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Job 1:1-22
Series:  When Things Go Wrong - Part One

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 2, 2001

Please turn with me to Job chapter one starting at verse one. Today and next Sunday we’re going to be looking together at the first two chapters of Job and at God’s guidance for us during the times in our lives when things go very wrong.

One week ago - Friday - 293 passengers boarded a Canadian Air Transat flight from Toronto to Lisbon, Portugal. About mid-way over the Atlantic Ocean - more than 1,000 miles from the coast of Portugal - Captain Robert Piche and his crew noticed a fuel leak. 23 minutes later - fuel almost exhausted - Captain Piche issued a mayday emergency distress signal. 40 minutes later the right engine lost power and went dead. 2 minutes later the left engine - the last of the two engines - lost power and died. Still almost 1,000 miles from Portugal the airplane was without power and helpless.

As the plane dropped through the sky - depressurized and jerking around - passengers panicked and screamed - the flight crew became hysterical. Captain Piche - with only minimum power - a control stick - and an emergency propeller - for 18 minutes wrestled with the jetliner guiding it to Lajes Airport on Terciera Island in the Azores. When the plane landed it hit with such force that the tires exploded - bursting into flames. One of the passengers said, “It was a miracle we survived.”

There are times when we feel like this - not that we’re at 30,000 feet in the air and falling. But, we feel like it. Like in a airplane fuselage - the tightness of a cylinder that we can’t escape from - helpless in the circumstances around us - being carried along to a destination we don’t want to go to.

We’re faced with a terminal illness. Someone we love is dying or has died. We lose our job. We’re in an unfair situation - a circumstance we never deserved. Our marriage has come apart. There’s tension in the family - unspoken hostility - heavy emotions that threaten to tear us apart. Many here could describe first hand what these hardships are like. We could go on and even add to this list.

There are times when its very natural for us to ask, “Why is this happening? Where is God in all this? Why doesn’t He answer my prayers? Why doesn’t He step in and do something?”

The Book of Job - in part - is given to us by God to help answers these questions. They may not be the answers we want. They may be hard to hear. But, this profound book touches on these deep themes more than any other book in the Bible and gives us the guidance we need.

Job 1:1 - this is our introduction the main character of the book: There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.

Job was a real person living in the land of Uz - east of Canaan - probably around the time of Abraham. He was probably a very important and well known citizen of that land. Job is mentioned in Ezekiel as one of the great men of the Old Testament along with Noah and Daniel. (Ezekiel 14:14,20) James mentions Job as an example for us of endurance and God’s compassion. (James 5:11)

Job was “blameless and upright.” Job sinned. But, he also knew how to handle sin - to turn from evil - to admit and confess his sin - to allow God to deal with it. So, that he was living “uprightly” - rightly before God. And, Job “feared God.” He understood God’s power and working in his life. Job was a man - like us - who was trying to live life in obedience and reverence for God.

Verse 2: Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. The second thing we learn about Job is that Job was very - very - wealthy.

Verse 3: His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

The third thing we learn about Job is about his fatherly love for his children. Job prays for his children - a prayer that’s echoed by every Christian parent whose heart is burdened for their children.

We know that every day that our children go out into the world they’re under constant pressure to turn away from God. As a father Job pours out his heart before God. He offers burnt offerings which were offerings given in total dedication - consecration - to God. He’s telling God, “My children are yours. May they be totally under Your control. Keep them in Your hands and don’t let go of them.”

That’s how Job is introduced to us - a godly man - very wealthy - a father who deeply loves his children.

In verse 6 the scene changes from Job to Heaven. While we were being introduced to Job it was like seeing the set and the actors. But, now the props are taken away - the backdrop is lifted - and God allows us to see behind the scenes - to the invisible spiritual realm around us - the realm of God and Satan - of angels and demons.

Verse 6: Now there was a day when the sons of God - the angels - came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord.

Let's pause here and understand what's happening. When we read passages like this its really hard to visualize the whole scene - all of the scope of what’s happening. Imagine the universe - planet after planet - solar system after solar system - galaxy beyond galaxy. Its impossible to get-a-grip on that kind of vastness. Here is God’s throne room. And, from all over this vastness the sons of God - thousands and thousands - countless numbers of angels - have gathered into this vast throne room before the presence of God Himself - to report on their activities. As vast as creation is, God is in control of it all. All of creation is accountable to Him. Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing goes beyond the authority of His word and will.

And, this is hard to understand: Satan - fallen - rebellious - Satan - God allows - permits - Satan to come into His presence.

Notice 3 important truths. First, Satan is not equal to God.

Can you imagine, during the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein coming to General Norman Schwartzkof and saying, “General Schwartzkof, I’d like permission to bomb Kuwait and to destroy your army. I’d like permission to wipe out everything under your command.” What kind of answer to you think General Schwartzkof would have come back with?

No enemy ever comes and asks for permission to attack. And yet, here, Satan asks God for permission to attack Job. This is not warfare between equal opposing sides - good and evil - yang and yin - the good god and the bad god. Job is not a casualty of a war between God and Satan. This is test of Job’s faith allowed by the Almighty God. Satan makes it happen. But, God permits it.

Second, notice how Satan operates.

God says to Satan, “Where have you been?” Satan says, “I’ve been roaming the earth.”

The Apostle Peter writes, “Your adversary - Satan - prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Behind the scenes of life is Satan who is looking for people he can get to - to place under his power - to ruin - to destroy - a malicious enemy who is looking for any opportunity to lead us away from God and to destruction.

Third, notice that God limits Satan’s power to effect our lives.

God says to Satan, “Have you seen My servant Job? There’s no one like him on the whole earth. He’s blameless. He turns from evil. Have you tested his faith in Me.” And Satan says, “Sure I’ve seen him. But, I can’t get to him because you’re protecting him.” So, God says to Satan, “Okay. He’s in your power. But, don’t touch his body.”

Its God who points out Job to Satan as a subject for Satan’s attack - this test of Job’s trust and relationship with God. Its God who sets the conditions of the test - the boundaries - the limitations. As rebellious and as malicious as Satan is he never even attempts to go beyond what God allows. He can’t. He has no power to do it.

Its important for us to understand this - while thinking about the trials and experiences of our lives - first, that there are dimensions to those trials that we do not see, and that, second, God is in unquestioned control over what happens.

Verse 13. This is the description of what Satan does to Job. Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Satan goes to the very boundaries of what God allowed him. The utter devastation is complete. With no time to absorb each blow - within one day - everything is taken from Job. If we’re ever tempted to think that our circumstances are too much to bear we should come back and read this account. Its impossible to understand how utterly broken Job must have been.

Job’s response comes in verse 20: Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head - gestures of the deepest grief - and Job fell to the ground and worshiped.

How did Job respond to this unimaginable tragedy in his life? Job didn’t blame God. He responded to the test by worshiping God.

Verse 21: Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

As I’ve been studying through this passage and thinking about how all this applies to our own lives, I’d like to share three thoughts. First, its crucial that we understand God’s authority over what we have in this life.

Rev. Otis Moss from Cleveland, Ohio - preaching at the funeral of Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr., - the mother of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Rev. Moss preached a brief but powerful sermon about “the little dash between.” Rev. Moss pointed out that on Mrs. King’s tomb stone there would be her name and a couple of dates - when she was born and when she died - and then a little dash - a line - in between. Rev. Moss didn’t talk about Mrs. King’s birth date or the day she died. He talked about that little dash - describing Mrs. King’s life.

That’s what Job is talking about - naked in birth - naked in death - and everything between - the dash - belongs to God. Job prays, “Thank you God for the times I’ve had all these things - for the blessings and enjoyment that you have brought into my life through them. Rather than complain about the loss I recognize Your sovereign right to do with me and all that you have blessed me with - to do as you will.”

Life is not about whether or not we own real estate or how large our house is. Its not about whether or not we have a family or how many children or grandchildren we have. Its not the size of our portfolio or retirement “nest egg”. Life is about glorifying God - living that dash - about remaining faithful in our relationship to Him in riches and in poverty - in whatever He sovereignly chooses to bless us with or to withhold from our lives.

Second thought. God knows what we’re going through.

There are times when we wonder how far God has allowed Satan to go. We reach our limits and wonder where God is.

Satan is prowling around. If Satan were not restrained by God any one of us could find ourselves in Job’s circumstances. But, God’s protecting hands have been around us. If we have any amount of peace and joy in our lives it is because of God’s protection and limiting of Satan. God put limits on what Satan did to Job. God puts hedges around our lives as well.

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

God knows what we can bear. He will never allow us to be tested so that our trust in Him will be destroyed. That’s a promise that we can hold on to. When Satan wounds us - hurts us - tempts us to turn away from God - we need to praise God for His graciousness towards us - even in worst circumstances - and keep trusting Him. It’s an opportunity to find that God really does care for His people.

Third thought: What goes on behind the scenes of your life?

We need to remember that the experience of our testing goes way beyond the physical temporal things that we try to hold on to and the circumstances that we’re trying to understand. Through all these things God is working His perfect will. He’s working to bring us to salvation and spiritual maturity and working to bring all of mankind to a saving and deepening relationship with Him. This side eternity we may never know all of what God is doing. And yet, in all these things He’s giving us the opportunity to serve Him - to trust Him - to glorify Him.

There’s a question before everyone of us this morning. Will we pass the test - remaining faithful to our relationship with God - and so glorify Him? Like Job - the only way to pass is to daily put our lives into God’s sovereign loving hands.