freeing things is that you are not the first person to experience this. You are also not the most important person to experience this either.
- The undeserved suffering of Job points to a greater undeserved suffering. Jesus undergoes unimaginable suffering and violence at the hand of violent men all for us. He stands in our place, and takes beating, our scourging, even our death, and then He resurrects so that we could resurrect with Him in the newness of life. It’s for those reasons that we might consider Job to be a theologian of the cross.
The rest of chapter 1 includes the death of robbery and destruction of all of Job’s property, and the death of his children, but the chapter doesn’t end there. Job gives God praise with these words, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
And then verse 22 says, “Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.”
Where We Are Now
In chapter 2 we come back to this scene in heaven where the sons of God present themselves before God, and Satan was there again and as the conversation goes on Satan accuses Job again, and says, “He still doesn’t love you, you know. A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 2:4b-5)
“Very well,” the Lord told Satan, “he is in your power; only spare his life.” 7So Satan left the Lord’s presence and infected Job with terrible boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.” – Job 2:6-7, CSB
And again, if it’s not one thing it’s another. First his property gets destroyed, his children are dead, and now he’s covered in boils.
And then in these last few verses in chapter 2 is where we’re going to get the majority of our application from.
“His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10“You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.” – Job 2:9-10, CSB
- Job’s integrity is recognized by his wife. I think that’s significant because integrity is a lot like humility. Once you recognize those things in yourself you no longer have them or at the very least you make people skeptical of you.
- I don’t trust people by nature, but if you tell me that you’re humble or that you have integrity, I’m going to doubt you even because you don’t trust your own humility or integrity enough to let someone else see those things on their own.
- I think the fact that Job’s wife saw his integrity and asked him if he was still going to retain it creates an important question: Does our integrity in God show to people around us?
- When we suffer, can people tell by looking at our lives that we retain our integrity?
If we look at what we know about Job’s situation up to this I think there’s a two things that make up Job’s integrity and that I will make up ours.
Trust in God’s Sovereignty
First of all, Job trusts God’s sovereignty. What does it that God is sovereign. It means that He’s in control. He’s large and in charge. Nothing happens that is outside His control.
“That which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.”
– Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts
Remember what Paul says in Romans 8:28.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28, CSB
- How many things? All things. What about the death of a loved one? Or worse yet, what about the death of a child? It’s not up to us to figure out how those work for our good and God’s glory, but it is our responsibility to trust God in the process.
When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, he went and spent time in prison, and then Potiphar’s wife accused him of sexual misconduct against her, he still was able to tell them, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
- God is always working good for His people. Always. And it’s because He is good.
Which brings us to the second part of Job’s integrity. He not only trusted God’s sovereignty, he also trusted in God’s character.
Trusting in God’s Character
We not only believe that God is large and in charge, but we believe that He’s good.
- In Genesis, when God begins the work of creation, he finishes off his whatever he’s creating and he says plainly, “It is good” and then when he created man, he said that man was very good.
- Good can only come from good. God is the ultimate source of good, James 1:17 even says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV)
- Psalm 34:8 tells us “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” The Bible is filled with invitation after invitation to see God, but there is something that stands out to me in Psalm 34:8. David is telling us that if taste God, if you even get just a little sample, you will find Him to be good. That’s a guarantee.
- I think the word “taste” is really interesting in this context because when we think about our tastes, not everyone likes the same thing, but David is saying that it doesn’t matter your “tastes” are, it doesn’t what you like or don’t like, if you really seek God, and if you really pursue Him in His Word with the love and support of His Church, then you will find Him, and not will you find Him, but you will find Him to be good.
Those are the two things that are essential about God, He is good and He is powerful, and that’s what Job acknowledges.
When his wife tells him, “Curse God and die,” Job doesn’t take the easy way out by shaking his fist at God, he asks her a very deliberate question in chapter 2, verse 10 that I want to ask you, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?”
- In this verse, Job acknowledges that both come from God.
Commentators and “scholars” can try to weasel their way around this passage all they want to, but Job very plainly says that when God holds out His hand toward you, you had better take what’s in it whether it’s good or whether it’s adversity.
- The old King James Version renders it this way, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, KJV)
Regardless of whether the thing that God hands you looks good or whether it looks evil, God is always going to use it for good.
Now, we read the book of Job and we know the ending, he got his stuff back and we think that’s the good that God was working all along, and that’s part of it, but if you think the end of Job is about Job getting his stuff back then you have a very materialistic superficial view of Scripture.
- Even if Job hadn’t got his stuff back even if he was still sick, and even if he was poor and destitute, there still would’ve been good in Job’s life that God worked. And that is in Job 38 and 39 when God speaks to Job, reminds him about all of His inner workings in the universe, and then Job finally realizes that the world is bigger than himself, and he repents.
- The book of Job could’ve ended at that point, and God would’ve still been good. Do you know why? Because you can’t measure God’s goodness in your life by how well you’re doing.
- And when I say, “You can’t do that” I mean it in both senses of the word.
- You can’t in that you’re not allowed to, and you can’t because it’s impossible. It’s not a fair treatment of God. God is good whether or not your circumstances are. And really, I think that’s good news for us.
God is good even when we’re not. God is good even are circumstances are not. God is good even those around us want to accuse our God of not being good.
In his book “If God is Good…” Randy Alcorn talks about a story that Sinclair Ferguson used to tell.
“In January 1852, a search party found Missionary Allen Gardiner’s lifeless body. He and his companions had shipwrecked on Tierra del Fuego. Their provisions had run out. They starved to death.
Gardiner, at one point, felt desperate for water; his pangs of thirst, he wrote, were “almost intolerable.” Far from home and loved ones, he dies alone, isolated, weakened, and physically broken.
Isn’t this one of those stories told to raise the problem of evil and suffering? Indeed, if the story ended like this, we would find it tragic beyond description.
Despite the wretched conditions of his death, Gardiner wrote out Scripture passages, including Psalm 34:10: “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing” (KJV). Near death, his handwriting feeble, Gardiner managed to write one final entry into his journal: “I am overwhelmed with a sense of goodness of God.” [page 175]
That’s what I want for us. In our deepest moments of turmoil and affliction, I want us to be able, with confidence, to say that we are overwhelmed with a sense of God’s goodness.
I’m going to pray for us, and we’re going to sing one more hymn.
Heavenly Father, remind us that when we suffer we do not suffer alone. You are there with us, and You love us. We are not alone, and we thank you for that. Lord, send us Your Spirit to apply the word that we’ve been given. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
- Sermons and Outlines, http://www.sermonnotebook.org/old testament/job 2_7-13.htm.