When God Comes

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Job 42:5-6

“I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job 42:5-6 rsv

This book of Job – what is it? Not what it seems at first glance. Job is not an explanation of why good people suffer. It doesn’t try to solve what scholars call “the problem of evil.” Again, it’s not primarily an attempt to justify the ways of God with human beings.

Job is a marvelous artistic creation, poetry unsurpassed. Everyone acknowledges that. More importantly, it’s a book that has spoken to the hearts of suffering people for thousands of years.

Now it does that because it’s a profoundly religious book. I mean by that, it has to do with our relationship with God, our encounter with Him and how that makes all the difference in our lives. That’s what I want to focus on today. We’ve looked at what it is when we’re crushed and when friends try to comfort. Now it’s “when God comes.”

JOB’S STRUGGLE

Think first about Job’s struggle. The whole book is about the painful struggle, the agonizing search of a broken man. Job has been overwhelmed at losing everything: possessions, children, health, and a good name. He’s been disappointed by a bitter, uncomprehending spouse, pained at the heartless accusations of trusted friends. He’s feeling utterly desolate.

But even that, friends, is not the worst part for this man, Job. He’s consumed with anguish and despair because he fears that with all these other losses, he has also lost God.

Job doesn’t believe for a moment the cramped theories of his friends. Oh, he admits that he’s a sinner. He doesn’t deny that he has done wrong. But he knows also that he has trusted in the living God and has sought to live for Him. He knows that by the grace of God he has been aiming to live a good and grateful life. He resists with all his being the idea that God is somehow punishing him for his sins. That’s not his life; and that’s not his God. Those friends of his, however learned, orthodox and well-meaning, are dead wrong this time.

But while he knows that the Holy One is not pounding him down because he’s evil, Job is still terribly upset and perplexed. God hasn’t condemned him, but it seems to Job like God has, for the time at least, left him. He feels isolated, abandoned, bereft.

Some of the most poignant words in the book express that. God won’t answer Job. Listen, “God will not answer one question in a thousand . . . though I am in the right I get no answer, even if I plead with my accuser for mercy.”

There’s no one to mediate between Job and God. He cries, “If only there were one to arbitrate between us and impose His authority on us both . . . if only there were one to arbitrate between man and God, as between a man and his neighbor.” Job feels that God has looked away from him. “Why,” he asks, “do you hide Your face and treat me as an enemy?” (see Job 13:24).

Worst of all, search as he may, Job can’t find God any more. Listen: “If only I knew how to reach him! How to enter his court” (see Job 23:3). Then he would be heard. God surely wouldn’t turn him away. But he can’t get there. He laments, “If I go to the east, he is not there. If west, I cannot find him. I face south but he is not to be seen.” Where are You, God? Without You, I’m utterly lost.

It’s that desolation of spirit that makes Job so rash and frenzied. He screams at heaven. He calls God to account. He demands an answer. He’s like a madman, railing at the Lord.

And yet, we sense that underneath all this, it’s a kind of lover’s quarrel. The God Job rages at is the one he adores, for whom his soul longs. And, at times, a living faith breaks through. Job knows that God finally won’t abandon him. In spite of all, he cries, “I know that my vindicator lives and that He will rise last to speak in court. I shall discern my witness standing at my side and see my defending counsel, even God Himself, whom I shall see with my own eyes” (see Job 19:25-26). But then the darkness closes in again. Job is back to the painful questions and laments.

One day, Job heard another voice. It wasn’t his wife telling him to curse God and die. Not Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar accusing him of monstrous evils, not even Elihu, chiding him for complaining at God. It was the Lord, the One he feared had gone away. God was speaking!

GOD’S WORD

What will God say? We’re sitting on the edge of our seats now. We’re going to find out the answer to all those troubling questions. The enigmas will be solved now, the mystery unraveled. Tell us, God!

But it doesn’t happen that way. God doesn’t say what we might have expected. In fact, He doesn’t give even a hint about why Job has been suffering so. There’s no light here on that heavenly interchange between God and the adversary, that cosmic wager. There’s no assurance to Job that he’s been a good guy after all. God doesn’t even mention the debate that’s been going on between Job and the others.

God gives no answers at all. Can you believe it? He just asks questions, like this: “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?” (Job 38:4-5). The questions go on. Does Job know the mysteries of the ocean and the sunrise? Has he gone to the source of the snow and hail? Can he cause the lightning or maybe rearrange the constellations in the sky? Can he bring rain or provide food for the earth’s creatures? Has he taught the animals their singular ways? Let Job answer.

The poor man has nothing to say. “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

But that doesn’t end God’s questioning. Now His words strike home more personally. “Would you dare deny that I am just or put Me in the wrong to prove yourself right?” (see 40:8). A bull’s eye there! Then more about God’s dealings with the proud and wicked. Can Job match that? Can he even contend with creatures like whales and crocodiles?

Imagine it! Not a single question is answered in all of this, but a host of questions are raised. And Job can’t answer a single one of them. So, if he can’t fathom any of God’s ways, how can he hope to plumb the deepest of mysteries, suffering?

JOB’S REACTION

What will Job say now? As we listen, we hear him at worship, “God, I know that You can do all things and that no purpose is beyond You” (see Job 42:1). We hear him admitting how little he knows, “I have spoken of things which I have not understood, things too wonderful for me to know” (see v. 3). And then this, the crowning moment in the whole book, Job’s last, best word, “I knew of you then only by report, but now I see with my own eyes. Therefore, I yield, repenting in dust and ashes” (see vv. 5-6).

Job had known God before, but now that knowledge seems to him like mere hearsay. Now the Lord is so real to him, so near, so personal, that it’s like seeing Him face to face. Job gives up the contest. He’s not going to challenge God any more. In lowly repentance, he surrenders to the Lord. And do you know what we have here? A man strangely, wonderfully, at peace. Yes. A soul at rest.

Now I’m going to say to you the great things I planned this series to say. This is the heart of Job’s message. Are you ready? Are you listening? First, God comes where He’s wanted. I read an article recently about Christians in Russia, about the depth of their spiritual hunger. The author was raising the question whether it’s any wonder that such people find God more real to them than do the self-satisfied and the apathetic. God comes where He’s wanted. Job wanted God. “O that I knew where I might find Him,” he cries. “If I could only come into His presence! If I could just see His face and be near Him again!” People who long for God like that are never finally disappointed.

Listen to the psalmist, “As the hart pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1). Yes, and God, the psalmist says, “satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (see Ps. 107:9). Jesus says, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37). Again, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). That is, if anyone really wants Me, I’ll be there.

Maybe not right away. Maybe not at our first cry. Maybe not until we’ve reached the depths and come to the end of ourselves. But as surely as the dawn comes to end the night, He’ll be there. “If with all your hearts you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me. Thus says your God” (see Jer. 29:13). He comes where He’s wanted.

Second, when God comes, those puzzling questions of ours don’t seem so urgent any more. Think of it. Job hasn’t had a single one of his questions answered, but that doesn’t seem to matter. He has stopped asking them. There’s no more, “Why, why, why are You letting this happen to me?”

I can identify with Job there. When our son Billy was stricken with encephalitis, when another son, Dave, was tormented by mental illness, I had a host of questions. And I had always thought before that that I could find answers! In crises, questions can be troubling. You eat your heart out as you wrestle with them. They fill you with self-doubts. You can’t seem to come up with any answers. One day this thought came to me: “Bill, you don’t know why these things happened. And what’s more, you’re not going to know this side of heaven.” When that kind of awareness dawns on you, you begin to relax and get on with your life. You learn to live with mystery.

In C. S. Lewis’s book, ‘Til We Have Faces, the queen keeps complaining against the gods. Finally, she comes to this, “I ended my first book with the words `no answer.’ I know now, Lord, why You utter `no answer.’ You are Yourself the answer. Before Your face, questions die away. What other answer could suffice?” Yes. What other answer would, or could?

That leads me to the last thing I want to say, and the best. It’s Job’s testimony. It’s that of all the saints through the ages. It’s mine, too. Here it is: when God comes, He is enough.

The suffering Job doesn’t have his questions answered. He doesn’t know why all these calamities have come on him. But he’s satisfied. He’ll get everything back later on, we’re told, but that’s not what gives him peace. It will be all right even if that doesn’t happen. Because, you see, strangely, beautifully, God is enough.

Think about the apostle Paul. He struggles with this thorn in the flesh, painful, embarrassing, humiliating. He wants the Lord to take it away. “Lord, deliver me.” Three times he prays for that. But it doesn’t happen. Then Jesus speaks, “Paul, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Somehow Paul isn’t disappointed. In fact, he says, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (see v. 10). You see, the Lord is enough. Remember the psalmist who was so upset over the prospering of the wicked? Finally, he went into the sanctuary of God. Then he said, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever” (Ps. 73:25-26). That’s it. He’s enough.

Listen to a great Indian seeker after God, D. T. Niles. “When Jesus meets people, He meets them in their several situations. He comes to them as they are, and whether He satisfies their immediate needs or not, they find Him satisfying. Even though He cares, some of our needs go unmet and for so long. Why this should be we rarely understand, except that we always find that it is precisely in that kind of situation that He makes Himself abundantly real to us.”

Isn’t that so, friends? We know it better than Job ever could because we know the One who has come to us, not only in majesty, with unanswerable questions, but in mercy with nail prints in His hands. And we have found Him, Jesus Christ, to be enough.

And so we sing, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find.” So through life, death, through sorrow and through sinning, He shall suffice me as He has sufficed.

Christ is the end, for Christ is the beginning.
Christ is the beginning, for the end is Christ.

Let’s believe that, friends. Let’s let all the world hear it. He is enough!