Summary: April Fool’s Day. Brash young Elihu is angry at Job and his friends for their inactivity. And he sees the extravagant, "foolish" mercy of God that foreshadows God’s forgiveness in Christ, "foolishly" spending His life for us.
Of some folks they say, "He’s really just a big kid at heart". "He’s really just a big kid at heart." Which means that even if he is in his fifties and has grown-up children, a mortgage and a pension plan, even so he has that irrepressible urge to play. Even so he wants nothing more than to have fun, sometimes at others’ expense.
I’ve known people like that, and I expect you have too. I’ve known people who would tell a joke at the most awkward time, who would play a prank on anybody, anywhere, anytime, who would make remarks that other people thought were sexist or racist or bigoted or intolerant .. but who said that they meant no harm and that it was all in good clean fun.
I know a pastor in this city who regularly plays tricks on his church members. He sends them fake letters from fictitious government agencies, demanding that they appear at hearings about the ozone levels in their home. He makes serious-sounding phone calls, informing church members that their baptism didn’t take and will have to be done over again. He interrupts the worship services with quips, putdowns, and jibes at the ladies and what they are wearing - all in good clean fun, he says. Just a great big kid at heart.
I confess that with April Fool’s Day coming on a Sunday, I too had some thought of being the great big kid at heart. I thought about printing parts of the bulletin upside down. But I didn’t, because you all would blame the church secretary and not me.
I thought about writing a fake announcement or two, just to see if anybody would catch on. You know, something like the one that really did appear in a church bulletin elsewhere: "The ladies have cast off clothes in the Social Hall; you may see them after today’ s service." But I didn’t do that, either, for fear that somebody would think it in
poor taste. .
I thought about a lot of things, but decided against them all, largely on the grounds that I would be thought silly and foolish. And I’m just like most of you; I want to keep my dignity. Why, I even wear my dignity to bed at night. There are no fools here, are there?
You see, doing foolish things, April Fool’s kind of things, is something we tolerate and even expect in young people, but when somebody adds a few years we expect that he will put away childish things and become calm and sedate and boring.
Have you noticed that the older we get the more we seem to lose our ability to risk, we lose our willingness to take chances, we drop off our carefree sense of wonder? The older we get the safer we become, and we forget, I believe, that God, our God, in the springtime of his creation, did a foolish thing. Yes, God did a foolish, foolish thing .. but also a wonderful thing.
But more of that in a moment. Let’s set the stage back at the now familiar garbage dump, where for three Sundays we have been sitting with poor old Job and his sores and his misery and his complaining yet hope-filled voice. What a mixture of despair and of hope he has been!
To Eliphaz, who wanted Job to acknowledge that bad boys get bad things, and it’s just that simple, Job replied that it was not true, and that he wanted, he expected God to treat him seriously. Job also told Eliphaz that somehow, someway, he thought that there was a witness, there was an advocate already at work for him. Who and how he could not say.
To Bildad, who wanted Job just to knuckle under to the old-time religion, with its safe and. pious clichés and timeworn slogans, Job answered that he needed a fresh experience. Job asserted that new occasions teach new truths. But Job also cried out a word of ultimate hope, "I know that a redeemer lives for me.” Somebody is going to help me yet.
And then to Zophar -- rigid, lifeless, unhappy Zophar – who wants Job just to play it safe and sign on the bottom line of the creed and get a comfortable, quiet, boring life – to Zophar Job replies that his call is to live on the edge of the chasm, not in the rocking chair. And Job cries out once more that he wants to argue his case, he wants
to present his case to God .. and in the center of his cry screams out the ultimate question, "If a man die, shall he live again?"
I hope you saw the pattern in all of these. In every case Job rejects the worn-out, conventional, boring, safe theology of his counselors. And even though he has nothing to put in its place except that awesome human assertion that he has the right to stand before God and plead his case .. even though Job cannot develop a new theology that would satisfy the minds of his friends or the desires of his own heart .. still he dimly, faintly sees that somebody will have to do something for him, that somebody will do something for him.