Text: Job 1:8-21
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Last week we began with the book of Job and we talked about the tremendous losses that Job suffered. Just to refresh your memory here is a quick recap: In a single day Job lost 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 female donkeys, almost all of his servants, his 7 sons, and his 3 daughters. In a single day all of it was gone.
The amazing thing about the first chapter of the story of Job is not, however, the tremendous loses Job suffered or how quickly they happened. The truly stunning thing about the first chapter of the story is how Job responds to it all. When messenger after messenger came running towards him with more and more terrible news the tremendous weight of all of this loss must have been overwhelming for Job. We could hardly blame him if some off color words slipped out of his mouth or at least popped in his head. I can only imagine the kinds of words that could come flying out of my mouth if I were in Job’s place. I dare say I would not want to repeat those words here. But Job says no such words. Job does not curse or swear, there is no foul language, and there is not even a single angry word. Job simply says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
How could Job speak this way after he had lost so much? There is only one explanation. Job’s words here are not really Job’s words at all. These are the words of the Holy Spirit speaking through Job. These are the words of faith, faith created, nurtured and sustained by the Holy Spirit, in Job’s heart that hold fast even in the midst of so much suffering and misery. Though God has allowed the devil to take his shots at Job, though God has allowed everything except Job’s own life to be taken from him, God has not abandoned Job. Even here in the ashes God stands by his beloved servant Job and strengthens his faith so that he can bless the name of the Lord who has allowed all of this to happen to Him. The Holy Spirit give Job faith to believe that though some of God’s earthly gifts have been taken from him and even though he suffers in this life nothing can take away the gifts of eternity that God has given to him in Christ Jesus. It is this faith, is faith in Jesus Christ, which makes Job able to accept the suffering that has come upon him.
Accepting suffering is no small matter. Job’s words and his willingness to accept what has happened to us amaze us because we know we would likely not react the same way. We know that if we were in Job’s place that our words would not likely be so ready to accept this suffering. Perhaps we’d say something like, “Why me? Why is this happening to me? Why are you doing this to me, Lord? What have I done to deserve all this?” This is what Job can teach us here: how to accept suffering.
The first key to Job’s acceptance of his suffering is that by the working of the Holy Spirit he understands that everything he had in life was a gift from God. Even here in the midst of his sorrow he understands that God has given him everything that he has. In the Small Catechism Martin Luther says that,
“God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.
Clearly God has given each of us a great deal of good in this life. Everything that we have comes from Him. He gives all of this to us freely as a gift. We don’t deserve any of the good gifts He gives to us and yet, out of Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy God continues to give us our “daily bread.”
Job, strengthened by the Holy Spirit and recognizing that God has given and continues to give us so much, understands that it is only reasonable that if we want to accept the good that our Lord is so eager to give us we will also have to accept the bad that comes from time to time. This is only reasonable.
So often, however, we lose sight of this reality and we begin to think that we are owed something. This is especially true when we suffer. We begin to think that God owes us an explanation or that God owes us a cure or that God owes us an apology. The reality, however, is that no matter what befalls us, no matter how much we suffer, it is us who owe God a life time of thank and praise simply for the life and breath that we have in us.
The second key to Job’s acceptance of suffering is that the Holy Spirit has given him faith to see beyond his earthly suffering and loss and to trust in the promise of Christ Jesus for life everlasting. If all Job knew about God is that He gives earthly gifts for this life and sometimes takes them away there would be little hope there. Who knows whether or not God will give or take today? Where is the assurance? Assurance and hope come from another place, from another gift that God gives, a gift that will never be taken away. That gift, the gift that gives assurance and hope even in the bleakest of circumstances, is our Lord Jesus Christ. God has given us His Son and through Him has given us eternal gifts: forgiveness, life, and salvation. Though so much has been taken from him in his earthly life, though he suffers so much, Job knows that the gifts of life and salvation, the gifts of eternity, which have been to him through Christ will never be taken away.
We can see everyday the gifts that God gives to us: food, clothing, house, home, and everything else. But God our Father gives us more than just earthly gifts for life in this world. He has given us a far greater gift in the gift of His own dear Son who gives life in eternity. Through His death and resurrection we have been given a new lease of life in this world through the complete and total forgiveness of our sins and we have been given the sure and certain hope of a new life in eternity. The Lord has given this to us as well without any merit or worthiness in us. To say that the Lord gives is an understatement!
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered for sin in our place, we have, literally, everything. Though we may be poor in this world we are rich. Though by worldly standards we may be fools we are wise. Though we may be weak we are, in fact, strong in Christ. We have the Kingdom of God. Nothing, no amount of suffering, pain, or anguish in this life can take His gifts away from us. Martin Luther said in his famous hymn, “Were they (that is, the powers of evil in this present world) to take our house, goods, honour, child, or spouse, though life be wrenched away, they cannot win the day, the Kingdom’s ours forever.” Lots of things can be taken from us in this life. We could lose 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and all 10 of our children in a single day. We could lose our health, our wealth, and our prosperity and still we would have the good gifts of the Kingdom of God through Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing can take that away from us.
“The Lord gives.” He gives a lot, more than we can begin to imagine and understand. He gives us life in this world, forgiveness in this world, and life in the next world. He gives and gives and gives. And yes, “the Lord takes away.” But He never takes His Kingdom and the life that we have in it for the sake of our Lord Jesus from us. As we suffer in this life may these realities remain in perspective. May the Holy Spirit gives us faith with Job to accept the sufferings that befall us and say with faith, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In Jesus name. Amen.