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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:You CAN have hope even with an uncertain future
Text:Job 13:15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 122

Hymn 82:3 (after the law)

Psalm 42:1-3

Hymn 74

Psalm 43:3-5

Scripture readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:7, Job 13

Text: Job 13:15

* 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,

Imagine you’re not feeling well and you visit your doctor.  They run various tests.  Then the news comes back:  you’ve got terminal cancer.  When it comes to the treatment plan, you’re told that there’s nothing that can be done other than some chemo to slow it down.  You have maybe 1 or maybe 2 years at best. The end of your life is coming into view.     

Sadly, that’s not an uncommon experience.  Some of us have seen loved ones go through something similar.  Some of us can be expected to go through something similar in the future.  It’s not pleasant, but this is real life, also for us as Christians.

People respond to this kind of news in different ways.  I’ve seen church members respond with anger and bitterness.  Confusion and disappointment.  Anxiety and worry.  It’s not easy to hear that your life is coming to an end, especially when you’re relatively young.  You’ve still got dreams for the future and then suddenly it’s all taken away. 

But can a Christian still have hope in these circumstances?  Is it possible to maintain an attitude of trusting expectation in God?  God’s Word to us this morning says that you certainly can.  I preach to you God’s Word from Job 13:15 and I’ve summarized the message of the sermon in this way:  You can have hope even with an uncertain future.

We’ll consider the believer’s hope in relation to God’s:

  1. Unknown plan
  2. Known promises

At this point in the book of Job, there are a series of speeches.  There are three sets of speeches.  In each of them, Job’s friends speak about his situation and what they think is wrong with him.  Then Job replies to each of his friends. 

In chapter 13, Job is replying to his friend Zophar.  Job’s reply to Zophar actually begins back in chapter 12 and it’s going to go on into chapter 14.  This is one of his longer speeches.  He has a lot to say in reply to Zophar. 

That’s because of the hurtfulness of Zophar’s speech in chapter 11.  Zophar put words in Job’s mouth that he never spoke, words of pride.  Zophar claimed to know what God was thinking about Job – Job was clearly living in rebellion against God and that’s why God sent all these horrible afflictions on Job.  Even then, Job was still getting far less than what he deserved.  Then towards the end of his speech, Zophar responds to a comment made earlier by Job. 

In chapter 6, Job spoke of how he wished that God would fulfill his hope to die.  Job was tired of his suffering and he hoped it would be over.  That comment caught the attention of Zophar.  He thought it needed to be addressed.  Look with me at the end of chapter 11, in verse 20.  Zophar says here, “But the eyes of the wicked will fail; all way of escape will be lost to them, and their hope is to breathe their last.”  The only hope the wicked have is for death, says Zophar.  Job’s hope is for death, so what does that mean about Job?  Can you see how Zophar is insinuating that Job is evil because he expressed a wish or hope to die?  The wicked hope to die.  Job hopes to die.  Therefore, Job is wicked.  But if Job repents, then he can have a real hope.  If he turns away from the sin which brought this suffering on him, then he can hope in God, he can “take rest in security,” as Zophar says in 11:18.

All this is important background for our passage in chapter 13.  This context tells us what led Job to make this powerful statement, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…”  Zophar said that Job’s wish to die proved that he was wicked.  Here Job says, “Hold on, there’s quite a difference between wishing for death because you’re suffering horribly and placing your ultimate hope in God.”  You can hope or wish for your suffering to end – that doesn’t mean you’re wicked in the sense of being an unrepentant rebel against God.  You can also place your trusting expectation in God at the same time.  Job is arguing that Zophar’s reasoning about him is faulty.  Job is arguing that he’s not an unrepentant rebel against God.  He still has hope in God.

Job has hope even in the face of an uncertain future, even in the face of God’s unknown plan for him.  Job doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him.  But there is definitely the possibility of death.  He says, “Though he slay me…”  The word “though” speaks of a possibility within God’s plan. 

Yet it’s an unknown plan.  Nobody has access to the mind of God to know what he has decreed for the life and death of any given individual.  Anyone who claims to know for 100% what the plan is for your life is acting arrogantly.  There are things God has revealed in his Word and there are things God has hidden.  His plan, his providence in our lives is something we can only see in the rear-view mirror.  Or as one of the Puritans put it, providence is like Hebrew, it can only be read backwards.  You can only know what God has planned after you’ve experienced it, after it’s in the past.  Otherwise the plan is unknown to us.       

Nevertheless, God wants you to see that there is a plan.  This is crucially important for us to understand.  That’s the point God reinforces to us in what we read from 2 Corinthians.  There is always a plan.  It’s a plan that involves God’s glory and our ultimate well-being.  That means none of our suffering is meaningless.  None of our suffering is pointless.  Knowing that God has a plan, a purpose as “our outer self is wasting away,” “we do not lose heart,” as it says in 2 Corinthians 4:16.  Knowing that God has a plan, a purpose as “our earthly home is destroyed,” “we are always of good courage,” as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:6.  Even though we don’t know the details, we know there is a blueprint in God’s hands, a blueprint that God has wisely prepared.  It’s a blueprint for a building that will magnify the glory and honour of God.  That building is us.  Therefore our suffering is never meaningless.  Illness, even serious illness like cancer, is never meaningless.  Death is never meaningless.  It all fits into God’s good and wise plan for us.

Job knows this.  He knows God’s unknown plan might include his death.  But you may have noticed how he doesn’t speak about death impersonally.  Job doesn’t speak about death in a passive way.  What I mean is that he doesn’t say, “Though I might die, I will hope in God.”  Instead, he says, “Though he slay me…”  Job speaks about death as something that God might do to him.  God might slay him.  You might say that’s a dramatic way to speak about your death.  You might also question whether it’s true.  If a loved one dies from a disease like cancer, would you be correct to say that God slayed him, that God killed him?                                                       

Well, in the Bible God does use that kind of language.  God says about himself in Deuteronomy 32:39, “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal…”  We may not be comfortable with that kind of language, but Job is not wrong for using it.  When your heart stops beating, God is behind it.  He has numbered your days.  And when your days are up, he calls you out of this world.  God’s providence, his plan, extends to your death.  Job is quite right.  At the end of chapter 12, he speaks quite eloquently about God’s sovereign power over everything.  Job says that even the animals know this. He says in 12:9, “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?”  Unlike many people today, Job has a very acute understanding that God has complete control of everything, including the moment we die.

It’s in relation to that truth that Job still expresses his hope in God:  “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…”  Not knowing whether he will live or die, and faced with the possibility that it might be death, Job says he will continue to hope in God.  He will continue to place his trust and expectation in God.

Before we look closer at the content of this hope, we should notice how this fits into the challenge Satan put to God at the beginning of this book.  In Job 1, Satan said that if Job had all his blessings taken away, he would curse God.  God allowed Satan to take away Job’s wealth and his children.  But Job didn’t curse God.  In Job 2, Satan said that if Job had his health taken away, he would curse God.  God allowed Satan to take away Job’s health.  But Job still didn’t curse God.  He definitely said some things he shouldn’t have, but Job never forsook God.  He never said, “I’ve had it with God, and I’m never worshipping him again.”  Job never said, “I’m turning my back on God, I’m going to stop trusting in him.”  That was a victory for God over Satan.  That victory is seen here in our text too.  It was a crushing blow for Satan to hear Job say about God, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…”  It meant that even if Job’s life was taken away from him, he would never abandon his walk with God.  That glorified God by showing his victorious power over Satan.  Not even the prospect of death can stand in the way of God’s work in the heart of this believer.

It’s true, Job sometimes wavered, sometimes struggled.  Nevertheless, here we see him in one of his better moments, expressing hope in God.  Now when we speak about hope it’s easy to do that in a sort of theoretical way.  But the Bible speaks about hope in concrete ways.  The hope of believers has content.  In other words, there’s stuff we’re hopeful about.  There’s stuff about God that Job was hopeful about.

In Job 13:15 there are specifically two things about God which give Job hope, even with his uncertain future.  Both of these things relate to God’s promises.  These promises have been revealed to us in the Bible – so they can be known.  Believers both know God’s promises and treasure them.  Believers embrace God’s promises.  These promises help get us through life, and especially through our suffering. 

The first thing about God that gives Job hope is his promise for the future.  The Bible speaks about the hope God gives to believers for the future, specifically after we die.  After we die, God promises to take us to himself immediately.  We have the promise of being in the blessed presence of our Saviour the moment after we take our last breath.  Our bodies will be laid in the grave, but our souls will be with the One we love, our Lord Jesus.  Our souls will be rejoicing in heaven until the day of the resurrection.  When Christ returns, our bodies and souls will be reunited.  Then we’ll live with our Saviour forever as complete human beings.  In the new creation, we’ll live with Christ body and soul, in eternal perfect blessedness.  This hope for the future was known by Job too.  In chapter 19, Job famously speaks about his hope of seeing God in his flesh.  Job knew death wouldn’t be the end of the story for him.  God promised Job, just like he promises all believers, God promised he had a good place waiting for Job after he died. 

Job only knew about that in an introductory kind of way.  But in the New Testament, God fills it out in more detail for us.  You could think again of what we read from Second Corinthians.  For the future, God promises us that since he raised our Lord Jesus, he will also raise us from the dead.  God promises us that in the light of “the eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” our sufferings here are but a “light momentary affliction.”  There’s no comparison between our sufferings and the “eternal weight of glory.”  The “eternal weight of glory” waiting for us will make any suffering we’ve experienced here seem worth it.  God promises us a “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  And all of that has been won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “…all the promises of God find their Yes in him,” in Christ.

The second thing about God that gives Job hope is his promise for the present.  Job is convinced of his innocence.  He knows he’d been living like a believer.  That doesn’t mean he was sinless.  But it does mean he was trusting in God’s promises and responding to God’s promises with a godly life.  He’d never abandoned God, he hadn’t cursed God.  He wasn’t living like a rebel against him, but trying to live in a holy way.  Job took God seriously in his life, in all his life.  He wasn’t like those who compartmentalize their lives and keep God out of certain parts.  Job wasn’t like those who let God have the religious compartment, but keep him out of, say, the entertainment or recreation compartments.  Let God have Sunday morning, but Friday evening is off limits to him.  No, instead, like Proverbs says, Job acknowledged God in all his ways.

Therefore Job believed he could confidently say, “Yet I will argue my ways to his face.”  That’s a bold statement, no doubt.  But if Job’s ways were the ways of a believer, if Job’s ways were the ways of someone who acknowledges God, then generally speaking there’d be some warrant for that kind of confidence.  There’d also be warrant for the hope that God will listen.  If Job were to make his case before God, God would hear him out.  Job’s hope, his trustful expectation, is that God is a listening God.  He listens now, he listens in the present. 

While all that is true, there is one glaring problem with Job’s position here.  It’s not a little problem.  The problem is with the word “argue.”  Job wants to argue with God.  This word in the Hebrew is a courtroom word.  Someone is making a case in the courtroom against someone.  In this case, Job is contending with God, trying to show that God is in the wrong for the way he’s treating him.  Job has been upright and he’s being treated like he’s wicked.  God is mistreating him and Job is going to prove it.  That word “argue” has to be seen as an arrogant word.  If Job had simply said, “I will bring my circumstances before his face, I will make my plea to him to help me understand,” if he’d said that, it would’ve been fine.  But he wants to argue.    

This is another example of irony in the book of Job.  Job says he’s going to argue his ways, his uprightness before God.  But by arguing his ways, by taking this quarrelsome approach towards God, he actually demonstrates that he isn’t quite as upright as he thinks he is.  Job is taking the role of a prosecutor and this isn’t consistent with his claim to be a godly man.  A believer ought never to think that he can arrogantly argue against God and second-guess his ways.   

This is especially true in our day, after the coming of our Lord Jesus.  Compare our Saviour’s approach to suffering to that of Job.  Jesus perfectly fulfilled the first part of Job 13:15.  Even as he was on the cross facing not just the possibility of death, but its certainty, our Saviour continued to hope in God.  He continued praying to God even as he was dying.  But what about the second part of Job 13:15?  On the cross, do we see an argumentative Jesus?  If anyone had a right to argue his own uprightness and righteousness, it was Jesus.  But he turned his back on that right in order to take our sins upon his shoulders.  He bore all our sins on the cross.  Loved ones, that includes any and every time we’ve been argumentative with God about his ways in our lives.  As long as we place our hope in Christ, those sins are completely covered in the sight of God.

So, if we’re united to Christ with his Holy Spirit, if we’re in Christ, that brings this text into our lives in a sharper, more defined way.  In Christ, we have God’s promises for the future, eternal life and the hope of the resurrection.  In Christ, we can be confident our Father listens to his children in the here and now.  But if we’re in Christ, we’d also forsake Job’s argumentative stance in the second part of verse 15.  If we’re in Christ, we’d see Job’s stance as sinful and wrong.  We can’t stand like prosecutors against God.  That’s arrogant.  However, God does invite us to pray to him.  We can humbly bring him our circumstances, along with our questions and struggles.  Think again of Christ on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Asking “why” is not sinful.  But asserting or implying that you’re right and God is wrong is sinful.

God tells us to call upon him.  He wants his children to pray to him, also when they’re facing an uncertain future.  And God gives his promise that he will listen.  Believing in Christ we can have that sure hope.  God is going to listen to us when we bring our cares before him.  Our Father’s ear is inclined towards us.  Because we have Christ as our Saviour, his heart is warm towards us.  So, brothers and sisters, no matter what the future holds, you can indeed have hope.

Loved ones, you can have hope despite the worst-case diagnosis from the doctor, or whatever other difficult thing may come your way.  God blesses us through Christ with that hope.  He puts that hope in us with his Holy Spirit and strengthens that hope with his Word.  With that hope in our hearts we can still say that God is always good, merciful and loving.  That’s how you put God’s Word into practice, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…”  AMEN.


Almighty God and Heavenly Father,

We worship you as the sovereign and all-wise God.  Our lives are in your wise hands.  We don’t know the future.  We don’t know your plans for us in detail.  But we know you.  We know that you are good and loving and kind.  You are faithful and caring.  We know what you promise us in your Word.  In Christ you promise us the hope of eternal life and the resurrection from the dead.  Thank you for that comforting promise.  In Christ you also promise to be our God and to hear us when we cry to you with our doubts and struggles.  Thank you for that promise too.  Please work with your Holy Spirit in each of our hearts so that we do have hope, even when we’re faced with uncertainties and questions in our lives.  Help us to look to Jesus Christ our Saviour and to live in him with hope and expectation.  Please work in us a deeper humility and a greater willingness to submit to you in all things.  We want to live for your praise and glory, Father.  Help us with your Holy Spirit to do that.  Help us with your Holy Spirit to be able to echo the words of Job, that even if your plan involves our death, we would still hope in you.

* 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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