Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

A testing time

May 7, 2020
Martin Baker

Sunday 7 June 2020                                         A Testing Time Martin Baker

Job 1:1-22

1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters.

3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.

4 His sons used to go and hold feasts in one another's houses in turn; and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

5 And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts." This is what Job always did.

6 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

7 The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the Lord, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it."

8 The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil."

9 Then Satan answered the Lord, "Does Job fear God for nothing?

10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."

12 The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!" So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

13 One day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the eldest brother's house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were ploughing and the donkeys were feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans fell on them and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you."

16 While he was still speaking, another came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you."

17 While he was still speaking, another came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three columns, made a raid on the camels and carried them off, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you."

18 While he was still speaking, another came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house,

19 and suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you."

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped.

21 He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.

I wrote in one of my letters about going down to the Manurewa shops on the day that we dropped to the level that allowed you to go and get your hair cut again.

And as I mentioned many shop in Manurewa seem to be barber shops.

And one of the barber shops I walked passed, at about 7.30 in the morning, had about 8 men crammed into the little shop.

The barber had no mask on there was no kind of distancing.  Most of the men were clearly at work or on their way to work as they were still wearing their hi viz jackets. As they, and we all know, blokes, real blokes do not catch any viruses.

When was that, a couple of weeks ago or so?

How many of you when you saw that sight would have rung the number and dobbed those people in?

According to the Prime minister we aren’t a nation of dobbers and that the thousands who have rung to complain about others and other businesses -  were all motivated by a concern for our community wellbeing.

I’m not sure. Do you think there are people around who simply gain a certain pleasure by telling on others?

The reason I am talking this morning about dobbing someone in, or telling on them, is because that comes close to the defining of Satan in the Old Testament.

The word Satan in Hebrew was not an evil angel but was the word for adversary or accuser.

In Hebrew it always has the definite article ‘the’. So it is written the Satan.  Just like in English we would almost never use someone’s name with the word the in front of it.  We do not say the Bruce or the Susan or the Jacinta.

But we do say the Prime Minister or the doctor or the truck driver.  Putting the in front of it tells us that we are talking about a function and not a person.

So this morning we need to imagine God surrounded by this group of angels or heavenly beings, one of whom has the function of being the Satan. The accuser, the adversary. The one who is the dobber in of people.

6 One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

7 The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the Lord, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it."

So if we had the barber shop scenario back 2500 years or around when the book of Job might have been written, and someone said look God at what is happening there, we could say that was the work of the Satan.   Satan’s work going to and fro upon the earth and walking up and down on it.

I don’t want to make light of this understanding of the Satan.

My kids accuse me of being grumpy or out of date or being passive aggressive, whatever that is. And I don’t accuse them of being Satan.

Accusing can be misused. One of the Ten Commandments is thou shall not bear false witness.

But also it can be a very powerful thing for good. To call out wrong doing and injustice. Racism violence. Hypocrisy.

In the Book of Job,  the Satan has been busy roaming around the place accusing.

8 The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil."

And remember, before this we have already been introduced to Job.

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

So,

8 The Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil."

9 Then Satan answered the Lord, "Does Job fear God for nothing?

So Satan is introducing the question, is he really as good as you make him out to be?

And then Satan goes on to suggest that God has actually been treating Job in a very favour able way:

10 Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

It’s that formula thing here. Job has been good and God has looked after him.

You see in Satan’s questions he is implying that Job serves God because God has blessed him. Or to wins favour with God.  He is not necessarily a good person, he just knows which side his bread is buttered on we might say.   It’s a transaction.  I worship God and God gives me the flash car, nice house and happy family.

Satan says

11 But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face."

12 The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!" So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

And in the next few verses we read.

That Job first of all starts losing his camels, his servants, his farm animals and finally a house collapses and he loses his family.

I’ve talked often about boating mistakes I have made. Like not putting the bungs in and seeing the little boat slowly fill with water. First of all I go through a state of denial.  And you have that sense of your own foolishness but also that kind of loathing that comes from realising that you have made the mistake before and why didn’t you remember to put the bungs in?

And even though those feelings can be very powerful; they are absolutely no help at all in dealing with the present emergency.  That is, how do we stop from sinking?

Or I  look back and get angry and blame and feel annoyed or righteous I can say it’s not my fault I asked my son, daughter, wife, friend to put in those bungs in and they didn’t. It’s their fault.

And we can go through all that but now the water is up to our knees.

But far more serious things happen in our lives.  As we hear about that today. And we with Job can ask all the questions, what did I do to deserve this? Or if only I had done this or not done this or noticed this or acted in a different way. Whose fault is this?

And sometimes those feelings and questions can overwhelm everything that ever happens for us.  A life of blaming.

Satan is testing Job to find out what he is going to do now.

Obviously today we hear that bad things happen to really good people.

And in Job we confront a world in which we hold faith in God on one hand and a realisation that things happen that are,  arbitrary, chaotic, do not conform to our equations or own sense of order or fairness or purpose. Bad things do not happen in threes. They happen in ones. And sometimes like we discover in Job, they happen one after another.

The servants return and tell Job all the terrible things that have happened.

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, shaved his head, and fell on the ground and worshiped.

21 He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.

When we look at Job’s response to these terrible things it seems that Job even in the midst of the worst things could find a time for worship.  Faith in the God in whose image we were created and who brings new creation even in the midst of chaos.

And finally not giving up. 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.

Every time people through our scriptures are facing difficulty we hear words like this.

“6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Our series over the next few weeks continues as we hear what happens and how Job as a good and faithful man, responds.

If the accuser, the adversary visits us what would be said?  And how would we react?

We look back and affirm that In Christ forgiveness, change, repentance, and new life are all real through God’s grace.

But let’s stay with Job. And ask the questions, wrestle with our faith, even without all the answers know that even perhaps when we are tempted to give up, God never gives up on us

AMEN