Summary: Comparing the audacity of Job questioning God and James and John’s request to sit on the right and left of the throne to the humility of Christ.
Audacity and Humility …. (Or Pride and Perfection)
Recently I received an email with the subject line:”Photo of a perfect man.” When I opened it, it said “Image not available.” Well, now that is funny at least to the females in the congregation, but actually we know that Jesus came to earth as the perfect God-man. He lived a sinless life and made it possible for us to become totally righteous in the sight of God by trusting in his blood shed on the cross in our place.
From the moment sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God began showing man his plan for us to get back into right relationship with him. The Old Testament law of God and the New Testament love of Christ stand together to point the way. I love to use all of the lectionary readings to see how they fit together to teach us a single lesson. So this morning we are looking at the passages from Job, Hebrews and Mark to see how pride affects an otherwise perfect man.
Most of you know the background to the story of Job (which isn’t included in the verses we read for today.) Job was such a good and righteous man that Satan asked God for special permission to cause him tremendous trouble and sorrow to see if he could get him to sin against God and turn his back on his great faith.
Job had no idea this was what was going on, he just knew that all of a sudden everything went wrong. He lost livestock and children and got terribly sick and his friends all accused him of committing some secret sins because this tragedy was coming upon him.
Job declared his innocence and refused to curse God and die. But he did finally gather up the gumption to demand some answers from God. We can’t blame him. That is what we all do….we ask, WHY GOD? Or WHY ME? That is when Job fell victim to the sin of pride. He set himself up as perfect enough to judge God as being wrong to treat him this way! He actually had the audacity to call God to account for his actions. (We have a warning in the New Testament about this in Romans 9:20 which reads, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ’Why did you make me like this?’ ") I think this is the first time I have ever noticed that Job’s sin was in being proud of his humility!
Then God answered Job out of the storm. I once heard a sermon titled, “The thick darkness where God is.” God is light and in him is no darkness at all, but he often comes to us in our dark night of the soul. This is a different picture than we have of him as the gentle and good shepherd. God is not out to scare Job, but just make him contrite. In verse 3 when the text says, “Brace yourself like a man.” God is saying, “Ok, Job, let’s wrestle this one out. (I’m more than your match, strike me and see where you land!”) Then God asks Job 60 different questions, all of which are meant to show Job the nature of the God who created nature.
“If you know so much, Job, try making a whale.” The nature of God is that he is powerfully present and sovereign over the world he has created. You see, Job, you are not self-sufficient but I am all-sufficient. Things are really beyond your control but they are never beyond mine.
God doesn’t tell Job, or us, why bad things happen to good people, but we are led to understand that the creator and sustainer of the universe is able to sustain us through everything. It is not meant to humiliate Job but rather to humble him. Job insisted on his own righteousness and questioned God’s justice. He set himself up as God’s judge, and that is when he sinned in exactly the same way that Adam and Eve did. They doubted the goodness of God and God’s wisdom and set themselves up as equals in judgment of a situation. From that moment on, sin has been the reason for the death and destruction and unfairness in this world and God has been the one cleaning up the mess!
In Job 37:23 we read, “The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.” I think it is interesting to notice that while Job didn’t trust God, God trusted Job! We get the background peek into Job’s problems and know that Satan asked permission to attack Job with his whole arsenal of bad things, and God said, “Go ahead, I trust Job to remain faithful.” Wow, if Job had known that, it would have really given him something to be proud of wouldn’t it? Some things are “too wonderful” for us to know. We trust in a personal God who knows us, not in a plan someone has presented to us. God is greater than we can grasp and we are smaller than we surmise.