May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are always reminding ourselves that we worship a God of Love, a God who took away our sins from us and shouldered them Himself. That is true as long as we believe and take responsibility for what we do wrong, confess our mistakes and genuinely try to do better. It’s called Redemption and it leads to Salvation, our Salvation, where we will live in peace and love with God, each other and all Creation. It’s a promise of Paradise and we must give God thanks for that Promise all the day long, every day.
The Book of Job reminds us that in addition to being a God of Love, God is a God of power, infinite power. None of us has experienced the power of a nuclear blast, thank God, although we have seen representations of them and the devastation that they cause on various screens. Their power seems limitless but it is nothing compared to the power of God who caused the Big Bang, Created everything and then endowed Creation with laws that hold the universe and us together, and to make sure it all lasts God is a God of infinite Being so there are no limits.
Job is reminded that he, therefore we, are pretty darned cheeky to question God’s activity. In a time when God was believed to cause both Good and Bad things to happen, Job and his friends questioned why so many bad things had happened to Job, and therefore us. Job starts off in the story as being blessed in every way with wealth, family, honour, those were the marks of a righteous person in his time; that same thinking lasted for thousands of years even to our time when we doffed our hats to ‘the lord of the manor’ in whatever form the lord of the manor took. You remember last week the disciples couldn’t believe Jesus when He said that the rich will have a hard time getting into Heaven that was because they believed that the rich, the blessed of God, would be the first-round draft picks to go to Heaven. But as usual Jesus turned things around. Although the rich were expected by the ordinary folk to be a shoe-in for Heaven Jesus said they would have a difficult time not because they were rich per se but because they were likely to be obsessed with being rich. Obsession is always a problem. Job’s friends protested that he must have done something real bad to have lost God’s favour and like dogs with a bone they wouldn’t let it go. Job on the other hand insisted that he was a righteous man, doing all the right things. They were all wrong. Another friend stepped in, a man called Elihu, and he says that God does not ‘do wicked’ and that it is impossible to understand God’s will. Furthermore Elihu says we should accept that struggle has the purpose of making us stronger. Accept therefore the struggle.
But Job’s big failing is that he is so wrapped up in himself and cannot see his shortcomings or his own errors, and instead attributes his change of fortune to God (Job 19:21). His redeeming feature is that he still has faith in God in spite of being disappointed in what he sees as God’s action. What Elihu tries to say is that God is so infinite in power, knowledge and presence that it is impossible for anyone to understand or judge God. God affirms that truth by telling Elihu to shut-up; God can state His own case, and in doing so recites just some of the things that prove His awesome power. See also today’s Psalm.
Job is not any easy Book by any means but one lesson to draw from it is not to question God. A second lesson is not to be puffed up with our own self-righteousness for every good we do, we can match with ten evils of our own making. It’s those actions we need to look at not the bad things that happen that we attribute to God; God is innocent. Why would God want to harm His own Creation ? He is not like a child who bashes a toy to pieces, no, He is like the parents who cradle their baby in their arms comforting the beloved infant when bad things happen.
God did that by becoming one of us.
We can’t engineer God. James and John try. Their request to Jesus is more like an instruction to do something for them. Not “Thy will be done” but “My will be done”. If you find yourself praying like that, shut it down, and think about your impudence. God has supernatural wisdom, we don’t, no matter who prays for it. Pray therefore for the things Jesus taught us; praise God’s holiness, that all people will live the way He wants us to live, recognise our dependence on Creation and ask that we continue to have enough, forgive our errors to the same degree that we forgive others, galvanise our appetites against doing wrong, and ask God to grant all these things because we know they are well within His power. He is a God of power.
If we have complete trust in God, as Jesus does, then we can rely on God’s power to bring us through life. Jesus suffered, we will suffer but suffering will not define us. Life is a struggle, we cannot get through it alone, we need God, we need God working in others to help us through. As we are all in the same boat the logical conclusion is that as we need friends they need us just as much. No one is an island of strength overcoming every challenge. Supermen and superwomen we are not. So when Jesus says that the greatest of us must be the servant of all He is not saying we have to grovel and do the bidding of others but to help them in their time of need, it’s the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). Job’s friends tried, their help was a bit off the mark but they tried, and as always when we get it wrong God steps in as He did with Job. So do your genuine best and leave the rest to our loving all-powerful God. Amen.