Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

Questions and Creation

July 12, 2020
Martin Baker

12 July 2020                                Questions and Creation   Martin Baker          

Job 31:35-37; 38:1-11, 25-27

31:35 O that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) O, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me like a crown;

37 I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him.

38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

2 "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?

8 Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? —

9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band,

10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors,

11 and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?"

25 Who has cut a channel for the torrents of rain, and a way for the thunderbolt,

26 to bring rain on a land where no one lives, on the desert, which is empty of human life,

27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground put forth grass?

Last Sunday I was speaking at the service down at Kawakawa Bay. I usually do that on the first Sunday of each month. And Robyn was speaking about Job’s wife here.

We’ve been having this series on the book of job.

Anyway, the service finished a bit early there and we dropped by at the Clevedon markets at about midday.   The place was just buzzing. There were no car parks; there were queues at the food stalls. When I see a queue at a food stall I sort of do that Soviet Union- cold -war -eastern bloc thing and think maybe I should join the queue as well, just in case I miss out on whatever is those people are queuing for.

And just on the way there  we had been listening to the news about parts of Victoria being closed again, the infections in the USA and here we were wondering around the market, where everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time, and you couldn’t help but think about the contrasting realties that are going on around us at the moment.

I guess we experience those kinds of contrasts in different ways over time. Something sad or bad has happened and we are feeling pretty knocked about it and bruised and yet next door they are having a party to celebrate something good and happy.

The Book of Job, which we have been reading through over these weeks, has this big dose of reality about it.  We go so suddenly from a place of wealth and richness and abundance to a place of loss and devastation.

The Book of Job starts off by telling us that

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.

And then a bit later on we hear this conversation between Satan and God.

And as the story progresses we hear that God gives Satan the permission to test Job.

Satan has said basically that Job is not as good as you think. Take all this away from him and he will curse you.

So that’s how the book of Job starts off.

And then as we progress we hear about how Job faces these terrible losses in his life. His livelihood, members of his family. His health.

By the time we get to chapter 3 Job is in a bad way.

3:1 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.

2 Job said:

3 "Let the day perish in which I was born, and the night that said, "A boy is conceived.

As we listen to Job, he gathers up for all of us that great human question about what is life worth at the times when we endure most pain.

Job is asking on behalf of us all, how do we still find value and significance and faith when life itself hardly seems to be worth living?

So we started off with the formula that God blesses those who are good. And we find that while that might be true sometimes, bad things still happen to good people for no particular reason.

If bad things happen does that mean God is punishing us?

And we find the answer to that question is, no. Against the formulas around doing good and being blessed by God, or doing bad things, what have I done to deserve this type questions, none of these formulas hold up.

Sometimes good people suffer, sometimes people who do bad things prosper.

We discover with Job that our relationship with God is not based around these formulas. It’s something more difficult to name. But it is a lot to do with trust and hope.

In the midst of all we face, can we hold onto the light that comes into the darkness even when we are still aware of the darkness?

As we read on, out of nowhere a few chapters later on, Job affirms this belief that he will be redeemed.

And we are confronted with this stark reality in our own faith. That question that comes up for us all at times. Can we look at the tough stark hard moments and say that there is still reason for hope?

We look at the cross and we see a man hanging there betrayed by his friends, executed by the Romans as a troublemaker. And as we behold that terrible moment of suffering we also affirm that God raised Jesus and that ultimately this crucifixion did not end in death but in resurrection. In Glory.

So the stark question how do you see things? How do you look upon things?  And we see hope in this empty cross.  

And then we come to our reading today

And it seems here that Job has had enough.

31:35 O that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!) O, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

36 Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me like a crown;

37 I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him.

And so we have to imagine something of a court trial. Where Job is addressing God and saying give me an opportunity and I will prove that I am a good person. That I don’t deserve all the terrible things that have happened.

I would give him an account of all my steps.

And then, much to everyone’s surprise God answers Job.

And the tables are turned. Job wants answers from God but God wants answers from Job

38:1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

2 "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?

And it is a long and quite beautiful speech.

And takes Job on this tour of creation.

The stars the universe the oceans. All God’s creation.

And though this speech doesn’t answer Jobs basis question of why has all this happened to me, a good man.

It does tell us some remarkable things.

First – the obvious thing. God answers. There is nothing left for Job and he calls out to God.

And the second thing, this speech from God does is that it reframes Job’s suffering.

I don’t know about you but at the times I have been unwell, or broken a bone or something bad happens; my world can become much diminished, very narrow very personally focused.

And though it is not an easy lesson for us, there are no easy lessons in the Book of Job, even in the midst of our personal sufferings, there is still beauty and magnificence and wonder about us.  

So God’s words turn Job from looking at him to beyond - to the beauty that still exists in creation.

And as we read the speech there is something else.

It seems that God takes delight in exactly those creatures and places over which humanity has no control. The Sea, the wild animals, Leviathan -- these all have a value that has nothing to do with their usefulness for humanity.

We want to domesticate God. God present in all lives, in all places.

A God of the wild things and wild places.

So as we conclude the Book of Job there is an invitation.

There is time for sadness, for grief, for lament.  But there is an en,d there is a time to return, in all you’re suffering and loss, there is a time to return.   Return Job to this world in which terrible things happen, but where there is also overwhelming beauty and wonder and awe.

We discover that God is not a genie in a bottle to do what we want.

And that question that returns us to the start of Job

Can you love what you cannot control?

We see in Jesus the God of creation becoming the God of redemption.

We see in the cross both the symbols of despair and loss and also we see the promise of resurrection.

That God names us as children, and calls us in the midst of all we face to believe that light and life is ultimately and always triumphant over death and darkness.

AMEN