Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. This is our final week learning about grace. Today we hear the ending of Job. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Job, here is a reminder. This story begins with “There once was a man named Job.” The Hebrew words could also be translated as “Once upon a time there was a man named Job.” So, we know this as the beginning of a story or a fairy tale. The book of Job is a story all about a man who was just and upright before God.
The story goes like this: God was up in heaven with the angels when the Satan came by. Wait, what? The Satan translates as The Adversary, almost like a prosecutor. Once again, we are reminded that this is a story. Satan, in Job, is the one who is skeptical that Job loves God. So when God was bragging about Job - how successful and important and how faithful he was to God - Satan said, “Of course! Job loves you!! He is healthy and wealthy and has a beautiful family. I bet if you take away everything he has he will curse you!” Amazingly, God agrees to the bet!
So Job loses everything - all his cattle, his wealth, his children and finally, his health. But Job refuses to curse God. Most of the rest of the book is taken up with speeches by Job and his so-called friends. Job’s friends tell him that God only punishes bad people. So, Job must have done something really bad for God to have destroyed his life. They give long speeches, trying to convince Job to repent of his sins. And Job gives equally long speeches proclaiming his innocence and calling on God to explain why all these things are happening to him.
Finally, in chapter 38, God answers Job. And God is not happy!
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
God’s response to Job is long, and definitely puts Job in his place.
This morning we heard Job’s response to God:
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
In the end, Job is restored to his former status and lives a long happy life. Just like a fairy tale, this book has a happy ending.
The story of Job brings us lots of questions about God and about how we react to tragedy in our own lives and the lives of others. Job’s friends jump to the conclusion that because God is just, what happens to people must be just. Job must be a sinner. There must be something he has done to deserve all this tragedy. And they repeatedly urge him to repent, and everything will be fine! But Job does not budge. He knows he has done nothing to deserve what is happening to him.
This attitude is still around today. There are folks, even some church leaders, who say when someone suffers a tragedy, “Well, God must be punishing them for a reason!” Even Job’s wife is so devastated by what has happened, she encourages Job to curse God.
We all know that bad things happen to both faithful followers of God and people who are not followers of God or don’t even know there is a God. Yet despite of all his trouble, Job refuses to turn away from God. In his weakest moments, Job does question why he is suffering, but he never blames God. Just as Job didn’t understand why all his suffering happened, we don’t know why we and our loved ones suffer. That is how the world works.
But the biggest thing we learn from the book of Job and from the Bible, as well, is: God loves us, God's grace is always with us, God never abandons us. When Job questions God, God responds, showing Job just how much of the world humans cannot even pretend to understand. We also learn from Job that it is ok to be upset with God. God does not punish us for questioning why things happen. God always responds to our questions with grace, love and compassion. Amen.