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June 14 - Job 42 - "Restoration"

MPC 14th June 2009.

Derek Hanna

What would you do if you were in Job's situation? You've got a genuine grievance with God - you've been suffering even though you're innocent... You've got questions that you think deserve an answer... You're being falsely accused by your friends and made out to be something you're not... And God's answer to you is essentially - Job, there are some things you need to know... but none of the questions you've asked fall in to that category. I think that would be infuriating. Imagine God not answering all the questions that I have! Imagine God choosing for me what I needed to know and what I didn't need to know!

At the end of this book, Job has one final test. How will he respond in the face of God's answer to him? God has just told him that after all the suffering he's gone through, God is not going to explain himself, and Job is just going to have to trust Him. So will he? Can he look at all the things he's gone through, all the suffering he's experienced, all the questions he has about how and why God can allow it... And say... yes. I'll trust that you have a good reason. Let's see. Verses 1-6:

Then Job replied to the Lord: "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Now your first impression may be that Job has been battered into submission by God. As if God is some abusive father, and Job's only hope is to cower and crawl away in the hope that his acceptance will alleviate his suffering. But Job's response is as far from that as can be. Instead of fleeing from God because of his words... he finds comfort in him.

Two things to notice in what he says. First, he submits to God not because he's got the answers to all his questions... but because he realises that if God did explain to him the how and the why... there's no way Job could comprehend. If God explained to Job what had brought the world to the point that Job found it... what purpose God had in allowing Job to suffer... what role Job would play in the history of the world... Job's head would explode. He couldn't comprehend or appreciate it. Job cannot understand the how and the why. Who can understand the mind of God? Now I'm sure that's not entirely comforting for Job... but it's true. You and I are not God. And there is a vast difference between us. And so Job accepts the rebuke.

Secondly, he submits, or relents in his questioning of God because he has seen who he's questioning. Repent gives us the wrong idea here. It's not that Job is repenting of something he's done wrong. It's that he's relenting from a course of action that would have led him to accuse God of wrong-doing. It's like when I'm at the bakery and I get my lunch and then out of the corner of my eye I see the apple slice for a mere $2... And I get a glint in my eye, and I start to justify it in my head. One slice... that can't hurt. It's only $2. And it's apple. You're supposed to eat fruit aren't you? But there's lots of sugar in it as well. But surely that's balanced out by the goodness of the apple. And then I think stop. Enough. I'm not getting it. And I relent of the course of action I was heading towards. I hadn't done anything wrong up until that point. But I was edging towards a decision that would have been bad for me. It's that kind of idea when it talks about Job repenting. Or better, relenting.

He realises that he was walking down a path that would have led him to conclude that God had done wrong. But what Job has realised is that he is dealing with a God who speaks about planets and stars as if they're decorations in a room, to be arranged and played with at will. Who speaks about the earth as if it revolves around Him, and exists because of Him... because it does. And so Job realises that he couldn't possibly know that, because he understands so little of the world.

Job has finally seen God... and he finally understands who He is. And he's saying, I haven't been battered into submission... I've just realised who I'm dealing with. And I want to admit the possibility that all this suffering can exist... and I can go through all this pain... and God can have a reason. So I'll submit to Him.

And in that act of admitting that things can be pear-shaped but God can still be good... Job finds comfort. It's as if contentment, which as eluded him for so long, has been found in submitting himself to God. It's as if he is saying, "i have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it was like to have plenty. And now I know what it is like to be in need. But my comfort is this. I trust God." Job came to that conclusion hundreds of years before Paul the Apostle said something like that in the New Testament. Job has found peace with God. And it's through submission.

It may be that that grates on you - that God would ask us to submit.

Does that sound degrading? Well, before you get all het up about that, let me tell you that even Jesus Christ didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped. So if God's own son can bend his knee before God and say, "Not my will but yours be done"... Surely you and I can submit to God, and in return receive life. That's a pretty good deal. Submission to God is life and comfort.

Now Job's submission to God was genuine and it was real. And you can see that in the way he dealt with his friends. So in verse 7-9 everyone finally finds out that Job was right. And the friends were wrong. And it's remarkable the way that God phrases it. As opposed to Job, the friends "did not speak what was right about God". Now that's got to be more than just words. Because if you read Job's speeches in this book, he says some pretty confronting things. The difference between the words of the friends and Job's words is this. That the friends words would have led Job away from the God... whereas Job's words actually led him towards the God. Job's words might have been hard... but he was searching for truth. The friends already thought they had the answers... so didn't even bother to ask God whether they were right. Did they think God couldn't stand up to scrutiny? But a person who questions God and listens to what he says is a person who is truly seeking God. The friends are condemned for they spoke in a way that did not lead people towards God, but away from him.

And yet even when Job is vindicated, he's still suffering. And there's no word that God is going to restore him. But Job now holds the key to the friends suffering. God places Job in the position of having to pray for the friends. If he prays... the friends are restored. If he doesn't... they're not. Now what would you do? These people who have stood around him after he lost all he had - his wealth and his family... And who said to him... you must have done something wrong. Repent. Imagine how much that must have hurt Job. Coming from his friends. So you could imagine there'd be a temptation to drag it on a little bit. To get some sort of apology from them.

But there's no indication that Job does that at all. While still suffering, while still in pain... Job prays for the friends... and God forgives them. Job has grown. Job has changed. He's let go of his bitterness, let go of his demands as to how God needs to treat him, and the sort of life he should have... and he's content in his relationship with God.

It's remarkable, really. And only made possible because of what he's gone through. It's like he's gone through the furnace... and what's come out the other side is a man who is at peace with his God. Now it's not that Job would have voluntarily gone through that suffering... But it's clear that the effects of the suffering on his relationship with God, and his outlook on the world have been good. Perhaps, what we are seeing in Job is what Peter the Apostle spoke about in the New Testament. "You greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." Job's suffering has caused him to grow. Like the stretching and breaking of muscle fibres so they grow back stronger. Job has gone through the mill, and has come out better for it. No one likes to suffer. But what if it can be used for your good?

Let me show you the second way that I think Job has grown. Job is no longer bound by what society thinks he should value or do. His whole world has been redefined by God, through his second chance at life. Now we'll talk about his restoration in a moment, but look at how he uses his wealth and what he values when he is restored. At the start of the book of Job, we are just told that he has three daughters. And in Job's world, it was sons who were valued, and sons who inherited all. But Job has outgrown the social norms... and Job delights in each day, and every blessing that he has.

He bucks the social trends and gives his daughters beautiful names - Jemimah (turtle-dove), Kezia (a spice), Keren-Happuch (eye-shadow)... And he gives them an inheritance along with their brothers. Here is a man who values what he has, because he knows that each day is a gift from God. Here is a man who has realised that what other people think and value is inconsequential to what God values. Job has grown. Each day is a gift. Each day he has with someone he loves is a treasure. He expresses with his wealth what he values in his heart... not what the world tells him to value.

Is that you?

Do you value what God values? Is your job all consuming, and your family something you'll return to later? Do you see each day as a gift from God... or are you still under the delusion that you have life under control? Are you someone who knows God... not just knows about Him. Do you know what makes God tick? What he values? What he treasures? It's you. It's the person sitting next to you. It's your colleague at work, and your annoying neighbour. God values people. And you can see that in that he sent his Son to die so they didn't have to. God values your eternity.

Is that what your life reflects? Do you value what God values? And that's the note I want to finish this book on. As important as Job is in this book, it would be nothing without God.

A number of years ago there was a society that came to prominence called the Happy Endings Foundations, who were demanding "children's books come up with happier endings and even suggested that works with less sunny conclusions should be burnt on "bad book bonfires" held around the UK." Now it turns out that it was an April fools joke... but the newspapers didn't realise that until they'd run the stories for a few days. But there's an element of truth in what they were joking about. When society is facing hard times, we run to movies that have an uplifting ending. When there is a depression, when there is a war... we begin to write and go to movies that depict us overcoming them. We all want a Hollywood happy-ending.

And the book of Job was way ahead of its time. But there's a reason for it. Because God is a God of restoration. Verse 10 - Job was twice as prosperous as he was before. Verse 12 - Job was blessed more in the latter part of his life than the former. And he gave him back children. While God allows suffering, he loves to bless his people. He is a God who restores. And we see that at the end of Job. The last picture we see of Job is of him smiling and laughing, surrounded by friends and family and enjoying a full life. The typical ending for a biblical patriarch. He died old and full of years.

But what we need to realise is the characteristic of the God who restored Job. He hates to see his people suffer. He hates to see his children suffer. And he has promised a time when the ending that we see in Job pales into comparison to the restoration the New Testament describes for God's people. What we see in Job in part, God's people are promised in full in Jesus.

What God wants for people is that they would receive forgiveness in Jesus. And when they do that he goes a step further and adopts them into his family. And this is the promise to his family. Romans 8:17:

If we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We suffer now. But that suffering is going to pale into insignificance when God restores this world to what it should be. When he removes all the effects of a world gone wrong, he restores the rightful king of the world - Jesus Christ... and his children are caught up in that glory. Like reflected light.

God is a God who saves and restores. For eternity. And this is what that eternity will look like. Revelation 21:1-4:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Are you struggling now? Hold on. Are you wondering how you'll hold on? Look to Jesus who suffered for you so that your eternity would be free from the suffering of this world. God will restore. God always restores his people. Hold on.