Summary: Did you know that your life is like a can of shaving cream? A label on the side of such a can says: “Warning: contents under pressure; don’t throw into fire.” (Walther Prince) It doesn’t matter who you are—young, old, rich, poor, sick, healthy—each one of us is under pressure...
Did you know that your life is like a can of shaving cream? A label on the side of such a can says: “Warning: contents under pressure; don’t throw into fire.” (Walther Prince) It doesn’t matter who you are—young, old, rich, poor, sick, healthy—each one of us is under pressure. We face peer pressure, parenting pressures, school pressure, work pressure, health pressure, the pressures of loneliness and grief. We’re often just surviving one day at a time and we don’t know what we’d do if things got worse. Since we live in an imperfect world, we can expect things in our lives to explode and force us off the path we have charted for ourselves. Today we’re starting a sermon series on the Old Testament book of Job to learn how to find peace on an unpredictable path. In this first sermon, we’re going to look at why bad things happen to good people. Listen to our text.
Our text introduces us to Job. We’re not really sure when Job lived though it may have been about the same time as Abraham, 4,000 years ago. Job seemed to make his home on the southeast border of what is today Israel. We do know that he was a believer in the one true God, for God himself said of Job: “…he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Now, when God said that Job was “blameless,” he did not mean “sinless.” That Hebrew word means “complete.” A table with a top and four legs is “complete” though it may have nicks and scratches. Likewise, Job was “complete” or “devout” in his faith. He didn’t just show up to church on Sundays, he lived his faith the rest of the week in his business dealings and in his interaction with his family. Job’s faith and works were of one piece. He showed his faith by what he did. In God’s own words, “there was no one on earth like [Job]” (Job 1:8). Job was obviously a “good” person.
So, the tragedy that fell on Job like a boulder crashing onto a car driving through Oak Creek Canyon is surprising. Shouldn’t good people be rewarded with comfortable lives? That was the prevailing belief in Job’s day and it still is today. Who was to blame for Job’s problems? Who caused the cascade of boulders to bury Job in grief?
It would be easy to blame Satan. When we meet Satan in our text, the demon had presented himself before God and God asked him, “Where have you come from?” To which Satan replies, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” When parents ask their teenage daughter, “Where have you been?” after waiting up for her, and all she says is, “Out,” that’s not an answer that satisfies. Satan’s sass doesn’t satisfy either, but we know what he had been up to. (Pete Metzger) The Apostle Peter tells us: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan had been going through the earth looking for his next target, and apparently he had found it in the person of Job.
But do you see the problem with that conclusion? Satan did not make Job’s life miserable until after God brought Job up in the conversation! When God said to Satan: “Have you considered my servant Job?” he sounded like a proud general taunting an opponent: “Have you seen the new fort we built on our border with you? Pretty impressive, eh? You’ll never overrun it. In fact, I’d like you to try.” Who was behind all of Job’s troubles? Satan pulled the trigger, yes, but God had put Job in Satan’s crosshairs.
“Are you saying, Pastor, that Job was a pawn in a shoving match between God and Satan? Bad things happen to good people so that God can win a bet with the Devil? (Pete Metzger) That must mean then that God does not care about our suffering, just as people who organize dog fights don’t really care about the pain the dogs endure!”
Look again at our text. God did care about Job. That’s why after Satan asked for permission to make Job’s life miserable, God said, “…on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12). It’s like what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: ““…God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13 - GNT). God would put a limit on the trials Job would endure, and God would also sustain Job through those trials. Plus, these trials weren’t for sport—they were for Job’s own benefit and for God’s glory. The Apostle Peter teaches us: “[Trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).