Today’s sermon is our final on our series about Job. We consider the final chapter of Job and the transformation which takes place. You may want to read the article Preparing for Sunday: Job’s Conclusion before reading the sermon.
Text: Job 42
This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m a sucker for movies with a happy ending. The romantic comedy and the heartfelt drama all tug on my heart-strings. Often while watching a movie Kate will look over at me and ask if I’m crying. To which I will respond, “No, I’m not crying.”
I think we all like a happy ending. Our sense of justice is satisfied and we are reminded that there is goodness in the world. It is with that thought that I wonder what your thoughts are about our ending today? The Book of Job has a happy ending, we might even call it a Disney ending.
Does the ending to Job’s story satisfy your sense of justice? Does it answer the multitude of questions that have come before us? Job has lost everything, his family, his home and his health. His friends have berated him and he has felt abandoned by God. Finally God answers and then we come to the final scene which Suzanne read for us this morning.
So what do you think of the ending? Does the happy ending fit the theme of the whole book? What questions are left unresolved?
I will confess that I am not a fan of the happy ending that we receive to Job’s story. It seems far too easy to restore everything, put it in a box and tie a bow around it. Job’s story, like our stories, is messy. Life just doesn’t work this way. Life isn’t always happily ever after.
Anyone who has felt loss knows that life doesn’t always have a happy ever after. That the restoration we witness in Job’s story doesn’t really work. Anyone who has lost a child, a sibling, parent or friend knows that it doesn’t work this way. That having another child, sibling or a new friend does not erase the pain of loss. We are happy for Job, that his story ends with a happily ever after, but we don’t for a moment take that as a promise that the same thing will happen for everyone who has misfortune befall them.
Job’s restoration brings some very serious questions with it. The first question is the same one that Job has asked throughout all that he has endured, why? Why does Job get it all back? Did God feel guilty about what Satan was allowed to do? Is Job being rewarded for his faith? Do Job’s prayers of intercession for his friends provide him with a special reward?
Let’s consider some of what is going on at the end of Job’s story. It is interesting to note that Job is not restored until after he prays for his friends. The humble act of praying for another person can never be trivialized. It is a powerful act of intercession that joins us together with God. Only after Job prays is he restored and I think that is interesting. I think that tells us something about God. How God enjoys our prayer and how God would encourage us to pray for one another.
What is implicit in Job’s act of prayer for his friends is his forgiveness towards them. The bulk of the Book of Job is spent with Job’s friends telling him that he must have done something wrong. That Job forgives them for rushing to judgment is important. As Christians forgiveness is something that we are called to do. Here Job shows us the way.
One of the most puzzling parts of Job for me comes at the end. Job is speaking to God and he says the following,
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eyes sees you;
Therefore I despise myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”
I find this passage puzzling because on my first read I was trying to figure out why Job was repenting. The word repent means to turn your back on something. To make a literal 180 degree change in direction. When we repent we are confessing our sin. The ways in which we have wronged God and others.
So why is Job repenting? We know he has done nothing wrong. Job starts the story blameless and he ends the story blameless. God affirms that Job is blameless. So why is Job repenting if he has done nothing wrong?
Job’s repentance ties into the question of Job’s restoration. What is the one thing that Job does not get back? His family, all be it a new one is restored, his fortune is restore and is health is restored. Everything that was taken from him has been restored.
However, there is one thing that Job has lost which cannot be restored and it is for this which Job repents.
His simple faith
Job repents for his simple faith. For a faith which was insufficient to understanding the majesty and wisdom of God. Job goes endures his suffering, has an audience with God and is left saying ‘I’m sorry, I had no idea about the depth of your care or the vastness of your wisdom.’
Job’s faith has been transformed. He cannot go back to being the individual he once was. His journey will not allow it, his new understanding of God will not allow it. So Job does the only thing he can do and that is to ask forgiveness for the simplicity of his former thoughts.
The Book of Job deals with suffering. It deals with the question why? Why do bad things happen to good people? It deals with the dark night of the soul and the absence of God. However, the key through it all is the journey of transformation that we witness in Job.
And if you have lost someone you love. If you have suffered in your health. If you have lost your possessions through misfortune. If you have been broken, hurt and low and if you have risen up from the ash heap bloodied, bruised and scarred but with you faith intact then you know something of Job’s transformation. You know that the simple answers don’t cut it. You know that there is no answer that is sufficient. If you have risen up from the ash heap and your faith still rests with the Almighty despite what the world and everything in it is telling you then you know something of Job’s transformation.
Four weeks ago when we began our look at Job I promised you no easy answers. It may be that I have provided you with no answers, only more questions and that is okay. Job himself may get a happy ending, but he like us is also left with a whole new set of questions.
As Christians we read this story through the lens of the cross. We talk about how Jesus Christ, God with us, came and lived amongst us. How he died for our sake and rose from the grave to conquer death. We talk about all of that and we don’t even blink an eye. We talk about it as if it happened everyday. We give thanks for it in prayer and we sing about it in song.
That’s our happy ending. It is found in Jesus Christ. Now, if that sounds like an easy answer to you then consider the words of Scott Hoezee from the Calvin Centre on Preaching, “if the death of God’s Son does not strike you as at least as wildly improbable and terrifying as anything you read in the Book of Job, then it’s possible you’ve grown altogether too accustomed to that symbol of the cross. The cross washes out a great many of our own certainties, of the things we might otherwise think are true about God, about life, about sin, about what is needed to fix what’s broken in this world. If sin and evil really did require Christ Jesus to go through all that, then matters are far more complex than we would have ever thought if left to our own devices. Things in this universe were a little worse than we may have guessed.” (reference).
Friends, life’s questions do not always get answered and it is my prayer that like Job we might die old and full of days. But we know that won’t happen for all of us. So whether it is when we are old or when we are young, whether in trying circumstance or difficult ones rest in the grace of God. Hold tightly that through the mystery of divine grace things do get resolved. Amen.