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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:You can still acknowledge the wise God at rock bottom
Text:Job 2:7-10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Desolation/Despair
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-07-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 3:1

Hymn 3:5 (after the law)

Psalm 27:1,2

Psalm 27:3,4

Psalm 27:5,6

Scripture readings:  James 5:7-11, Job 2:1-6

Text: Job 2:7-10

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought things couldn’t get any worse?  You were at the lowest point you could possibly go.  But then just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.  What you thought was the lowest point was in the rear-view mirror and you sped into worse and worse.  Such an experience can challenge your faith like nothing else.  It’s relatively easy to acknowledge God when things are going well.  But when you hit rock bottom, not so much.  And when you discover that what you thought was rock bottom really wasn’t, that there was deeper you could plunge, well, that just challenges your faith all the more.  How much more does God think you can take?    

We see that happening with Job in our passage for this morning.  In the first chapter, Job lost just about everything.  He was a rich man, he lost all his wealth.  He had 10 children, he lost all of them in a house collapse.  How could things get any worse for Job?  And then in chapter 2, things do get worse.  At the end of chapter 1, he still had his health.  But now that’s taken away from him too.  In chapter 2, we see Job at the real rock bottom.  That presents a challenge to his faith.  Will Job still acknowledge God?  Or will Satan be right and will Job curse God?  Will Satan prove that Job’s faith was just a fraud? 

We’ve read the passage, so you know the answer already.  Job still does acknowledge God even when he’s at rock bottom.  The Holy Spirit wants us to learn from Scripture here how God’s people in every age can do likewise.  The purpose of this sermon this morning is to show you how you too can acknowledge God in all your ways, even when you’re at rock bottom in your life.  I’ve summarized God’s Word to us with this theme:  You can still acknowledge the wise God at rock bottom.

We’ll consider:

  1. The torment Job experienced
  2. The temptation Job faced

At the beginning of chapter 2, the scene in heaven from chapter 1 repeats itself.  There’s a time when the angels have to appear before God to account for their activities.  This is something all the angels have to do, whether faithful angels or evil angels.  So Satan also appears before God and has to answer God.  God again challenges Satan with Job.  God points out how Satan failed to get Job to curse God.  Satan replies that there’s one thing Job has left and that’s his health.  Satan says, “If you let me touch his body, he will turn away and curse you.”  God permits Satan to do this.  But he limits him to his body – Satan isn’t allowed to kill Job.

Now I want to pause here and answer a question someone could ask.  Does that kind of conversation between Satan and God still happen today?  Does it happen today that Satan appears before God and God says, “Have you considered my servant x or y?”  And Satan says, “Let me have a go at x or y and you’ll see what happens.”  Then God lets Satan do that.  Does that still happen today? 

We have to be careful not to follow our own personal opinions.  Any answer we give has to be based on what the Bible says.  And we have to limit ourselves to what the Bible says.  Reflecting on this question brought me to the last book of the Bible, to Revelation chapter 12.  In Revelation 12, the ascension of Christ into heaven is described with powerful symbolic language.  The effects of Christ’s ascension are also described there.  When Christ ascended into heaven victorious from his death and resurrection, that had an impact on Satan and the evil angels.  It says in Revelation 7:9 that Satan was cast down from heaven, along with the demons.  They aren’t permitted in the presence of God in heaven after Christ’s ascension.  Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is no longer able to accuse believers in the presence of God in heaven. 

So based on Revelation 12, we have to say that what happened in Job 1-2 can’t happen today anymore.  After Christ’s ascension, Satan doesn’t have that access to God that he once did.  Does that mean he’s now unaccountable to God?  Does that mean Satan is outside of God’s sovereignty?  No, God’s sovereignty is absolute.  Regardless of whether Satan is allowed before God in heaven, God is still sovereign over Satan.  Later in Revelation 20, Satan is bound by a chain.  God binds him. 

What we can say based on Scripture is that the trials we experience today are not the result of a conversation between God and Satan like what was happening behind the scenes in the story of Job.  Christ changes everything.  The coming of Christ fulfilled the victory God achieved over Satan in the story of Job.  So today, when we go through tough times, it’s not a face-off between God and Satan.  Yes, God is still sovereign over our trials.  Yes, he ordains our trials and he has a good and wise purpose behind them.  But just because you’re experiencing something hard, that doesn’t mean God and Satan had a conversation about it.  It doesn’t mean God allowed Satan to bring these hard things to you in order to prove Satan wrong about you.                          

Let’s get back to Job 2.  We’re at verse 7.  The Holy Spirit tells us that Satan left God’s presence in heaven.  He found Job and struck him.  Our Bible translation says Satan struck Job “with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”  This is a picture of terrible torment. 

Many biblical scholars believe Job was struck with a form of leprosy known as elephantiasis.  According to one reliable website I checked on this, elephantiasis is a rare condition caused by a parasitic worm and spread by mosquitoes.   Your arms and legs swell and become enormous.  The skin thickens and hardens and looks like the skin of an elephant.  It’s debilitating and painful.

The book of Job elsewhere tells us more of Job’s torment.  He’s so disfigured by his disease that his friends don’t recognize him.  He stinks and has bad breath.  He has maggots breeding in his sores, worms crawling out of his body.  His skin has turned black and his bones are burning with pain.  Job is in physical agony. As his condition persisted, that leads to mental and spiritual agony as well.     

In verse 8, the picture of Job is even darker.  We see him sitting alone in the ashes.  He’s probably been cast out of the community in which he lived.  The ashes here likely refer to the place where all the local rubbish was burned.  Job is suffering in the tip/garbage dump isolated.  There he finds a potsherd, a piece of broken pottery someone has thrown out.  He uses that piece of broken pottery to try and find some relief from his skin disease.  Job scrapes himself with the pottery, trying to scratch the itching, perhaps trying to scrape away the pus, or the maggots and the worms. 

What you see here is torment.  Job is at rock bottom.  How could things get worse for him?  When you read the following chapters, you’ll hear his laments.  You’ll hear about the pain of his body, but also the pain of his soul.  You’ll hear him asking “Why, why” over and over again.  Has anyone ever experienced worse torment than Job? 

Yes, and in that instance too, Satan was involved.  In both Luke’s gospel and John’s gospel we read of how Satan entered into Judas Iscariot before he betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jewish religious leaders.  Satan planned to destroy Jesus through Judas Iscariot.  That plan put Jesus on the cross.  If there was anyone who ever hit absolute rock bottom, as in you can’t possibly sink any lower, it was Jesus Christ.  The torment Job experienced was a shadow of that experienced by Christ on the cross.  Because the suffering that Jesus endured wasn’t just the physical pain of crucifixion, it wasn’t just the abandonment of his disciples.  It was the eternal wrath of God against our sins. 

Job couldn’t discern a reason for his torment.  God didn’t tell him.  When we hit what we think is rock bottom in our lives, it’s often hard to find a reason too.  God doesn’t tell us.  He doesn’t give us visions or dreams where he tells us why we’re going through this or that.  But he does give us something.  He gives us the cross.  He gives us the suffering and death of Jesus.  God gives us the picture of someone at absolute worst rock bottom.  Then he tells us, “This is your proof that I’m wise and I’m good.  This is your proof that I love you.”  God says, “This is your proof that I can bring the greatest good from the worst rock bottom scenario.  I did it with the cross for you, and now you have to trust me as your Father that I will do it again.”  Loved ones, when you’re at what feels like rock bottom, when you’re in torment, remember the cross.  Remember Christ crucified.

Being at rock bottom often involves temptations to sin.  In Job’s case the temptation came through his wife.  There are a couple of important things to note about Job’s wife. 

First of all, she’s been affected by everything that’s happened to Job as well.  For example, the loss of Job’s ten children, that was her loss too.  She had brought those children into the world.  Losing them would have really broken her heart too.  And now she’s come to the ash heap at the tip/garbage dump and there’s her husband scraping himself with broken pottery.  That stings her too.  When a loved one suffers, it hurts us as well.  That’s normal. 

The other thing to note about Job’s wife is that we have no indication she was an unbeliever.  There’s nothing in the book of Job saying that Job’s wife didn’t believe in the same God Job did.  So we ought to be charitable and assume that, as a righteous man, Job married a fellow-believer.  Her words here which are a temptation to Job don’t prove she’s an unbeliever.  What we do see here is a frail, weak, and grieving wife and mother.

That gives the context to her words in verse 9.  Job’s wife asks him a question, a rhetorical question, one where the answer is obvious:  “Do you still hold fast to your integrity?”  In other words, are you still maintaining your faith and trust in God?  Are you still acknowledging him in all your ways?  The answer is obvious:  Job is.  By God’s grace, enabled by his Holy Spirit, Job is still holding fast to his faith.  He’s not cursing God.  But his wife thinks he should.  She suggests he should just get it over and done with.  End your suffering. 

In various parts of the world, there are now laws which allow for state-sanctioned suicide.  These are wicked laws.  In some places it’s called “voluntary assisted dying.”  In other places it’s “medically-assisted aid in dying.”  Some countries allow even people with non-terminal illnesses to access this “service.”  If you have depression, you can ask a doctor to help you end your life.  But here in Job, there’s no doctor on the scene.  There’s just Job’s wife.  And she’s encouraging him to end it.  She’s encouraging him to take advantage of blasphemy-assisted dying.  Curse God and let him take your life for it.  Take the easy way out. 

Notice what’s happening here.  This is how we’ve progressed from the first marriage in the Bible.  God officiated at the first wedding ceremony.  At the end he declared that the two become one flesh.  They’re to be intimate allies, on the same side, moving in the same direction.  But then in Genesis 3, it all goes pear-shaped.  At the instigation of Satan, the first marriage breaks down because of sin.  Eve convinces Adam to sin.  When God confronts Adam, Adam blames Eve.  Now here in Job, things have just gotten worse.  Job and his wife are supposed to be one flesh.  But like Eve she’s tempting him to sin and curse God, to kill himself with God’s judgment on sin.  This isn’t what God had in mind when he officiated at the first wedding in Genesis.  This is a marriage impacted by sin, a marriage which is bending under the stress of the situation, almost at the breaking point.  The husband is holding on to God, but the wife is telling him to let go and slam the door in God’s face on his way out.

That kind of thing can happen today too.  It can happen when God ordains trials for us.  One spouse struggles with their commitment to God.  He or she may have doubts about God’s wisdom or goodness, may even be inclined to go further and curse God for what he’s doing.  That spouse may then tempt the other to sin in the same way.  At moments like that, it’s critically important that both husband and wife remember who they are in Jesus Christ.  As we look to our Lord Jesus, we not only see the ultimate husband faithful to his bride, we also see his faithfulness to God.  Our husband Jesus was tempted to turn away from God in his life of suffering, but he refused to.  We’re united to him in faith.  Our union is through the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit who lives in Jesus lives in us.  As we look to Christ, the Holy Spirit empowers us to resist temptations in our hearts and also from the hearts of others, including our loved ones. 

Loved ones, this is another reason why it’s so important that Christians only marry fellow Christians.  You’re supposed to be one flesh, with the closest intimacy possible between two human beings.  How can you have that intimacy if you don’t share faith in Jesus Christ?  How can you deal with suffering together in the right way apart from a shared faith in Jesus Christ?  If you’re not both united to Christ, if you don’t both have the Holy Spirit living in you, how can you stand together against the temptation to curse God when you’re at rock bottom?  You can’t and you won’t.  It’s so important that we listen to God’s wisdom from his Word.  In both the Old Testament and New Testament he warns us against marrying unbelievers.  God is wiser than you.  Do listen to him.

Now look at verse 10 and see how Job responds to his wife.  It’s actually a bit abrasive.  He doesn’t call her a foolish woman, but he does say she’s talking like one.  Her words suggesting blasphemy-assisted suicide are foolish.  These are foolish words because they don’t reflect trust in God.  They come from a rock bottom place, but they’re not acknowledging the wise God.  Job sees that.  He sees the temptation facing him through his wife and he sees it for what it is.  Job sees that it’s foolish and he resists it.

Then he also encourages her to resist it.  Job does that with his own rhetorical question to his wife, again a question that has an obvious answer:  “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  “Good” and “evil” here are not being used in the absolute sense of morally good and morally evil.  These words are being used in the sense of how we experience something.  Some things God sends us and we experience them as good – we don’t have to be told they’re beneficial because we can instinctively sense that.  For example, our daily food.  We experience that as good, we know it’s good.  But then there are other things God sends us in his wisdom that we experience as being not so good.  They’re the tough things that God sends us.  Like the loss of a loved one, an accident, chronic health problems.  God sends us adversity as well as prosperity.  Think of Psalm 71:20.  In Psalm 71:20, the Psalmist says, “You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again…”  God made him see many troubles and calamities.  That’s what Job is saying too.  God sends things we experience as good, but he also sends things we experience as troubles and calamities.  We ought to receive both in humble submission.  We ought to accept these things in faith, trusting that God is wise.

As a godly man would, Job is encouraging his wife to resist her sinful inclinations and instead acknowledge the wise God even though they’re at rock bottom.  He’s not giving in to her temptation, but standing against it.  In his steadfastness, Job is unlike Adam in Genesis.  Adam gave in to the temptation put to him by Eve.  But not Job with his wife.  He stands fast in his faith and integrity.

At least outwardly.  I want you to notice the end of verse 10.  It says, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”  Now compare that to what it said in chapter 1, verse 22:  “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”  Do you see the difference?  Here in chapter 2, the Holy Spirit only tells us Job didn’t sin with his lips.  That at least leaves open the possibility that he sinned in his heart.  Perhaps the temptation put to him by his wife did resonate in some corner of his heart.  Certainly later in the book we’re going to see Job putting his hand on his mouth and repenting before God.   

In that way Job is more like Adam and less like Christ, the second Adam.  Christ not only resisted temptations outwardly, but also inwardly.  In every way and at every time, he acknowledged the wise God.  And as the husband to his church, he is encouraging us to do the same in our lives.  He’s encouraging us to do that right now. 

But how?  How we can still acknowledge the wise God even when it seems like we’re at rock bottom?  Well, how did Job do it?  How did Job have the patience and steadfastness described in our reading from James?  He didn’t do it in his own strength.  Remember this was God proving the durability of his work in Job’s heart with the Holy Spirit.  God empowered and enabled Job to still hold fast in the face of suffering and temptation.  When you look at Job, don’t just look at the surface of the man.  Look inside.  There’s the Holy Spirit.  The almighty Spirit gave Job the wherewithal to hold fast and still acknowledge God.  The Holy Spirit helped him hold on despite the torment in his body and the temptation of his wife.

Loved ones, we can’t control the Holy Spirit.  We can’t force him to come to us and help us when we’re at rock bottom.  We can’t manipulate him.  He is Almighty God.  What we can do is humbly pray.  We can humbly pray for the Holy Spirit to graciously work in our hearts a durable faith.  We can ask for the Holy Spirit to give us a faith which can still acknowledge God despite torment, despite temptation.  We can ask for the Holy Spirit to always direct our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ, so that we understand the wisdom of God revealed in him.  In Christ, we come to see God’s love for sinners.  In Christ, we come to see God’s providence over evil men and events.  In Christ, we come to see that our God is a good and gracious Father.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Our heavenly Father,

We say with Job, “Shall we receive good from you, and shall we not receive evil?”  We acknowledge that you are the almighty wise God.  You are so much more powerful than we are.  You are so much wiser than we are.  You deserve our worship and adoration, even when we struggle with life’s circumstances.  Please help us with resisting the temptation to forsake you when life is tough, when we suffer.  We pray, O Holy Spirit, please work in our hearts so our faith is durable, that we can hold fast despite torments, despite temptations.  O Holy Spirit, we ask you:  always point us to Christ in our hearts and minds.  Help us to hold on to him and to find our power and strength in him.  LORD God, we thank you for our Lord Jesus and the cross.  Thank you for that proof of your love and proof of your wisdom and good purposes.  If anyone among us feels like they’re at rock bottom right now, we pray that you would bring them to the cross.  Help them see freshly how Christ crucified gives us hope and meaning in our lives.  Help them to see that you truly are our wise and good Father.  

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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