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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Should we question the almighty God's wise purposes?
Text:Job 42:1-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-12-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 93

Hymn 63:1,4 (after the law)

Psalm 104:1-3

Hymn 65

Psalm 30:1,2,5

Scripture readings: Job 38:1-27, Job 41:1-11

Text:  Job 42:1-6 (but read the whole of chapter 42)

* 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 for a moment a life-and-death situation.  Let’s say you’re an infantryman in the army.  You’re just a private, straight out of basic training.  But now you’re in combat.  You’ve been ambushed and the enemy has managed to encircle you.  Your unit is surrounded by a stronger force and reinforcements are a couple of hours away.  Artillery and air support aren’t available either.  It would be a terrifying situation to be in. 

But let’s say your unit had an experienced officer in command.  He’s been in the army for a lot longer than you have.  He’s been in combat before – he’s been in this exact situation and he knows what to do and what not to do.  Based on his knowledge and prior experience, he gives a set of orders to the unit.  However, there’s no time to explain the orders to anyone.  You’re under fire.  To you, just a private straight out of basic training, the orders make no sense.  What the officer is telling you to do doesn’t add up.  It sounds like he’s going to wipe out the whole unit.  What do you do?  Do you march up to the officer and question his orders while your unit is taking fire?  Or do you trust that he has more wisdom and experience than you do?  Do you trust that his orders are going to get you to the other side? 

Job wasn’t in the army, but he’d certainly been taking fire.  Satan had attacked him.  Satan had taken away all his wealth, all his children, all his health.  Then his friends came.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?  They too attacked him, accusing him of living in sin.  Job experienced friendly fire with accusations that his suffering was directly related to some secret sin in his life.

Job had a Commander.  He was a believer and he acknowledged God in his life.  Yet in his suffering he questioned his Commander and how he was ordering things.  In chapter 31, for example, Job virtually demanded that God give him an answer.  He says in 31:35, “Let the Almighty answer me!  Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary.”  Job wanted an audience with his Commander, the one who seems to have it in for him.  Well, at the end of the book he got what he wanted, but it didn’t turn out the way he thought it would.  He didn’t get the answers he wanted, but he got the answers he needed.  That’s what God will do for all of us too.  So we’re going to see this morning how the Holy Spirit answers us with what we need when we ask:                         

Should we question the almighty God’s wise purposes?

We’ll consider:

  1. How God humbles those who do
  2. How a believer repents after he does

After 34 chapters of back and forth between Job and his friends, God finally appears and speaks to Job.  We’re told that God spoke directly to Job “out of the whirlwind.”  That’s important.  It means that God’s answer to Job came in a way that displayed his might and grandeur.  It’s like how God spoke from Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:  “…Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.”  God was making an impression on his people, an impression of his majesty.  The same is happening here with Job. 

Then what follows in chapter 38 and following is verse after verse of God’s answer to Job.  But what’s remarkable is that God’s answer is actually a whole series of questions directed back at Job.  Depending on which translation you’re using, there are anywhere from 57 to 77 questions.  They’re all rhetorical questions – questions for effect, questions where the answer is obvious.  God uses other rhetorical devices with Job too, including sarcasm.  God doesn’t hold back with his response to Job’s questions.

In chapter 40, Job gets a word in.  Already at this point, he acknowledges that he’s in the wrong.  He says in 40:4, “…I lay my hand on my mouth.”  Which is his way of saying, “I’m just going to shut up now.  You’ve made your point.  You’re right.”  But God doesn’t stop.  The rest of chapter 40 and 41 see God continuing to relentlessly lob these rhetorical questions at Job.

Some of what God said comes back in Job’s final response in our text.  Job quotes God from back in chapter 38:2-3.  “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”  That’s what Job was doing.  Job was “hiding counsel without knowledge.”  He was hiding or obscuring God’s counsel or wisdom because he had no knowledge of it.  This is a poetic way of saying Job was questioning God’s wisdom, his purposes, his plan.

Then in verse 4 of chapter 42, Job quotes God again:  “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.”  God put Job in his place.  Job’s place was to listen to God speaking.  After he heard all of God’s questions, he’d have the opportunity to answer – and that’s what he’s doing here in our text.

But what is God doing?  God is humbling Job.  Job was a believer and sometimes he said things which were consistent with his belief in God.  You could think of those famous words in chapter 19:25-27, “I know that my Redeemer lives…”  But there were other times in his suffering when he responded inappropriately.  There were times when he questioned the almighty God’s wise purposes.  Instead of humbly submitting to God, he presumed to put God’s wisdom into question.  Does God really know what he’s doing?  To use the military illustration, does the Commander really have a good plan for those under him?  When you ask the question in that way, you’ve already gone too far.  You’ve transgressed.  And God is bringing Job to the realization of that.

But what we need to see here is that this isn’t a bad thing.  If you were in Job’s sandals, you might be tempted to have a negative view of how God is reacting to your questions.  However, that would be foolish.  Scripture says in Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”  When God humbles you and tells you that you’ve gone too far with your questions, you could be tempted to despise what he’s doing.  You could get tired of it.  But the Holy Spirit says in Proverbs that this would be unwise.  You have to remember that when God does this, it’s out of love. 

God loved Job.  Because of his love for Job, God reproved him, put him in his place.  God humbled Job because he loved him.  God wasn’t punishing Job.  He wasn’t out to get him.  Instead, God was speaking for Job’s benefit, for his good.  How did that work?  Let’s look closer at that for a moment.

All these rhetorical questions God asks Job are meant to humble him.  God is reminding Job of who is who and who does what.  God is the Creator.  He is the Creator of powerful creatures like behemoth and leviathan – probably ancient terms for the hippopotamus and crocodile.  Those creatures are powerful, but their Creator is even more so.  This almighty Creator also upholds his creation.  God is the one who has stored up the snow, he’s fathered the rain, begotten the dew, and given birth to the frost.  He has the stars in his control, the constellations in his hands.  God governs his whole creation with power and wisdom.

It was good for God to remind Job of these truths.  Job needed to be reminded that God was God and he was not.  If we go back to the introduction, a private straight out of basic training has nothing compared to a captain or a major with 20 years of experience.  Now amplify that out to infinity.  People like Job, people like you and me, we have nothing compared to God who has infinite wisdom, infinite power.  It’s good when we recognize this, because it grounds us.  It put us into the world of reality.  The reality is that we’re dependent on God.  We’re dependent on his power and on his wisdom.  When we realize that, we can have acceptance and peace with whatever he brings our way. 

The Psalmist found that peace in his heart.  He said in Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”  He was afflicted, but it brought him closer to God and his Word.  Hezekiah found that peace in his heart.  King Hezekiah said to God in Isaiah 38:17, “Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness, but in love you have delivered my life…”  Hezekiah’s sickness was instrumental in helping him grow as a believer.  When God humbles us, he does it in his love so that we grow in our faith, grow in trusting him, grow in depending upon him. 

And all of this is connected to our relationship to Christ.  When Jesus was humbled, when he suffered, he didn’t doubt or question God’s wise purposes.  Instead, he trusted, he submitted.  He knew God was wise and good in all his plans.  You can hear his attitude of faith in the Garden of Gethesemane in Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  Jesus trusted God’s wise plan in his suffering.  Hebrews 5 draws on that.  It says in Hebrews 5:8-9 that although Jesus was a son, “he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him…”  As we look to Jesus, we find our salvation, our rescue from sin, but we also find the pattern for getting through suffering.  Our Master Jesus shows us, his disciples, how we can trust God through our tears, submit to him in our pain, and depend on him in the depths.  In Christ you can.

But it can happen that we do question the almighty God’s wise purposes.  You can be moving along quite nicely in life, not thinking too deeply about spiritual things.  Then suddenly a tragedy hits, a crisis comes, and then you’re thinking about the big questions.  Nobody questions God when things are going well.  But when his plan involves things like abuse, cancer, betrayal, the loss of a child, the suicide of a loved one – that’s when our brains start churning out these thoughts:  is God really in control?  If he is in control, is he really wise and really good?  How can this tragic event in my life be part of his wise ordaining of all things?

Job asked those kinds of questions.  In his terrible suffering, he came to a place where he began to question the almighty God’s wise purposes.  If that would happen with Job, we shouldn’t be surprised if it would happen to any of us either.  I’ve had it happen with me and maybe some of you have experienced it too. 

But just because something is common, that doesn’t mean it’s right.  Look at Job here in our text.  According to verse 6, Job repented.  Look at verse 6 and you’ll see a footnote behind the word “repent.”  The ESV says the Hebrew can also be translated, “and am comforted.”  Technically this is true, but when that word is used with “dust and ashes,” it means “repent.”  That’s how most major Bible translations take it.  Job repented.  That means he had a change of mind about what he’d been saying.  Whereas before he thought he was justified for throwing his questions at God, now he recognizes how it was wrong and inappropriate.  When you repent, you recognize your wrong and you turn away from it.  You turn to the right way that God sets before us. 

Job turned to the right way in verse 2.  He acknowledged God’s power.  God has the power to do all things.  That’s referring to God’s omnipotence.  If someone is omnipotent, they can do all things.  But wait a moment, someone might say, “Can God make a square circle?”  Or:  “Can God make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?”  Or:  “Can God sin?”  When Job said that God can do all things, and when Scripture elsewhere says the same thing, there’s something else about God that needs to be remembered.  He’s never going to do something against his nature.  He’s never going to engage in self-contradiction.  So, when we say God has the power to do all things, we mean he has the power to do all things which fit with his nature.  Since a square circle is a contradiction and God doesn’t deal in contradictions, the question isn’t even appropriate.  Since God’s own nature defines what goodness is, God can never sin.  God has the power to do all things which fit with his nature.  Therefore, God is not weak and circumstances are not out of his control.  He is absolutely sovereign.  Job acknowledged that. 

Then Job also turned to the right way by acknowledging that no purpose of God’s can be thwarted.  When God makes a plan, it’s going to happen.  It’s going to happen exactly the way he determined it.  So in Job’s life, God’s purposes weren’t thwarted either.  Because God is infinitely powerful, nobody can stand in the way of his plans.

You can also see Job’s repentance with his turning from the wrong ways.  Look with me at verse 3.  In response to God’s question from chapter 38, Job acknowledges he was wrong.  He was talking rashly about things beyond him.  Job was spouting off about things beyond his comprehension, things too wonderful for him.  He was doubting God’s wisdom in his heart and that led to these words he was now regretting.  He’s saying, “I should never have said those things.  That was wrong and I turn away from it.”  That’s repentance. 

Job was brought to this repentance by his experience with God speaking to him from out of the whirlwind.  Verse 5 tells us that prior to this, Job had heard of God.  He knew about God because of some form of revelation that came in words to be heard.  God revealed himself, perhaps already in some form of writing.  But now Job has had this dramatic and much more intense encounter with God where he was barraged with all these questions.  That’s brought Job to his senses.  He now “sees” God, as it were.  That doesn’t mean he literally saw God with his eyes.  But compared to how he knew God previously, this was like seeing him.  It’s a more intense experience of who God is.

Because of it, Job despises himself and repents.  Why does he despise himself?  Because he recognizes that his heart and his words weren’t always upright in how he responded to his suffering.  In particular, when he was questioning the almighty God and his wise purposes, he went too far.  Therefore God brought him to see that he needed to repent, to turn away from his sin and turn back to God and his ways.

And God accepted Job’s repentance.  God forgave him.  Job’s transgression didn’t stand as an obstacle in his relationship with God.  That’s because of God’s grace, a grace which is ultimately fulfilled with the coming of our Lord Jesus.  Ultimately Job’s relationship with God depended on God’s grace in the Christ to come.  Today every believer’s relationship with God depends on his grace in the Christ who has come.  All of us are called to repent from our sins and place our trust in Christ for the forgiveness of all our sins. 

Applying this passage to our lives, perhaps you need to repent of questioning God’s wise purposes in your life.  God’s Word calls you to turn away from your own wisdom, the way you think things should be done.  Instead, he calls us to trust his wisdom.  We’re not wiser than he is, not anywhere close.  Someone once said, “I sometimes think that if I were God, I would do things much differently.  But then I also remember that God is infinitely wise, and so if I were God I would be doing things exactly the same way.”  That’s true.  If you had the infinite wisdom that God does, you would organize things exactly the way he has. 

God has a wise and perfect plan.  It doesn’t always make sense to us.  But that’s because we’re just weak creatures and he’s the powerful Creator.  As creatures, we have a limited perspective.  We have a limited capacity to see and understand.  We’re also limited to what God chooses to reveal to us. 

A couple of years ago I was on the island of Sabu in Indonesia.  I went to this little shop where they weave these tapestries called ikat.  The lady was working on a new one on her weaving loom.  On the one side of it, you could see that it was being turned into something beautiful.  But on the other side, this tapestry looked like just a messy tangle of threads.  That’s what our lives can be like.  From God’s perspective, he’s making something beautiful and good.  From our perspective, it looks messy and tangled.  Repentance means that we distrust our perspective and instead take the word of the Weaver.  He tells us that he’s wise and knows what he’s doing.

And again, the greatest illustration of this truth is the cross.  In our passage, we see God’s victory over Satan.  Satan worked so hard to get Job to turn his back on God.  While Job did sin with his questions, he never forsook God.  Even though he did sin, Job repented.  He was completely reconciled to God.  So this was an utter defeat for Satan.  And it foreshadows the ultimate defeat of Satan at the cross.  Satan thought he had defeated God by having Jesus hang on that accursed cross.  Evil men thought they’d won the day by having Jesus hang on that accursed cross.  But little did any of them realize that God was wiser.  Little did they realize that God was more powerful.  In his wisdom and power, God’s purposes came to pass.  Jesus endured hell in our place and paid for all our sins.  He defeated evil, he defeated Satan, he smashed the skull of the serpent.  God took the greatest evil the world has ever seen and he wisely turned it for good, for our good.  Unlike Job, Jesus was completely innocent.  He didn’t deserve to suffer at all.  But God took his suffering and worked it out so that it became something infinitely valuable.

Loved ones, you may be tempted to question the almighty God’s wise purposes.  Maybe not right now, but maybe in the future.  Something tragic could come your way.  If it does, remember Job.  Remember how he struggled, but also how he had to repent for having spoken too rashly.  Remember Job.  But even more importantly: remember Jesus.  Remember the cross.  At the cross, we see the forgiveness of all our doubts and questions, but we also see the answer.  The answer is:  God is wise and he knows what he’s doing, so trust him.  Your Father loves you so much that he gave his only Son for you, now why would you think that he would forsake you? 

It all comes down to humility, doesn’t it?  We need the grace of a humble heart.  A humble heart says, “I am not God.  Not only that, but I don’t have God’s wisdom.  I don’t have God’s power.  I don’t fully understand God and I have no right to.  He doesn’t owe me anything, let alone an explanation for what’s happening.”  How do you get such a humble heart?  You get it by praying for the Holy Spirit to work it in you.  You pray that, as you look to Jesus, as you hear his voice in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit would give you the same spirit of humility and submission that your Saviour had as he suffered.  Loved ones, God is gracious and he will hear your prayers and grant this to you.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Almighty God and loving Father,

With Job we confess that you can do all things.  No purpose of yours can be thwarted.  You are powerful and you are wise.  You ordain everything in the most perfect way, a way consistent with your goodness, love, and wisdom.  Father God, please help us to be humble before you, also when we face suffering.  Please work with your Holy Spirit in our hearts and give us more humility.  Help us to look to our Saviour in faith and gives us the same spirit of humility and submission that he had in his suffering.  Please keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves.  And almighty Father, please forgive us for every time we’ve gone too far and questioned your wise purposes.  Please forgive us through Christ and what he did for us on the cross.  We look to that cross and that cross alone for our peace with you.  Help us to keep looking to that cross also for the answers we need when we’re struggling and suffering.  We pray for those may be struggling or suffering right now, that you would help them to find encouragement from the cross of our Lord Jesus.                                          




* 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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