Sermon for April 10th, 2022

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Imagine that you are sitting in a nice comfortable chair, happy and content, maybe even dozing off to a nice sleep. Suddenly, God pushes you out of your nice comfortable chair, and burns it to a crisp. Naturally you are upset with God—why would he do that? Why would he take something away from you that made you so happy? And then the freight train comes barreling through, and you realize that your nice comfortable chair was sitting on the train tracks. In your comfort, you were oblivious to the real danger. That’s Job. But now Elihu turns his focus to Job’s well-meaning friends. Verses 17-18: But you are obsessed with the case of the wicked; judgment and justice seize you. Beware that wrath does not entice you into scoffing, and do not let the greatness of the ransom turn you aside. In other words, don’t let your good theology get in the way of your relationship. The picture you’re painting of God may be correct, your intentions may be good, but chill out a little. You don’t have to defend God’s honor. God can do that just fine. Now Elihu turns back to Job. Verses 19-23. Will your cry avail to keep you from distress, or will all the force of your strength? Do not long for the night, when peoples are cut off in their place. Beware! Do not turn to iniquity; because of that you have been tried by affliction. Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’? It sounds at first like Elihu is saying, “Suck it up, Job. Deal with it.” But I think he’s actually saying, be careful. Don’t let your grief drag you too far into depression, to the point where you lose your faith, or set yourself up as the righteous judge of God’s actions. Ok, so then what? What should we do when dark despair threatens to overwhelm us, when sorrows like sea-billows roll? Verses 24-25: Remember to extol his work, of which mortals have sung. All people have looked on it; everyone watches it from far away. In other words, look up, Job. Look around you. If you look for the beauty and the majesty and the simple wonders of this world—you will find them. And then remember who made it all, and give thanks to him. Hope is the antidote to despair, and gratitude is the only source of lasting peace. Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s an unanswerable question, and dwelling on it gets us nowhere. God is love, but God’s ways are ultimately mysterious to us in this life. Just because we don’t understand him doesn’t mean that we can’t love him and be loved by him. Verses 26-30: Surely God is great, and we do not know him; the number of his years is unsearchable. For he draws up the drops of water; he distills his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop upon mortals abundantly. Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion? See, he scatters his lightning around him and covers the roots of the sea. And yet despite all the mystery, God still provides for his people. Verse 31-2: For by these he governs peoples; he gives food in abundance. He covers his hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark. I think the verse about lightning striking it’s mark is poetic: God knows what he’s doing, what he’s aiming for, even when we don’t. The last verse in Elihu’s speech is about as mysterious as everything he’s saying about God. The NRSV translation puts it this way: Its crashing tells about him; he is jealous with anger against iniquity. But the NIV translation says: His thunder announces the coming storm; even the cattle make known its approach. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English translates the same verse this way: He will show his possessions to his friends, also to the evil And as many different translations as you consult, each one will translate this verse a different way. Why? Look at the footnotes in your pew bible. See those words “Meaning of Hebrew uncertain”? The Book of Job contains some of the most difficult Hebrew in the entire Bible, and if you flip through it, you’ll find that footnote “Meaning of Hebrew uncertain” on almost every single page. Even the best Hebrew scholars in the world throw up their hands in the air at some point and say, “I have no idea what this is saying. But here’s my best guess…” That’s poetic. That’s ironic. It’s a great way to end this sermon series, and I think it’s a pretty good way to approach the Bible, our faith, our friendships, and our relationship with God: With persistence, but with humility. With conviction, but with grace. Some days we have no idea what we’re doing. So we do our best, and we trust that God (who knows exactly what he’s doing) is doing his best too, on our behalf.