The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
“Humbling, Yet Comforting”
August 16, 2017
Sermon Text: Job 38:4-18
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
Have you ever been “put in your place?” Whether we are willing to admit it or not (given our pride and what amounts to various degrees of being humbled and embarrassed), many times such action is called for… needed… and beneficial. Especially when we know the person doing the “putting” … the person “getting us back in line” is someone whose opinion… whose words and actions are trusted and considered valuable… someone who we love and maybe even more importantly, loves us… so much so, that they are willing to say something or do something out of love and concern.
In our Old Testament text, it is Job who is put in his place. Seriously? With all that he was going through, all that he lost including his family, friends, his worldly possessions and his health?
Talk about kicking a guy when he is down! Well, my friends, there was no “kicking” being done here. Yes, Job was down and it actually seemed that he was “down for the count.” Finished. He had had it. He had had all that he could bear (or so he thought).
He does not understand why. “Why Lord are you doing this, allowing this? Why is this happening to me? Do I really deserve it?” Sound familiar? Well, it should, because on so many levels and plains this is us. These are our questions which oftentimes morph into complaints and outright anger.
One common answer people will give as to why they do not believe in God (certainly not the God of Holy Scripture) or why they leave the Christian faith… is because they feel that if there is this God, He would not allow this or that to happen… certainly not to them or their loved ones… not to those who are basically “good people”, innocent people, in terms of how they live… what they do and say… how they act.
Job considered himself among this group… among the good, the innocent and the righteous. So, why God? Why would you allow this? And in chapter thirty-one, we hear Job articulate his confusion over what has happened to him… all that has happened to him. He asks,
“Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he see my ways and number all my steps? If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; (Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!) if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out.” (Job 31:3-8)
And this is only a portion of what Job cries out… of what he wants to know because, when you come right down to it, it just “didn’t seem fair” … didn’t seem right.”
I need not ask you if you can relate to having and harboring such thoughts and feelings. We all can. We all do. Because the way we see things at times… how we “weigh” ourselves in what we consider to be a “just balance”… God should know our virtuous character and integrity as He should have known Job’s and this or that should not have happened to us… shouldn’t be happening to us.
Dearly beloved of the Lord, our Old Testament text is God’s answer to all of this and it is a powerful one… a strong one… as He lovingly, but firmly, puts Job in his place as well as us… as well as all people.
The crux of this divine response is God asking Job… God asking you and me if we think we know better… if we think we have a grasp on, and a hand in, the divine scheme of things… if we know a better way… have a better plan… a better solution.
Better than the Lord God Almighty? He whose wisdom and understanding is unsurpassed? He who is all-knowing… all powerful?
Really? The “created” second-guessing the Creator? The created questioning, complaining about the Creator and what He does and does not do?
That would be Job. That would be all of us at one point or another. To which the Lord God asks us as He asked Job…
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.” (Job 38:3-13, 16-18)
Well! Speak up Job! Speak up people! The truth is…Job couldn’t and neither can we.
The truth is, we are speechless… humbled… having been divinely put in our place and this thankfully occurring again and again.
Our place is not second-guessing God! It never benefits us.
Our place is not trying to take His place… to try and usurp His authority… to “play god!” That never ends well for us.
Rather, our place is… in everything… in every situation…whatever happens or does not happen… to say, “Amen Lord.”
Our place is to simply trust in the Lord our God… that HE IS GOD… that He is providing for all of our needs… that He and He alone is in control of all things… that yes, He knows what is happening in your life, my life, the life of this country, this world and the entire universe down to the smallest detail, because He is either making it or allowing it to happen all for our good… the good of all who love Him… the good of all who have faith in Him, worship and confess Him to be the only true God.
When will we understand and fully accept that in our life… yours and mine… it is all good. God makes it good and right… even when it does not seem so… appear so. Remember what the Apostle Paul said, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
How comforting all of this is my friends… along with being so humbling. Yes, like Job, we are put in our place again and again. We are put back in place again and again because we are so apt to stray from the one divine place where the Lord has graciously put us, placed us, which just happens to be in His own hands, mighty hands, loving hands where we are safe and secure, content and at peace. How comforting is that?
How comforting is this… all this… who we are in Christ Jesus… what we have in Christ Jesus and what He did for us and all mankind on the cross. Let us never forget that the victory He won for us there was complete, all-encompassing and final… the victory over sin, death and the devil… the victory over what we face, all that we face in this world… in this, our sojourn here below.
Indeed, let us never forget that the mighty hands, loving hands that hold us so firmly… still bear the marks of nails. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Humbling Yet Comforting” 8/16/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL