January 28, Message by P. Kevin Clancey

Lord, for your great mercy and your great love, we give you thanks. For your great salvation that we have inherited in your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, by his life, death, and resurrection, we are forever and eternally grateful. You did this for us. Thank you so much for saving a lost world and for including us. We’re grateful. We worship you, Father. We ask now that you would take our lives and you’d use them to the expansion of your goodness in your kingdom on planet Earth.

Lord, let us be used in obscure ways, noticeable ways, behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, with one group, with another group. Lord, we’re your dimes. Spend us how you want. Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. And Lord, let us be in the game. We ask it in Jesus’ Name, Amen. Amen.

All right. So, we’re going to go through Job tonight. And I’m not going to do just like I typically do, take a passage and kind of explain it. You know, Job doesn’t really read that way.

Job is a story. It’s one full story that wants to, it’s like a, it’s like a really, really long parable that wants to make a point to us. And so, we’re going to, we’re going to kind of survey the different players in Job and try to draw out their parts in the story and what God is saying through all of this.

And then at the end, we’re going to look at some of the takeaways of some of the things we can take away from Job. But I will read one passage in Job. It’s my favorite.

The beginning of my favorite part. My favorite part of Job is when God shows up and starts to talk. That’s just exhilarating to me. Then God shows up in a whirlwind and, and you know, and the, the, the, I think this one says, brace yourself like a man. The New Living Translation. I forget the translation. I for, probably the NIV, maybe a New American Standard. Gird up your loins. I don’t even know what it means to gird up your loins, but it sounds pretty ominous, doesn’t it? Gird up your loins and I will question you.

And I will tell a little story on myself that pertains to that passage. Well, let me read it.

“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’”

1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: 2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? 3 Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. (Job 38:1-3, NLT)

I’ve met people throughout life who have said, “you know, when I get to heaven, I’ve got some questions for God.” I understand that. There’s things you want to know, things you want answered.

But here’s like my thought on that has always been: When I get to heaven, I hope God doesn’t have questions for me. I don’t want to hear when I get there, “Kev, brace yourself like a man. Here it comes.” Like, Oh, no, I don’t want that.

So, but here I was, I was a young pastor, an associate pastor at a church in Visalia. Wonderful church. The people were dear to me. The senior pastor was a good man, and he was a good person to work for, and I learned a lot from him.

The staff was wonderful. They were good friends. My wife and I were loved at that church. The young families loved us because we were a young family at the time. We were one of them. The older people loved us. They kind of adopted us as kids and our kids as their grandkids. It was a very warm church, and it was a good five years. I spent five years there. But after three years, I wanted to pastor a church. I didn’t want to be associate pastor anymore.

I wanted to pastor a church, and I was in the Methodist church. In the Methodist church, you don’t go out and find a job. The bishop appoints you. You go where the bishop sends you. You serve at the bishop’s pleasure, and it’s a yearly appointment. It’s an appointment system.

Now, you understand it wasn’t that harsh. You got to say, “Hey, here’s what I’m looking for. Here’s where I’d like to serve.” The church got to say, the church could, would often say, “Here’s the kind of pastor we’re looking for.”

Here’s what we want. The bishop had district superintendents. There were over 400 churches, so the bishop would have to appoint pastors to over 400 churches. Obviously, he’s not going to have a great intimate relationship with all of them.

All those churches and pastors, but he had a cabinet. He had a group of district superintendents. Even that was too small a number. There’s about seven of those, so they all oversaw 60 churches. Their big job throughout the year was putting pastors in churches and appointing pastors.

So, you would contact your district superintendent every year. They would send you a letter, “you want to stay, you want to leave, you’re open to either.” you’d check the little box and they say, “Well, if you want to go, what are you looking for? What would you like to do?” That sort of thing.

So by year three, I checked that box. I want to go. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my current job, I just wanted to be the senior pastor. I went to seminary, I wanted to preach every Sunday and the whole bit.

So, year three, I didn’t get it. The district superintendent said, “Oh yeah, we’ll get a church for you, we’ll find a church for you.” They didn’t. Year four came along, had a new district superintendent, and he assured me they would get a church for me. I even had a list of churches. I gave him a list of churches. I said, “Here’s some churches I’d like to serve that I know are opening up,” and he looked at that list and said, “Yeah, that’d be a fit. That’d be a fit. Oh, this one wouldn’t be a fit.”

That’d be a fit. We talked about it. We chatted about it. I wouldn’t get the phone call. Usually, by about May, you’d get the phone call because the appointments were set in July. I wouldn’t get a phone call. I wouldn’t get a phone call. I wouldn’t get a phone call. Finally, I got a phone call. It wasn’t from my district superintendent. It was from one of my best friends who was at a church, a small little church out in the Central Valley of California, and he got appointed to another church.

The church he got appointed to was at the top of the list of one of the churches that I wanted to go to. It was a fit for him, but it also would have been a fit for me. We were the same theological ilk, the same age. The difference was, I wanted to leave, and he actually wanted to stay at the church he was at. So, why would the district superintendent send him when he didn’t want to move and keep me when I did want to move in?

When I got that phone call, I knew it was late enough in the game that I wasn’t going to get a call. I was going to have to spend another year as an associate pastor. And, man, I got that phone call, and I thanked my friend for calling me. He knew. We were in a small group together, he knew that I wanted to get a church. And he hurt for me and he said, “you know, I wanted you to hear this from me instead of over the grapevine.”

“you know, I’m going to such-and-such, and you’re not going there.” And I thanked him for it, and I got off the phone and, man, I was fit to be tied. And my DS was a jerk, and the system was rigged. It wasn’t fair.

And then, after I took on those people, I took on the Almighty, right? I became mini-Job. “It’s not fair. I didn’t deserve this.” I whined to God for a good few minutes.

Also, at the time, I was doing a devotional series on a book on prayer.

And this book on prayer would take different episodes in the Bible and draw out from those episodes how that impacted our prayer life.

And so, I got done whining. I was still in a bad mood. I said, “Well, I’m gonna open up this book on prayer and I’m gonna read this book on prayer.” And I open up the book on prayer and I open up the chapter I’m at and it’s Job.

And the verse is Job 38, and it said this, “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Gird up your loins.”

Didn’t even say, ‘Brace yourself. Gird up your loins.’ That’s just ominous. ‘Gird up your loins like a man because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’

2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? 3 Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. (Job 38:2-3, NLT)

Well, I may not be, you know, complaining and whining to God. You may think you’re not the smartest, you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Kevin. You probably shouldn’t have done that. But I am smart enough to know when I’ve been rebuked by the Word of God. And I just, I got out of my chair. I went to the middle of my office.

I got on my knees. I assumed the Muslim position. You know the Muslim position, right? Nose on the carpet, tushy in the air. Very undignified position. And I repented. And I said, God, whether or not I’m in a system where I serve at the bishop’s pleasure and I need to submit to that system. That’s the system I’m in. And I’m in an even

bigger system where I submit to your pleasure. And I will stay another year, I’ll stay another 20 years if you want me to. you’re God and I’m not.

And interesting enough, Romans 8:28 really happened to me in that situation. That by far, that was the last year I was the associate pastor of that church.

I got my assignment the next year, and that was by far the most fruitful and productive year. I had four good years there, but that fifth year was by far the most fruitful and productive year that I had there. It went really well. It was a wonderful year.

And then, the church I got ended up being better for me and better for my family, and in a better situation that more helped, that kind of helped launch my future than the previous church that I would have got the previous year. It worked out well. It was all good.

And so, God spoke to me through Job. So that’s why I read that verse.

But now, I just want to take a look at the book as a whole and try to get an understanding of what it’s trying to tell us, who the characters are, who the players are, what their arguments are, because their arguments go on and on.

All right, women, if any man has ever accused you as a woman of being long-winded and talking too much, tell him to read the book of Job and he’ll run into some long-winded fellas. Oh my gosh. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, Job. They go on and on.

And it’s written in a style. It’s written in a style of ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, full of very poetic word image language. For some people, that language is very burdensome. It’s very hard to dig through. And probably one of the reasons we’re trying to dig through it is we’re trying to dissect it instead of just kind of getting the whole big picture, letting the whole big picture wash over us.

So tonight, we’re going to wash ourselves in the big picture of Job. All right? And everybody says, “Well, the Bible is the word of God.”

Yes, but everything in Job is not good advice. All right? We know that because God says at the end, “That wasn’t good advice.” So, you’re not reading Job like you’re reading the Proverbs. But, Job actually does interact with the Proverbs in some ways and interacts with the Psalms in some ways.

So, let’s look at the players. Let’s look at all the different players in the book of Job.

And I think, once we look at the players and look at who’s speaking and who’s talking and when they’re talking and what they’re saying, the big picture will come into clearer focus.

So, the first player I want to talk about is Satan. I want to talk about Satan. And some people say, “Well, the Satan in Job, he’s just this angelic accuser. He’s not really the Satan that is referred to in the New Testament.” I disagree.

I think this Satan carries with him two very specific characteristics that are true of Satan in the Bible, our whole idea of Satan. And those two characteristics are this: Satan is the accuser, and he is the tormentor.

You say, “Well, why is God talking to Satan? Why is this all going on?” Listen, Job is not meant to give you a detailed account of how this stuff works out. It’s just telling you that Satan is the accuser. He is the accuser. He’s the one who comes and says, “Nah, that’s not true.”

And you all know the voice of this Satan. You all know the accuser. You all have thoughts that run through your head. And their thoughts that go like this: “you’re never going to get any better. How many of you have heard this? Oh, and you call yourself a Christian. you’re not a true child of God. If you were a true child of God, you’d be much further down the road. you’re not really saved. you’re going to hell.” And then, if those don’t work, he just calls you names.

I don’t want to know the names he calls you. I won’t tell you the worst ones he calls me because they’re not repeatable. They’re names I wouldn’t call any other person on the planet. And yet, in my head, I hear those names. Anybody else? Or am I the only one with that level of mental illness?

All right. Yeah. All right. Guess what? That’s the devil. I’ll never forget this image 40 years ago. It’s one of those life-changing images. As a young Christian, I’m attending Fuller Theological Seminary. I’m studying theology.

I’m studying church history. I’m studying biblical languages. I’m learning how to read ancient Greek and Hebrew. I’m immersed in the Bible and in church history and theology. And I’m walking to seminary. I’m just going to class.

As I’m walking, I’m just repeating this litany of names in my head. And I’m actually verbalizing them. Listen, I was not a serial killer, nor a rapist. I was not a thief. I was not anything society would consider scum of the earth.

And yet, I’m walking to college, up graduate school where I’m studying God and theology, and I’m going, ‘you’re a scumbag. you’re a loser. What a jerk, whatever. What a beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.’ And just litany running through my head. My head’s down. I’m just walking to school. My wife and I hadn’t had a fight. It’s just normal fare for me.

And all of a sudden, a voice breaks in, a different voice than the one running through my head. And the voice says this.

Kevin, now here’s a key for you in discerning the voices in your head. God uses my name. The devil calls me names. God uses my name. The devil calls me names.

Kevin, you know my book. Oh, I. I’m starting to learn it in the language you wrote it in, you know. I’m an expert on your book. I’m getting a degree on your book. You betcha. I’ll be teaching people your book for years to come.

Forty years from now, I’ll be teaching a bunch of people the book of Job. I know your book. Good.

“Do I ever call you any of those names in my book? No. What do I call you? Let’s see. Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation, Child of God, Son, Beloved, Brother of Christ, Saint, Set-apart One. Those are some of the names you call me in your book.”

And then he said, “Well, where do you think those other names are coming from?”

And most of you here aren’t old enough or you were too holy to immerse yourself in Saturday Night Live, but I was an expert in Saturday Night Live back in the 80s.

And Dana Carvey, one of the comedians on Saturday Night Live, did a skit called The Church Lady. He would impersonate a woman and a self-righteous, pharisaical church lady, kind of a wicked stereotype. He would have people come on the show and he would interview them like a talk show, and he would totally condemn them and shame them for their drug abuse or sleeping around. Then, he would say in his little church lady voice, “Oh, could that be Satan?” Literally, God will talk to you in your own language.

Because I’m hearing, God says, “Do you ever, do I ever call you those names?” No, you don’t. “What names do I call you?” Those names. “Who do you think those names are coming from?” And immediately, Dana Carvey’s picture popped up in my mind. “Could it be Satan?” And I thought, yeah, he’s the accuser. But I tell you what, that changed my life.

Now, that did not stop the names. But it stopped me. It stopped me from accepting them. Whenever I get one of those names now, I say, “That’s a lie. That’s not true.”

I don’t receive that at all. I’m not eating that food. you’re a liar. I fight those names now, all right? And they’ve gotten less.

Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7, NLT)

He’s the accuser, and he’s the tormentor. He is the tormentor of the human race. God doesn’t inflict Job. Satan does.

Now, while God gives him permission, it’s like, yeah, that’s Job’s way of saying that in this universe, God allows for evil, yes, that there is no evil outside of the scope of God’s ultimate sovereignty and care and control. But Satan is the tormentor.

Typically, I don’t correct people. I mean, I feel like I get 20 minutes, 30 minutes a week to tell people my opinion. How many people are that lucky? You know, parents and preachers. We can lecture, all right?

And so, I don’t correct people out in public. But in two areas, it drives me nuts. Two areas, I just want to interject myself in a conversation where I’m not invited to set people straight. And one area is baseball.

OK, when I’m at a baseball game and somebody’s sitting behind me and they’re talking ignorance, I feel like I want to just turn around and say, “Actually, no, that wasn’t Mickey Mantle. That was Roger Maris. And it didn’t happen in 63. It happened in 61.” I mean, if you’re going to try to impress this girl on this date, at least get your facts right, all right, dude? You don’t know squat about baseball. And I just want to correct them about baseball.

And my grandsons, they know now. My wife will do it just to annoy me.

But we’ll go to a baseball game, and somebody will score, and they say, “Oh, they got a point.” No, they didn’t get a point. Stop it. There are no points in baseball. It’s a run. They got a run. All right? There are no points. “Oh, we’re going to overtime.” No, we’re going to extra innings. Stop. Stop torturing me with your ignorance. “Oh, we’re going to overtime.” Oh, you nimwit.

The other area, of course, is theology. Right?

If I hear somebody talking stupid stuff about God, the Bible, and the church, I was out at this public place, and these people were behind us. “Oh, I went to church for a while, but I don’t go because I believe this, and I believe that, and I believe that.” And just stupidity and ignorance abounding, you know? And probably stupidity and ignorance, they were talking so freely and loudly, it was probably liquored up stupidity and ignorance.

And it was just everything in me to turn around and say, “Actually, can I speak to you for a minute and set you straight on the stupid things you’re saying?” And I resisted because it just wasn’t my place, and I didn’t want to get beat up. So, I resisted.

However, if I’m in a conversation with somebody and they say something stupid, I feel like I’ve got permission. I was with a young man one time, and this actually wasn’t stupid. It was just bad theology, in my opinion.

This young man had gone through cancer as a teenager, and he was in full remission. He was doing great. And he said this, “I thank God that he gave me cancer because of all the good lessons I learned through the process.” And I just said, “I’m not going to let that slide. I said, Randall, God didn’t give you cancer. The lessons? Yep. And you’re exactly right.”

Thank God for the lessons that you learned in the midst of that trial because he gave you those lessons, and he grew you through suffering, and he does that all the time. He’s a good God, and he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28, NLT)

But God is not the God who gives children cancer. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

10 May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NLT)

God is the God who heals.

Show me in the New Testament when God is fully revealed in Jesus Christ, a time He went to somebody and said, “you know, God the Father has lots of lessons to teach you, so He’s going to inflict you with leprosy.” No, He did the opposite. He said, “God the Father has a lot to show you, so He’s going to say, leprosy, leave.”

I don’t see one time Jesus made somebody sick. You might say, “Well, there’s times in the Old Testament, God, you know, sends plagues and all that.” Yeah, but He is not the tormentor.

The devil is the tormentor. So, that’s what we learn about Satan in Job. Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. You know, I don’t know why it is, some biblical names make it, right? I have a grandson named Noah, which I think is a splendid name to name a boy who grows up in the Pacific Northwest. It’s like, yeah, you’re set, you’re good, Noah. You know, Isaiah. Parents gave Isaiah and Jacob strong biblical names. you’re a marvelous prophet and the forerunner of the gospel, and your brother’s a deceiver. So, yeah, that’s what I thought.

I thought your parents got some prophetic names going there. That one’s called Daniel, I don’t know. All right, well, both are good, both are good. So, some biblical names make it, others don’t. But just letting you know, Sydney, Isaiah, you guys, if you get married and raise a family, that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are available. Okay, just letting you know, they are biblical names. Also, I want to let you know that the Bible does mention that several people in biblical times were very small.

You had Nehemiah. Peter was perhaps the smallest; the Bible says he slept on his watch. But actually, one of Job’s friends was among the smallest people in the Bible, Bildad the Shuhite. And so, there you go.

So, you got small people in the Bible. Thank you, Steven, for laughing. I appreciate that.

Now, these guys take up a huge chunk of the book of Job, and they’re very important to the story of Job. And here’s what’s important about Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. These people are teaching retributive theology. There you go. Now you understand Job completely.

Here’s what retributive theology is. Sometimes it’s called moral theology. It is the theology that absolutizes the idea that if you do good, you will be blessed, and if you do bad, you will be cursed.

And there are people saying, “Well, that’s just not biblical.” No, that’s really biblical. Read Deuteronomy. Read the Proverbs. Read the Psalms. That’s how you raise your kids.

We don’t tell our kids, “Hey, sleep around, there’ll be no consequences. Lie, cheat, and steal, all will go well with you. Don’t study hard. It’s crazy. you’ll still be rich.”

No, we teach our kids that there’s such a thing as you what? You reap what you sow. Life has consequences. Choices have consequences. And so, there’s nothing particularly wrong with retributive theology. God will bless you if you do good. God will punish you if you do bad. Therefore, Job, you must have done bad.

And Job says, “No, retributive theology doesn’t work here. I didn’t do bad to deserve this.” But as I said, retributive theology is true. Most of the Psalms and the Proverbs are about retributive theology, moral theology.

But then, Job comes along, and I might add, Jesus, and they tell us that retributive theology is not absolutely true. There are other factors involved, like Satan, like other sinful human beings, the weather.

I mean, this is true of all of us. A lot of the pain and suffering in our lives we have brought upon ourselves. We’ve got to own that, right? We’ve got to own that. Our lives will not get any better.

I mean, right next door, they’re going to say a prayer tonight, probably. That’s a good prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Knowing what part of retributive theology, what part of the bad things that are happening or the good things that are happening in my life are because of some of the actions I have taken is wisdom. If good things have happened for a certain reason, keep doing those things. If bad things have happened for a certain reason, stop doing those things.

And have the wisdom to know what things in my life. A lot of the things, bad things that happen. People come into my office, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s like, what? The biggest one, I tell you, the biggest one, people come in and complain about their partner. My husband, my wife, blah, blah, blah, blah. I always feel like asking, was it a shotgun wedding? Was it an arranged wedding? No, no, I proposed. Oh, I said yes, I loved him so much. Yeah. It’s retributive theology. You married him, you’re stuck with him.

You got what you did. Listen, people don’t like to hear this. I like to hear this because it speaks really well of me. But in a very real sense, people marry who they deserve. There’s a lot of truth to that. People marry who they deserve.

You don’t typically marry somebody. I put that on Facebook one time. I got so many angry responses. ‘How dare you? My ex was a scumbag.’ He married one. Or he married a person stupid enough to marry a scumbag.

People on level 4 don’t marry people on level 2. Alright?

You know, people come and say, “Why do I always marry losers?” you know, I just go to bar after bar and I keep finding these losers. Like, well, retributive theology! It’s true.

On the other hand, you didn’t choose to be born to alcoholic parents or a child abuser. You didn’t choose even the genetics and your particular personality type. You didn’t choose to be an introvert or an extrovert. There’s so much in life that isn’t retributive theology.

And there are bad things and good things that happen to us that none of us deserve to be born in America instead of Haiti. But oh my goodness, I’m glad I was. There’s so much more to life. There is the devil who attacks us. There is God who showers grace and mercy upon us, which is undeserved good, not undeserved bad. We get a lot of undeserved good. There is so much more than retributive theology. Yes, there is truth to you. Reap what you sow.

But there’s a whole big, wide cosmic reality out there that plays into it as well. And so, Job’s friends are too absolute. They won’t listen to anything else.

Job. Let’s look at Job. I’ve done nothing wrong. God is being unfair to me. All right. Job, it’s not true. Now, it may be true that the level of suffering that you are suffering does not fit perfectly into the worldview of retributive theology. But, Job, it’s not true that you’ve done nothing wrong.

I mean, Job brags up a storm. “I’ve never abandoned the poor, I’ve never looked at a woman lustfully, I’ve never done this, I’ve never done that.” I’ll bet not. You may be the best guy on the block, but you ain’t Jesus, Job.

But even if Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz are wrong, it’s not true that you’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, both Elihu and God will tell you one thing you’ve done wrong. You accused God of being in the wrong.

And when you accuse God of being in the wrong, what basically you’re saying is, “God, you’re not God.” And that your morality and your sense of justice is higher than God, you’re telling God that water can rise higher than its source. Nope. Nope. you’re not perfect, Job. Maybe you’re better than Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad. We know you’re taller than Bildad. Maybe you’re better than them. But you’re not perfect.

And let me tell you, and we’ll talk a little bit more about this when we talk about God, but let me tell you, God will never be less than fair. The good news is, God won’t always be fair, but you know what side He’ll fall off on? Not unfairness, but mercy.

I’ve heard people say, “I just want God to be fair.” It’s like, oh man, that’s the last thing I want is God to be fair. I don’t want God to hold me accountable for everything. I don’t want retributive theology to be absolute.

Job accuses God of being unfair, but here’s what Job does right. Here’s what I love about Job. He wants a face-to-face encounter with God.

People have talked about, there’s this line in church, “Oh, the patience of Job.” The patience of Job? If this is patience, hey, hey, what’s up? What’s up with you? What’s going on here? I need an answer here. This is hard. Talk to me. Show up. I need an encounter.

God, I need an answer from you. What’s going on? I am pressing in here. Hey, shut up, you friends.

You don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to God. you’ve got no answers for me.

The thing about Job, and I think this is the thing God rewards Job for, is that he makes his complaint to the right place. God’s big enough to handle it. Job never lets go of God.

His wife, dear woman that she is, she was suffering, obviously. ‘Why don’t you just curse God and die?’ Thanks, honey. I’m glad I married an encouraging woman. ‘Why don’t you just curse God and die?’

He makes his complaint. He wants a face-to-face. “I want to hear from you, God. I want an explanation, God. I want to know what’s going on, God.” And he doesn’t let go. He brings it to God.

Then there’s Elihu. Elihu is the most interesting character to me in the book of Job. In that, unlike Job’s other three friends, God does not rebuke Elihu. And Job does not respond to Elihu. When Elihu is done speaking, God shows up.

I think Elihu almost serves as a foreword to God, because here’s what Elihu has to say.

He’s the only one of Job’s friends that God doesn’t rebuke. And he says, ‘Job,’ he doesn’t say, ‘Job, you must have sinned in some other way. You must have lusted after a woman. You must have despised the poor. You must have cheated somebody in a business deal.’ He doesn’t do any of that.

He simply says, ‘Job, you are wrong to accuse God. There has to be another explanation. You are wrong to accuse God.’ And in that, he is right. He is right. God can do no wrong thing.

And then, Elihu does one other thing that I think is really good, and I forgot to put it on my notes, so you can write it down or whatever. In the last two chapters that Elihu speaks, Elihu does a lot of what God does in the next four or five chapters. He says, “Job, instead of looking at your problems, look at the greatness of God. Turn your eyes.” This is constant counsel throughout the Bible. Give thanks. Give praise. Bless the Lord. Turn your eyes from what is wrong to what is right.

Turn your eyes to the greatness, the power, the goodness of God. Paul says, “whatever is honorable, whatever is true, whatever is beautiful, whatever is praiseworthy, set your mind on these things.” The Psalms. The Psalms start with lament. “How long, O Lord? O my God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” But they always end with what? “But yet I will praise you.” They always turn back to God.

“I don’t see the big picture. But you are great. You are good. You are powerful. I trust in you.” And that’s Elihu to Job.

Job, focus on the goodness of God. Focus on the greatness, the power of God. Don’t accuse Him, but look to Him. Then God shows up. And God in the Bible is a God of encounter. He reveals Himself. That’s what the Bible is, the revelation of God. That’s what Jesus is, the revelation of God. That’s what dreams and visions are, the revelation of God. That’s what meeting Jesus in the face of the people in this room is, the revelation of God. God is a God who wants to be known. God is a God who reveals Himself.

Years ago, Bette Midler had a real popular song, and it was “From a Distance.” “From a Distance, God is watching us.” That’s how the song went. That’s the theology of deism. That’s the theology that God made the universe, wound it up mechanically, and set it in motion, and then He’s just watching it all unfold from a distance. But that is not the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible is a meddler. The God of the Bible is just getting in there. And look at how He gets in there.

He gets in there with prophets. He says, “Hey, hey, hey, Israel’s going wrong. you, Isaiah, go tell them this. Get them straightened out. Tell them this. Jeremiah, go tell them this. They got it wrong. Hey, the Midianites, they’re beating up our people. Gideon, strong and mighty man of God, hiding out in the cave right now from the bad guys.”

I always thought if there was ever a movie made of Gideon, the old actor, and again, I’m aging myself, but if anybody watches old reruns of Mayberry RFD, Don Knotts, Barney Fife, that’s Gideon.

That’s who Gideon would be. Gideon, go straighten that out. He’s an interferer. God loved the world in this way. Talk about an interferer. He sent His Son. He became a part of human history. He sends His Spirit and He sends His Son to us, to interfere, to reveal Him.

God is the God of encounter. Listen, one of the biggest mistakes we make with our Bibles is we read our Bibles not anticipating encounter. The Bible is a great book. It’s the book of God. It’s inspired by God.

But if you read your Bible simply for information and not transformation, you will become one of Job’s friends. you’ll become a mean advice giver. No, everything God does is for a relationship, for interference, to reveal, to encounter.

And it’s interesting to me that in the book of Job, Job cries out to God for a face-to-face encounter with God and he gets it. And when he gets it, God does not answer his question. Why is this happening to me? Not a word. Not a word.

Oh, I had this argument with the devil in heaven, and we decided to put you to the test. Nothing, nothing about, no explanation of Job 1, nothing at all. But at the end of the encounter, Job’s okay. He’s like, ‘Oh, got it. you’re God, I’m not. you’re big, I’m small. you’re the creator, I’m the creature.’

And Job admits his sin. ‘I spoke in what? Ignorance. I’ll shut up from now on, God. I’ll be quiet. And I’ll trust you. I’m stepping down.’ In fact, Job has to do that twice.

The first time he does it, God says, “No, I’m not done. I’m not done. I got another whole series of ‘who are you’s and ‘where were you?’ you know, I love the sarcasm in Job. God is sarcastic. Job and his friends are ruthlessly sarcastic with one another. It’s just hilarious to me. It’s like, ‘Oh, you are the fount of all wisdom, and when you die, all wisdom will go with you.’ That’s sarcasm, people. It’s not literal truth. That’s sarcasm. Biblical sarcasm. Alright. Job, you’re ignorant.”

But what God is not, is he is not the accuser, and he’s not the tormentor. God will always give you the dignity of relating to you as an image bearer. He’ll call you by name. He will give you the dignity of relating to you as an image bearer. He is also the forgiver.

He forgives Job, and he tells Job, “you know what, I want to forgive your friends too, but, you know, I need some intercession here. Pray for those boys. Pray for those boys.” Job prays for his friends. God forgives them. Job forgives them.

I think there’s a connection between God being able to bless Job and Job forgiving his friends. And then, God is the blesser. You know, everybody says, “Oh, Job, it’s such a hard book.” Yeah, but it’s one of those books in the Bible that ends with happily ever after. It’s a happily ever after book. I mean, you know, not for his kids or nothing, but you know, but for the next group of kids, whatever.

But the point of it is that God says the end of the story is even better than the beginning, even if the middle was hard. Even if the middle was hard. I went to a comedy show last night; it was hilarious. I just had a wonderful date with my wife.

In the middle of the date, in the middle of the two best things of the date, the comedy show itself, and then dinner after the comedy show with my wife, two best things of the date.

Just wonderful that, you know, it’s been a long time since I had a nice steak and potato dinner. I had a steak, and it was just a good dinner, and a good time with my wife. And the comedy show was hilarious.

Getting into the comedy show was a nightmare. Everett was not designed for not 10,000 people coming to a comedy show. Parking, traffic, you know, the event planning people, the lines were chaos.

We didn’t know Jill couldn’t bring in a purse. It was just a mess getting into the show, you know?

And I’m grumpy about it anyway, because we live in a world where they don’t give us paper tickets, and we’ve got to use Ticketmaster. Jill’s Ticketmaster account wouldn’t come up, and we were afraid we weren’t even, you know, and there’s all that stress, you know?

And it’s like, I’m just a grumpy old man. It’s like, I don’t like traffic, I don’t like lines, and I don’t like electronic tickets. I’m not coming to one of these things again.

I didn’t say all that. I was just saying it in my head, because I didn’t want to ruin the day for my wife, because she knew I was already hacked off. Getting into the comedy show, our seats were great. It was funny, we laughed, we had a great time.

Get out of the comedy show, get back to the parking lot, and the parking lot remained a parking lot for a long time.

Getting, you know, one car out at a time of 600 cars in this parking lot, and we were on the highest level, and we just sat there. Again, big deal, right? You know, I was going to make it to church on time this morning, but I’m like, ‘I don’t like traffic, I don’t like traffic,’ and then I went out and had a great dinner. So, what am I saying? There’s a lot of good. Sometimes the road to get there is rough.

Sometimes, there’s traffic jams, and there’s poor planning, and you know, but the end of this, this ends well. This ends well. And so, encounter, here’s the takeaways from Job, all right?

Encounter is more helpful in pain than theology. Why did Julie get cancer? We don’t know, but she sure had a great time meeting Jesus, didn’t she? Encounter is more helpful.

I have a friend, a pastor friend, just read on Facebook, he was resigning, he’s probably retiring, but good guy. But he was a retributive theology guy. I mean, that’s just how his mind works, right?

There’s people whose minds are just black and white, and you reap what you sow. We were visiting this man, this old man in the hospital who was dying, and we would take different turns visiting him. He was wheezing out his last breath, and he had emphysema.

Yeah, it’s hard, it’s hard. A lifetime smoker, just a lifetime smoker. We would go, and we’d pray for him, and we’d comfort him, and we’d encourage him, and we’d tell him about Jesus, and we’d tell him about heaven.

And my friend never violated this, but he came to me and said, “Everything in me just wants to say, you shouldn’t have smoked.” I said, “Don’t do it.” He goes, “I know, I know.” I said, “I bet he has that figured out. You know? I bet he’s kicking himself for it. He probably tried to quit a hundred times, and he couldn’t.” And you and I got weaknesses, too.

What he needs right now is a couple of pastors to come by and take his hand and say, “I know it’s rough right now, but just pray with me and trust Jesus. This is going to end well for you.” That’s what he needs. He doesn’t need, “you got what you deserved.”

Job’s friends, before God rebukes them, before they spend all these long chapters rebuking Job, did something profoundly right before they did something profoundly wrong. They showed up for seven days and didn’t say a thing.

I took a class years ago up in Washington. It was in California, and it was on a ministry called Stevens Ministries. Stevens Ministries was a ministry designed to train people in the local church on how to give pastoral care. Because pastors, especially in mainline churches, were expected, with a lot of old people, to go around and just basically give pastoral care to all sorts of people whose spouses had died. It was exhausting work, and wouldn’t allow you to do other things in the church. Part of the pastor’s job, right, is to equip the saints.

Let’s train our whole church to do this, you know? And so, we would train people to care for people in crisis, and it was a two-week course on how to care for people in crisis. They talked about a lot of the psychology of trauma and all these things, but you know what? The two-week course basically boiled down to this: Show up and shut up. I love you. This really hurts, I know. I’m not gonna leave you. I’m not gonna let you walk through this valley alone. I’m not gonna try to fix your grief. Can’t.

I don’t have a magic wand. I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray for God’s mercies. If your body is sick, I’ll pray for God’s healing, but I’m just gonna show up and love you.

Advice does not work as much as the presence of a loved one, especially the presence of a loved one ushering in the presence of God. We want an encounter with God when we’re in pain.

Job never got an answer, but he got God, and that was enough. Job is ignorant, but he never lets his relationship with God stop.

How many of you have come to the conclusion that you won’t understand everything this side of the grave? All right, now, I just, a piece of humble counsel, listen to me and you’ll understand much more.

But, having said that, no, you won’t, read your Bible, say your prayers, listen to good teachers, whatever, you’ll learn, you’ll grow, and insight is helpful. It helps us avoid mistakes, it helps us to walk in more fruitfulness, and so I’m not saying that encounter is more important, that theology and learning aren’t important, they’re important for different things.

But also, recognizing humility, that we see such a small slice of all that is reality. It amazes me that how many people will watch one news source and think they’re experts on what’s happening in the world. Why are they right? I mean, I’ve got to admit my ignorance about a lot of stuff. I have my opinions, I have what I think is right, and I have the people I think are telling the truth more closely than other people, but I also realize that I am really ignorant about a lot of that stuff.

I don’t know those people’s lives. I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in world events, and to get all riled up and make all sorts of declarations about things that, you know, and I just run into those people all the time. Well, this is what they’re doing, well, maybe. They just hate the country, maybe, maybe they love the country as much as you do and just have a different view on what will make it good. That’s a possibility, right? No, no, that can’t be a possibility. No, I think it’s a possibility.

Actually, I think it’s a pretty strong possibility. And I think it’s the loving, at least the loving starting place to take. I’m just saying.

All right. We’re ignorant, but we don’t let our relationship with God stop. We keep pressing in. God will reward those who persevere in a relationship with Him.

Too much passivity. There’s theology that teaches passivity. God’s going to do what God’s going to do. Let go, let God, let it happen. That’s in the Bible. That’s true.

Job has to kind of do that in the end. But here’s what I love about Job.

He just presses in until he gets his encounter with God. I love what Paul says. “Earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.”

I have a sermon that I’ll get invited into evangelical churches, and the pastor wants to stir them up in the area of gifts of the Spirit. And so, I have a sermon entitled, “It’s a Sin to be Open to the Holy Spirit.” Like, what? Yeah, being open’s not enough. That’s not what Paul says.

Paul says be zealous. Be passionate. I love Jesus rewards these kinds of people.

Will you deliver my daughter from demons?” No, you’re a Gentile. “I only came for the house of Israel. you’re a dog.” Well, you know what? I ain’t leaving. “Even the dogs get crumbs. What are you going to do about that, King of the Universe?” I’ll tell you what I’m going to do about that. I’m going to give you everything you asked for. Because you wouldn’t let go. “I’m bleeding to death. I’m completely isolated from my community. And there’s the Son of God.

And between me and the Son of God is a whole crowd of people that I can’t touch because I’m unclean. But this is my chance. This is my one chance. For 14 years, I’ve been bleeding to death. The doctors haven’t been able to help me. This is my chance. I’m going to risk everything. I’ll touch the hem of his garment. I’m going to be healed. Get out of my way. Excuse me, excuse me, coming through, coming through, coming through. Boom!

Gets the garment, touches him, wants to sneak away because she doesn’t want to be revealed that she touched everybody. But Jesus stops her and says, ‘Who touched me?’ Looks at her and says, ‘It’s you.’ And she goes, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re going to kill me now. I made everybody unclean. They’re all going to have to take a bath. I made the master unclean.’ By the way, who’s going on his way to the synagogue ruler’s house, whose daughter is dying, the most important man in town, the most politically powerful man in town.

His daughter is dying, and she just made the master unclean. So, according to Jewish law, he can’t go in there and save that daughter. She thinks she is doomed. She thinks her whole strategy backfired, but by golly, she had to get to Jesus.

Jesus looks at her and says, “Tell me the whole story.” She tells him the whole story. For the last 14 years, her name has been unclean. She tells Jesus the story. The first word out of Jesus’s mouth is “daughter.”

I just gave you a new name. Besides the fact your bleeding stopped and you’re going to live. Daughter, I’m so proud of you. your faith has made you well. I love the kind of faith that pushes its way through a crowd to touch the hem of my garment. Oh, if the American church could learn anything, it would be to quit being so passive. Quit being so, “if it’s God’s will, he can do it.” I’ll tell you what God’s will is. God’s will is that you’d wake up and press in. That you’d pray until something happens.

You get a little fire in your belly. I love Job. I’m not letting go, God. God rewards that. The parable of the unrighteous judge.

“Hey, I need justice.”

“Shut up woman, I’m going to sleep.”

“No, I need justice.”

“Woman, I’m going to”

“I need justice.”

“Oh, fine. All right, what do you want? Okay, done. Now can I go to sleep?” Being evil.

And what does the Bible say? How much more will God, who is good, give the Holy Spirit, give His blessings, pour out His abundance?

“Oh God, if it be your will.”

It’s my will that a size ten and a half, except I can’t kick that high anymore, get you between the cheeks and motivate you to a little action, so I’ll just have to do it verbally. Consider this a verbal kicking in the butt. Not you, you’re all good.

Consider this a verbal kicking in the butt. Say your prayers until something happens. Don’t be a passive Christian. Be persistent. Be like Job. Cry out to God until you get your encounter. Cry out to God until you get your answer.

If you’re not getting the answer, pray a different way. But don’t stop. Persevere. Press in. Go after it and get it. you’ll know when it’s time to rest. God will say, okay, it’s done. You can take a breath. Selah.

There’s a time to be still and not be all anxious and active and know that God is God. But there’s a time to pray. There’s a time to evangelize. There’s a time to witness. There’s a time to rise up.

Job is a man who won’t let go until he gets with God.

And dear ones, no matter how hard a particular season, if you hang on to God, if you hang on to Jesus, this story ends well. There may be a traffic jam for a while, but there’s a good concert at the end of it. There may be a traffic jam for a while, but there’s a steak dinner at the end of it. And that’s nothing. Right? That’s nothing. Like you were saying, Karen, there’s eternity. The stuff of this world is that Paul is not kidding when he says it is not that the.

The troubles of this world cannot be compared to the glory to be revealed in us, to us, and through us. And the troubles in this world are real. I’m not going to minimize those. I’m not the kind of guy who says, “Well, buck up. You know, that doesn’t hurt.” Yeah, it hurts. It hurts to lose a loved one. It hurts when your body is hurting. It hurts when you don’t understand. It hurts when you’re treated unfairly and unjustly. It hurts when things that happen to you don’t make sense.

It hurts when you have a condition that you didn’t ask for. You know, a physical condition that you didn’t ask for that you have to deal with. And other people don’t have to deal with it. All that stuff is hard. And guess what? you’re in a room full of people. you’re not alone.

You know, you’re in a room full of people who got their own heart. You know, one of the curses of our society is people go to church and they’re like, “Nobody knows how I’m suffering.”

Nobody knows what it feels like to have your sister die. Yeah, a lot of people know what it’s like to feel like to have their sister die. There’s parents in that room who know what it’s like to have their kids die. There’s probably a parent in that room who knows what it’s like to have a kid commit suicide.

No, you’re in a room full of people who have struggled. But you know what? We’re also a room full of people who have hope. That this story ends well. That this story ends well.

And there will be bumps in the road, and there will be struggles along the way. But our God is not the tormentor nor the accuser. He is the Savior and the healer. And He is the eternal victor. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He’s the first fruits of the resurrection. And we will follow Him.

And the Bible says we don’t know exactly what we’re going to be like, but we know this: We will be like Him. The salvation we’ve inherited is greater than our imaginations can stretch.

And so, for the sufferings of this present time, what do we do? We cry out to God for our encounter that he will carry us through. As a community, when we recognize one of our fellows going through up, we give them a bunch of advice. No, no, no. We show up and we love them. We show up and we love them.

We pray for them and we help carry one another’s burdens, till we all make the finish line. Till we all make the finish line. Dear ones, we have a great salvation.

The body and blood of our Savior was shed for us, spilled for us. Our sins have been forgiven and we have been invited into an eternal covenant with God, where all will be well and the story will end well. And this is an appetizer. This is a foretaste of the great feast that we will have with him. So take it with joy. Take it knowing your sins have been forgiven and let it nourish you. Let the Spirit of God nourish you with this meal tonight.

I invite you forward to receive Holy Communion, or better yet, I convey to you the invitation of Jesus, to receive Holy Communion tonight in his presence and be nourished by his body and his blood. Holy Spirit, feed us tonight. Feed us that we might leave here more like Christ than when we came in. We ask it in the name of the Son of God, our Savior, who we are aligned with, Jesus Christ, our Lord.